When your plane lands in San Diego, you may be tempted to spend your short visit lounging at one of the city’s many beaches, drinking margaritas, eating fresh Mexican food, and rattling off “Anchorman” quotes. While there is no doubt that this sounds like a memorable weekend, there is so much more to do and see in America’s Finest City. If you have only 48 hours to see the most that this incredible city has to offer, try to squeeze in as many of the following sights as possible.
This charming area right outside downtown San Diego is one of California’s most visited State Parks. With buildings dating back to the early 1800s when San Diego was a Spanish military outpost, Old Town boasts rich history and culture. A stroll through Old Town will take you past several museums, historic buildings such as old school houses and artisan shops, and the Whaley House, San Diego’s most haunted building. It can be easy to spend half a day here, but if you can only visit Old Town for one reason, then come for the fabulous Mexican food at one of the many fun and authentic restaurants in the area.
A hop, skip, and a jump from Old Town, Little Italy is a neighborhood bustling with art, culture, and, of course, delicious Italian cuisine. Visit the weekly farmer’s market on Saturday, get your art fix by browsing the many small art galleries, or indulge in some delicious pasta and gelato.
From Little Italy, Seaport Village is just a quick drive or pleasant harborside walk away. Seaport Village is a small gem along San Diego’s waterfront, and it is a great place to eat, window shop, or merely take in the picturesque views of the San Diego Bay. With more than 70 shops, galleries, and restaurants, Seaport Village provides endless spots for exploration.
Sitting right across the harbor from downtown San Diego, Coronado Island teems with small-beach-town charm. You will either have to cross the iconic Coronado Bridge or take a ferry across the harbor to arrive at the island. Once there, you can easily spend a day walking along the beach, ducking into quaint shops, and reveling in its small-town charm (even though most of the homes on the island are worth several million dollars). Don’t miss the world-famous Hotel Del Coronado, which you may recognize from the 1959 movie, Some Like It Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe.
One thing you should not miss while in San Diego is the Gaslamp. It is best to experience this lively, energetic area in the heart of downtown during the evening. That’s when droves of locals and visitors head to some of the best restaurants in the city, and then later out to some of the best bars and clubs in all of San Diego. Whether you opt for a relaxed happy hour or decide to venture to one of the premier clubs, one thing is for sure: when the sun goes down, the Gaslamp is where you’ll want to be.
Ah, La Jolla, San Diego’s playground for the uber-wealthy; situated along a gorgeous and jagged coastline, it has some of the best coastal views in all of Southern California. If you don’t want to shop or eat where San Diego’s most affluent shop and eat, head down to La Jolla shores to snorkel, swim, and kayak, or visit the cove to watch the seals play and sun themselves during the day.
This 1,200-acre park is full of museums, historic buildings, theaters, and beautiful gardens. You could easily spend days exploring the various museums and gardens in Balboa Park, but if you are on a time crunch, opt for one of the most famous museums, such as the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center or the Museum of Man.
Technically a part of Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo is world famous, and a must-see for people who are fascinated by animals. The San Diego Zoo’s most prized exhibit is the panda exhibit, as the zoo is a leading force in saving this adorable animal from extinction. Some other exciting animals found at the zoo include hippos, elephants, giraffes, orangutans, and tigers.
If you don’t make it to all of San Diego’s best spots, then you have a great reason to come back! With beautiful weather year-around and some of the best beaches in the country, San Diego is always an excellent choice for your next vacation.