San Diego Weekend Guide

I cannot believe summer is almost over! This year is flying by, and before I know it, I’ll be trading summer dresses and shorts for my winter parka and snow boots. (Definitely shedding a few tears just thinking about this. Seriously, how is it almost September?!)

This past weekend, Alex and I escaped the craziness of New York City and headed to Northern California for a wedding. Having explored San Francisco last year (you can read all about our adventures here!), we jumped on a plane to San Diego to relax, explore a new city, and hang out with friends we met last year at Oktoberfest.

This was my first adult trip to San Diego, and I have to say, having friends in the city made our trip 10,000 times better! San Diego is a big city — you really need a car (or Uber) to make the most of your trip. If it wasn’t for our friends who so graciously played tour guide, we wouldn’t have had the experience we did. That being said, San Diego is such a fun city, and with so much to see, do and eat, it’s hard to fit it all in! So, if you’re looking for the perfect weekend getaway, here are my top reasons why you should pack your bags and head to San Diego!

If you’re anything like us and love craft beer, San Diego is the place to be. As of July 2018, San Diego is home to 157 breweries, 35 tasting rooms, and 14 brewpubs. Of these 206 beer locations, 185 are San Diego craft beer!

With only three days in San Diego, it was so hard to pick which breweries we wanted to visit, but our decisions did not disappoint. If you’re looking for some fun breweries, here are our favorites (and not so favorites)!

Our first stop in San Diego — Coronado Brewing Co! After exploring Coronado Island, we decided it was time to try our first San Diego craft beer. The beer was good, but the brewery was a bit crowded and had quite a few families with small children. Overall, this wasn’t our favorite San Diego brewery.

After a full day of sightseeing, we stopped at Ballast Point Brewing for lunch. There was a great burger & beer special ($10 every Monday) and an awesome outdoor patio! Plus, it’s ideally located in Little Italy.

We loved Half Door Brewing Co. so much, we went twice! Not only does Half Door have a killer happy hour ($5 beers & apps), but its located one block from Petco Park. This is the perfect place to visit before a Padres game. 

If you find yourself in North Park, definitely check out Modern Times Flavordome. We stopped by around 3pm after a long day of exploring in the sun, but I can only imagine this would be the place to be come nightfall. Plus, if you grew up in the 90s, you’ll definitely appreciate the use of floppy disks to create art! (I wish I would have taken a photo!)

Our last brewery stop was Mikkeller Brewing in Little Italy. Having discovered and fallen in love with Mikkeller in Copenhagen, we saved the best for last. The beers are unique and mostly hazy, but beware — they are super high in alcohol content. The highest is 15%!

Sunset Cliffs
Sunset Cliffs is an absolute must for any trip to San Diego! The park extends about 1.5 miles along Point Loma’s western shoreline, and with expansive ocean views and dramatic cliff formations, you’ll be sure to witness the most amazing sunsets. Arrive early if you’re driving — parking is tight!

Sunset Cliffs

Sunset Cliffs & Point Loma

No filter needed — the most beautiful sunset!

The best tour guides in San Diego! We met Jake & Johanna last year over beers at Hofbrauhaus in Munich and ran into each other in Prague, so of course we had to have a reunion in their hometown of San Diego!

Liberty Public Market
Liberty Public Market is San Diego’s version of Smorgasburg: an indoor hipster eatery with bars and specialty food and craft vendors. It’s the perfect place to go when you can’t decide what you want for eat! We ate everything from empanadas to fish tacos to a burger stuffed with mac and cheese! (Yes this exists!) After dinner, we walked over to Stone Brewing and enjoyed our beers over a game of bocce. (Who knew Team Badley was so good at bocce?!)

I’m pretty sure Alex ordered this burger just for the gram…

Coronado Island
We visited Coronado Island our first day in San Diego with no plans other than to see Hotel del Coronado and check out Coronado Brewing Co. (I really had no expectations other than mental images of a pretty beachside hotel!) There’s a small ferry behind the San Diego Convention Center, and for $9 per person, you can get roundtrip transportation to and from the island. (The price is a bit steep for how short the ride is, but the views of San Diego are very pretty.) The ferry drops you off in a small village center with restaurants and shops, and during the summer, there’s a free shuttle bus that goes directly to Hotel del Coronado. We decided to walk across the island (about 1.5 miles), and I’m glad we did! The beach houses were beautiful, and we discovered a free summer concert in one of the public parks.

