When you live in Los Angeles and only have 3 days to spare there is not a lot of places outside of the city that are a drive away; Vegas, Catalina Island, and San Diego. We opted for the latter and booked our hotel in a matter of minutes. San Diego is located in Southern California, right on the border with Mexico. It is on approximately 120 miles (190 km) south of Los Angeles and it took us approximately two and a half hours to reach our destination. The traffic was unbearable (all roads lead to San Diego?), but we had the privilege of spending those two hours driving next to magnificent California coast (along the Pacific Ocean).
When booking your hotel keep in mind to check if the parking is provided free of charge as plenty of hotels don't offer this option, some even charge for internet access. Costs can quickly add up. Distance is less relevant as San Diego is not a huge city and you will be pretty much 15 minutes away from one of the attractions no matter which hotel or resort you opt for in the end. We booked our room at the Handlery Hotel San Diego primarily because it was one of the rare mid - range hotels to offer free parking and WI-FI (crazy I know). The hotel/resort was 10-15 minutes away from all the attractions we set out to see and it had an on-site salon, restaurants, and a pretty decent pool. Rooms were smaller in size and not luxurious by any means (more motel feel), but they were clean! I was slightly disappointed with the lack of any view (if you opt for this hotel ask for the room facing the pool).
San Diego is a place where life is lived outdoors and has plenty of outdoor space to enjoy the weather; From beaches and boardwalks to the fields and footpaths of sprawling Balboa Park. It is especially kid friendly (more than any other city that we have visited in California) with plenty of options available for the young ones to go wild and enjoy their day. It’s like Disneyland on steroids. Lacking any kids of our own we decided to try out the San Diego Sea World and spend the day running around from one show to another like we were five years old. We were also pleasantly surprised that the entrance is free if you are in the military; a great Hot Tip for all Army families. That saved us plenty of money which we ended up spending on that evening's booze (don’t judge). If you end up going to San Diego Sea World make it an all-day thing. You might as well since there is no way to safely run around and see all the attractions in a few hours. There is just too much to see and do. Don’t bother getting the premium seats for the shows as the view is equally good from all angles and you don’t want to be restricted to one bench. A great money saver for all couples or families is the All-Day Dining Deal (we bought one ticket and shared the meals) where you and your family can enjoy all your favorite foods from participating restaurants as often as once every hour until the published restaurant closing time (adult price $35.99 - children (ages 3-9) price $18.99). Make sure to bring plenty of sun block if you plan to spend the entire day there, otherwise, you end up like me covered in yogurt for the rest of the night. You will not notice the burns due to the windy weather and overcast.
After spending the entire day soaking the sun we decided to go out and treat ourselves with some wine and food. San Diego for me is definitely a gourmet city. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, bakeries and dessert shops to go around and the biggest issue was the abundance of choice. Everything looked so yummy and the aroma of fresh dough or baked goods lures you in and once you are hooked there is no turning back. We spent three days savoring everything and anything we could get out hands on. I even received a call from my personal trainer (that man’s chi is strong, he could sense the weight I worked so hard to lose piling back). For dinner, you just must visit Little Italy, a lively neighborhood filled with patio cafés, packed restaurants, craft brew stops, urban wineries, art galleries, sophisticated shops, boutique hotels and the beautiful Amici Park. Today, San Diego's most dynamic food and drink scene are centered in Little Italy. Top Chef alums have set up shop next to old-school eateries that remain treasured landmarks and you will have a hard time picking the place to eat.
For our second day, we decided to keep it outdoorsy and chilled. We spent the day strolling along Seaport Village and Balboa Park before heading back to dreaded and overcrowded Los Angeles. Seaport Village offers eclectic gifts and souvenirs and again it is perfect for families and couples. There are 50-plus diverse shops, 17 unique eateries, and four bay side restaurants. With four miles of meandering cobblestone pathways bordered by ponds, lakes, fountains and colorful landscaping, plus a quarter-mile slate boardwalk along the San Diego Bay, it's easy to enjoy the morning stroll while you wander through the shops, walking the promenade and taking in the scenery. As a huge fan of Cupcake Wars, I was excited to discover Frost Me Gourmet - Food Network Cupcake Wars champions. We choose to try Chocolate Peanut Butter and S’mores cupcake which were luscious and moist and worth your pennies.
Crown jewel of our visit was the afternoon spent at the nation's largest "urban cultural" park. Balboa Park is home to 15 major museums, renowned performing arts venues, beautiful gardens and the San Diego Zoo. The Park has an ever-changing calendar of museum exhibitions, plays, musicals, concerts, and classes—all in the beautiful and timeless setting of this must-see San Diego attraction. Balboa Park is a San Diego must-see, just minutes from downtown, and ranked as one of the Best Parks in the World with a variety of cultural institutions laid out among it's 1,200 beautiful and lushly planted acres, Balboa Park is the nation's largest urban cultural park (bigger than the famous New York’s Central Park)!
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the entire day to spend at the park but we did manage to see the botanical garden, the Prado House and The Museum of Man. The later provides a great option of visiting the historical tower which will satisfy all panoramic photography lovers. The tour lasted for 40 min and it is worth going to. We learned a lot about the history of the park and San Diego respectively.
Our day came to an end faster than we wanted and we left San Diego wanting more. Undoubtedly we will be back soon to this iconic city. If you have any questions or need any tips don’t hesitate to scribble it below and I’ll do my best to help.