Escape to San Diego

Editorial StaffAugust 26, 2020
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Flee from the heat this fall with a getaway to America’s Finest City.

Early fall in the Valley still feels like sweltering summertime. But in San Diego? Expect sea breeze and mid-70s temps. Consider escaping to the seaside city and staying awhile this September. Whether your idea of a perfect vacation consists of hanging out at the beach or hitting the town, San Diego has you covered – and then some.

Downtown San Diego

What to Do

Start with a stroll through Little Italy – a charming enclave boasting some of the best shops, cafes and eateries in the San Diego area. Spend some time exploring the Maritime Museum – home to one of the largest collections of historic sea vessels in the country – at Waterfront Park. Looking for more museums? You could spend a whole day meandering through them at Balboa Park, where art and science coexist in 16 different museums and galleries. The world-famous San Diego Zoo is also located here. The USS Midway is a must-see for aviation aficionados. It was the longest-serving aircraft carrier in the 20th century, and today exhibits more than 30 restored aircraft sprinkled across nearly 10 acres. Once you’ve had your fix of history and culture, mosey over to Seaport Village, a shopping and dining destination on the San Diego Bay, for authentic California cuisine and San Diego souvenirs.

Where to Eat

Head over to the historic heart of San Diego – the Gaslamp Quarter – for a dizzying array of dining and drinking options. In response to coronavirus restrictions, the Gaslamp got creative and closed Fifth Avenue to vehicular traffic so that customers could safely dine on the street.

Top to bottom: Downtown San Diego and marina; mother and baby sloth at San Diego Zoo; USS Midway
Top to bottom: Downtown San Diego and marina; mother and baby sloth at San Diego Zoo; USS Midway

Enjoy fare from local favorites like barleymash, Greystone Steakhouse, Searsucker, The Tipsy Crow, Nobu San Diego and more. Little Italy also has more than 70 pubs, cafes and fine dining establishments with patio seating so that patrons can break bread without breaking CDC rules.

Where to Stay

Make the most of your vacay by staying in the city center at the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter, just steps away from some of San Diego’s most exciting attractions and amenities. Unwind at Altitude Sky Lounge, the Marriott’s stunning rooftop dining venue that offers unrivaled views of the city below. Perched 22 stories above the Gaslamp Quarter, stop by at sunset for the perfect photo. Altitude features hand crafted cocktails and a full dinner menu. Then, retreat to your room to sleep in sophisticated, yet comfortable digs.

For more sweeping views of San Diego, check into the Manchester Grand Hyatt and check out the two rooftop pools for relaxation and recreation in the city. The waterfront hotel has been an iconic fixture of the San Diego skyline for nearly two decades and recently underwent a multi-phase renovation that updated its lobby and restaurant, The Landing.

La Jolla

What to Do

Go to La Jolla Cove for a glimpse of playful sea lions sunbathing by the water. Then, head to Ellen Browning Scripps Park – which offers sweeping coastline panoramas – for some sunbathing of your own. Next, hike the Historic Coast Walk Trail, which winds around the beautiful bluffs of the La Jolla Shores. At the shores, you can rent equipment to go kayaking, paddle boarding or snorkeling. For art appreciators, there are a handful of art galleries in La Jolla, but there are also dozens of public art pieces to discover. The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library often offers free guided tours.

Where to Eat

Traveling with a fussy eater? La Jolla has one of the most diverse dining scenes in San Diego, so there’s sure to be something to please even the pickiest of palates. If you’re looking for a true oceanfront dining experience, try out The Marine Room, known for its prime seafood and picturesque Pacific Ocean sights visible from its floor-to-ceiling windows. Another seaside dining setting is George’s at the Cove, which combines a coastal ambiance with contemporary California cuisine (aka lots of fresh seafood.) If you’re not feeling fish, try Parakeet Café, a trendy, health-forward restaurant focusing on organic eats and Instagrammable décor.

Where to Stay

Book a private villa at La Valencia Hotel, where old-world Mediterranean architecture meets contemporary amenities. Take a dip in the outdoor pool with ocean views or admire the hotel’s myriad mosaics and murals. The property is pet-friendly and even offers a special dog menu at its restaurants, The Med. La Sala and Café La Rue. La Valencia was voted one of the top 10 best boutique hotels in Southern California by USA Today Travel.

Another award-winning accommodation option is Scripps Inn, a quaint bed and breakfast that offers 14 unique guest rooms with commanding coastal views. Each room features refined beach décor – think lots of baby blue and sea glass accents. Conde Nast Traveler included Scripps Inn on its list of top hotels in SoCal.

