I love San Diego. I'm not sure if it is the pleasant weather, endless beaches or an amazing culture. I've been to San Diego quite a bit and was super excited to be able to show my two girl friends around as they had never been before. We lucked out with decent weather for half our trip and made the most of each day by neighborhood hopping! We had almost 3 full days in San Diego and this is a suggestion of what to see if this is your first time!
Do You Need to Rent a Car?
Unless your vacation consists of just staying at the beach, then yes, I definitely recommend renting a car. San Diego is made up of so many different neighborhoods, that it will make it a lot easier if you have your own transportation. We paid about $95 for a three day rental with just a basic small car. It fit the 3 of us and our luggage perfectly. Car rental prices will fluctuate depending on what month you are visiting so keep that in mind.
Travel Tip: If you are a Costco member, book your car through Costco Travel. I always find that it is a bit cheaper and one benefit is that a 2nd driver is included in your rental.
Where Should You Stay?
It really depends on what you want to do on your trip. I am not a resort kind of gal, but location is always important to me. I definitely recommend staying near Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach (both have a lot of great bars and restaurants you can walk to) or Mission Beach, which gives you a more resort feel without paying super high prices.
We ended up finding a super cool spot with free parking and right off the beach. I highly recommend it! Check out Beach Haven.
I arrived a bit early from a work trip and got to do a few extra things:
Ballast Point Little Italy: I love Ballast Point. There are some bars in Washington that carry some of their beers on tap. I also got to meet an Instagram friend in person which is always fun! Check out her page (@livinglifepetite) for fashion tips and life in San Diego!
In-N-Out-Burger: Did you really go to California if you didn't get to eat here. I usually get a cheeseburger and animal style fries!
Breakfast: We wanted to get a semi-early start to our day with site seeing and didn't want to have a sit down breakfast. We opted to go to Better Buzz coffee. I had heard great things about this place and we had a location within walking distance from our hotel. Spoiler we ended up going there every day for coffee! Things I recommend to try:
Iced Honey Latte
Better Breakfast Sandwich
Balboa Park: There is so much to do in Balboa Park that you could spend several days exploring here. Parking is free, however, during the summer months it could be pretty difficult to find parking. Here are the places I recommend if you just have a few hours:
Botanical Building: This is a gorgeous conservatory filled with a bunch of different flowers and plants. It is free to enter
Museum of Man: We decided on one museum and this one seemed the most interesting. When we went they had an add on exhibit all about cannibalism. I actually really enjoyed that museum and would definitely recommend checking it out!
San Diego Zoo: If you decide to spend an entire day here, the San Diego Zoo is actually a part of Balboa Park. I went here when I was younger and in terms of zoos, this is one of the better ones. While they are a "for profit" organization, they are a conservation organization so they are using the money to help save species around the world.
Create Your Own Brewery Hopping Tour: If you know anything about me by now, you know that I love checking out breweries. We decided to do some bar hopping in downtown near Petco Park. A brewery hopping tip if you want to visit a lot but not get drunk: Order a schooner. It is closer to an 6 oz. pour. Here is the route and some breweries I recommend.
1. Stone Brewing Tap Room: This was our first stop. We chose the one right next to Petco Park. Definitely recommend trying their pretzel.
2. Knotty Brewing: We stumbled on this one on our walking route. It is a small brewery. We got 3 seats at the bar and had a great chat with the bartender who ended up giving us some more brewery suggestions. They have some German style beers!
3. Half Door Brewing: This was a suggestion from the Knotty Brewing bartender. It is a cute old house with a bunch of indoor / outdoor seating. Their beer is good and I would definitely go here in the summer to enjoy the outdoor seating.
4. Little Miss Brewing: This was our last stop on our brewery hopping afternoon. There were a bunch of locals in this brewery that were suggesting beers to us and there were also bar games. A great atmosphere here and great beer! I definitely recommend.
Dinner: We ended up parking back at our hotel and walking to dinner. We initially wanted sushi, but the wait was over an hour. We ended up finding an amazing sushi / ramen place next door. I definitely recommend if you are staying in the Pacific Beach area: Ramen Ryoma. We each got ramen + an order of sushi. It was delicious!
Dessert: OMG you guys have to check out Baked Bear. You can make your own ice cream cookie sandwiches! You can even choose two different cookies to sandwich your ice cream!
