3 Days in San Diego
Raised in San Diego, this is my 3-day laid back itinerary for America's Finest City. This itinerary is great if you have been to San Diego previously and want more of a locals experience to visiting this wonderful city. You will explore some of my favorite neighborhoods, visit some favorite breweries, distilleries, and bars, and eat some amazing food.
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Andaz San Diego
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Day 1: Explore San Diego
Arrive in San Diego, check in to your hotel, and settle in. Now it is time to explore!
Head on over to North Park and grab a cup of coffee and a snack at one of the many coffee shops in the area before exploring this trendy neighborhood filled with taquerias, great restaurants, and fun nightlife. Today we are going to take it easy and do some shopping and store browsing. Some of my favorite locally owned shops are Pigment (with a second location in Liberty Station), Artelexia, Hunt & Gather, and Verbatim Books. Take your time and explore all this neighborhood has to offer and make your way down to South Park as well.
You are in the craft brew capital of America so it's only fitting that you visit a few local breweries. Stop into Eppig Brewing Co. to taste some local beer. Other favorite breweries include Harland Brewing (try the Japanese lager), or Second Chance Brewery (their Tabula Rasa is an excellent toasted porter). If craft cocktails are more your thing, be sure to make your way to East Village and pop into You & Yours, the first craft distillery in California.
Tonight's dinner is casual and a perfect example of what makes this border city shine. Tacos el Gordo in downtown San Diego is a no frills Tijuana-style taco shop. Originally opened in Tijuana in the 1970's, the first location in San Diego opened in 1998 and they have been serving up delicious food ever since.
Two great speakeasies located in downtown San Diego - Noble Experiment, and Young Blood. Reservations are required and book up. A little more casual style speakeasy bar and restaurant options are located in Pacific Beach - The Grass Skirt, and Capitan's Quarters.
Day 2: Get outdoors
Day 2 let's go! Today is all about exploring the parks, and spending time outdoors. There are a few options for today one option is around 5 miles, and the second option you can make it your own with as much or as little walking as you choose.
Today we are going to start off with a hike at Kate Sessions Park. Known for its beautiful view of the bay and downtown San Diego these parks hidden gem is its easy hiking routes in the canyon.
After our morning hike head down to Leilani's Cafe in Pacific Beach for some Hawaiian food. This is a great little spot loved by locals, all thanks to Leilani and her family who have been serving up delicious food since they first opened.
Exploring- Two options for today
1. 7 bridges urban hike. Explore the neighborhoods of Hillcrest, North Park, and Banker's Hill as you stroll 5.5 miles, take in beautiful sights, and cross the 7 bridges. This is a great way to explore San Diego in an unconventional way. Grab lunch along the way in one of the neighborhoods. Once finished head back to the hotel change and get ready for dinner and drinks.
2. Explore Balboa Park, and Little Italy. Head over to Balboa Park to explore the 1,200 acre urban park home to the world famous San Diego Zoo, and over 16 museums.
Some of my personal favorite locations in the park are the Spanish Village Art Center where local artists rent studio space and open their space for visitors. Be sure to see the glassblowing facility where you can watch glassblowing right in front of you.
As well as the various gardens - Zoro Garden, now a butterfly garden, was once a nudist colony that consisted of hired actors to promote the idea of natural outdoor life. Grab lunch at Panama 66 in the park or go to Mona Lisa Italian foods in Little Italy for a simple deli sandwich before making your way to Salt & Straw for some ice cream. If you are here on a Saturday switch this itinerary and come to Little Italy first before Balboa Park for the Farmers Market.
Enjoy Kinme an Omakase experience 18 years old and up only, this immersive dining experience is not to be missed. *Reservation will be released on the 1st of the previous month. Starlite a hidden gem since opening its doors in 2007 what looks to be a small unassuming space opens into a beautiful architectural eatery with a sunken bar, and large open air patio. 21+ only allowed. Stop in for dinner, or happy hour 5-6pm, or late night happy hour Tuesday-Thursday from 10pm-12am.
If you desire a more casual experience grab dinner at Point Loma Seafood which has been in business since 1963, hours vary by season so check in advance if coming for dinner.
Aero Club Bar - This local legend has been serving San Diegans since 1947. With some recent updates including pinball machines and arcade games this long-time bar is sure to serve up a fun time.
Day 3: Relax
Today is about relaxation, and what better way to relax then a beach town.
We are going to start off in La Jolla. Grab some coffee, and a pastry at Brick & Bell on Silverado, and then walk over the Cave Store where you will take the Coastal Walk Trail out and back taking in views of the coastline from above. Continue you walk along the coast walking making your way over towards the Museum of Contemporary Art.
If you are wanting to eat a full breakfast head over to one of the many local breakfast spots.Three of my favorites - Harry's Coffee Shop on Girard, The Cottage, and Sugar & Scribe on Fay.
After breakfast make your way back to any shops you might have passed on your morning stroll. Be sure to stop at Warwick's which "is the country's oldest continuously family-owned and operated bookstore" a place I have enjoyed visiting and shopping ever since childhood, and still find magic inside of Warwick's to this day.
Lunch and Beach
Head south to Pacific Beach and grab lunch to go at Oscar's Mexican Seafood for some delicious seafood tacos to eat on the beach. Take your time enjoying your lunch while listening to the waves. Spend the rest of your day at the beach before headed home.
Need to Know
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Things to Do in Florence, Italy: Explore the Artistic Gems of Florence.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to San Diego.