Let me start by saying that this is by no means an all inclusive report on San Diego. There’s so much that we’ve left on the plate for next time, that it definitely warrants another visit. San Diego left me feeling satisfied and happy, but still interested- like after a decent meal at a good restaurant, where a ton of things on the menu remain unexplored and deliciously interesting.
Balboa Park came recommended highly by San Diego residents, our hosts and SD-born-recently-transplanted friends. It is paradise for kids and dogs, with wide open acres to run through. Flower lovers will love walking through the compact but breezy rose garden as well as botanical building. How badly I feel to have missed the Japanese Friendship Garden. There are a ton of museums including air and space, natural history, hands-on Science Museum as well as various art genres for those rainy/ too hot days when indoor fun sounds so appealing.
As art lovers and locovores, we loved strolling through the Spanish Village, each nook bedazzled by galleries of handmade art. The collections were eclectic and diverse, often times you’d encounter the artists and crafters themselves working on a new piece. Stand by and take it all in and then stroll away to buy your unique souvenirs. I should have spent a whole day there, but the couple hours we did spend there were wholesome and so entertaining.
Smack in the middle of Balboa Park sits San Diego Zoo which we kept a whole separate day to visit. It’s not huge but the hilly terrain makes walking up and down the exhibits not as much fun. While I do like zoos I have to say that SD zoo wasn’t the best I had seen. Sure the koalas and the giant pandas were fun to see, overall the animals kind of looked sad. Under the same management is the San Diego Zoo Safari Park which was a 100 times better though. It is about 40 minutes north of downtown San Diego.
The animal encounters were a lot more fun there. The birds and water birds walk right up to you, you can see a cheetah go 0 to 60 in under 3 minutes, you can take a variety of safari tours through the terrain and watch a number of shows like the Frequent Flyers which is an immensely enjoyable bird show. Overall if I only give 3/5 to the Zoo inside Balboa Park, I would venture to give a 4.5//5 to the Zoo Safari. It is totally worth the drive. Why not a pure 5/5 you ask? The price is hefty! By far the most expensive zoo I’ve been to. The pass gets you the African Tram and anything beyond that is $50-$600 extra…per person, which could add up very quickly.
- Buy the 2-visit pass if going both to the Zoo and Safari Park http://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/tickets
- Short on time? Choose the safari over the zoo. Choose Coronado over Point Loma.
- On a budget?
Balboa Park is great for people of all ages and interests. Also San Diego is a great place to score amazing roadside eats especially mexican food (duh!) Fancying fancy food? Hash House is moderately tv-style nice and a great place to share your meal…the portions are ginormous.
- Bringing your pooch?
- Good walking shoes will go a long way in SD.
San Diego Zoo [family]
San Diego Safari Park- interactive animal experience [nature lovers, solo, family]
Sea World- theme parks and aquariums [family]
Lego land- The name says it all [family]
La Jolla-shopping, food, scenic stops [shutterbugs, urban explorers, foodies, family/ couple, locovores]
Mount Soledad- skyline view, scenic drive, trails [beach surfers, shutterbugs, solo/ family/ couples/ dogs]
Delmar- shopping, food, scenic stops [shutterbugs, urban explorers, foodies, family/ couple, locovores]
Coronado island- skyline view, scenic drive, beach [beach surfers, shutterbugs]
Point Loma- skyline view [shutterbugs, family]
Torrey Point- State Park, scenic drive [shutterbugs, nature lovers, solo/couples]
Carlsbad Flower Fields [shutterbugs, nature lovers, solo/ family/ couples]
Restaurants (with hyperlinked Yelp reviews)
Pappalecco- Coffee, sandwiches and gelato (indoor/ outdoor seating, dog/kid friendly) 5/5 *****
Elixir Cafe- Coffee and crepery (minimal outdoor seating) 3/5 ***
Lolitas Mexican- sit down and takeaway Mexican 5/5 *****
Oscar’s Mexican Seafood- takeaway tacos and other mexican seafood 3/5 ***
Panchitas- takeaway Mexican bakery 2/5 **
Bread & Cie- bakery 3/5***
Project Pie- make your own pizza 3/5***
Hash House a Go Go Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner-Brunch national chain 5/5*****
Hillcrest- Yuppy area full of restaurants of all kinds and ranges. Easy parking considering the density of people. The area felt very alive. Overall walkable and safe.
Golden Hill- Mainly residential with some scattered restaurants. Walkable but I didn’t see a lot of foot traffic. Tons of stop signs, so if you’re out of state visitors like us, pay attention, you probably don’t have these many stop signs in your town. Convenient area to go to Balboa Park/ Zoo. Also close to the airport. Great place to stay in a B&B if you can find one.
Downtown- Main office/ business area, deserted in the weekend mornings (shoulda known), high homeless population (but then “high” compared to the rest of SD not your town), did not see a lot of foot traffic
Little Italy- quaint-ish, lots of Italian and Italian/Spanish restaurants. walkable. Parts of it didn’t feel that great.