San Diego is a major city in Southern California, and is one of America’s most popular tourist destinations. New York has its cabbie, Chicago its bluesman and Seattle its coffee-drinking boho. San Diego has its surfer dude, with tousled hair, a great tan and gentle enthusiasm; they look like they're on a perennial vacation, and when they wish you welcome, they really mean it.
San Diego calls itself ‘America’s Finest City’, and its breezy confidence and sunny countenance filter down to folks you encounter every day on the street. It feels like a collection of villages each with their own personality, but it’s the nation’s eighth-largest city and we’re hard-pressed to think of a more laid-back place. San Diego is famous for beautiful beaches, great weather year-round, bustling craft brewery scene, and countless outdoor attractions. Whether you come for a weekend, or spend a few weeks hanging out, you will fall in love with this place. What’s not to love? San Diego bursts with world-famous attractions for the entire family, including the zoo, the museums of Balboa Park, plus a bubbling Downtown, beautiful hikes for all, more than 60 beaches and America’s most perfect weather, with over 100 days of sunshine each year, it’s no wonder they consider it America’s Finest City.
BEST TIME TO GO TO SAN DIEGO
Every month is a good month to visit San Diego, since there really is no such thing as an off-season. If you’d like to avoid a moderate influx in traffic, stick to March through May and September through November, when kids are still in school and vacation times are at a minimum. December to February tends to see the most rain, and June through August are the most crowded months to travel to San Diego because school is out. The sweet spot for visitors is in the fall and winter months, when hotel room rates are lower and weather is still above average temperatures.
GETTING TO SAN DIEGO
San Diego Internation Airports, better known as Lindbergh Field, is 2.5-3 miles (4-4.8km) NW of downtown San Diego and is less than 10 minutes drive (or taxi ride) along Harbor Dr to get to downtown. The descent into the airport from the east is remarkably close to downtown buildings, which can be a bit alarming for first-time visitors. Currently direct international flights are offered by British Airways from London; Japan Airlines from Tokyo Narita; from Toronto and Vancouver by Air Canada; from Calgary on Westjet and from several cities in Mexico with Spirit, and Alaska.
Tiajuan Gen. Abelardo L. Rodrigez International Airports in Mexico is in the vicinity of San Diego, and maybe an option as it offers numerous flights and recently added long-haul service from Shanghai. This allows many tourists from the Pacific Rim the option of bypassing the Los Angeles or San Francisco airports and putting them closer to San Diego or to transit from the Pacific Rim to Latin America to avoid the extra bureaucratic hassles associated with entering the US (which is required to even transit). However, closer is not necessarily easier. As this airport is not in the United States, travelers need to make sure that they have the proper documentation such as passports or visas for their respective nationality to traverse through Mexico into the United States. Also, one should be aware that border crossing by private vehicle from Tijuana to the United States involves very long lines. As such, changing planes in Los Angeles or San Francisco then continuing on to San Diego is usually the easier option for travel. Likewise, travel from Mexico City (and/or other Mexican cities further south) to Tijuana may be a cheaper option as a domestic flight then as an international flight to Los Angeles or San Francisco. With the opening of the Cross Border Xpress bridge and terminal, Tijuana is now the only airport in the world to have terminals in two countries. Passengers can walk across a bridge spanning the U.S.-Mexico border between the terminal on the U.S. side and the main facility on the Mexican side. This allows air travelers using the Tijuana Airport the option to clear US customs and immigration at a separate US Terminal building thus avoiding crossing the border at either Otay Mesa or San Ysidro. To use it you must have in your possession an airline boarding pass, passport (and/or visa where required), and a CBX ticket which can be either purchased online or via their website. There are also car rental offices and taxi services available at the US terminal plus there is a shuttle service from the CBX Terminal to San Ysidro and Downtown San Diego at the Santa Fe Train Station.
GETTING AROUND SAN DIEGO
By car - The San Diego metropolitan area is sprawling. Car travel is the most efficient way of getting around the metro area. Throughout the downtown and beach communities, on-street parking is metered. Parking meters accept coins, pre-paid Parking Meter Cards, and some newer meters accept credit cards. For more information parking meters and enforcement, or to purchase a pre-paid meter card please visit the City of San Diego Parking Administration website. Gas/petrol prices tend to be higher than much of the U.S. The outlying communities of El Cajn, Santee, Lemon Grove, Poway and Chula Vista are the least expensive in the area for filling your tank. All the major rental car companies operate at the San Diego Airport, though most require you to take a shuttle which goes behind the terminal and runway (about 2.5 miles). To get to the I-5 freeway, turn right at Sassafras Street, then cross the railroad tracks. Do not mistake the railroad crossing for Kettner Blvd./I-5 south as a few visitors have done (mostly after dark) over the years. These tracks are heavily used by Amtrak and other rail services, and there's a good chance of being hit by a train if you make a wrong turn.
