We wouldn’t blame you for putting Los Angeles or San Francisco higher on your California bucket list than San Diego. But we will tell you why you should reconsider. From historic neighborhoods to great beaches and luxurious vacation homes, and yes, tacos, here are 10 of the best reasons to head south in the Golden State.
1. The Weather
San Diego might have the best weather in North America, maybe even the world. We’re not exaggerating: average temperatures are balmy across the board, rising to a comfortable 73℉ average in August and a manageable 57℉ in December and January. The city averages 263 days of sunshine per year, so you can count on a pleasant and dry vacation no matter when you decide to go. With this in mind, it’s never a bad time to take on the city’s beaches, surfing, and beautiful natural landscapes.
2. The Gaslamp Quarter
What the Gaslamp Quarter lacks in size it makes up for in fun factor. Despite being originally known as New Town, it is one of San Diego’s oldest neighborhoods. Its 16.5 blocks in the heart of downtown San Diego are among the city’s trendiest. Take a walk up and down the numbered avenues and admire the restored Victorian-era homes and buildings still standing today. Gaslamp is the best district in town for nightlife—dancing, karaoke, a theater show, comedy night, or concert can all be found. Same goes for cool bars, pubs, and speakeasies. At the southeast tip, you’ll run into Petco Park, home of baseball’s San Diego Padres and one of the finest places in the league to take in a ballgame.
3. San Diego Zoo
Venture inside Balboa Park, at 1,200 acres North America’s largest urban cultural park. Yes, it’s even bigger than Central Park. There, you’ll find scenic gardens and interesting museums, but the biggest draw is the famous San Diego Zoo. The zoo’s open-air exhibits keep the animals free of cages and recreate their natural habitats. San Diego is one of the few places in the world where you can see pandas, and it also has the largest number of koalas outside Australia, which you can see in an exhibit called— wait for it—Koalafornia.
4. The Tacos
Being so close to Mexico, it’s no shock that some of the country’s cultural influence is evident in San Diego. The tastiest of those influences is undoubtedly the delicious fish tacos for which San Diego is known. There are few things about San Diego we look forward to more than wrapping our hands around a soft corn tortilla filled with crunchy pieces of fish and dressed with cabbage, crema, and pico de gallo. Our go-to spots include Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill in Mission Hills, and Mariscos German, an inconspicuous food truck that serves up seriously good food. There are just so many to choose from—we wouldn’t blame you for eating tacos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
5. The Beaches
You would be letting all of San Diego’s remarkable weather go to waste if you didn’t seek out its 70 miles of coastline and get to beachin’ for a day or two. Many of the area’s best stretches of sand are found in La Jolla, Del Mar, and Encinitas (the latter is home to Swami’s Beach, name-dropped in The Beach Boys’ Surfin’ U.S.A.). But if you don’t plan on venturing too far out of the city, you still have plenty of great options. Double down at Mission Beach with the Belmont Park amusement park right next door, or cross the bridge to the sparkling Coronado Beach for fishing and flying kites.
6. La Jolla
The hilly, seaside community of La Jolla has long been a favorite destination for celebrities and wealthy travelers, and one visit will help you to understand why. The world-famous Torrey Pines Golf Course, home of the classic 2008 U.S. Open, is a must-play for golfers that are lucky enough to get a tee time. If golf’s not your thing, plan to spend at least a day in the wilderness at Torrey Pines State Reserve. La Jolla is a walkable town filled with sunshine, marine life, and amazing beaches. If you’re looking to beef up your Instagram feed while in La Jolla, Scripps Pier is one of the most popular picture-taking spots in the San Diego area. Arrive early or late as sunrise and sunset are your best choices for that special photo.
7. The Craft Breweries
San Diego County has more than 130 craft breweries and the movement is only growing. A true craft beer fanatic might plan their trip around the annual San Diego Beer Week held in November by the San Diego Brewers Guild. Even if you don’t, you won’t have trouble satisfying your palate in what’s been called the Craft Beer Capital of America. Some of the more well-known brands include Stone Brewing (creator of Arrogant Bastard Ale) and Karl Strauss (a perennial award-winner). But no matter which of the endless taps you choose when the bartender calls your turn, you’re bound to find an IPA, an Irish red, or a roasted stout that suits your tongue.
8. The Vacation Homes
With all our recommendations, you’re looking at a busy trip to San Diego. But not all the fun needs to be had out in the thick of it—choose one of the finest vacation homes in California, and make your vacation an all-around magical experience. Take Villa Sunset Modern, an oceanfront home that comfortably sleeps 14 where you’re only a minute walk to Sunset Cliffs, five miles from Old Town, and you have your own pool. Casa Agave is another luxury property where outdoor living has been perfected. Views of the mountains never get old from this gated-community home, and you’re only 30 minutes from downtown. At places like these, you’d be forgiven for choosing to stay in over leaving the property. For the most convenient locations and an experience beyond a star rating, you won’t go wrong with any of the spectacular vacation homes in San Diego.
9. A Taste of Mexico
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the border town of Tijuana, Mexico, popular for day trips or nights of partying from Southern California. If the allure of crossing an international border is too much to overcome, there are more than a few fun ways to spend your time there. Foodies can’t resist trying Baja Med, a fusion cuisine that blends Mexican, Mediterranean, and Asian into tasty dishes like tempura fish tacos and duck skewered with licorice. Revolucion Avenue is a great choice for people-watching—and you’ll probably spot a Tijuana zebra too. Take the San Diego Trolley over the border and prepare for a whole new country.
10. The Old Town
Before there was New Town—now the Gaslamp Quarter—there was Old Town. As California’s first settlement in 1769, Old Town San Diego is a historian’s dream. Discover the town’s roots at authentic Mexican restaurants where you can spend a festive happy hour or listen to live mariachi music. Or, walk up to Presidio Park to picnic and enjoy sweeping views of the city, the San Diego River valley, and the Pacific Ocean. Many craft shops and homes still occupy their original 1800s Mission-style buildings, which you can enjoy during an organized trolley tour.