Spa Night: We were pretty tired from day drinking so we decided to relax in the hotel room and do face masks + a movie. Definitely recommend if you aren't one for going to bars at night.
Breakfast: We decided to walk from our hotel to Breakfast Republic. They advertised themselves as the 'Best Breakfast in San Diego'. Overall it was a great meal. Good coffee and Bloody Mary's. I also got eggs Benedict which were good!
Old Town San Diego: What is a trip to San Diego without going to Old Town. This is another spot you could spend half a day or more at. Here are some spots to check out:
Whaley House Museum
Old Town Mexican Cafe
Coronado Island: There are a few cool spots to check out on Coronado.
Coronado Island Brewing Company: We each tried a different beer and shared a pretzel. I love trying brewery pretzels whenever they have one on the menu!
Hotel del Coronado: This is the famous hotel on the island. The hotel has been around for over 130 years and has been frequented by many celebrities and royalty over the years. The grounds are great to wander around. We found a beach bar and enjoyed a beer outside. It was a bit cold and windy but it was fun!
San Diego Skyline Viewpoint: We sort of stumbled on this one. I saw it on Google Maps and decided to check it out. You get the whole view of downtown San Diego.
North Park Neighborhood: This was actually my first time visiting North Park. It is the eclectic and up and coming neighborhood. It has a very artsy feel and also feels like you have stepped back into the 1970's. We weren't here very long, but did check out the following spots:
Communal Coffee: This is a super cute coffee shop full of places to sit and enjoy your coffee. They also have goods for purchase. The lavender latte was amazing. I highly recommend.
Pigment: This spot is ALL OVER Pinterest in Instagram worthy places. It is so aesthetically pleasing and has so many things that I wanted to buy. If you live in San Diego, check out their build your own plant wall!
Greetings from San Diego Mural: We didn't make it there, but it is an iconic mural to get a picture in front of.
Sunset Cliffs: I timed it perfectly so that we were at the sunset cliffs AT sunset! It wasn't too crowded and we were able to find a parking spot pretty quickly. These cliffs don't have a railing so use your common sense when wandering around.
Dinner: Stone Brewing at Liberty Station was recommended to us by a local at Little Miss Brewing. First of all, Liberty Station is an awesome complex. All the businesses look the same, which is awesome. This Stone Brewing was huge and amazing! You can even have a wedding here if you wanted to. We came on a Saturday evening and had to wait about 45 minutes. We ended up having a beer at the bar before dinner! Highly recommend this spot if you are in the area.
Rent some Birds: Renting an electric scooter is a great and fun way to get around. You just need the app and you are good to go. Just be aware of the local traffic laws and stay off to the side.
Breakfast: We rode our scooters to Woody's Breakfast and Burgers. The line to get food was a bit long, but once we put in our orders, it came out pretty quick. We got lucky and got 3 seats at the top of the restaurant with views of the boardwalk and beach!
Pacific Beach: Our hotel was right off the PB beach and boardwalk. Here are some fun things to do in that area
Walk along the boardwalk: We walked back from Woody's after taking the electric scooters to breakfast.
Pacific Beach Pier: You will see the pier from a ways away and you can walk out to the end. Be respectful of the hotel cottages that are on the pier. Yes, you can rent cottages on the PB pier!
Wahines: This surfer shop has been around for awhile! I was so excited to see that it was still there.
That is just a few of the things we did with our girl's weekend in San Diego. A few other things you could add to your itinerary if you had more time are:
La Jolla: La Jolla is about 45 minutes north of San Diego. Don't miss the sea lions and the La Jolla Cove. Also check out La Jolla Tide Pools and Scripps Pier.
Seaport Village: This is a cute seaside village just outside of downtown San Diego. Keep in mind you do have to pay to park here, but there are a bunch of cute shops and restaurants here.
USS Midway Museum: The USS Midway is now a floating museum. You can wander through all of the spots on the ship! It is pretty cool to check out.
Belmont Park: This is a fun amusement park at Mission Beach. A great place to spend a few hours.
Torrey Pines: I've never actually had a chance to check out Torrey Pines. I had planned for us to check it out, but we didn't have great weather. Torrey Pines has a golf course and you can also take a nice little hike down to the beach.
Temecula: This is a another spot I have not made it to. Temecula is Southern California's wine country...yes, please!
Any other spots you would recommend? Leave them in the comments!