San Diego offers a multitude of unique dining and entertainment options for visitors to enjoy. Learn from the locals what awaits in the City in Motion. Members of the ACR community compiled the recommendations that follow.
“San Diego is among the best cities to visit in the U.S., especially for outdoor and coastal attractions,” said Nicole Bitencourt, MD.
Considered “the crown jewel of San Diego,” the 1,200-acre Balboa Park is a cultural hub with museums, gardens, theaters, and other activities. Choose from several art museums, San Diego Natural History Museum, Fleet Science Center, Comic-Con Museum, Museum of Us, San Diego Model Railroad Museum, or San Diego Air and Space Museum, among many others. There are several gardens intermixed, including the Japanese Friendship Garden and Museum, and Alcazar Garden. You can also visit the Spanish Village Art Center, go atop the California Tower, and explore other cultural attractions.
“It is a nice location to just walk around and people watch, too,” Dr. Bitencourt said.
Balboa Park is also home to the most visited zoo in the U.S.
“The San Diego Zoo is the hands-down No. 1 attraction for anyone who comes to San Diego, even those who feel they have seen it all,” said Linda Firestein, whose husband, Gary S. Firestein, MD, previously served on the ACR Board of Directors.
Known for naturalistic habitats and its conservation efforts, the San Diego Zoo covers 100 acres and is home to more than 3,700 rare and endangered animals. It is recommended you set aside several hours for your visit. The zoo is open daily.
Bring your appetite if you do make the trip to Balboa Park.
“Panama 66 at the San Diego Museum of Art and The Prado at Balboa Park are both excellent places for lunch or dinner with fresh California cuisine,” said Christina Downey, MD, CCD, RhMSUS, DipABLM, FACR. “If you want to secure a table at The Prado, reservations are recommended. Both are in beautiful settings with outdoor dining options.”
A favorite day-trip destination, Coronado boasts a white, sandy beach — rated by TripAdvisor as among the top 10 beaches in the continental U.S. — and the island is accessible by a ferry ride from the dock behind the San Diego Convention Center. While there, visit the historic Hotel Del Coronado and enjoy shopping and dining.
About 25 minutes north of the convention center, La Jolla is a picturesque neighborhood on the water and home to the South La Jolla State Marine Reserve/State Marine Conservation Area.
“This is a great place to dive for those who are certified,” Dr. Downey said. “The water is warm enough to surf or snorkel with a light wetsuit this time of year. November is a great time to see the friendly leopard sharks that will graze your legs as you wade in the water.”
Additional outdoor activities in La Jolla include sea cave kayaking and paragliding off the Torrey Pines Gliderport, which has spectacular views.
“Don’t miss the sea lions and seals in the La Jolla Cove and Children’s Beach,” Dr. Bitencourt advised.
Ocean kayaking is another way to enjoy the local flora and fauna.
“Sea turtles can sometimes be seen from kayaks, along with the prolific California state fish, bright orange garibaldi,” Dr. Downey said. “Check a tide chart and head over during low tide to find sea stars, anemones, limpets, crabs, and other sea life.”
SeaWorld offers more opportunities to be face-to-face with wildlife through one-of-a-kind animal experiences. You’ll see sea lions, dolphins, whales, and more.
Just north of La Jolla, take in stunning views of the ocean at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
“The park boasts the nation’s rarest pine trees, found only in San Diego and one of the Channel islands,” Dr. Bitencourt said. “There are several short hikes (2-5 miles), including toward the black sand beach.”
Old Town is the site of the first European settlement in California. Visit one of the historic sites preserving the area’s rich past, enjoy a meal in the quaint atmosphere, or stop in at one of the unique boutiques.
More than 30 restored aircraft and 10 acres of exhibits are on display at the USS Midway Museum. Get up close with the most complete cross-section of carrier aviation in the world.
When you’re ready to unwind over a good meal, downtown restaurants cater to a variety of tastes. Consider these popular venues.
Outside of downtown, consider: