As previously stated in my review of Hotel Vyvant – I wound up in San Diego by accident. I have never had less of a plan in my entire life than when I stepped off the Pacific Surfliner train at the Santa Fe depot in San Diego…a city I had never really had much interest in visiting – probably because I knew absolutely nothing about it. But this incredible city surprised me beyond my wildest expectations and has become my favourite American city that I have visited so far.
I have compiled a small list of my personal favourite attractions in San Diego from my short 4 days in the city. There was so much that I didn’t have time to explore, so this is in no way the “be all end all” list of San Diego must-sees, but I just wanted to offer up a few different options other than the typical attractions like SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo. (I didn’t visit either.)
Often referred to as “Coronado Island”, Coronado is actually a small beach community on a peninsula, but tourists generally access it by ferry, and the whole place boasts a definite island feel. Ferries are run by Flagship Tours between the downtown harbour and Coronado, and also the San Diego Convention Center and Coronado. A round trip will cost $8.50 per person and it takes about 15 minutes one way. Coronado itself is a great place for a beach day, a scenic lunch at one of the many restaurants, a stroll through the cute little (however very touristy) shops, or water sports such as paddle boarding or kayaking. I went to Coronado on a chilly Sunday morning so I only spent about an hour there, but I can see how this place would be wonderful on a hot summer afternoon.
2. Little Italy & Saturday Mercato
My absolute favourite part of San Diego is Little Italy. It consists of authentic Italian restaurants and cafes, many adorable shops, and a quaint European feel that makes you want to grab a scoop of gelato and sit on a bench watching the world go by. Every Saturday, Little Italy hosts the Mercato from 8am to 2pm, which is a large farmer’s market featuring anything from fresh fruits and veggies to baked goods to handicrafts. It is definitely worth checking out while in San Diego.
3. The Gaslamp Quarter
I only spent a brief afternoon in the Gaslamp Quarter, but I can definitely see how this area is a mecca for brand-name shopping, bar-hopping, and tons of ‘big-city-feel’ action. There are often different events occurring in the area, so do some research ahead of time. I accidentally found myself in the middle of a classic car show on a Sunday afternoon which was a pleasant surprise.
4. The San Diego Natural History Museum
A stunning museum dedicated to anthropology, The NAT is comprised of 5 floors and several different exhibits, including permanent ones and features, such as The Discovery of King Tut, my main reason for visiting. The museum is also home to a giant movie theatre which features up to three educational documentary-style films per day, played multiple times. It is definitely a fun and educational way to spend a few hours, and would be suitable for people of all ages.
5. Balboa Park
Balboa Park is a stunning urban park sprawling 1,200 acres that is home to countless museums, green spaces, historical buildings, botanical gardens, several theatres, recreational facilities, and the San Diego Zoo. The park contains many architectural landmarks relating to the history of the Panama-California Exposition and the California Pacific International Exhibition. It is a truly beautiful piece of San Diego, and of history itself, that will make you feel as if you have stepped into another world.
6. La Jolla
La Jolla (pronounced La Hoya – learn from my mistakes!) is technically a part of San Diego, but it truly does feel like its own little town. I took a bus from downtown San Diego, which was only a short walk from Hotel Vyvant, The bus took me right to the heart of La Jolla, which is charming, rugged, relaxed and sophisticated all in one beautiful little package. The bus that serves La Jolla is the number 30, and the timetable can be found here. The morning that I went was quite overcast, so I spent some time at La Jolla Cove watching the swimmers, the waves, and the (extremely smelly) sea lions laying on the rocks. Once it warmed up a bit, I took a stroll through the streets and the shops of La Jolla, and then ended up at an amazing seafood market called El Pescador for lunch. If the weather is hot, La Jolla would be a perfect day-at-the-beach destination. But even on an overcast cool day there was a lot to do.
Have you been to San Diego? What were some of your favourite things that you did while you were there?