Bus - The Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) operates bus service to large portions of the county, although service in many areas is sparse and infrequent. The weakest points in the transit system are suburb-to-suburb travel and poor links between some of the individual coastal communities, both of which often require long trips to one of the transit hubs, then back out. If you will be mainly in the areas around downtown, the bus may be suitable, but service generally gets weaker the farther you are from the central area. There is bus service every 15 to 30 minutes or so (at least on weekdays) between downtown San Diego and a number of tourist-oriented destinations. These include the airport, the zoo, and neighborhoods such as Hillcrest, North Park, and La Jolla, check a routing website for timetables. There is adequate service to Sea World from the Old Town Transit Center, where the trolley stops. Service from downtown to Coronado and Ocean Beach is about once every 30 minutes.
Trolley (light rail) - The San Diego Trolley is a light rail system operated by the MTS which mainly serves tourists and people living in the southern and eastern parts of the city that need to get to downtown areas. There are three trolley lines: blue, green, and orange. The Blue Line operates from the US-Mexico border at San Diego/San Ysidro and runs to Old Town, via Chula Vista, National City, and Downtown. The Green Line travels from Old Town east to Santee, via Mision Valley and SDSU. The Orange Line connects the eastern cities of El Cajon and La Mesa with Downtown (generally not as usable for tourists except for getting around parts of downtown). Trains run from at least 5AM-12AM every day. Frequency varies, but the trolley usually runs every 15 minutes, with service reduced to every 30 minutes for late-night, weekend, and holiday service.
By bike - The weather in San Diego is ideally suited for bicycle riding, and bikes are a good way to explore the beach side communities. Many of the beach side community's residents use bikes to get around as it is ideal weather and a good way to alleviate finding parking. The beach areas are flat and some beach cruiser rental spots can be found along the boardwalk areas in Mission/Pacific Beach.
WHERE TO STAY IN SAN DIEGO
Situated in La Jolla, California town centre, this boutique inn offers spacious Balinese inspired rooms with well-equipped kitchens, fireplaces and Pacific Ocean views. It offers a daily deluxe continental breakfast. Free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen cable TV, an iPod docking station and a work desk are offered in all of the unique rooms at Pantai Inn. Rooms feature custom made wood-carved furnishings and Indonesian artwork. The contemporary kitchens are fully-equipped with a microwave, a refrigerator and tea and coffee-making facilities and offer reverse osmosis filtered water and ice makers. Pantai Inn La Jolla is 5 minutes’ walk from La Jolla Cove Beach. Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography is 10 minutes’ drive away. SeaWorld San Diego is 20 minutes’ drive from the inn.
Just 5 minutes' walk from the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, this eco-friendly 4-star hotel offers a fine-dining restaurant and a large outdoor pool. The spacious guest rooms offer flat-screen TVs and free WiFi. An iPod dock and a work desk are provided in each room at Grande Colonial La Jolla. Rooms are traditionally styled with gold and green color accents; they include luxury bathrobes and bath amenities. Free bottled water is available. La Jolla Grande Colonial features NINE-TEN Restaurant, serving fresh California Cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. An upscale brunch is served on Sundays, and room service is provided every day. This hotel offers free access to a digital news service (PressReader) and a business center and a variety of meeting facilities for guest convenience. Valet parking and dry cleaning services are also available. Grande Colonial is within 20 minutes' drive of SeaWorld San Diego and the San Diego Zoo. San Diego International Airport is 21 km away.
This European boutique-style hotel in La Jolla, California is just a 10-minute walk to the Pacific Ocean. It features an Italian restaurant, free Wi-Fi and deluxe rooms with a refrigerator. The elegant rooms at Empress Hotel are styled in rich dark colors. Each offers cable TV, a work desk and private bathroom with bathrobes. Hotel Empress provides a continental breakfast and gourmet coffee every morning. Authentic Italian cuisine is served in the stylish Manhattan Restaurant. Guests can arrange for in-room spa services or relax under palm trees on the garden terrace. Sunny Jim’s Cave and the La Jolla Underwater Park are within 2.4 km of the hotel. The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is also just a 5-minute walk away.
