San Diego vacation advice please.

Will be headed there this summer, and would love any suggestions on best places to stay (under $200 per night), and can’t miss places to see. Not too interested in the big touristy type places, but would prefer the local gems.


A local gem would be the Del hotel in Coronado.

Go see Torrey Pines State Park.

Lots of family friendly stuff to do:

Beaches, Sea World, Zoo, Wild Animal Park (which is a seperate place from the zoo), USS Midway Museum, Legoland, Balboa Park (with a few different museums in it).

The Gas Lamp Quarter is where the downtown nite life is, if you are into consuming adult beverages.

Google “San Diego hotels” to get all kinds of different buisnesses looking to do your hotel booking. Hotel Circle is near enough to the downtown area, and cheaper than staying at the harbor front, or the Hotel Del Coronado.

Edit: Sorry, I violated the OP’s request not to list the “big touristy” places. :smack:

mr. hunter, Little One, and I were in SD recently and stayed at the Courtyard Marriott San Diego Central. It was about 15 min. from downtown SD and about half the price as the ones I was looking at in downtown SD – this was in Jan, so possibly off-season rates, but only about $150 for a huge suite (we wanted a separate room so the Little One could nap and we could do other things at the same time), and the staff were really helpful with getting us a crib and so on. I highly recommend it. In general the farther you are from downtown SD the cheaper the hotels seem to be.

Can’t really help you with off-the-track places to see… we usually try to see the Wild Animal Park, but that’s a big touristy thing. There’s the La Jolla sea caves – these are apparently pretty fun to kayak, but I have never done so so take that with a grain of salt.

I will be traveling with only my girlfriend.

I don’t mind being out of downtown if we have access to public transport to get us to the downtown area.

I’m a beer lover, and a wanna be foodie–so any suggestions on those lines would be great as well. I have a lot of the beer places mapped out already, but would love to hear about some that may be not as well known (stone, toronado, alesmith…).

Also would love to hear about great places to see the sunset, or other romantic type locations.

Will you be getting a car? The public transportation in San Diego is pretty crappy, so that makes a big difference in what I might recommend for a hotel if you’re going to be dependent on it. We have three trolley lines, but their coverage of the city is pretty minimal, so that may factor in.

Thankfully, the one place they DO all go is downtown. You’ll definitely find all the great beer places there. Here’s a trolley map:

You can pick it up from a number of places in Mission Valley, which is the same area as Hotel Circle others have already mentioned. As a long time resident, I would tend to agree that for the price you pay versus the proximity to what you will want to see around the city, it is definitely the best location. You also have two big malls nearby for shopping (Fashion Valley and Mission Valley Mall). Coronado, La Jolla/University City, and Del Mar are all very nice to visit, but the hotels in the area will charge you through the nose. Downtown does have all the nice bars and has many fancy restaurants. Hillcrest, which is also close by, is also known for its outstanding restaurants. It being the gay part of town, you can expect that. I would recommend some restaurants, but not knowing what you like, is probably a good place to start. You will definitely not have a problem finding good Mexican food. If you want good BBQ, you can’t go wrong with Phil’s right next to the Sports Arena. For the best burger in town, I’d recommend Hodad’s in Ocean Beach.

Best places to see the sunset? The Hotel Del Coronado is definitely a nice romantic place. Sunset Cliffs is nice, as is the Glider Port on North Torrey Pines Road. Someone suggested Torry Pines State Park, which is nearby. If you do decide to go there, I’d strongly recommend parking on the public streets across from the Torrey Pines golf course and walking in from the South side to avoid the $10 parking fee, unless you can find one of the coveted spots right on Torrey Pines Road just North of the park at the bottom of the hill open (you won’t).

As far as local gems that aren’t touristy? Balboa park can be both touristy and non-touristy depending on what you choose to see and where you go. That’s where all our museums are, as well as the San Diego Zoo. I’d say that’s a must see spot. I’d skip Old Town, as that place really is a tourist trap and is still the #1 place in the city to have your car stolen. It’s also one of the few areas where the Mexican food tends to be kind of mediocre and all the restaurants are crowded. Up in the mountains outside the city is the old gold mining town of Julian, which has nice hiking and scenery. Kayaking the sea cave in La Jolla is fun. You can also just see it from the inside if kayaking (and the associated price) isn’t your thing: - you’ll also want to check out the Children’s Pool in La Jolla to see all the sea lions on the beach. That too is a good place for a sunset.

Thanks Yarster!

I would prefer to do most of the trip without a car, and just take a taxi to a couple of the outlying areas. Renting a car for a day or two would not be out of the question–but I don’t want to do so the entire time I’m there.

My favorite restaurant in San Diego is the Wine Vault. They do a great 5 course tasting menu every Saturday. They have other events too (like winemaker’s dinners), you can check out their calendar and see if anything looks interesting on a day you’ll be in town.

