With its perfect weather, gorgeous beaches, and increasingly hip food and drink scene, Martin Chitwood proclaims San Diego is indeed “America’s Finest City.” While 48 hours is not enough time to see all that this coastal city has to offer, you can still catch some of the San Diego’s best sights and partake in some fun activities.
Read on as San Diego-based writer Martin Chitwood shows us what to do if you have 48 hours in San Diego.
Balboa Park Botanical Garden
On your first day, Martin suggests visiting Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre urban cultural center in the middle of the city. Balboa Park is home over a dozen museums, beautiful gardens and trails, several performing arts venues, and the famous San Diego Zoo.
The buildings at the park are among the oldest and most beautiful in the city; many were built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. The park and the Expo buildings have since been designated a National Historic Landmark.
If you’re in Balboa Park around lunchtime, consider grabbing a sandwich at The Market Place, a deli adjacent to the park, and then have a picnic at any of the park’s grassy areas. If you prefer a sit-down meal, head to The Prado, a lovely restaurant in the middle of the park. When the weather is nice, try to get a seat on the patio. Alternatively, there’s Barrio Star, a funky restaurant serving “Mexican soul food” a couple blocks north of the park. Barrio Star also has a good happy hour and Taco Tuesday menu.
If you feel like indulging a bit, Martin Chitwood suggests going to swanky Mr. A’s for cocktails or dinner. This award-winning restaurant is a fantastic place to catch the sunset or take in views of downtown and the bay. If you want to save a little money, they have a great cocktail hour from 2:30 to 6:00pm on Sunday through Thursday.
Not ready to turn in just yet? Night owls could head to the famous Gaslamp District in downtown, which is filled with dozens of bars and restaurants, or the neighborhood of North Park, for a lower-key-yet-still-buzzing nightlife scene.
The Hotel Del Coronado
Rise and shine—and grab your beach bag!
San Diego has over 70 miles of coastline and some of the most stunning beaches in the country. If you only have one day to see the city’s beaches, we recommend heading to Coronado, Ocean Beach, and/or La Jolla.
Martin recommends starting your day in Coronado. This almost-island (technically, Coronado is a peninsula or a “tied island,” but everyone calls it an island) is situated just across the bay from downtown; to get there you can either take a ferry or drive over the beautiful Coronado Bridge. The island features a gorgeous beach with sparkling white sand and lots of restaurants and shops. It’s also home to the iconic Hotel Del Coronado, which is definitely worth a visit.
After spending some time in Coronado, consider hitting Las Cuatro Milpas for lunch. This humble restaurant, located in the neighborhood of Barrio Logan (right near the entrance to the Coronado Bridge), serves simple Mexican comfort food. Be prepared to stand in line (although it goes quickly) and note that it’s cash only.
After lunch, head to either Ocean Beach or La Jolla. Ocean Beach, or “OB” as the locals call it, is filled with restaurants, bars, and antique (and other) shops and has a distinct surfer/hippie vibe. Try to catch the sunset at Sunset Cliffs (it’s called that for a reason), a beautiful 68-acre area with coastal bluffs and sea caves.
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
The more upscale neighborhood of La Jolla boasts several beautiful beaches, most notably La Jolla Shores, Windansea, and Black’s Beach (note that Black’s Beach is also a nude beach!).
Be sure to check out La Jolla Cove and walk along the shoreline; you’ll probably be able to spot some La Jolla’s famous sea lions lazing on the rocks. The area surrounding the cove is a protected reserve and snorkelers and scuba divers can see bright orange Garibaldi, barracuda, and giant sea bass, among other species. Visitors can also go kayaking and stand up paddle boarding.
While La Jolla is beautiful at all times of day, try to stay for sunset when it’s especially magical.
Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove
For dinner, Ocean Beach’s Bo Beau is a great option. If you’re in La Jolla, try El Pescador Fish Market, or for a more upscale option, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood.
We hope you enjoyed our tour! Have any more suggestions? Leave us a comment below!
For more from Martin Chitwood, visit his official website for more information, follow him at SanDiegoReader.com, on ScrubsMag.com for more articles, or connect via social on Linkedin, Facebook or his Twitter page.