Excited to visit San Diego but only have a few short days?  If you want to get away for a long weekend, or be a tourist in your own town, here’s our weekend guide to San Diego.

What to see:

Let’s say you only have 3 days to see the city.  Want to know the best beaches, parks, neighborhoods, and restaurants? Here’s what we highly recommend to get the most out of your weekend vacation.

Neighborhoods to checkout

  1. Hillcrest– San Diego has a happening night life with a lot to offer. For the LGBT friendly crowd head over to Hillcrest to San Diego’s gay district to get great food, drinks, and an active night life. We went to Sushi Deli 1 and had a great time and then headed down to Gossip Grill for late night snacks and drinks.
  2. Gaslamp/Downtown– San Diego’s historic district is a fun sight to see. We went here during the day- BIG mistake, this place is a bit of ghost town. The time to go is for the nightlife. Bars, night clubs, restaurants and more make this place hopping especially on the weekends.
  3. University / Normal Heights – Both University Heights and Normal Heights are cute neighborhoods with a great coffee and music scene with large college crowds.
  4. Little Italy – Another fun discovery for enjoying an afternoon in the sun…shops, galleries and restaurants make Little Italy a lovely visit.
  5. La Jolla – an elegant neighborhood to the North of downtown San Diego, La Jolla is a great location for an afternoon visit or romantic get-away.

the parks

San Diego hosts some unreal landscapes to explore within city limits. From the rustic beach hikes to the glamorous Balboa Park, this city has a lot to offer the nature lover.

  1. Balboa Park– Botanical Gardens, San Diego Zoo, and a variety of nature trails offer unique experiences in Balboa Park. You can walk through trails with live honey combs, or stay on a paved path through winding forests. Whatever works for you, Balboa Park offers it all.
  2. Point Loma– Point Loma is top of the list that a lot of locals recommended to us, but we didn’t have time to see. Now it’s top on our “next time” list. Regardless, we wanted to share it with all of you if you want to see some beautiful landscapes.
  3. Mission Bay – This is another on our wish list. Mission Bay features a host of water sports, from paddle-boarding, kite-surfing, sailing lessons and rowing. With 4,600 acres of water and waterfront parks, the area is great for joggers, picnics, cyclists, and families. It even has Belmont Park, a beach-side amusement park, and a host of clubs and restaurants.
  4. Torrey Pines State Park – After exploring Balboa Park, head over to Torrey Pines for a gorgeous sunset hike or drive. You first drive along beautiful coastline to a state park. If you want free parking, park along the beach and walk to the hills, or for $20 you can park close to the action. Then hike (or some people drive) up the winding hills to the top of Torrey Pines. Here you will see vast valleys, beautiful California coast lines, often times a lot of weddings, or proposals happening here as well- it’s that beautiful. We hit it in time for sunset, and it was breathtaking.

 The Museums & Art Galleries

San Diego has a ton to offer for the art and museum goer. Here were a few top choices:

  1. San Diego Air and Space Museum– If you’re interested in learning how humans have taken flight ever since the first hot air balloon ride in 1783, this museum will fascinate and awe you.
  2. Maritime Museum of San Diego – After you learn how humans take flight, head over to the Maritime Museum to see how we do on the sea. Explore old ships and even hop aboard to see the inner workings of ships throughout the decades.
  3. San Diego Museum of Art– Located in Balboa Park, you can hit up this museum while exploring the park. If you want a discounted ticket you can go Friday night between 5:00-8:00 pm for only $5!
  4. San Diego Museum of Man– Learn the history of humans! From cannibalism to beerology, this museum has a little of everything…human.

The Beach

Alright, you’re here, and the weather is absolutely beautiful. It’s time to hit the beach. There are a few that are absolutely stunning. Here are our top two:

  1. Silver Strand State Beach– If you’re looking for a beach that’s a little less crowded, Silver Strand Beach is vast, beautiful, and worth a day just to lay out and relax.
  2. Coronado Beach– If you’re looking for one of the most popular beaches in San Diego, Coronado Beach has to be top of the list. There’s mountains in the distance, sail boats on the horizon, sand dunes, hotels, restaurants and more. This is the place to be if you want a day of activity,eating, relaxing and enjoying.

Where to Stay:

There are a ton of options to fit every budget in San Diego. From historic hotels to the good ol’ campground, San Diego can fit any budget.

Luxury-Style

Hotel Del Coronado. This hotel is a gorgeous historic hotel nestled right up to the beach. You can literally walk out of your room and dip your toes into the ocean. They offer a few great restaurants and a luxury spa. It also is one of the most photographed locations in San Diego so all of your weekend-get-away photos will be fabulous!

