As the gal who runs all things social media for Stay Alfred, this might be one of the most challenging tasks I’ve had to date – to break down in one blog post why my hometown and current residence of San Diego is definitively awesome and deserves a place on your travel list this year.
But first, let’s take a cleansing breath together and just really hone in on the visions and vibes we get when thinking about San Diego… … sun… maybe beaches and waves… that smell of fresh tortillas… the tang of a West Coast IPA hitting your taste buds… maybe the Zoo… or once upon the Chargers (womp-womp)… how about the costumed crowds of Comic-Con… or salty sea breezes by the bay?
Now that we’re all on the same level, let me take you on a journey of all the places and reasons why you’ll probably fall in love with San Diego on your next visit:
I get it – San Diegans are spoiled with their enviable warm weather. In fact, if we dare roam outside the city lines and perchance meet people from other climes, it feels like a favorite competitive past time to give us grief about how we can wear our flip flops any day we want. And really – everyone is right – the weather is amazing. You can go out for a jog pretty much any and every day. You can lie on a beach the majority of months and get a golden tan like the Greek gods of yore. Yes, we do hilariously wear our boots, jackets and scarves when it gets below 65 degrees – I mean, when else are we going to wear them? But these are also all reasons why visiting San Diego is a good idea pretty much any week of the year. Plus, all those endorphins from the sun make the people of America’s Finest City pretty darn friendly and laid back, if I do say so myself.
Soft, sandy shorelines as far as the eye can see, big white, blue and teal waves crashing as surfers emerge from the froth, kiddos giggling and chasing the gurgling water, and sunbathers blissfully dozing away the day – seriously, how can you resist a day at a sunny San Diego beach? (Except if you just hate sand sticking to quite literally everything, which I can kinda get… kinda.) Whether you’re swimming in the water, surfing, stand up paddle boarding, boogie boarding, snorkeling, or just playing my favorite game of “let’s see if I can jump over this wave” – the salt in the water and air does something to the human spirit that is scientifically proven to rejuvenate your soul. The best way to do a beach day in San Diego? Pack a bag with plenty of sunscreen, a change of clothes, water, and towels, and hop in your wheels to head west. But before you reach the beach, stop by one of the literally thousands of taco shops to get a burrito to go. (Added burrito bonus – they’ll stay warm in the sun. Just be sure to abide the 30 minutes rule before hitting the water.) Then once you’re parked – park your keister on the sand and commence doing whatever the heck you want.
Stay Alfred has some pretty awesome places in the Gaslamp, the heart of downtown San Diego, where you can walk to anything and everything that is fun, delicious and distracting in the best possible way. But there are also really amazing neighborhoods just a quick rideshare away, including Little Italy, Mission Hills, Hillcrest, North Park, South Park, Golden Hill, Barrio Logan, Point Loma, Pacific Beach, and Ocean Beach. Each of these areas has its own unique vibe – Little Italy is the nexus of every hot restaurant right now, Pacific Beach tends to be party central on the weekend, and North Park has something for everyone with craft breweries, boutiques and tons of street art. The Gaslamp is a great hood to call home base since it’s centrally located and you have easy access to the Trolley and I-5. So feel free to spread out and get to know the local natives over an IPA.
The Craft Beers
Speaking of IPAs! You’ll start to understand why San Diegans tend to be active and spend so much time outside – we have to work off all that local craft beer we’re drinking. San Diego County leads the nation in the number of craft breweries (140 and counting, baby), but of course there are the big dogs that kicked off this whole craze: Stone Brewery, Karl Strauss, Ballast Point and Green Flash. And while San Diego is known for more hoppy brews, because of the sheer volume of brewers you can pretty much get anything from sours to stouts and everything in between. Most breweries host weekly trivia nights, food trucks and even movie nights. But where do the locals go? My fellow San Diegans might strike me down for sharing this little gem, but head to Hamiltons Tavern in South Park for just-released kegs, local favs, greasy-good food, shuffleboard – and even Pliny the Younger on your luckiest day. If you’re staying with us in the Gaslamp, you can hop in a Lyft or Uber and spend the day tasting – loop around from Ballast Point in Little Italy, head up to North Park for a little Modern Times, head south to Hamiltons, then loopback downtown to Monkey Paw if you just haven’t had your fill. Also, my personal local favorite is Alpine Beer Company – if you see them on tap, do yourself a favor and order a pint.
San Diego’s Amazing Food
Yet another reason you see so many San Diegans jogging along the bay or hitting the waves in the wee hours of the morning – we have way too much good food here. First, let’s just talk about the burrito in the room: Mexican food. Glorious, glorious Mexican food. 24-hour, life-saving and soul-enriching Mexican food. Every San Diegan has their go-to favorite “-berto’s” taco shop: with nachos, ceviche, wet burritos, menudo, tamales, sopes, rolled tacos (yes, we call them rolled tacos – not taquitos), you’re not going to go wrong. You can even walk to one of the best Baja-Cali joints in town from your Gaslamp Stay Alfred – Puesto; order up some guac, a house margarita and let your gut be your guide. But we’re not just about the burrito. The best way to get a sense of San Diego’s culinary variety is to take a walk around Little Italy and catch feels for next-level nom factors. I’m talking the most insanely delicious chicken sandwich from the Crack Shack, inventive dishes by acclaimed Chef Richard Blais at Juniper & Ivy, some seriously slurp-worthy ramen at Underbelly, elevated comfort food at Prepkitchen, fresh oysters and the best bread and butter I’ve ever had in my life at Ironside, vegan favs at Cafe Gratitude, quite possibly one of the best steaks in town at the Art Deco-inspired Born & Raised, and, of course, decadent Italian bites at Barbusa.
