As the weather turns cold and dreary in much of the country, nothing sounds better than a Southern California getaway. San Diego, with its sunny afternoon skies, laid-back surfer culture and top-notch brewery scene, attracts weekenders in search of the good life. While San Diego is a no-brainer for West Coasters, it's a bit of a trek for those who live east of the Mississippi. However, direct flights from most major U.S. cities and a little scheduling creativity make it a doable weekend trip for just about anyone. Follow our lead for the best way to make the most of your time in America's Finest City.
Where to stay in San Diego
Accommodations in San Diego boil down to two basic options: Do you want to stay in the city near shopping and nightlife, or on the coast near world-famous surf beaches? City folk will want to book into the buzzy Pendry San Diego. Owned by Montage Hotels & Resorts, Pendry is the brand's trendy boutique line popping up in cities across the country. The San Diego outpost is home to an awesome rooftop pool and five bars and restaurants. Plus, its location in the Gaslamp Quarter puts travelers at the center of San Diego's best nightlife scene.
Those looking for a coastal experience will want to stay in nearby La Jolla or Del Mar. The historic La Valencia Hotel is an upscale boutique option, while L'Auberge Del Mar is a polished resort pick overlooking the Pacific. Meanwhile, those seeking a more rustic lodge experience should check out The Lodge at Torrey Pines, a luxury property within Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
Across the San Diego Bay and connected by a bridge, Coronado Island is also a popular area, thanks to its beautiful beaches, top-notch restaurants, charming ice cream shops, and famous Hotel del Coronado.
Day 1: Gardens and parks in San Diego
Take advantage of San Diego's notoriously lovely weather and spend the day outside. Start your morning by checking out two of the city's most famous outdoor attractions, the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park, which happen to be located right across from one another in a 1,200-acre nature preserve 15 minutes north of downtown. The San Diego Zoo is home to more than 3,700 animals and is considered a pioneer in cageless open-air enclosures that mimic species' natural habitats. It's one of the most-visited zoos in the United States, so it's best to arrive early, before mid-afternoon crowds are at their peak. After your animal fix, check out Balboa Park's Instagrammable attractions, like the 1915 Botanical Building, Japanese Friendship Garden, and Alcazar Garden. If you're into museums, the nearby San Diego Air & Space Museum and San Diego Museum of Art are worth a visit. If not, head back downtown for drinks and a sunset stroll along the Embarcadero before heading to the Gaslamp Quarter for dinner and a happening nightlife scene.
Where to eat in San Diego:
Whether or not you're staying at the Pendry, you'll want to check out the hotel's Provisional Kitchen for breakfast. The buzzy Art Deco eatery has a classic breakfast menu, with options ranging from freshly baked pastries and avocado toast to chilaquiles and breakfast burritos. For lunch, head to The Crack Shack, a fun all-day spot serving all things chicken and egg alongside a laid-back bar and outdoor lawn games. Grab dinner in the Gaslamp Quarter - Tacos el Cabron serves up super-casual Tijuana-style tacos and The Lion's Share doles out gastro-pub fare.
Day 2: Farmers' markets and food in San Diego