Mid-Range

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again- Airbnb will change your life. You can literally stay anywhere in San Diego based on any budget. Here you can find a $999 a night, 9 bedroom, luxury downtown home or you can rent this rustic camper next to the beach for only $40 a night. Whatever your style, you can find it on Airbnb.

Camping

Of course, what we are most familiar with is camping in our teardrop camper. Originally we were planning on staying next to the beach but then plans changed drastically once we were locked out of the park at 7:30pm.

  1. Silver Strand State Beach– This park is gorgeous and originally the place we were going to spend our two weeks in San Diego. It’s a parking lot, literally on the beach. However, when we arrived at 7:30pm after a long afternoon of driving from Santa Barbara, it was locked. No one in, and no one out. And this place is in the middle of no where, so be warned: if you want to stay here, be prepared for some cozy nights in and not out exploring the city. For us, it wasn’t worth waking up to the waves crashing on the shore in return for not being able to go out at night. If you simply want a nice beach vacation, this spot is wonderful and we would highly recommend it.
  2. KOA– We stayed in the San Diego KOA and couldn’t be happier with that choice. This KOA has every family activity you can think of. From a giant bouncing bean, to bike rentals, to a pool and hot tub, this spot is luxury for the weekend camper. The only problem is, it’s far from downtown, the beach, and pretty much any hotspot in San Diego. It is located in the suburb of Chula Vista, which has its own host of coffee shops, malls, movies…and tons of taquerias with the best fish tacos we’ve ever had. If you’re going to stay here we definitely recommend a car.
  3. Mission Bay RV Resort – We didn’t stay here, but it looks like a great place to camp in the middle of the action, particularly if you want to be close to downtown, parks, museums, night clubs and restaurants.

Where to eat & Drink:

restaurants

  1. Sushi Deli 1 – A cute little sushi restaurant on the outskirts of Hillcrest. Also they were offering 2 for 1 sake so what’s not to love about this place?
  2. Third Corner in Ocean Beach – their scallops are amazing!
  3. Soltaan Banoo– Amazing Persian food.
  4. Hodad’s Burgers – Known as the “world’s greatest burgers.” Not sure about world’s greatest, but they were good!
  5. George’s at the Cove– This place is a pricier option in La Jolla, but the waves actually hit the windows. Now THAT’S a view.
  6. Cotija’s Point Loma – This one doesn’t seem to have a website so we gave you their yelp reviews. Excellent burritos!
  7. Miguel’s Mexican Coronado– Their white sauce! OMG. A must have with chips.

Coffee Shops

We work in A LOT of coffee shops, so we’re always open to some cool local spots. We went to a few that we really enjoyed.

  1. Lestat’s– This is a college spot with a real funky vibe.  It’s a great place to come hang out on their “well-loved” couches or to sit and work for the afternoon.
  2. Cafe 976– Another place loaded with college students but creates a great vibe for working the afternoon away!
  3. Twiggs Coffee– Great coffee and like we said a million times, great vibe.

Dessert

Both titles of these dessert spots do it justice- Heaven and Extraordinary sums it up nicely!

  1. Heaven Sent Desserts
  2. Extraordinary Desserts

Happy Hour

  1. The Prado Balboa Park
  2. C Level @ Island Prime
  3. Analog

Bars/Nightlife

  1. Mister A’s – Another pricey option, but the VIEWS! My goodness. And if you’re just coming for a drink you can get away with spending $20-$30 for a great night.
  2. Top of the Hyatt – Another insanely awesome view.
  3. Vin de Syrah – This has an underground weird door but super cool interior.
  4. Air Conditioned Lounge– Great dive bar if that’s your thing.
  5. Imperial House– Another wonderful dive bar with a great guy playing piano music in the background.

CONCLUDING YOUR WEEKEND GUIDE TO SAN DIEGO 

No matter what your style or budget, San Diego has something to offer for everyone. As a family vacation or a romantic couple’s get-away, San Diego is the perfect spot. It offers amazing hikes, gorgeous picturesque views, city hustle and bustle, LGBT friendly neighborhoods, and incredible eats. We will definitely be back to San Diego!  Stay, relax, & enjoy. Safe travels everyone!

Have other San Diego recommendations? Leave them in the comments below!

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3 Comments

  1. I had an opportunity to explore San Diego for a week when my wife was at a conference. I could have spent the entire time in Balboa park. There is so much to see. We will be back also.

    • Valerie Reply

      Isn’t it just beautiful!? We really enjoyed Balboa Park.

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