32 adventures in San Diego (other than Comic-Con)

Comic-Con is this week which means people are flocking to San Diego. So if you’re lucky enough to be one of them, here are 32 more activities you can do in your spare time (including: 70 miles of white, sandy coastline, year-round sunshine, epic eats just minutes from the water, and a bustling craft beer scene).

La Jolla – photo via @gmarcelia

 

What to see

  • Balboa Park – Balboa is no ordinary park. Instead, this 1,200-acre urban oasis has huge open spaces, manicured gardens, the largest museum complex west of the Mississippi, a number of theaters, and the San Diego Zoo. You can spend hours wandering the sights but try a guided tour if you want to be sure to get all of the highlights. Hot tip: don’t miss the Botanical Building.

Balboa Botanical Building
  • San Diego Zoo – this famous zoo is home to more than 3,700 animals, including giant pandas, sun bears, and Galápagos tortoises.
  • USS Midway – This aircraft carrier, known for serving in both Operation Frequent Wind in 1975 and Operation Desert Storm in 1991, has now been turned into a museum that visitors can tour. Get a real feel for “navy life” on this 69,000-ton ship.
  • SeaWorld – With everything from roller coasters to up-close encounters with sharks, SeaWorld has something everyone in the family can enjoy.

Grizzly Bears at the Zoo

 

What to do

  • Sunny Jim Cave – a nondescript gift shop in La Jolla hides one of San Diego’s coolest attractions. Pay $5 for entry in the shop and gain access to an underground tunnel leading down to the cave (the only sea cave in California accessible by land). 145 stairs later, you’ll have access to one of the most unique views in the city.
  • Sail the bay – If you didn’t bring your own sailboat, you’re in luck. Try chartering a sailboat for a couple of hours so you can soak in the sun while enjoying incredible views of the city skyline and beyond.
  • Kayak with Leopard Sharks – we are almost in the peak of leopard shark season (August & September) so you have a good chance of catching sight of these little guys. Rent a kayak off the coast to skim alongside them. Or if you want to get even closer, try snorkeling with them.
  • Snorkel (without the sharks) – not a fan of leopard sharks but still want to snorkel? You’re in luck. A guide will take you through sea caves only reachable by water. Along the way, you can try to spot Garibaldis, sea lions, and even stingrays.
  • Seal Beach – it isn’t called Seal Beach for nothing. While in La Jolla, wander over to this beach that is usually packed with hundreds of sun-bathing seals. While they look super cuddly, be sure not to get too close!
  • Mount Soledad – drive up the winding road to Mount Soledad for an awesome 360 degree view of San Diego and the ocean. Plus, the memorial itself (honoring veterans from the Revolutionary War to today’s wars) is itself worth a visit.
Views from Mount Soledad

Views from Mount Soledad
  • Scripps Pier – Chances are, you’ve probably seen a picture from the underside of Scripps Pier at some point or another so venture out to Scripps Beach (near the UCSD campus) to take a picture of your own.

Scripps Pier
  • Dog Beach – this beach has gained national recognition as one of the first official leash-free beaches in the US. Bring your furry friend or hang out with someone else’s.
  • Sunset Cliffs Natural Park – A perfect spot to watch the sunset but if you can’t make it during that time, the ocean view is worth the visit all day long.

Sunset Cliffs
  • Black’s Beach – just north of La Jolla Shores lies the more secluded Black’s Beach, one of the largest nude beaches in the US. Might be best to leave the kids at home.
  • Potato Chip Rock – getting to Potato Chip Rock will take you a bit of effort (it’s a 6.6 mile roundtrip hike with an elevation gain of ~2000 feet) but it’s worth the effort. The long, thin rock juts out over the surrounding boulders so if you position your camera just right, you’ll snag a super dramatic-looking photo.
  • Want the best skyline view? Head to the Coronado Ferry Landing.

 

Potato Chip Rock

Potato Chip Rock

 

Where to eat

Just know, you’re doing San Diego wrong if you don’t get tacos.

