As most of you know, I don’t really like Los Angeles. It’s congested, crime infested, inconvenient and expensive. It still boggles my mind why anyone would actually want to live here, but I guess we all have our personal reasons (like myself).
Sadly, I started to become disenchanted not only with L.A., but with all of California. My business trip to San Francisco was met with high hotel prices and countless encounters with aggressive (and dangerous) homeless people. Going to Orange County was a venture rife with traffic and expensive parking.
So to be honest, when my boyfriend first told me we were going to San Diego, my expectations were pretty low.
But boy, was I pleasantly surprised.
San Diego is one of THE MOST beautiful cities in the United States. I know the Angelinos will kill me for saying this, but San Diego is basically Los Angeles without all the crap.
In fact, I loved San Diego so much on my first visit, I knew one trip just wasn’t going to be enough. With every journey to San Diego, I end up loving the place more and more.
So without further ado, here are some of my favorite spots in San Diego. While all of these locations can be crammed into a one weekend getaway, I recommend a 2-4 day stay in San Diego to fully enjoy sights such as…
La Jolla and the Tide Pools
La Jolla (pronounced La Hoya) is one of the most breathtaking beaches in the United States. Hands Down.
One could easily spend an entire day in La Jolla lounging on the beach, hiking the nearby trail that runs along the La Jolla coast with excellent ocean views, or doing water sports ala kayaking or surfing.
If you drive further down south, you’ll find a small (but ritzy) La Jolla outdoor shopping area lined up with boutique shops and cute cafes.
Personally, I don’t recommend dining at any of the swanky restaurants near the beach. Instead, pack a basket full of cheese, crackers, bread, prosciutto, and maybe some wine–and find a patch of grass to sit down for a picnic while taking in these views:
After your picnic, walk down the coast to see the tide pools (which sometimes washes up buried treasure), or simply stroll along the beach as you wait for sunset to paint the sky red.
La Jolla is also a ridiculously clean beach. While Los Angeles’ infamous Venice Beach may have a syringe or two floating in the water, the beaches of La Jolla are so spotless, you’ll find speckles of sand glittering gold in the afternoon sun.
Another perk? Parking is free. Yup. Take that $5-10 L.A. beach parking garage.
Downtown San Diego
And get this: It’s walkable! A walkable city in SoCal!? I know, I was a skeptic at first too, but after strolling around downtown San Diego I was alarmed to see the city alive with pedestrians. If your feet get tired from all the walking, there’s also frequent buses and a trolley that runs throughout the city.
Not to mention downtown San Diego faces a pier with spectacular views of the bay and a gigantic museum (U.S.S. Midway) housing some of America’s greatest military relics.
Point Loma is a U.S. national park. When my boyfriend and I first went, we were lucky enough to waive the $5 entrance fee with our national park card.
So for those without the card, is the $5 entrance fee worth the cost?
Point Loma gives you, in my personal opinion, the best views of San Diego, Coronado Island, and the Pacific Ocean herself. Watch sailboats, fishing boats, cruise ships and other sea faring vessels float across the open blue, in all their majesty. Soak in the sea breeze and feel the wind blow through your hair as you inhale that fresh, ocean air deep in your lungs.
Don’t leave right after scoping out the view on the peak–Point Loma also has many hiking trails alongside the ocean that make for a great sunset walk after a tiring day in the city or on the beach.
The San Diego Zoo
Initially I was not that hyped up for the San Diego Zoo, but going to the Zoo was my boyfriend’s childhood dream and I couldn’t say no to that.
Let’s just say, there’s a reason this zoo is known as one of the best in the country.
I know, it costs $80/person to get in, which may seem steep–but trust me, you could spend an entire day here easily.
The park is made to resemble different natural environments of the world, and it shows. Walking through the section featuring creatures from the rainforest made me feel like I was transported to the jungles of Ecuador, while the meeting with elephants and hyenas on the open plains took me to the savannas of Africa.
It’s the largest, cleanest, most thorough zoo I have ever seen in the United States. Definitely worth spending a day in, without a doubt.
San Diego is a SoCal Must.
Overall, if I had to make a California recommendation to an overseas visitor, I would tell them to skip L.A. and just go to San Diego.
Aside from the activities listed above, there are other attractions in San Diego such as Legoland (have yet to go) and Seaworld that both adults and kids would enjoy.
Those who prefer the great outdoors can also kayak or surf in the clean, cool waters of La Jolla or Coronado Island. If you like to party, the nightlife of downtown San Diego is unrivaled and, since it’s so walkable, you probably won’t need to drive (woo hoo!).
Finally, if you just want to relax and enjoy California without the traffic and crowds, then San Diego is the place to be.
Do you have any California Recommendations? What are you favorite spots in the USA?