Just minutes from the SeaWorld and San Diego Zoo, this hotel offers a pool with waterfront views. It also features a waterside deli, restaurant, bar and an outdoor-poolside fire pit. Guest rooms include 45’’ HDTVs with premium channels and pay movies. Each room has an iHome docking station and Herman Miller ergo-chair, alongside a minibar and coffee maker. Courtyard Liberty Station is adjacent to a 46-acre park and has a vast array of activities including bike rentals and jogging trails. The fitness center offers cardio equipment, free weights and treadmills. The Lounge Restaurant serves a varied menu of homemade soups, salads and hearty sandwiches. Guests can watch the ships go by while sipping Starbucks coffee at the Waterside Deli. Courtyard San Diego Airport/Liberty Station is located 8.4 km from the San Diego Convention Center.
One block from the stunning Pacific Ocean, this motel in San Diego's Pacific Beach neighborhood offers relaxing facilities and friendly services in an ideal location Beach Haven Inn features an outdoor pool and whirlpool tub in the center courtyard. Guests can cook a meal in the outdoor barbecue area or in the full kitchen in their spacious studio or suite. Guests at the Beach Haven can walk along the beach or explore the Crystal Pier, which is only 4 blocks from the motel. The nearby Pacific Beach boardwalk boasts 5 km of restaurants, shops and nightclubs.
Located in the former mansion of an industrialist, this Coronado inn features a classic Spanish village style courtyard that contains gardens, boutique shops and two on-site restaurants. The elegantly decorated rooms of El Cordova are equipped with ree wifi, cable TV with HBO, and in room coffee. Two on site restaurants which include the Brigantine Seafood Restaurant, specializing in seafood and steaks, and Miguel's Cocina, featuring Mexican cuisine. Brigante, decorated with photos from the coastal village’s past, specializes in steak and fish. Miguels Cocina serves Mexican food and drinks in the courtyard and Miguelito’s holds large group events. El Cordova Hotel is a 5 minute walk to Coronado Beach and the historic Hotel Del Coronado, and is 4.8 km from the Coronado Municipal Golf Course.
Located in the Gaslamp District, Andaz San Diego - a Concept by Hyatt is 1.5 km from the San Diego Convention Center. The hotel provides guest rooms with free WiFi and features a rooftop pool and restaurant with striking San Diego views. An iPod docking station, 46-inch flat-screen cable TV and minibar with complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and snacks are featured in each guest room. Complete with a refrigerator, the dining area also has a coffee machine. A glass-enclosed en suite bathroom with bathrobes and hairdryer is provided. The Rooftop by STK is a chic rooftop restaurant that offers American fare with spectacular views of downtown San Diego. Guests can enjoy poolside service with specialty cocktails and local craft beer. Located on the lobby level, STK Steakhouse offers meat and market fresh fish entrees. Signature items include Parmesan Truffle Fries, Tuna Tartare and Sweet Corn Pudding. Guests can hire a cabana to relax by the rooftop swimming pool while enjoying a cocktail from the rooftop lounge. The San Diego Zoo is 4.8 km away. SeaWorld San Diego is less than 11 km away from Andaz San Diego - a Concept by Hyatt.
Combining minimalist design with sleek sophistication, Tower 23 Hotel is just 2 minutes' walk from Pacific Beach Pier and the boardwalk. Numerous beach bars and restaurants are in the surrounding neighbourhood. Tower 23 Hotel features exceptional accommodations furnished with flat-screen TVs and luxurious goose-down duvets. Guests can also enjoy in-room spa services or dine at the hotel's on-site gourmet steak and seafood restaurant, JRDN. Guests at Tower 23 are surrounded by a large variety of activities. Surfing, fishing, golfing and whale watching tours are just some of the leisure opportunities offered in the surrounding area. SeaWorld San Diego is 15 minutes' drive from the property.
Situated in San Diego, 1.1 km from San Diego Convention Center, Stay Classy Hostel provides accommodation with a shared lounge. The property is around 2.1 km from USS Midway Museum and 2.3 km from Balboa Park. Free WiFi is provided. All rooms are equipped with a shared bathroom. You can play billiards at the hostel. Maritime Museum of San Diego is 2.3 km from Stay Classy Hostel, while San Diego Zoo is 2.7 km away. The nearest airport is San Diego International Airport, 5 km from the accommodation.