  • Best restaurant: Cucina Urbana. One of, if not the, best restaurants in town, Cucina Urbana serves Italian food as good as that in Italy. For something interesting, try the stuffed fried squash blossoms (filled with lemon ricotta & drizzled with a mint arugula gremolata). And for traditional Italian comfort food? The pappardelle (short rib, cremini mushroom, carrot & plenty of parmesan) is a must.
  • Brunch: Breakfast Republic. This popular breakfast joint is probably worth the wait for the Peanut Butter Bacon French Toast alone. Plus, you can add a bottle of champagne and OJ to your order for just $22—mimosas all around.

Breakfast Republic
  • Street-style tacos: Oscar’s. There’s a reason this little taco shop has recently expanded to multiple locations and always has a line out the door. These are some of the best tacos in San Diego—and that’s saying something. Head to the PB (Pacific Beach) location, douse your tacos in the creamy green sauce, and walk over to the beach to eat them.
  • Vegan: Café Gratitude. This fully plant-based eatery has made its way down from LA and is great for both vegans and meat-eaters. Try any of their Bowls for a burst or flavor or take the more traditional route with something like the Mole Abuelita Enchiladas.

Café Gratitude Bowls
  • Acai Bowls (cause that is a food group in SoCal): The Mad Beet. If you haven’t yet jumped on the acai bowl craze, the Mad Beet is a great place to start. The menu is long, bowls & smoothies are named after famous musical artists, and the fruit is fresh. Our fave is the Beyoncai (acai topped with granola, peanut butter, honey, strawberries & bananas).
  • Café: Café Madeleine. Check out the South Park location of Café Madeleine for a good cup of coffee paired with a crepe (both sweet and savory options). Come early enough and you can grab a spot on the very Parisian patio out front.
  • Italian: if you’re looking for more Italian, just head to San Diego’s Little Italy. At 48 square blocks, it’s the US’s largest Little Italy so you’ll be sure to find a restaurant that speaks to you.

 

Beyoncai at Mad Beet

 

Where to drink

  • Coffee with a unique atmosphere: Communal Coffee. This little shop gets packed because the coffee is good, the avocado toast is abundant, and it has a unique flower shop inside. Basically an Instagrammers paradise.
  • Epic rooftop: The Nolen. Come for the view, stay for the drinks. This 16th floor rooftop has views of Petco Park and Downtown San Diego and delicious cocktails (try one of their originals like La Vie en Rose—vodka, peach liquer, lemon & cinnamon syrup).

Drinks at The Nolen rooftop
  • Brews: Stone Brewing Co. For just $3, you can get a tour of the facilities, a souvenir glass, and four tastings. Once that’s over, grab a full-size brew, and head to the outdoor gardens to relax.
  • Cocktails: Grass Skirt. This tiki-bar also doubles as a speakeasy (you enter through a freezer door). You can expect a great atmosphere (volcano and light shows throughout the night) and super strong, but still delicious, drinks served up in creative ways (fire, grass skirts, and more).
  • Brew Tour: Can’t decide which brewery to hit up? Then try a bunch on this brew tour. Plus, the tour saves time for VIP tours of the facilities, dinner, and a sunset walk along the beach.
  • Bar scene: North Park. This up-and-coming neighborhood is quickly becoming the destination for a night out. Expect a hipster vibe at the many breweries, tasting rooms, and beer & cocktail bars.
  • Best view: Altitude Sky Lounge. Whether you want to dance the night away or just sit close to a fire pit, you’ll be able to soak in an awesome nighttime view of San Diego. Hot tip: time your visit with the end of a Padres game and you’ll be able to easily see the game-ending fireworks.
  • Unique bar: Vin De Syrah. An underground wine bar with an Alice in Wonderland theme (secret entrance and all). On weekend nights, there’s even a burlesque show.

 

Cucina Urbana

 

 

Where to Stay:

  • The Keating Hotel – a hotel reimagined by Pininfarina (aka the Italian designer responsible for Maserati and Ferrari). The property is red!
  • Neighborhoods:

 

 

Other tips?

  • Visit during May, September or October; the weather is perfectly warm and there’s always a gentle breeze. Perfect for day on the beach and a night on the town.
  • Rent a car or use ride shares to get around.

 

The “Mushroom House” near Black’s Beach

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