The San Diego Zoo
Yes, the San Diego Zoo is worth going to. Over and over again. I renew my Zoo Pass each year, and there’s always something new and fun and educational to experience. Located in the equally beautiful Balboa Park, the Zoo is lush and expansive, but definitely doable in a day or even half day. Bears, tigers, lions, gorillas, elephants, giraffes, hippos, pandas, not to mention those iconic pink flamingos – there are more animals here that you’ll know what to do with. (For some reason the capybaras are my favorite animal – they might be the world’s largest rodent, but they’re also hilarious and pretty stinkin’ cute.) And heads up – the Skyfari is 100% worth going on – you get to glide over the animal exhibits while taking in one of the most stunning views of Balboa Park and downtown – just don’t try swinging you’re little air gondola because you will get yelled at (yes I know this from personal experience). And because this is San Diego – of course you can get that amazing local craft beer here. My favorite spot to sit back after walking for a few hours is by the elephants – they have the biggest tap selection and strong, free Wifi so you post all those awesome Zoo pics and videos (and hashtag #stayalfred – correct, I have no shame). .
The Long List of Shopping
Feeling the need to stimulate the economy when in San Diego? Not a problem. We have everything from Fashion Valley – the destination, high-end mall where you can shop Prada to Forever 21 – to some of the best boutiques in Southern California. Ocean Beach’s Newport Avenue is home to a ton of great antique shops, plus beach fare the closer you get to the sand – just in case you need to get one of those cartoony airbrushed bikinis or Speed-o beach cover ups (I mean, they are the gift that keeps on giving). North Park’s intersection of 30th and University is a great starting point if you want to hit some unique boutiques like Pigment, Verbatim, Artelexia, Mimi & Red and Simply Local. Little Italy is another neighborhood that you can spend an afternoon walking, shopping, sipping, and nibbling. Peruse the goods here, but a personal fav is the James Coffee Co. space. The fine folks over at the San Diego Tourism Authority have also put together a comprehensive San Diego shopping guide.
The Thriving San Diego Music Scene
San Diego is an *interesting* city to see live music in. Hear me out. I love live music and try to make both big and club shows. And while we do get the big tours – Beyonce, Sir Paul McCartney, U2, Foo Fighters – we’re also in a fortuitous location just south of Los Angeles, so tons of up-and-coming bands will play our clubs, and it’s rarely hard to get a ticket. San Diego audiences have a reputation to be on the reserved side – but that’s not to say people don’t go hard every now and then. Some of the best venues to catch a show include The Casbah, The North Park Observatory, Soda Bar, Humphrey’s, and the Balboa Theater. But my big insider rec? If you’re coming to San Diego in the summer, check the Del Mar Races schedule – they feature free live concerts after every race and they keep getting bigger and bigger names like Lord Huron, Cake, etc.
Remember all that time us locals are spending outside to combat le beer belly and burrito babies? Well, good thing we’re also spoiled with some of the best public parks in the country. The crown jewel of the city is Balboa Park; this massively lush space is actually bigger than New York City’s Central Park and is home to the majority of San Diego’s museums. You could spend an entire day here – or a few days – going through the San Diego Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum, or taking in a show at The Old Globe. There are also some fantastic restaurants with al fresco dining at The Prado or Panama 66. A few other great parks and recreation properties to check out include Morley Field for those who want to give disc golf a go, Chicano Park for art enthusiasts on the hunt for historic murals, and the Embarcadero Marina Park, which is within walking distance from our Gaslamp Stay Alfreds, and adjacent to the rather adorable Seaport Village.
Sure, San Diego is all tucked down there in the bottom left corner of that United States of America map, but darn it if we’re not close to just a few other cool places. Head north and the first places of interest you’ll hit are the North County cities of Encinitas and Carlsbad (which is now going by the moniker of C-bad – don’t hold it against them). These are quintessential SoCal beach towns with supremely laid back vibes, cute downtown strips and great beach camping. Head a little further north and you hit the mecca of all happiness and joy and mysteriously disappearing money: Disneyland. From San Diego it *should* take about 2 hours to get there, then, if you’re heading up to Los Angeles after that, it *should* take about another hour to 90 minutes in the car. Can’t head north (kinda like how Derek Zoolander can’t turn left)? You can experience beach, desserts and mountains just a short drive away in pretty much any direction. Want to practice your se habla español? Tijuana, Rosarito, Baja and beyond are just to the south. Just make sure to pack that passport and brace yourself for a lengthy wait at the border getting back into the United States.
Want any specific recommendations for your next trip to San Diego? Ping any of Stay Alfred social media profiles with a question or comment, and I’ll get back to you. And when you are here in San Diego, basking in the sunny glory of the city – make sure to tag your all your pics with #stayalfred so I can see if I did my job. And with that, and not a single reference to Anchorman, I’m over and out. Safe travels!
Senior Social Media Manager for Stay Alfred