The three years we spent in San Diego (eight for Scott) gave us the pleasure of hosting friends and family on a number of different occasions. We honed our favorite stuff into one list you could manage to cram in a busy weekend. Thought I’d share with you guys as well!
- Stay at the Porto Vista hotel in Little Italy. Stay for as little as ~$150/night, enjoy the view from bar/ restaurant The Glass Door on the 4th floor, walk to charming Italian restaurants (don’t miss Benecotto, worth every $$$), wine bars, shops, grocery RIGHT outside your door. You’re also only 1.5 (walkable) miles to the Gaslamp/party district. Be warned, this area can be pretty touristy/pricy/see-and-be-seen, but it makes for fun people watching – it always seems to be prom night in the Gaslamp.
- Walk 1.0 mi from Porto Vista to the Broadway Pier to catch the Ferry to Coronado Island to visit historic (1880’s) Hotel Del Coronado (rumored to have a ghost). Slip through the front doors like a hotel guest, then go on back and lay out on one of the best beaches in San Diego (groomed by the hotel, free to the public! FYI, fall is the best time for the beach here) and sip (pricy) lemonade/wine/beer from one of five shaded beach-front restaurants. Leave “the Del” (as locals call it) for lunch to save cash and eat instead at nearby Burger Lounge or Miguel’s Cocina. Head back to where the ferry left you and enjoy a bay-front glass of wine at Il Fornaio while you wait.
- Visit San Diego’s “Central Park” AKA Balboa Park, 3 miles from your hotel. Splurge on the Zoo/ Balboa Park Passport and get admittance to all 14 museums in the park AND the Zoo for $75 ea. Or go cheap and bring a picnic lunch to eat (wine not “allowed” but we bring bottles anyway. Be discreet and you’re fine) by the koi pond and watch the kids/dogs/foreign tourists. Don’t forget to tour the (free) botanic garden that looks like it’s made by a giant basket weaver.
- Food. Where to start. 30th Street runs North/South close to the Eastern edge of the park and is home to some of the best restaurants/ local favorites. Starting in South Park, Hamilton’s is a craft brew pub in finest form with seemingly hundreds on tap/ pool tables/ etc. Around the corner, Grant’s Marketplace is the best stop in San Diego for a gourmet deli sandwich/ cheap bottle of wine/ picnic supplies/ groceries. Head north a bit for Station Tavern, an old trolley stop turned inexpensive burger (and turkey/veggie burger, tater tots!) joint, or Cafe Madeleine for crepes around the corner. Vagabond offers yummy global-inspired cuisine (kung pow calamari!), and the Daily Scoop Ice Cream shop is a sweet finish. Local boutiques/ bike shop/ WhistleStop Bar are all nearby too for great browsing. Further north up 30th in North Park, try Alexander’s for classy all-white decor/candles and great italian food/ salads, Cardamom Bakery for breakfast, The Linkery for house-cured links and a *long* craft brew list, Urban Solace for the world’s best comfort food (yummmmm four-cheese-Mac & Cheese). There around University Ave. is another cluster of bars worth wandering in and out of. Finally, at the true North end of 30th St. is Blind Lady Ale House, where homemade pizzas, craft beer and organic wines tempt us almost every weekend. Not in this neighborhood but closer to the Ferry Pier is Currant Restaurant, in the bottom of the Sophia hotel (a good runner up if the PV is full) which has an AMAZING breakfast/ brunch that starts every day at 6am for us early risers/ weekday brunchers. Delish!
- San Diego is also a cycling town, so consider renting a bike for the three days and tooling around, since lots of the best stuff is within a few miles. It is a hilly city, so if you’re not up for up and down canyons, skip this one.