So last week I recounted my favorite places to eat in San Diego, and now that I have all of the drool cleaned out of my keyboard I am ready for my second installment about San Diego. Having covered food, I want to focus on some of my favorite things to do when you visit the city and surrounding area.
I just have to start with the area that houses the Liberty Public Market, and that is Liberty Station. While the biggest draw is the Public Market, and it’s so many amazing food options, Liberty Station does have more things to offer. It’s a great area to spend an afternoon/evening as in addition to the food options, there is an eclectic selection of stores spread across the greater development, and plenty of area to stroll through and enjoy the weather. You can stroll through LIberty Station Park that runs next to the water and offers a bit of an oasis in the urban environment while watching the planes overhead going in and out of the nearby airport. You can wander through the mix of shops, offices and museums spread throughout the area, or just grab some food from the market and find a spot to just relax and enjoy the day. My only disappointment with LIberty Station as every time I have been there the San Diego Comic Art Gallery has been closed for one reason or another. Oh well, maybe next trip it will be open.
An eclectic neighborhood right on the Pacific Ocean, that gives you the opportunity to walk a nice stretch of beach, fish from the pier, or just watch the surfers throughout the day. Definitely lacking the polish of some of the other areas of San DIego, it has that surf town culture vibe which oscillates between touristy and grimy block by block. You have plenty of great food options, and numerous opportunities to get that tattoo you have been thinking of. I highly recommend the dog beach, as there may be nothing more uplifting than watching our four legged friends frolic through the surf. Plus, if you stay out there you can watch the shifting turf war between the crows and wild parrots that seems to crank into high gear before sunset each night. I thought the crows were loud, but they have nothing on those parrots.
If nothing else, you want to make your way over to Little Italy on Saturday mornings for the weekly farmer’s market. How can you not love a market where you can buy fresh seafood, fresh produce, plants, every kind of food imaginable, artisan goods and an almond milk brand called Mulk. Got Mulk? Little Italy has some of my favorite restaurants, and a plethora of cool stores. With plenty of cool architecture and a true artistic vibe, it’s a must see neighborhood in San Diego. Plus it’s home to some of the best treats in the city – Holy Paleta, Salt & Straw Ice Cream and Devil’s Dozen Donut Shop (where they stay open until they are “souled” out).
Petco Park/Padres Game
I”m a baseball fan so I’m going to try and take in a game whenever I can, and wherever I am. Petco Park is a great major league park, and benefits from being located right in the heart of the city. Make sure you tour through all of the different levels of the stadium as there are some great sight lines everywhere, and lots of cool features like their Hall of Fame spread throughout the stadium. Definitely one of the better stadiums for food offerings, as on top of the regular ballpark food there are options from places like Hodad’s and Carnitas Snack Shack. Plus, the Padres are a pretty exciting team at this point, and Tatis Jr may be worth the price of admission all by himself. Just bring some sunscreen if it’s a day game as that Southern California sunshine is no joke.
A bit touristy, but some great shops and restaurants tucked along the waterfront just down from the convention center. Not a bad place to while away a couple of hours, and if shopping isn’t your thing, then you can stroll down by the marina to invest time in some serious boat envy. If you need to bring back some souvenirs from the trip this is a good option. A couple of trips ago I came back with a great Christmas themed surf shirt that is my holiday go to at this point. There are worse things to do than spend time down by the water.
The place to go for nightlife and shopping, and probably the one place almost everyone visits when they go to San Diego. It abuts against the convention center, and with no shortage of hotel options it is a great place to stay as you have easy access to just about any type of restaurant or bar that you might be looking for. Plus, from personal experience, it is an incredibly “safe” area that I have wandered through pretty late into the night (or early in the morning depending on your reference point) without any sense of concern.
Grab the ferry by the convention center or from the Embarcadero and make your way over to Coronado for a great day. The ferry landing has a great little park with some solid dining options and a few shops. For a great view of San Diego, wander over to Centennial Park as you get a great view of the skyline, especially at night. From there follow Orange Avenue as you cut across the island. There are some great houses to look at while you walk and a nice mix of restaurants and shops as you make your way across the island. It’s a bit of a walk but make sure you follow Orange Ave long enough to reach Hotel del Coronado, one of the most famous places in the San Diego area. You can learn about the grand history of the hotel, or simply marvel at the architecture as you make your way to an absolutely beautiful beach. Make sure you pack a towel so you can enjoy the waves, then grab a snack and a cold drink and make your way back to the ferry landing.
San Diego Zoo
I saved what might be the best for last. The San Diego Zoo is world famous for good reason, as it is an amazing place that pioneered the concept of keeping animals in enclosures that mimicked their natural environments. It’s a sprawling place that even with a full day can be tough to trek through in its entirety. I would recommend either going as early as you can in the morning or as close to dusk as you can, as that seems to be when the majority of the animals seem to be the most active. Also, pay close attention to the flora as you move through the park, as the zoo does as much to showcase a wide range of species that can be just as interesting as the animals. If you get the chance to be there after the sun goes down, you will have a unique opportunity to walk paths that are only partially illuminated and it feels like you have been transported far from the city at that point. This last trip we got to witness a mother and baby hippo playing in the dim light, and I have never seen anything like it. The food options in the zoo are pretty good, which is a bit surprising, and I highly recommend taking the “bus” tour as it will give you an overall feel for the zoo. And if you have an opportunity while on that tour, take a look behind you as you climb up the Eagle Trail on that bus. I just happened to look back on this last visit and saw what appeared to be a behind the scenes working area of the zoo, and what I can only describe as something that looked like a 9 foot tall hyena-like creature. It was in my sightline for only the briefest of moments in some type of enclosure and I had convinced myself it was just a trick of the angle, but later on I mentioned it with a laugh my daughter remarked that she had seen the same thing. I’m sure it was just a mirage of some kind, but I have to tell you when we were walking on those darkened paths it was hard not to think of a giant hyena hybrid wandering around looking for stragglers.
Anyway, those are some of my favorite places to visit while in San Diego. If you have some you would like to share feel free to share in the comments section.
The Free Range Viking
P.S. I’m about 80-85% sure that the 9 foot hyena hybrid doesn’t really exist, but you just never know