Must See Spots in San Diego – An Outline for Californication
Have you been dreaming of visiting the West Coast? I hear San Diego calling your name. My talented photographer and friend, Hannah Reyes, created this magic outline for you.
This west coast hot spot has multiple divisions of their city - all within a 30 minute drive of each other, making you feel like you’ve been to a variety of cities as you broaden your horizons.
Not sure where to start? Don’t worry - we’ve got an expertly crafted outline for you sure to create a long weekend you will remember for years to come.
Pack your bags, it’s time to start California Dreamin’!
Hotel Z - Gaslamp District - the Heart of Downtown San Diego
What makes this location list worthy: This adorable, boutique hotel has the best pineapple themed branding you’ve ever seen - even their guest welcome water in the lobby is pineapple infused - delish! Why pineapple? It’s the international symbol of hospitality, of course. This hotel has plush robes, incredible bedding - we’re talking two down comforters per bed and a husky mascot. The huskie stuffed animals adorning your bed are for sale and the proceeds go to help shelter animals.
What you need to know: This location is in walking distance to lots of great restaurants and bars, a quick uber will take you to the other adventures on our list. However, they offer free bikes to rent and a shared tram system to take you around downtown.
Head out for Dinner
Florent - Gaslamp District- Walking Distance
What makes this location list worthy: This trendy restaurant made the list for it’s delicious food, we recommend to start with the buffalo cauliflower - you won’t even miss the chicken. In combination, this florentine style building was the original city hall for San Diego (1837). We didn’t get the feeling it was haunted, though the bottom level was previously the jail - don’t worry the restrooms are down there so you can explore. (Eek!)
What you need to know: There is live music, great service and options for every dietary restriction - come hungry. You’ll find plenty of after dinner cocktails in walking distance.
What we suggest: Grab an In Bloom Margarita, which is award winning, or a Jailbird Spicy Cucumber Margarita. These tequila drinks can’t be missed to start your meal off right.
Head out for a late lunch:
Voltaire Beach House - Ocean Beach - 20-25 Minute Drive or Uber
What makes this location list worthy: Voltaire Beach House serves up brunch, lunch, dinner, along with a serving of good vibes with every order. Whether you're grabbing breakfast after surfing, treating your love to a New American meal or grabbing a craft cocktail as a nightcap, Voltaire Beach House is Ocean Beach's favorite spot.
What you need to know: It’s a great spot to curb your off railing if you indulged last night - great healthy options including a variety of delicious bowls. On trend, and fresh.
What we suggest: Sit outside, take your time, have a ice cold beer and soak in the scenery.
Catch the most memorable sunset of your life - Less than 10 Minutes from Voltaire Beach House:
Sunset Cliffs - Ocean Beach
What makes this location list worthy: It could be considered the eighth wonder of the world, it makes for one of the most beautiful sunsets on earth. Be prepared to stay away from the edge of cliffs, enjoy the sunset with a variety of other on-seekers and, of course, be amazed.
What you need to know: This is in the heart of the surf district in Ocean Beach, so feel free to wander around and be local prior to the show, that is the sunset. California drops in temperature in the evening, so bring your camera and a blanket.
What we suggest: You could snag a picnic basket full of treats at any of the healthy grocery stores you’ll pass in route to sunset cliffs, or just a bottle of wine and a few glasses. Bonus points for leaving your phone in the car and soaking in the moment. But, it’s so Instagram worthy!
Grab a delicious glass of wine - Walking Distance from Sunset Cliffs:
Little Lion Cafe - Ocean Beach
What makes this location list worthy: It’s exclusive, and incredibly inclusive at the same time. There are less than 12 seats at this cozy little beach side cafe which serves up delicious bottles of wine (all moderately priced), wine by the glass and a variety of excellent menu options vegetarians and carnivores alike rave about Little Lion Cafe.
What you need to know: Since this is a hotspot, consider stopping by before the sunset and asking if they expect a crowd - or just be patient and hangout outside, sip on a drink and wait to enter into the warm environment.
What we suggest: Two glasses of Pinot Noir and an Appetizer, please!
Catch Dinner at Little Lion or head back to the Gaslamp District to hit up another chef inspired, farm to table dinner.
San Diego Zoo or Botanical Gardens - 25-30 Minute Drive or Uber
What makes this location list worthy: Whether you’re into the gardens, think of the great photos you can catch and the tropical flowers you’ll see - or the zoo, you’re in for a real treat. The San Diego Zoo has its own jungle exploration where animals are kept in their natural habitats (replicas) and endangered species are helped. The guides are very knowledgeable and sure to provide you with an informative afternoon.
What you need to know: Dress in layers as the afternoons of California warm up - hit your exploration mid-morning so you can enjoy your lunch following.
What we suggest: Do both sightseeing attractions if you have the time and energy.
It’s time for a beer.. And some unforgettable bar treats!
Yard House - Mission Valley - Less than 20 Minutes from the Zoo or Gardens
What makes this location list worthy: Don’t let the mall location fool you - this is a really great stop to relax (wide open space) and fuel up after a sightseeing adventure. The list of bar food delights goes on and on- but what helped this location make our list is the Vampire Quesadilla, named after it’s cheese being fried on the outside - amazing. The kicker: Fried Macaroni and Cheese bites!
What you need to know: There is plenty of parking, great opportunity to shop a bit if you are
so inclined and it’s inside and air conditioned.
What we suggest: Grab a four pack of sample beers and pick your favorite to indulge in a pint, order up a few appetizers then select a burger - vegan varieties are available as well as truffle french fries.
After you’ve refreshed at the hotel, time to get out of the beat and path:
West Coast Tavern - North Park - 15 Minute Uber or Drive
What makes this location list worthy: This original movie theater building from 1926 still has the original theater attached to the restaurant. It’s in a trendy up and coming neighborhood and has loads of personality, great wine and amazing appetizers.
What you need to know: Next door to the venue is a music hall that hosts a great variety of amazing performers, inside the restaurant there is often a DJ in the evenings keeping the beat of dinner.
What we suggest: Definitely want to start with the brussel sprouts - a great grilled version with plenty of flavor. Next, order and enjoy the cheese plate made with house lavender honey that is still hanging out in the ‘crave’ part of my brain. Next, order an entree, share more appetizers, or consider the flatbread.