Insider tips: Explore San Diego like a local
Mark and Kristen Morgan are the British-American authors behind Where Are Those Morgans travel, hiking and photography blog, which has 2.5 million annual readers. As former career scientists, the Morgans officially left the lab in 2018 to pursue their dream job of helping others travel the world and have been on the road ever since.
What should I do on my first trip to San Diego?
First-time visitors to San Diego should prioritize exploring the 2,000-acre Balboa Park filled with gardens, museums, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. The enormous USS Midway aircraft carrier museum on San Diego's Embarcadero is another incredibly popular spot in the city that you shouldn't miss.
What are some hidden gems to see in San Diego?
Old Town San Diego was the first European settlement in California and it has been maintained as it was in the 19th century. Today you can walk around museums, eat fantastic Mexican food, shop at craft stores, or even have a fright fest at the supposedly haunted Whaley House Museum. Another hidden gem in San Diego is the coastline from Torrey Pines all the way down to Scripps Institution of Oceanography. You can watch gliders take off above you from the crowd-free Blacks Beach, take photos at Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier, and find the secret swings with a view near the Birch Aquarium parking lot.
How much time should I spend in San Diego?
Three days is the perfect amount of time to spend in San Diego for a first visit. You can explore the major neighborhoods, including the Gaslamp Quarter and La Jolla, spend time on the beaches, visit museums, and enjoy the best of San Diego's excellent food and craft beer scene.
What food is San Diego known for?
The simple but delicious fish taco is a must-try when visiting San Diego. Also known as the Baja taco, it originated in Baja California, just across the border in Mexico, so still pretty local. If sit-down restaurants aren't your thing, you can drive around San Diego and stop at one of many popular taco trucks.
What is the best way to get around San Diego?
San Diego is split into several small pockets, and you will need a car to get around if you want to tick off the most famous areas. You can walk or taxi around Balboa Park, Gaslamp Quarter, Downtown, and Embarcadero. But if you want to visit Old Town, La Jolla, Ocean Beach, and Coronado, you will need to drive or book a day trip that includes transportation.
What are the best months to visit San Diego?
Spring and fall are the best seasons of the year to visit San Diego. Plan for April to May or September to October if you want to benefit from lower hotel prices, fewer crowds at the beaches and museums, and more availability at restaurants. The beauty of San Diego is you don't have to plan around the weather because it has one of the best year-round climates in the United States.
What are the best neighborhoods to visit?
Gaslamp Quarter, Embarcadero, and La Jolla are the three best neighborhoods to visit in the San Diego area. Gaslamp has the food, shopping, and nightlife scene. Embarcardero has the USS MIdway and follows the marina which is stunning at sunset. La Jolla is an upscale and family-friendly coastal neighborhood with many coves, beaches, and sea lions. All three should be included on your San Diego itinerary.
Where should I eat in San Diego?
Foodies visiting San Diego should head for the Gaslamp Quarter and Little Italy. Whether you are in the mood for a steakhouse, seafood, Mexican food, or fine dining, you will find it all in Gaslamp Quarter. Unsurprisingly, Little Italy is the go-to for some of the best Italian food in Southern California.
What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?
Head to La Jolla for high end boutiques or visit Fashion Valley in the Mission Valley area for a shopping mall overflowing with designer shops.
What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit San Diego
The best hotels in San Diego are spread across several neighborhoods. Gaslamp Quarter is arguably the most popular neighborhood in San Diego because it has the best restaurants and nightlife, is pedestrian-friendly, and is centrally located for exploring the Embarcadero or Balboa Park. However, if you want a more relaxing experience near the ocean, stay in the glitzy La Jolla area. Families or couples who want instant beach access at affordable rates should look to stay around the Mission Beach neighborhood.
What's are the top 4 tips you'd give to someone traveling to San Diego?
1) Rent a car if you want to access the further out beach areas, La Jolla or Coronado.
2) Check the Padres baseball schedule. Visiting on game days means hotels are fuller and prices are heavily inflated.
3) Explore off-the-beaten-path areas. San Diego is pretty photogenic so don't forget to grab your camera and go exploring.
4) Book in advance. San Diego's popular attractions can have long lines and sell out, so plan ahead to make sure you aren't disappointed or wasting time.
What should people avoid doing in San Diego?
The most important thing to avoid in San Diego is not giving yourself enough time. You will spend a full day in Balboa Park, a full day at the beaches, and a full day around Gaslamp Quarter with its adjoining neighborhoods. And avoid getting too close to the sea lions in La Jolla — especially if you see them fighting.
What are your favorite GetYourGuide experiences in San Diego?
1) San Diego: USS Midway Museum Entry Ticket
2) San Diego: Hop-on Hop-off Narrated Trolley Tour
3) San Diego: Harbor Sightseeing Cruise
What is one thing that surprised you about San Diego?
It's a small, laid-back city with so many great places to visit and we didn't expect it to be so easygoing and relaxed, especially after visiting other famous Californian cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles which were much more hectic at times.
What is the best family-friendly thing to do in San Diego?
Families should head to San Diego Zoo, frequently heralded as the world's best zoo thanks to its environments and conservation efforts. San Diego is also home to the first SeaWorld location.
What is the best thing to do in San Diego for couples?
One of the most romantic things in San Diego is watching the sunset from anywhere on the west-facing coastline. Our favorite spot is the aptly named Sunset Cliffs.
What are the best things to do outdoors around San Diego?
Mission Trails Regional Park, to the northeast of San Diego, is a popular place to go hiking year-round. Fortuna Mountain Trail is one of the best hikes in the 8,000-acre recreational park.
What are the best beaches around San Diego?
Mission Beach and Ocean Beach are popular for surfing, Blacks Beach is quiet, and Coronado Beach is expansive with a popular dog beach section.