Ideally set in the Downtown San Diego, Gaslamp Hostel features air-conditioned rooms, a shared lounge and free WiFi. The property is around 3.3 km from Balboa Park, 5 km from San Diego Zoo and 7 km from Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. The property is 10 km from University of San Diego and 11 km from SeaWorld San Diego. At the hostel the rooms are fitted with a shared bathroom. A continental breakfast is available each morning at Gaslamp Hostel. Popular points of interest near the accommodation include San Diego Convention Center, Maritime Museum of San Diego and USS Midway Museum. The nearest airport is San Diego International Airport, 4 km from Gaslamp Hostel.
PLACES TO GO & THINGS TO DO IN SAN DIEGO WITH FAMILY
You’ll keep returning to this 1,200-acre urban park for its world-class zoo, restful cultivated areas, museums in refined Spanish Revival buildings and live shows. There’s a tapestry of gardens around the park, planted with more than 350 plant species hand-selected at the turn of the 20th century by the botanist Kate Sessions, the “Mother of Balboa Park”. An emblem for the park and San Diego is the Botanical Building, one of many splendid holdovers from the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition. Among the largest lath buildings in the world, the Botanical House contains 2,100 individual plants and is fronted by a pond with annual displays of lilies and lotuses.
San Diego’s walkable harbour-front is brimming with shops, interesting sights and eateries, and looks across the bay to Coronado Island. A lot of the Embarcadero’s interest is literally floating on the water, at the USS Midway and the heritage ships belonging to the San Diego Maritime Museum. This is also the place to board tour boats around the harbour and out in the ocean to spot whales. When the mercury rises kids can go wild at the interactive fountains in the Waterfront Park and adventure through the creatively designed playgrounds. In November the Embarcadero stages the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, while the San Diego Symphony Orchestra plays the Bayside Summer Nights from late-June to the start of September.
The longest-serving aircraft carrier in the world has been permanently moored at San Diego’s Embarcadero since 2004. Commissioned in 1945, the USS Midway served in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm, before becoming the largest museum dedicated to aircraft carriers and naval aviation anywhere. GetYourGuide.com offers a self - guided audio tour of this humungous vessel, during which you’ll see over 30 restored aircraft, including 8 propeller planes, 14 jet aircraft and 8 helicopters. You’ll be led through the galley, brig, crew’s sleeping quarters, pilots’ ready rooms and engine room, and hear exciting snippets from people who served aboard the Midway. You’ll have lots of chances to get involved, testing simulators, climbing into cockpits and watching films documenting the dramatic events that took place where you stand.
The upscale oceanfront community of La Jolla is on a rocky headland poking out into the Pacific and surrounded by water on three sides. La Jolla means fine dining, cliffs with sea caves and little coves where seals and sea lions rest on the sand. Stop by La Jolla many times on this list, visiting the famous Torrey Pines and its State Reserve, beaches and golf course. La Jolla proper has a cosmopolitan, European feel in its cafes, boutiques, low-rise houses and steep stairways. At Ellen Browning Scripps Park by La Jolla Point you can contemplate the majesty of the Southern Californian coast, catch open-air concerts on summer evenings and see the fireworks on the Fourth of July. Make a detour to the Legends Gallery on Prospect Street, which has original art by former La Jolla resident Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr Seuss).
Surf culture is woven into San Diego’s identity and the county’s 70 miles of open ocean coastline has more surf spots than we could list here. Much of the shore has southwest facing beach breaks, while there are rockier sections with reef breaks at La Jolla and Point Loma. Avid surfers are always ready to travel for the perfect wave, and this might mean a trip up to the highly popular Swami’s, which was mentioned in the Beach Boys’ Surfin USA. The river mouth point break at Trestles is world renowned and hosts WSL competitions from May to September. Honourable mentions go to the beach breaks at Oceanside and the spacious Del Mar, where you won’t have to jostle for a wave. There are shops for gear rental near every major spot. And if you’d rather keep your feet on dry land, you can watch some great surfing action from the rocks at Windansea in La Jolla.