Coronado Beach is consistently ranked one of the top beaches in the United States, and I could definitely see myself summering here. Hotel del Coronado, a designated National Historic Landmark, is a beautiful Victorian hotel that has hosted many celebrities and presidents. Definitely don’t miss the beach or hotel when visiting San Diego!

Hotel del Coronado — a wooden Victorian hotel, opened in 1888.

Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach

Hotel del Coronado from the beach

Hotel del Coronado from the beach

Little Italy
Little Italy was by far my favorite neighborhood in San Diego! About a 25 minute walk from downtown, Little Italy has so much to offer — and without the crazy masses of tourists. Endless restaurants, a couple breweries, and the cutest wine bars, I felt like I was in a Californian oasis. If it wasn’t for our amazing tour guides, we would have been at a complete loss trying to figure out where to eat and drink!

Dinner at the Crack Shack. The chicken sandwiches, outdoor seating, and bocce court made for the perfect evening in Little Italy!

Carruth Cellars Urban Winery — a hidden gem in Little Italy. The Unicorn Wine — full of rainbows and stardust — was the perfect way to end our evening!

Balboa Park
Balboa Park is a 1,200 acre urban cultural park, home to 16 museums, multiple performing arts venues, gardens, and the San Diego Zoo. We visited just before sunset, and the architecture paired with the yellow, pink, and orange hues from the setting sun was absolutely magical. Make sure you stop by the Botanic Garden & Lilly Pond, the Spanish Village Art Center, and Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

California Tower

Museum of Man

El Prado

The Botanic Garden & Lilly Pond

Nothing beats a west coast sunset

The Spanish Village Art Center

La Jolla
La Jolla is a famous beachside town just north of San Diego, known for its many shops and art galleries, beautiful rugged coastline, and sunbathing sea lions. This is the perfect afternoon trip away from the hustle and bustle of downtown San Diego. We explored the main shopping streets before making our way to La Jolla Cove. While it’s pretty neat to see all the sunbathing and barking sea lions, be prepared for sea lion stench. The coastline truly smells, and after a few minutes, we couldn’t wait to move on! Further down the coast, there were so many people kayaking and snorkeling — I wish we had brought our swimsuits!

Exploring La Jolla

Sunbathing and barking sea lions at La Jolla Cove — this beach is so stinky!

More sunbathing sea lions!

Snorkeling next to La Jolla Cove

Padres Game
If you’re visiting San Diego while the Padres are playing at home, you might as well go to the game, right?! We bought cheap tickets and thought we would have enough time to grab one last happy hour with our friends, but by 8:30 and having yet to reach the stadium, the game was already at the top of the 7th! When we finally arrived at Petco Park, most of the food vendors were closing, but we were able to grab desert at The Baked Bear. Word on the street is Petco Park has the best selection of San Diego craft beers and tacos!

Oh, did I mention we were in town for the SEATTLE MARINERS?! What a small world!

An ice cream cookie from Baked Bears!

Random Travel Logistics

Car Rental: I’d recommend renting a car if you’re planning multiple day trips, but a car rental is absolutely not necessary! We used Uber, and San Diego has Uber Express, which offers cheaper riding prices if you’re willing to walk a block or two to your pickup location.

Public Transportation: Prior to arriving in San Diego, we had heard public transportation was very limited, so we walked almost everywhere. However, dockless bikes and scooters liter the city, and you can use these bad boys starting at just $1. I have yet to rent a bike or scooter, so my review is still TBD…

Hotel: We stayed in the Gaslamp District, which was central to almost everything — from downtown to Petco Park to the waterfront and ferry to Coronado Island. I loved Little Italy (great nightlife and endless dining options), so next trip I’d love to stay in this neighborhood!

1 thought on “San Diego Weekend Guide

  1. Amazing pictures and write up. I love San Diego & the surrounding area. When I visited for the 2017 Holiday Day Bowl (Go Cougs) my favorite brewery was also the Half Door. Stone is another to add to your list. Copa Vida is a great coffee shop near Petco. Traveling opens the world to such great adventures & friendships! Can’t wait for your next adventure.

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