Left to right: Biking in La Jolla; offerings at Parakeet Café; La Valencia Hotel at dusk
Left to right: Biking in La Jolla; offerings at Parakeet Café; La Valencia Hotel at dusk

Pacific Beach

What to Do

Pacific Beach is largely known for its nightlife, but it also offers a slew of activities for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers. Hang ten with San Diego Surf School, where first-time surfers can get up on a board among mellow waves at North Pacific Beach. Yogis can meet up at Palisades Park in PB (as the locals call it) for free beachside yoga every Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. Get your bearings by taking a guided e-bike tour of Pacific Beach with California Dreaming Electric Bike Tours, and keep an eye out for The Bubble Guy – a PB local who creates giant rainbow orbs out of a bucket of soapy water and two fishing rods connected with string. Stop by Pangea Outpost to get an authentic San Diego keepsake – nearly 70 local artisans sell their wares at this massive marketplace.

Top to bottom: Mission Bay at sunset; fish at Dija Mara in Oceanside
Top to bottom: Mission Bay at sunset; fish at Dija Mara in Oceanside
Where to Eat

Elevated pub grub, fresh fish tacos and rooftop watering holes are the name of the game in Pacific Beach. Stop by Pacific Beach AleHouse or Firehouse American Eatery & Lounge for all three. Pay a visit to The Fishery for killer sea bass ceviche, fresh sushi and sky-high seafood towers. Dave’s Hot Chicken is a local favorite, purveying crispy poultry ranging from no spice to “reaper.” For dessert, don’t miss Mr. Frostie, which has been specializing in soft-serve ice cream since the late ‘40s.

Where to Stay

If you’re looking for in-room spa treatments, swanky patio dining and beachfront boarding, try out Tower23 Hotel. Located right on the beach – next to lifeguard tower 23, get it? – Tower23 is the perfect place for the quintessential San Diego stay.

The Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa is a Polynesian-themed retreat replete with plenty of palm trees, tiki torches, koi ponds, waterfalls and exotic birds. Immerse yourself in tropical traditions like hula and lei-making lessons or a torch-lighting ceremony on the shores of Mission Bay. Each room features a private balcony that offers breathtaking bay scenes or a view of the resort’s lush gardens.

For a tropical paradise just a stone’s throw away from Mission Bay and Pacific Beach, stay at Paradise Point Resort and Spa. It offers plenty of space to physically distance – 44 acres to be exact – and with a slew of activities like lawn games, ping pong, tennis, putt putt golf, meditation and yoga, you’ll never be bored. Guests can relax or have a bonfire on a mile-long stretch of beach right in their backyard or rent sail boats, kayaks and standup paddleboards at the full-service marina. Though the hot tubs and spa are currently closed, there are five pools where guests can soak up the sun. The resort also offers surfing and skateboarding lessons so you can fully embrace the SoCal lifestyle. There’s plenty of on-property dining options – you could grab breakfast at Barefoot Bar and Grill, lunch at Tropics Cantina and dinner at Feed Me @ Tidal. With the Park & Play package, Phoenix residents can drive in and save – use promo code PHOEPANDP for a rate that includes resort and parking fee.

Oceanside

What to Do

Amazing views abound on the Oceanside Pier, an ideal spot to catch the sunset – and a fish! It’s a popular place to set your sights on croakers and surfperch and no fishing license is required. Rent a bike from Wheel Fun Rentals at the entrance of the pier to explore all that Oceanside has to offer. You can also rent kayaks, paddleboards and jet skis at Oceanside Harbor. If you’re feeling super adventurous, Go Jump Oceanside offers skydiving excursions and Waverider Helicopter Tour affords visitors a bird’s eye view of the beach town.

Where to Eat

After a day of adventuring, satisfy your appetite at one of Oceanside’s many delicious dining destinations. Enjoy the outdoor patio overlooking the harbor at Lighthouse Oyster Bar & Grill. For vegan visitors, there’s The Plot, San Diego’s first plant-based and zero-waste restaurant. All of its produce is sourced from local farms and its owner is also the president of San Diego’s Berry Good Food Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting consumers and food producers. For more local, organic produce, head to Dija Mara, which offers Southeast Asian fare with a Western flair – and won San Diego Eater’s Restaurant of the Year in 2018. Finally, for a side of history with your meal, check out Blade 1936. The name is a nod to Oceanside’s old newspaper, The Blade-Tribune. The art deco dining destination formerly housed the publication’s offices. Blade 1936 is one of only two restaurants in San Diego to become a member of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN), a prestigious certification celebrating traditional pizza-making techniques.

Where to Stay

Stay by the seaside at SpringHill Suites by Marriott Downtown Oceanside, which is a 30-second walk to the beach and boasts modern suites with balconies overlooking the ocean. The property has several outdoor public spaces including a rooftop pool, a second-story terrace and a fire pit on the ground level.

The Fin Hotel, Tapestry Collection by Hilton mixes modern luxury with a classic vintage vibe. Four blocks from the beach in downtown Oceanside, the historical hotel has a rich history dating back to the 1920s. The rooms have been restored to reflect a sophisticated style. Bonus: Bath & Body Works products in each room.

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