The west side of San Diego Bay is embraced by a long rocky peninsula that merits a visit for jagged topography, thrilling history and views you won’t soon forget. We’ll touch on a few of the sights on Point Loma later, but in 1542, this was the landing point for the first European expedition to what is now the West Coast of America. Given the peninsula’s setting, protecting the west flank of the harbour, Point Loma has a military presence going back to the 19th century. The 77.5-acre Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery (1882) is on the grounds of a former coastal artillery station. There are more than 100,000 graves here, and solemn memorials like the USS Bennington Monument, recording an accident in San Diego Bay that claimed 66 lives in 1905. Head to the marina for whale watching expeditions, and to Osprey Point were climbers scale the rocks and fishers camp over the water.
At the southern tip of Point Loma you’ll stand where a European person first set foot on the West Coast. Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo’s expedition arrived here on 28 September 1542, and he named the bay San Miguel (this would change to San Diego in 1602). The original heroic statue of Cabrillo was donated by the Portuguese government in 1939, while the current replica has stood since 1988. The national monument’s visitor centre has a movie and exhibits to retrace Cabrillo’s voyage along the Californian coast. Outside you can still see the old coastal batteries that protected the harbour and check out the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which has been converted into a museum. But maybe best of all is the widescreen view of San Diego’s skyline, the harbour, across to Coronado and down to Tijuana.
Founded by the physician Harry M. Wegeforth after he was inspired by the roar of a lion at the Panama-California Exposition in 1915, the San Diego Zoo is rated among the best in the world and houses more than 650 species. This was one of the first zoos to build cageless exhibits, and opened the first ever moated lion enclosure in 1922. You can beat the heat and get around on a guided tour bus that covers three quarters of the park, or the Skyfari tramway from 1969. As with the best zoos, the enclosures tally with natural habitats, so there’s African rainforest inhabited by gorillas, some of the world’s largest free-flight aviaries, as well as Arctic woodland and tundra for polar bears. The San Diego Zoo is one of only four zoos in the United States to have Giant Pandas, and these are in the Panda Trek, while the Giant Panda Discovery Center has clever multisensory exhibits revealing how these creatures sound and smell.
Between December and April the California Gray Whale migrates from Northern Alaska to Baja California to give birth in warmer climes, passing by San Diego. In this season you can head to the Embarcadero for a whale watching cruise, up to four hours long. On this comfortable voyage with indoor and outdoor seating, you’ll be joined by a qualified naturalist from the San Diego Natural History Museum, giving riveting insights about these cetacean visitors. The likelihood of seeing a dolphin or whale is high, to the point where you’ll get a free pass for another tour if you don’t see anything. But you are guaranteed to spot plenty of sea lions and harbour seals, and can soak up San Diego county’s extraordinary Pacific coastline from the ocean.
Roosted on a bluff over the campus of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, this noted aquarium reveals the spectrum of marine life of the Pacific Ocean. You can get there in 20 minutes from downtown San Diego, and start with the Hall of Fishes. This has an array of habitats, from the brisk waters of the North West to the tropical climes of the Indo-Pacific. There’s a 260,000-litre kelp forest tank, coral reefs and a much-loved loggerhead turtle that was rescued. At the Tide-Pool Plaza, youngsters can get to know the creatures inhabiting Southern California’s tide pools like starfish, hermit crabs, lobsters and sea cucumbers. There’s Something About Seahorses is a showcase for this peculiar creature, while Feeling the Heat is a jolting look at the effects of climate change.
A planetarium and interactive science museum, the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park was a trailblazer when it opened in 1973. Younger children will get the most out of the self-guided permanent exhibitions where they can explore outer space, learn the ins and outs of San Diego’s water system and discover the unseen world of nanotechnology. For toddlers the Little Learners’ Lab is a play zone with varying shapes and textures, while the Ball Wall has a little world of shoots, tracks and moving objects. The Heikoff Giant Dome Theater has three IMAX shows screening several times a day. In summer 2018 these were “Aircraft Carrier”, “Great Barrier Reef” and “Pandas”.
The ocean in San Diego is always a thrilling sight, but the surf can be unsafe for children and less accomplished swimmers. In La Jolla one solution was to construct a big concrete seawall to the west, shielding this beach from the waves and creating a scallop-shaped cove with calm waters. The was gifted to the community by the philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps in 1931, but what nobody anticipated was how attractive the beach would prove for seals and sea lions. December to May they come to wallow in the gentle waters and give birth to pups on the beach. Access to Children’s Pool Beach is discouraged in this season, but you can head along the seawall to get a good look at the winter residents with their babies.
