San Diego is great place to visit, even just for the weekend. You can lounge on the beach, explore the amusement parks, or hit up the nightlife. It honestly has it all. For a Los Angeleno, it’s about a 2.5-hour drive south. Be sure to skip rush hour or you will be stuck in that parking lot also known as the 405 and 5 freeways.
Sunsets worthy of a Top Gun movie moment await. Back in 2014, I stayed at the Wyndham San Diego Bayside near downtown San Diego. Recently renovated, this hotel is very affordable and conveniently located on N. Harbor Drive. Rooms are spacious with modern touches. You can expect the weekend rate to be roughly $140 per night. Plus, there is so much to see only steps from the hotel, such as the U.S.S. Midway.
The U.S.S. Midway aircraft carrier was in service from 1945 to 1992 and became open to the public in 2004. You will have the opportunity to see exhibits, flight simulations, and even climb into an aircraft. After touring the museum, you can dine in their cafe and visit their gift shop.
Only a few more steps away is Seaport Village. Seaport Village was also recently refurbished and this coastline village includes shops, restaurants, and cafes. This is an easy spot to pick up San Diego gear and trinkets.
For daytime adventures, check out the San Diego Zoo or Balboa Park. The zoo has been around since 1931 and has helped to rehab a variety of endangered species. I am such a sucker for animals and this zoo is fairly expansive. This is one of the cleanest and most well-kept zoos I have visited. Balboa Park, literally a stone’s throw from the zoo, is a nice cultural experience. The Japanese Friendship Garden is serene and beautiful. Take a stroll and enjoy the gorgeous blooms. Balboa Park also has a wonderful botanical exhibit as well as various museums. We stopped at The Prado at Balboa Park for a bite and weren’t disappointed. With the Spanish-Renaissance style of architecture around the park, it is easy to feel like you are in a European city. I highly recommend that you stop here and wander.
For a nice dinner after a day of touring, Ruth’s Chris is located immediately adjacent to the Wyndham. A convenient way to get a fantastic steak. If you want something more hip and fresh, I suggest checking out Cucina Urbana. Located on Laurel Street, they have great Italian cuisine with an industrial flare. Some local friends of mine suggested this restaurant which also sports a nice wine shop. Word to the wise, even if you buy a bottle in their shop, there is still a corkage fee. I felt a little burned by that one, but the wine was fantastic and the food was even more so. Make a reservation ahead of time because they get packed.
If nightlife is what you are after, check out the Gaslamp Quarter, just east of Seaport Village. This is where you will find cocktail lounges, fine art galleries, night clubs, and lively bars. You can have a colorful evening eating artisanal foods and later dancing the night away. If you are traveling with the family, you can hit up the Hard Rock Cafe and check out the historic walking tours. There is also plenty of shopping opportunities in the Gaslamp.
If you want more of a resort experience, I recently stayed at The Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa. Located on East Mission Bay Drive, The Hilton is a few miles north of the bustling downtown and boasts a lovely shoreline locale. This place is a true retreat. You can rent bikes and wander the cycling trails, rent jet skis and hit the waves, or just take a romantic stroll on the beach after the yummy breakfast buffet. Poolside cabanas and a kids club make The Hilton a destination for the whole family. This resort experience starts at approximately $219 per night on the weekends.
Very close to The Hilton, almost walking distance, is Seaworld. This park includes a wide variety of majestic sea life as well as a few fun rides. I loved Manta the roller coaster and Atlantis, one of their water rides with a pretty good drop. Aside from the rides and exhibits, there are also dolphin/whale shows and a small Sesame Street themed area for the kiddos.
Now if you are looking for the ultimate resort experience, you may want to consider staying at Paradise Point. Paradise Point is on the western side of Mission Bay, facing that beautiful blue ocean. Bungalows, lagoons, and tropical plants everywhere make this resort feel like you are in the middle of Hawaii. Some friends of mine got married here and had a beautiful wedding on the water’s edge. I really felt detached from the busy work life I left behind. Costing roughly $270 per weekend night and up, this locale is ideal as a special romantic getaway. It was gorgeous. Only downside to the tropical atmosphere, were all the tropical bugs. Still gorgeous and inviting.
For both of the resort locations, keep in mind that there are resort fees that will add about $50 per day to your bill. Parking fees are also in about the $30 range. That said, if you need a weekend where you truly escape, these two spots are a great fit. Regardless of where you stay, San Diego has so much to offer. You are bound to find something that takes off like Maverick in a fighter jet.