The Weekend Guide: San Diego USA

With Mexican Heritage, Microbreweries, and Marine Life.

San Diego is often overlooked in favour of its fame-crazed sibling to the north—but that’s part of its charm. Wonderfully laid back, America’s Finest City is more than just a long pristine coastline, craft breweries, and a handful of arts-driven reserves. San Diego is a border town which is rich with history—and we’ve make the ultimate guide on how to see the best of it in just a few days.

DAY 1

Daytime

Start off on the right foot with a delicious breakfast at South Park’s Matteo. Our recommendation is to order a Roman-style breakfast pizza and a stack of sweet-cream corn cakes. Don’t hesitate to over-order as all profits from this restaurant fund community-based charities.

A quick stroll east brings you to Balboa Park, a historic centre larger than New York’s Central Park. The park’s Spanish-style archi and themed gardens are always on point. Walk over to the world-famous San Diego Zoo—and don’t assume it’s kids-only. The zoo is home to vital research and rehabilitation efforts.

For lunch, head to Panama 66 in the San Diego Museum of Art sculpture garden. Take a grain bowl and dine in picnic-style in the park, or settle in among the fashionable forms for the recently reopened full-service experience.

Evening

An hour or so before sunset, make sure you make your way to Cabrillo National Monument, a 30-minute drive from downtown, to safely wander where coastal bluffs meet the sea. At low tide, the water recedes to reveal pools crowded with sea urchins and sea stars, while winter brings migrating Pacific gray whales breaching just offshore.

Wash up back at boutique hotel The Guild, housed in the restored 1920s former headquarters of the Army-Navy YMCA. Afterwards make your way to Mission Hills for dinner at Izakaya Masa. The strip-mall restaurant is easy to miss if you don’t know what’s hidden inside: Japanese bar snacks, steaming bowls of pork-broth ramen, and imported sake.

Cap off the night 14 stories above the Gaslamp Quarter at The Nolen’s rooftop bar; it’s a fantastic bird’s-eye perch from which to appreciate all the ground you’ve covered in a day.

DAY 2

Daytime

Start your day rise and shine with Wayfarer Bread & Pastry, just 20 minutes north of your hotel in the posh coastal community of La Jolla. Carbo-load on their masterfully made cinnamon buns and croissants, but you’ll need the energy to hike the seaside cliffs at nearby Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Park. Don’t forget to pack a towel and some reef-safe sunscreen to cool off in the waves while surfers rip through the barrelling waves nearby. End your stroll at the Gliderport to witness daredevil hang gliders jumping into the wind and soaring above the sea.

Return south to the Barrio Logan Cultural District, where vibrant paintings in Chicano Park celebrate the city’s Mexican history, heritage, and resilience. Activists painted these works on the existing underpass of the Coronado bridge in the 1970s after a promise of a park there was rescinded. Nearly 50 years later, in 2017, the park was named a National Historic Landmark.

Evening

Vendors spill out onto the sidewalks on Saturdays for the Walk the Block day market, but visit any day of the week and you can string together a neighbourhood-wide lunch buffet: restorative micheladas and Palomas at ¡Salud!, conchas and coffee at Por Vida, or a full meal (complete with hand-pressed tortillas) at old-school fave Las Cuatro Milpas.

Finish up with a Buenas Vibras Toronja Blonde Ale from women-owned brewery Mujeres Brew House, and then stroll Logan Avenue to score a one-of-a-kind souvenir from any of dozens of locally owned studios and boutiques.

By the end of the day once the sun sets, head to Little Italy for dinner at Michelin Bib Gourmand honoree Juniper & Ivy. In-the-know early birds order the off-menu burger, a farcified take on In-N-Out’s iconic sandwich, bolstered with dry-aged beef fat, cooked with mustard, and served on brioche. Wash it all down with a taste of San Diego’s lauded brewery life at Ballast Point, where an outdoor patio welcomes patrons with award-winning staples and experimental brews alike.

DAY 3

Daytime

Make this morning’s breakfast a rapid one at Atypical, where pearl-sugar-studded Liège waffles take three days to make and come topped with anything from jam and brie to smashed avocado and goat cheese. You won’t regret it!

Next up, rent a bike from The Bike Revolution and catch the Coaster commuter train at the Santa Fe Depot. From your window seat on the train’s west side, watch pretty coastal communities zoom by before you disembark at Carlsbad Village Station.

Fuel up with the city’s best coffee at Steady State Roasting. Fifteen miles later, stop in Del Mar for lunch. Suspended above a lagoon, Viewpoint Brewing Co. is as scenic as it is satisfying, with hearty but wholesome fare—like charred broccoli and toasty flatbreads—crafted to complement the 20-plus IPAs (don’t worry, you’re by bicycle), and hard seltzers on tap.

Hop back on the Coaster at Solana Beach Station and enjoy a well-earned chauffeured return journey.

Evening

For your final night, discover the city’s roots in Old Town, well-known as the birthplace of California, where Spanish colonizers first settled Indigenous Kumeyaay land. The area also features a state park that displays its brief time as a Mexican pueblo with numerous historic adobe buildings still intact and a mix of galleries, boutiques, and museums—including a haunted house.

When hunger hits, plant yourself on the candlelit patio at the Oaxacan-inspired Tahona Bar for a mole flight and mezcal tasting, and let yourself forget that farewell is just around the corner.

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