The 36-hole municipal golf centre at Torrey Pines was established in 1957 and has real prestige. This totally public facility played host to the 2008 U.S. Open, which as of July 2018 was the last major title claimed by Tiger Woods. The U.S. Open is scheduled to come back to Torrey Pines in 2021. Plotted by the famed course architect William P. Bell and his son in 1957, Torrey Pines has two championship courses (North and South), and one of the largest golf shops in the Western United States. The South course was remodelled by Rees Jones in 2001 and has since staged a host of big events. You can be sure that this course is in demand, and to book a tee time non-residents have to sign up with San Diego’s parks and recreation department and book online up to three days in advance.
WHERE TO SHOP IN SAN DIEGO
Shopping in San Diego can be a lot of fun, whether you’re looking for the perfect little black dress, an elegant suit or just a fun T - Shirts. Hit up these six independent boutiques for unique shopping experiences that are sure to leave you with a garment to treasure.
Fabulous rag sells dresses for every occasion, making it a popular stop for those headed to weddings, formal dances, and other timely celebrations. It’s not all glitter and glamor, though. Shoppers may also find casual dresses and separates suitable for low-key events and work. Customers rave about the friendly and attentive service, and bargain hunters can frequently find sale items that match most budgets.
Sisters Minet and Natalie Taylor own Dolcetti Boutique, located in Gaslamp District. Find new and on-trend men’s and women’s clothing, from designers like Wildfox, Cupcakes and Cashmere, and Bando. The women’s section is more extensive than the men’s, but gentleman shoppers may find T-shirts and accessories. The shop also supports local designers.
5 & A Dime is owned by siblings Jason and Darcie Huggins. They originally started as a toy, book and candy shop, but evolved into a clothing store once they started stocking local brands. They moved into their current location in 2008 and now sell streetwear and accessories, including hats, T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, and jackets. They also sell cookies courtesy of The Good Stuff Cookie Co.
Located in South Park, this electric shop offers men’s and women’s clothing, furniture, gifts, and home decor. Though there are many cute items here, the shop also stocks a fair amount of sleek and minimalist designs.
Established in 1985 and owned by Valerie Lee, Le Bel Age Boutique offers fun, unique, and bold women’s clothing and accessories. Patterned fabrics, statement jewelry, boho-chic dresses, and flowing skirts are just some of the items shoppers find here. The shop also typically hosts festive events and decor surrounding the holidays—especially Halloween—making seasonal affairs a perfect time to get acquainted.
This long-standing La Jolla menswear boutique was founded as a haberdashery in 1950 and continues to cater to the sharp-dressed man today. The shop carries casual and formal men’s clothing—including suits, jackets, sweaters, button-down shirts, polos, and slacks—as well as shoes, ties, undergarments, watches, and other accessories. Customers can also request custom suits and other garments as well.
WHERE TO EAT IN SAN DIEGO
Known for its proximity to the ocean and its enviable weather, the local ingredients found in San Diego are among the best in the United States. From fresh fish to California fusion, craft beer to re-envisioned Mexican fare, these 10 restaurants represent the best of San Diego’s culinary scene.
Serving up California -inspired Italian cuisine, Cucina Urbana combines a stylish and modern ambience with superb food and wine. The restaurant has been celebrated as a new leader in San Diego’s recent movement towards affordable dining, and has been featured in numerous local and national publications. Its inspirational interior design merges rustic materials and surfaces with a highly refined, contemporary aesthetic for an overall homey yet bohemian ambience. Short rib pappardelle, baked arctic char and smoked prosciutto and caramelised pineapple pizza are some of the Italo-Californian fusion dishes to be found on the menu.
Cowboy Star Restaurant and Butcher Shop brings the wild west into the realm of fine dining. When he first decided to open a restaurant, owner and creator Jon Weber started from the premise that dining out should be a kind of escape from one’s everyday experience. Inspired by the Westerns he’d watched as a boy, Cowboy Star Restaurant was born. While reflecting on simpler times, diners can enjoy specialties from the contemporary American menu. All dishes are prepared with fresh farm vegetables, and meats hand cut in the restaurant’s own butcher shop.
Blind Lady Ale House serves exemplary draft beers through their custom designed direct draw system, which shortens the journey from barrel to glass. To complement its rich programme of lagers, ales, pilsners and more, Blind Lady’s quality menu takes advantage of San Diego’s wealth of local farms and markets, while also importing authentic Italian cured meats and cheeses from Emilia-Romagna and Alto Adige. The brewery’s interior is eclectic and youthful, paying homage to San Diego skate culture with a display of vintage skateboards.
