Despite being one of the 10 largest cities in the country, San Diego has an easy breezy small town feel. Seventeen miles of coastline ring the city, bringing wafting ocean breezes to the collection of diverse neighborhoods that comprise it. Known for its sunshine, surf culture and laidback attitude, San Diego is coming into its own. Whether you have a week or a weekend to explore, we’ve gathered our top picks of must-sees in this sunny, seaside city, whatever your mood.
Get Caffeinated: Swell Café Mission Beach
Begin the day sipping coffee by the sea at the Swell Café in Mission Beach. Located a block from the ocean, the sweet smell of coffee mixes tantalizingly with an ocean breeze. The popular spot roasts its own beans while staying conscious of its impact on the environment. You won’t find any Styrofoam here. So, grab a cup “for here” and order from their diverse breakfast menu. From acai bowls to vanilla bean French toast, there is something delicious for everyone from the health-conscious to the less-so.
Get Arty: Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego Downtown
This offshoot of the larger MCASD space in La Jolla is worth a visit, especially if you’re under 25 (admission is free!). Dedicated to art made after 1950, the space is small and intimate with just a few quiet galleries to explore. Currently on display through February is Robert Irwin’s literally brilliant Light and Space, a room-sized installation of florescent light tubes. You can also interact with Judith Barry’s experiential video installation, Voice Off, an exploration of our interior and exterior voices made manifest at the same time.
Get Shopping: Junc Life in South Park
From Downtown San Diego, the cozy and tree-lined enclave of South Park is less than a 10-minute drive away. Meander in and out of a bevy of boutiques, many of which specialize in local and artisanal goods. It’s like a well-curated Instagram account come to life. Junc Life bills itself as a “lifestyle mercantile” and carries new and vintage clothes, accessories, furniture and food. Its offerings are quirky, eclectic and often one-of-a-kind, just like the neighborhood itself.
Get Tipsy: Societe Brewing Company in Kearny Mesa
San Diegans love their beer as evidenced by a booming craft brewery scene. More than 100 breweries entice locals and tourists alike to taste their specialties. Brewery-hopping tours have popped up in the last few years, but we suggest heading directly to the tasting room at Societe Brewing Company. Brewed on the premises, four distinct series of beers can be sipped and analyzed in a big open space. Get a bite from one of the food trucks that rotate throughout the week and if you plan to stay a while, grab a board game and play with your new beer-loving friends.
Get Down: RoofTop600 in the Gaslamp Quarter
Revelers of all kinds are drawn to the Gaslamp Quarter, the heart of San Diego’s booming nightlife scene. Victorian buildings are nestled among skyscrapers and a trolley chugs its way down the main drag. The walkable neighborhood makes bar- or club-hopping eminently doable, even in heels. Head up to RoofTop600 at Andaz. This poolside hotel lounge transforms into a club at night, complete with velvet ropes, fire pits, DJs and bottle service. But if Vegas-level clubbing isn’t your scene, there are plenty of other options all within stumbling distance.