Check in to and acquaint yourself with your accommodations Friday evening and then head out to enjoy San Diego nightlife in the bustling, historic Gaslamp Quarter. Duck in where the music suits your mood, or consider the hip Minus 1 Lounge or the fabulous Waterfront Bar & Grill.
Saturday morning, grab breakfast at your hotel or en route to one of the quintessential San Diego sites on your day’s itinerary. You’ll want to head to Balboa Park first. Its neo-classical Spanish architecture and beautiful flowering gardens are impressive, but it is the San Diego Zoo here that attracts most visitors. The zoo, often considered the best in the U.S., occupies more than 100 acres and includes exhibits not seen anywhere else, including a rare, sizable panda community. On-site or in the vicinity are numerous other museums, gardens and attractions including the San Diego Natural History Museum, the San Diego Air and Space Museum, San Diego Museum of Art, Museum of San Diego History and many others. The zoo alone can easily occupy an entire day, so portion your time out so that you take in all that you want. Late afternoon, head off to enjoy the last of the day’s sunlight on the sand of Mission Beach, Pacific Beach or Ocean Beach.
Saturday evening, head back to the Gaslamp Quarter for seafood at Escape Fish Bar or for Churrasco at Rei do Gado.
Enjoy early Sunday morning back on the beach or by grabbing breakfast at the city’s favored morning eatery, Snooz, in the Hillcrest area. Then it’s off to the area’s other main attraction, SeaWorld San Diego. Exhibits abound, with many interactive and others exclusive nationally to SeaWorld. Seeing everything at SeaWorld can also easily take an entire day, so discretion is advised. Consider other options for the late afternoon. Among numerous options are the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, the Maritime Museum of San Diego, USS Midway Museum or outdoor destinations such as Torrey Pines State Reserve, Old Point Loma Lighthouse or the San Diego Baywalk. Festivals, theater and professional and amateur sports might also be on the agenda, depending on when you travel.
Finally, wrap your San Diego stay with dinner Sunday night at a local favorite like Sushi Ota for the finest fresh from the sea, Phil’s BBQ for some of the west coast’s best smoked meats and sauce, or Island Prime Restaurant for spectacular views paired with terrific steaks and seafood. Either option is sure to conclude your west coast stay with a memorable farewell meal.
The Grand Del Mar has been lauded by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the “World’s Best Places to Stay,” and that feeling permeates this tony resort, spa and golf club, whether one is staying in an airy guest room, spacious suite or the spectacular 4,500 square-foot Brisa Villa. Every detail has been considered in advance, as reflected in a comprehensive slate of handy and courtesy services and amenities to meet any traveler’s needs. www.thegranddelmar.com
Britt Scripps Inn, located in Bankers Hill and overlooking downtown, feels even more removed from San Diego’s hustle and bustle. Victorian charm and modern elegance blend seamlessly at this romantic bed and breakfast. Nine rooms, each with its own style and character craft a romantic backdrop, further emphasized by lush linens, attentive staff and an aesthetically appealing three stories of historic magnificence. www.brittscripps.com
Tower23 Hotel is a luxury lifestyle hotel located oceanside just south of La Jolla on San Diego’s northern boundary, with many regional attractions just minutes away. Sleek, modern guest rooms are designed to accentuate the natural design elements of the waterfront location and feature private balconies or patios, teak furnishings and high-end amenities. Sunsets from the second floor Tower deck and treatments at the Tower Spa are particularly luxurious. www.t23hotel.com
Access: San Diego International Airport is serviced by most U.S. air carriers and by Amtrak via the historic Santa Fe Depot in downtown.
Population: Approx. 1.3 million, citywide
Climate: Blessed with what many consider an idyllic climate, San Diego has warm, dry summers and mild winters.
Main Attractions: Beaches and watersports, regional mountain sports, hiking, famed San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, arts and culture.
Go!: Pick up a Go San Diego Card (www.smartdestinations.com) and save, with 49 attractions free with card.
Whale: If whale-watching catches your fancy, consider a February visit to San Diego, when the whales migrate past in view of locations such as the overlook in Cabrillo National Monument. (Sighting tours also readily available.)
Visit: Time permitting, San Diego is the gateway to colorful Tijuana. The San Diego Trolley’s blue line provides service from downtown to the Mexican border.