Brooklyn Girl Eatery in San Diego’s Gaslamp district is both a nod to old-time Brooklyn and a great addition to the community’s budding, and forward thinking culinary scene. Owners Michael and Victoria McGeath were inspired by Brooklyn’s current culinary and artistic revival, which is also occurring, albeit on a much smaller scale, in their own’s city’s Gaslamp neighbourhood. Set in a loft space with high ceilings, large windows and exposed air vents, Brooklyn Girl maintains a warm and comfortable ambience. A prevalence of warm wood, natural light and references to classic design make this place both contemporary and timeless. Dishes to try here include open face pulled chicken sandwich and cornbread, the Mediterranean black mussel pot or their variety of wood fired pizzas.
Herringbone is known for its bold attempt to unite opposites. A fish meets field menu features the freshest line caught seafood and free range meat, while the restaurant’s impressive dining room brings the outdoors in with six olive trees, an open plan interior and abundant natural light. A vaulted, wood beamed ceiling presides over the restaurant, while original artwork, colourful tiles and patterned textiles add further character to the ambience. Celebrity Chef Brian Malarkey heads up the kitchen at this La Jolla establishment, turning out specialities such as the Laughing Bird shrimp bucatini, duroc pork loin and white peaches and Colorado lamb sirloin with lobster, for his loyal clientele.
Starlite is more than just a restaurant, complementing its offering of craft cocktails, slow food and Sunday brunch with late night dining in a relaxed yet elegant environment. The resulting design is unmistakably California, mixing 1960s Los Angeles modernism with cutting edge contemporary decor. Tinted glass doors, a slatted hexagonal hallway, stainless steel chandeliers and mirrored ceilings are set against natural elements like stacked stone and walnut panelling. Dishes such as winter squash rollatini, pan roasted jidori chicken and a variety of cheese and salami boards take advantage of natural, local and sustainably sourced ingredients.
George’s California Modern conveys the experience of San Diego through its cooking. Dishes like smoked carrot ricotta ravioli, local spiny lobster and Chino Farms vegetable salad demonstrate the flavours, locally sourced ingredients and the healthy lifestyle that defines California. Executive Chef and Partner Trey Foshee recognises that truly great food comes from a deep understanding of the ingredients. George’s takes advantage of San Diego’s year-round excellent weather with its ocean terrace seating area, widely regarded as the region’s best rooftop dining spot.
This charming French restaurant is designed to resemble a quaint Provençal cottage. The interior of BO-beau Kitchen is suffused with a dim, warm lighting, dominated by rustic woods, cases of fine wines and decorative sconces and chandeliers. The patio seating area is equally lovely, lit by stringed bulbs, warmed by the outdoor fireplaces and enclosed by natural stone walls. Diners rave about the crispy brussel sprouts with pancetta, parmesan and balsamic, the ancho chili braised pork, the burger royal and the charcuterie boards. BO-beau Kitchen is part of the much respected Cohn Restaurant Group, winner of numerous awards and accolades including a number of San Diego Golden Medallion Awards.
Whisknladle is celebrated for its international menu, complete with French, Italian and Spanish inspired dishes. The restaurant was opened in 2008 by Chef Ryan Johnston and business partner Arturo Kassel with the goal of bringing pure, farm-fresh cooking back to the city of San Diego. The restaurant has since garnered a national following, recognised as one of the world’s best fine dining establishments. In addition to its top notch menu, Whisknladle boasts a unique and innovatively designed interior. Natural woods, sleek furnishings, warm lighting and temporary walls that open right out onto the street make this the perfect spot for neighbourhood bistro dining.
Located right along the Mexican border, the neighbouring country’s spicy cuisine has had a massive effect on the San Diego’s restaurant scene, and many argue about where to find the best enchiladas, tacos and tamales in this coastal city. The Blind Burro in the East Village stands apart from the old fashioned taquerias for its sophisticated version of baja coastal cuisine. A highly inventive menu features contemporary re-interpretations of traditional Mexican dishes. Quinoa and squash cakes, sweet potato-chorizo taquitos and bacon wrapped jalapenos are some of the less conventional options to be found here. Meanwhile the elegant and contemporary interior introduces small references to traditional Mexico for a refined Latin American dining experience.