San Diego is slept on. I too was guilty of not knowing what this city, a mere two hours from Los Angeles, had to offer. I've had people over the years ask me for recommendations for San Diego and unfortunately, every time I came up short. I hated being stumped. As much as I travel, especially within our beautiful state of California, I realized it was a bit ridiculous I had absolutely nothing to share about San Diego. And why was that? Because I had assumed it was merely for families who were interested in amusement parks. I was wrong–seriously wrong. While on this trip, sponsored by Visit San Diego, I couldn’t help but think of all the times my friend Andre Power (a former resident) told me San Diego was interesting and that the vibes were chill. He was right, but it is typically best to experience these things for yourself.
As with any trip, there was quite some preparation that went into creating my itinerary. I don’t ever take off without a proper plan in place. Do you ever wonder how I manage to see so much while on the road? It’s a concerted effort I make to utilize every second while traveling. From the moment I arrived in San Diego, I had a plan, but as always, left room for some spontaneity. I stayed a few days in the city but could have easily spent a couple more, as there was so much to explore. I couldn’t believe how many beautiful sites and institutions I visited–that were free, no less– and how many more I added to my list while there. With that being said, here is my San Diego City Guide. & learn more about the city here.
Salk Institute & Research Center
10010 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037
This was my absolute favorite destination while in San Diego. In fact, after my visit, I put Salk in my top 10 favorite buildings in the world. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this concrete masterpiece is home to a prestigious research center with grounds open to the public. I could sit here for hours, soaking up vitamin D and surrounded by superior brutalist structures designed by Louis I. Kahn. Salk is a very special place.
San Diego Central Library
330 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
I worked at the Central Library in DTLA for six years. I’ve always been in love with libraries, books, and reading; this might explain to some of you why I stay coming with the facts. When I travel, I like to check out the local library and San Diego offered one of the most impressive I have ever seen, both in its architecture and collection. Their collection is strong and the rare books room is absolutely stunning. If you love libraries, this is a must.
ARTS & CULTURE
1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
While exploring the Botanical Building at Balboa Park I looked up and asked myself, “why is this the first time I’ve ever seen this?” I was shook while enveloped in the fecund wonderland. How could something so beautiful escape me for so long? I was mad at every single person I knew for keeping this a secret. Maybe they didn’t know? You have to visit Balboa Park, if not for the botanicals alone. The added bonus is all the other cool museums on site. There’s so much to do here!
Ladera St, San Diego, CA 92107
I like to make out at the beach and if I had a boo in San Diego, this is where I’d take them. If that’s not your speed, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is also the perfect place for mindful meditation, a run with your dog, or to post up to breathe the incredible Pacific Ocean air. Nothing beats being alongside the ocean and here, the views go on for miles. Parking is ample and during the week, you’ll feel like you have the place all to yourself.
Timken Museum of Art
1500 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
Art is crucial to my travels and I am always looking for unique spaces to see it. While combing through images of San Diego on Instagram, I came across a bold pink wall as the backdrop to classic paintings. I was floored and had to see this for myself. The Timken Museum of Art is known as “San Diego’s jewel box” and is the second most important mid-century modern building in the city. It’s also home to an elegant collection in an intimate setting and admission is free.
Mission San Diego de Alcalá
10818 San Diego Mission Rd, San Diego, CA 92108
What's a trip along the California coast without a visit to one of the missions? I was born in a city with a mission–San Gabriel–and the fourth grade statewide Mission project clearly made a lasting impression on me. I'm obsessed with the history of our state and I was excited to finally experience the San Diego Mission after all these years. It's one of the more beautiful I've seen and it's garden is absolutely tranquil.
Born & Raised
1909 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
I have well-documented my love for steak over the years and it brings me great joy to share that my 18oz ribeye at Born & Raised was the best steak I’ve eaten in Southern California. It’s been awhile since I last ate a piece of meat that was so delicious I moaned with every bite. In addition to quality cuts, the cocktail service at this semi-new restaurant is superb–the Daisy is my personal favorite. This place is dripping with old-school glamour but with a contemporary attitude.
789 W Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
After trying Puesto at Tacolandia last year, I knew when in San Diego I needed to hit their brick and mortar. Although their tacos are delicious, it was their Mexican Street Bowl that I had on my radar most of all. If you love eating tropical fruit from a clear plastic bag sold under a rainbow umbrella, this is a must. From their margaritas to esquite, every single thing I tried from the menu at Puesto was solid. If you enjoy fresh handmade tortillas and quality ingredients, eat here.
Little Lion Cafe
1424 Sunset Cliffs Blvd, San Diego, CA 92107
One of my followers suggested I eat brunch at Little Lion Cafe and what a great recommendation that turned out to be. No reservations, no attitudes, just a cozy restaurant with a few tables dedicated to serving fresh California ingredients. You must absolutely order the gluten-free Dutch baby with whipped cream and fresh berries. It’s a sweet breakfast treat that is guaranteed to make you smile. Don’t forget the side Duroc bacon! It’s top-notch. Delicious espresso as well.
Provisional at the Pendry Hotel
550 J St, San Diego, CA 92101
There are only 3 known Moët vending machines within the United States and one of them can be found in San Diego at Provisional inside the Pendry Hotel. Luxury has never been so easy—purchase a special gold Moët coin, drop it in, and enjoy your personal sized bubbly. Get it on the gram and I promise you everyone will go crazy! I never had so many comments in my IG stories when I posted my experience. Can I have one of these at home, please?
This trip was funded in part with City of San Diego Tourism Marketing District Assessment Funds, thank you San Diego!