Here’s something they’re doing next Wed as a for example (49 bucks a person for all this goodness):

Wine Vault & Bistro is pleased to announce a special winemaker dinner featuring the wines of Saddleback Cellars. Owner/winemaker Nils Venge will be here from Napa Valley to personally host this dinner. Nils in universally regarded as a pioneer of the Napa Valley wine industry, and is the first American winemaker to receive a perfect 100 point rating from wine critic Robert Parker. In addition to his own winery, Saddleback Cellars, Nils is also a consulting winemaker for many other notable Napa Valley wineries. Hope you can make it! Here’s the line-up:

Early Spring Panzanella Salad | Pea Coulis | Asparagus | Preserved Lemon | Blossoms | Green Garlic Vinaigrette | Burrata 2009 Saddleback Cellars Pinot Grigio

Cucumber + Avocado Soup | Dungeness Crab Croquetta | Pickled Pepper Relish | Coriander Sprouts | Tamarind 2008 Saddleback Cellars Chardonnay

Braised Short Ribs | Potato Mousseline | Cipollini Compote | Crispy Broccolini | Bagna Cauda 2007 Saddleback Cellars “Old Vines” Zinfandel

Farro Risotto | Rapini | Romanseco | XO Sherry | Fried Onions | Radishes *2006 Saddleback Cellars Merlot *

Roasted Lamb Loin | Sunchoke Soubise | Fregola | Guanciale | Rosemary Jus 2005 Saddleback Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

Another vote for Torrey Pines. You’d definitely need a car for that. I think you need a car to get the best out of San Diego, even if you only rent one for a day. I think it would be worth it. You could just take a cruise up the coast and soak up the SoCal beach town vibe. The stretch of Coast Highway south of Oceanside is a great drive, especially on a nice sunny day.

Even if you don’t go to the Zoo, Balboa Park has some neat museums and botanical gardens. Go check out the Midway and take the ferry over to Coronado and back just for the ride. (If you time it right, the ferry is a fantastic place to watch the sunset.)

You should be able to get a deal on Priceline for places in San Diego. A quick look at bidding for travel shows successful bids for 3.5 and 4 star places for around $80.

I would seriously reconsider this. San Diego, like most of Southern California, is very spread out. Cab fare from Hotel circle to Torrey Pines will likely run you $45 one way. To get to Stone in Escondido will be ~$90 one way. Never mind how difficult it can be to get a cab, especially at night.

Then again, for me San Diego was rarely about the downtown area, and much more about the funky little towns all around it like Encinitas, PB, OB, and La Jolla. I’d take the Belly Up over the House of Blues any day.

Also, in the weeks before going, check out The Reader. It is quite literally a guide to everything that is going on in San Diego in the coming week(s).

You can do the hot air balloons over rancho Santa fe or take a biplane ride over the coast here in SD. I’ve done both and highly recommend them. Wisknladle in La Jolla has some great food. But I think you need to rent a car. From La Jolla to the airport I think was around $30 and it starts to add up. Balboa Park has some great museums. The photographer who took that National Geographic photo of that Afgan girls with the eyes. Well his gallery is in Old Town. The zoo and sea world are good fun. I’m live in La Jolla and there are some nice beaches where you can take surf lessons. Those are fun to do as a couple.

Sounds like a car will be in the mix then. Thanks for that advice.

I’m thinking about a few days in the mission valley area at a reasonable hotel and then perhaps out to Coronado for something a bit nicer for a couple of days.

We will be there for 6-7 days, so there will be plenty of time to get to different areas. Suggestions for things to do in the surrounding areas would be welcome as well.

Balboa Park and La Jolla sound like they are in for sure, and the same goes for the ferry to Coronado and the plane ride up the shore.

Thanks for all the help so far!

Yes, a car is a necessity in this city. You can’t get to anywhere except downtown via the Trolley, the buses are terrible, and even if you stay in Mission Valley, unless you pick from a handful of hotels near a trolley stop, the walk can be pretty long. The car is an absolute necessity if you want to go to any of the aforementioned sunset spots.

My only advice with a car is that most of the hotels will charge for parking, which is ridiculous since there is free street parking almost everywhere in Mission Valley. Before you commit to paying those outrageous fees, look around for street parking. Odds are if you are willing to walk one block, you can park for free on the street. Mission Valley is also a nice enough area that your car will be pretty safe.

I’d personally recommend skipping the hotels in Coronado as they are very expensive, especially if you are planning a stay at the Del Coronado or Loews. Anywhere else isn’t going to be any better than the hotels in Mission Valley. It’s far better to just drive over, check out the sites, and drive back. The same goes for La Jolla. I got the impression you were on a budget, in which case you may want to skip the biplane and hot air balloon rides too as you will pay big bucks for both of those. You can definitely do San Diego on the cheap if you spend some time researching the activities in advance. The Reader, already mentioned, often has good restaurant and activity coupons…

I’m bumping this thread instead of starting one of my own because I’m headed to San Diego this week! I’ll be getting there Tuesday night and leaving Sunday.

I’m staying downtown (the Bristol). A car is unfortunately not an option. Virtually all of my free time will be in the evenings, so nice restaurants, bars, and music will probably be what I’m looking for the most. (I’m definitely going to see the Dodos at the Casbah on Saturday night.)

If anyone has any particular advice for this week, let me know!

There’s a German burger joint (yes, indeed!) in Old Town and New Park called Crazee Burger that really tries to live up to its name. They got all the staples, but do try some of the more out there variations. I myself had a wild boar burger with a red wine pear, whipped cream and plum jelly - delicious! Other selections include alligator, venison and ostrich burgers. It’s a bit fast-foody, but still nice and also very affordable.

Be sure to check out nightlife at Pacific Beach (Lahaina Beach House is pretty cozy), and take a stroll down La Jolla Shores. Del Mar isn’t far away either.

Have fun there!