Of course, this guide doesn't encompass every little thing we love about the seaside destination — we'd need an entire tome for that! Instead, our carefully chosen picks represent over a dozen different pockets of S.D., and are guaranteed to appeal to locals and first-timers alike. Whether you're looking for a little adrenaline boost (hang gliding, anyone?) or simply a great place to share a meal, our list has something for everyone. So, hop on the 5 and get ready to explore America's Finest City!
Photos: Via Bertrand at Mister A's; Balboa Park; Brooklyn Girl; California Dreaming Hot Air Ballooning
Bertrand at Mister A's
Our award for best restaurant with a view? Bertrand at Mister A's, which is perched on Bankers Hill with sweeping views of Point Loma, Coronado, San Diego Bay, the downtown skyline, and yep, even Mexico. The first-class vista comes with a first-class menu, so reserve this upscale spot for special occasions when you're willing to shell out big bucks for dinner.
Bertrand at Mister A's, 2550 Fifth Avenue (near Laurel Street); 619-239-1377.
The cultural hub of the city, Balboa Park boasts 17 museums, nine performing arts venues, 19 different gardens, and countless picture-perfect photo ops — not to mention the world famous San Diego Zoo. If you have young kids (or just want to bring out the juvenile side in yourself!), be sure to stop by the oh-so-charming carousel and miniature railroad, both of which are located by the zoo entrance.
Balboa Park, 1549 El Prado (near Pan American Road); 619-239-0512.
Opened about a year ago, Brooklyn Girl has quickly become a trendy, go-to spot in the neighborhood of Mission Hills. We love its cool industrial design as well as its selection of organic food, locally produced craft beers, and affordable wines.
Brooklyn Girl, 4033 Goldfinch Street (at Fort Stockton Drive); 619-296-4800.
California Dreaming Hot Air Ballooning
Do champagne and panoramic ocean views sound like a good time to you? Book a hot air balloon ride with California Dreaming. The sunset flights glide over picturesque Del Mar every day of the week and are guaranteed to make lasting memories!
California Dreaming Hot Air Ballooning, 33133 Vista Del Monte Road (near Calle Contento); 951-699-0601.
A mere three blocks from the ocean, hole-in-the-wall La Jolla pizza joint Carino's is a local favorite. With only a handful of tables inside, we suggest getting the signature thin-crust pizza to go and enjoy a picnic at the beach.
Carino's, 7408 La Jolla Boulevard (near Marine Street); 858-459-1400.
Hunt & Gather
Vintage lovers, hightail it to North Park's Hunt & Gather. It stocks new and vintage clothes, jewelry, and accessories for both men and women, as well as an awesome collection of records and artwork.
Hunt & Gather, 2871 University Avenue (near Kansas Street); 619-297-3040.
San Diego Botanic Garden
If you want a peaceful place to interact with the great outdoors, look no further than the 37-acre San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas. Picnic tables, four miles of garden trails, an abundance of exhibits, and a delightful gift shop make this spot the picture of tranquility.
San Diego Botanic Garden, 230 Quail Gardens Drive (near Mays Hollow Lane); 760-436-3036.
Situated in downtown's historic Gaslamp Quarter, this place touts itself as "San Diego's Most Authentic Irish Pub and Restaurant," and for good reason! Original artifacts from a turn-of-the-century pub in Ireland were shipped piece by piece to create The Field's decor. Grab a pint of Guinness and use the bar as a jumping off point to explore the Gaslamp.
The Field, 544 Fifth Avenue (near Market Street); 619-262-9840.
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