This past week, I was in San Diego for six days. One week later, I'm moving there and have already taken the first steps. It's hard to describe this city just a stone's throw from the Mexico border in a few words. The people are very cool and friendly, and no...just because it's California, not everybody smokes weed. But you'll probably get a whiff of it more than usual.
The diversity of places to eat and shop are very reminiscent of NYC. Want some Italian food? Thai? BBQ? Mexican? Seafood? Burgers? Want to buy antiques or go to a 99 center? Hell, I even stumbled across a legit African restaurant in City Heights.
The weather is about what you'd expect from a city nestled along the equator: Warm most of the year with chilly nights, and some occassional rain. It can get pretty warm in the Summer months, but unlike other parts of the US, there's no 90-100% humidity, which makes it feel like you're being smothered with a pillow. No bueno.
One of the things you'll quickly pick up on in Ocean Beach is just how laid back the people are. In fact, it's safe to say that Ocean Beach is the most laid back in all of San Diego. I HIGHLY recommend crashing there if you can, and found a highly-rated place on Airbnb just 6 blocks from the beach.
Ocean Beach is located kind of central, so it's just a quick 10-15 minute drive to the airport, downtown and a ton of other places. In fact, my trip all the way to the Zoo was just 9.2 miles, and the furthest was Torrey Pines Natural State Reserve (further below), an absolute must visit, at 15.9 miles. While I didn't really do any shopping, I definitely did plenty of eating.
Ranchos Natural Foods - Easily some of the best Mexican food I had during my stay. It was never packed, and the value for the dollar is fantastic! Pictured above is their California omelette which came with your choice of tortillas, and rice or beans and potatoes. You can tell the salsa is made fresh, and it had a perfect kick to it. I never spent more than $13.
O B Donuts - O B Donuts is open well before the sun comes up, and it's a local favorite for its breakfast sandwiches. While I can't comment on the sandwiches, the donuts are delicious. Mmmm. Jelly.
Azucar - Keeping with the sugar vibe, Azucar is a Cuban bakery right at the corner of Newport Ave and Sunset Cliffs Blvd. They also have some fantastic espresso, which goes nicely with one of their many sweets.
Old Townhouse Restaurant - This diner just two blocks from the beach knows how to do breakfast. Their biscuits and gravy were as good as my dad's, which is saying a lot. However, if you swing by Saturday or Sunday morning, be prepared to wait if you must have a booth.
Lazy Hummingbird Coffee & Tea House - Lazy Hummingbird is a super chill spot, and definitely attracts a certain crowd. I tried everything from a regular coffee to a fruit smoothie, and it was all superb. If you happen to see an older bald military vet, chances are it's Gene who is there almost every morning. He's full of great stories, and made me feel right at home.
Just a quick walk from Ocean Beach, Sunset Cliffs offers the best views in that general area of San Diego. There's not as much going uphill at least right along the cliffs, which makes it a great place to go for a jog.
There's really a little bit of everything from the Gaslamp Quarter where all the best bars are to Seaport Village full of 50+ shops. However, before you go exploring downtown, consider booking a two-hour harbor tour through Flagship Cruises & Events. I found a Groupon for $16, and it was worth every penny. Even at the regular price, it'd totally be worth it.
Pub crawling in San Diego is an easy feat, and if you're looking for an epic Friday or Saturday night, San Diego Pub Crawler has your back. Eddy and Jason were our guides, and did a great job keeping the group together even though I eventually lost them later into the night. At least I think. The final stretch was a bit hard to remember. Thanks, alcohol!
Before getting things kicked off, we got a free welcome shot at Taste & Thirst. Everyone doing the pub crawl gets a special wristband, which got you drink specials OR 50% off depending on the spot. The Tipsy Crow was particularly memorable for one reason: the downstairs club.
Seeing hammered white people attempt to dance while you're getting a buzz going is a hilarious way to spend some time, and I got to talk to some cool writers from LA, who I of course totally forgot their names. If you guys ever read this, please get in touch!
On Thursday, my first day in San Diego after doing the harbor tour, I walked over to Dublin Square Irish Pub & Grill. The food was even better than the neverending list of brews, and as I was finishing up, in walked The Barmen. Let's just say I was very happy I stayed for another three hours after that!
After a long day soaking up the sun, you might be looking for something sweet. If that's the case, head on over to Union Street to Extraordinary Desserts. The name says it all, and I had a slice of Dulce De Leche. Wow.
The hipster/artsy district, you'll fit in just fine if you A) Have a beard, B) Wear flannel, C) Wear black-rimmed glasses, or D) Have all three. North Park is also the craft beer hub of San Diego, so bars are as frequent as salt in the Pacific. I attended the SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off, which was an awesome way to sample the local fare and meet the locals.
The most affluent area of San Diego, you can shop for a new Lamborghini or check out sea lions chilling in the cove at Children's Pool Beach.
If you happen to be in the area around sunset, skip the beach and look for the La Jolla Bike Path. It runs right through the city, and towards the far end running alongside Draper Ave, it goes up a little bit into the hill, breaking way for this unexpected view:
No trip to San Diego is complete without making it out to the world famous Comedy Store. Last Comic Standing winner Jon Reep was headlining, and the opening acts were also hilarious. I got to meet and chat with Earl Skakel afterwards, who was a total blast.
Torrey Pines Natural State Reserve
If heaven exists and I end up there, I hope it looks like Torrey Pines Natural State Reserve. It's by far one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and it's not nearly as difficult to hike, long as you end your hike down back at the beach, and walk the beach back to the entrance. The initial climb is steep, but not nearly as bad as I thought it'd be. It definitely sobered me up from the pub crawl the previous night.
San Diego Zoo And Balboa Park
Recently rated the second best zoo in the world, the San Diego Zoo is a nice break away from the beach. It's one of only four zoos in the US to feature giant pandas, and the giant tortoises from the Galapagos were amazing to see right up close in person.
Unfortunately, it wasn't until walking into Balboa Park that I found out the museums were closed due to getting ready for December Nights. However, it was at least worth walking around to see the cool architecture.
If you plan on renting a car, great. Even on Friday and Saturday night, traffic wasn't an issue. There's a little more traffic during the more touristy months, but nowhere near anything like LA. For the real fun, Uber and Lyft are a great way to move from point to point.
There can be some hesitation as you never really know what you're going to get, but out of the 25 or so rides I took using both services, I had just one questionable driver. He seemed to just be in a bad mood.
Everyone else was super friendly, and quick to give me recommendations, as well as remind me of how awesome the city was. One of my drivers, who I will not name, raced professionally, and was an absolute boss getting me fast to my pub crawl downtown. Five stars all day!
Here's my special codes for a free ride, or at least a good discount:
Uber (up to $20) - mikes725
Lyft (up to $10) - MIKE621799