First Timer’s Guide For A Quick Trip to San Diego

The best possible trip you can take to get away from Los Angeles is a quick two-two hour drive south to San Diego.  Ideal weather, terrific beaches, interesting neighborhoods and activities that cater to adults as well as families make it a great place to visit to get away from of the big city craziness that is Los Angeles.

I grew up in Los Angeles and, when I decided to move, my first choice was San Diego.  I lived there for six years, two of which were spent going to college to finish my degree.  There are many more aspects of San Diego worth seeing than I have the space to go into, so I’ll only be focusing on the highlights.  This will be part of a blog carnival (see the bottom of this post for more) with the “Nearcation” theme, i.e., vacations that get you out of your city but are close enough that you aren’t spending much money to get there.  I’ll be approaching this as if you’re a first time visitor to the city of San Diego.

Beaches

Of anywhere I’ve been, I believe that San Diego has the best weather in the world.  Take advantage of it and hit the beach.  If you surf, wake up early and head out to Black’s beach with the other pros.  If you want a mix of everything, including an upscale neighborhood and an art museum, make your way to La Jolla Cove.   And if you’re in a party mood, head to Pacific Beach for a smorgasbord of restaurants and clubs right at the beach.

The entrance into the Gaslamp Quarter of downtown San Diego

The entrance into the Gaslamp Quarter of downtown San Diego – Photo from Flickr by Paul Edwards

Neighborhoods

For neighborhood exploration, your first stop should be downtown, affectionately called The Gaslamp Quarter.  Right near the convention center, this area is filled with shopping, eateries, galleries, theaters and bars.  Unless you plan on spending the day shopping, put this on your list as something to do after the beach or a day at the zoo.

Another neighborhood worth mentioning is Hillcrest.  While La Jolla Cove and Pacific Beach are draws because of their proximity to the beach, Hillcrest is a trendy neighborhood that might be a mix of Silverlake, Melrose and West Hollywood rolled together.  Again, the highlight here is a bit of shopping, getting your drink on, listening to some live music and people watching. If you want to join in on the music, you can always find local teachers to help increase skill.

Attractions

Lastly, if you have never been to Sea World, or you’re visiting San Diego as part of a family group, you should spend one of your two days with either the fishes or on safari.  The Wild Animal Park isn’t exactly a “zoo”but it is as close as you’ll come to going on Safari without actually taking a trip to Africa.  Sea World is a no brainer and is still interesting to this thirty-something, especially now that I’ve recently acquired my scuba certifications.

A Killer whale and its trainer

The iconic killer whale that Sea World is known for – Photo from Flickr by gocardusa

Make The Drive

Whatever you decide to do, making the trip to San Diego really isn’t all that difficult or expensive.  If you’d prefer not to drive, you can take the Pacific Surfliner train down.  It connects with the trolley system, which can get you to some of the spots I have mentioned.  Basically, if you can’t afford a plane ticket for the next three-day weekend or vacation you’ve got coming up, you can still get out of the city and spend some time exploring a different part of California.  For my international readers, I would highly recommend allotting a minimum of two days for a trip to San Diego.  You’ll be thrilled you did.

The Blog Carnival

As I mentioned above, this post is part of a themed “blog carnival” that is taking place today, June 1st, 2012.  Basically, about a dozen of us bloggers got together and wrote posts based on the theme “Nearcation” (a vacation that’s near you – get it?).  You can read more about the carnival with the host at The Lost Backpack, and I’ve also listed, and linked to, the other people participating in the carnival.

Lis of LisTravelTips.com

Just over the hill from Wellington is the very New Zealand combination of wild rugged coastline and fine wines. Whatever your budget or interests there is something for you in the Wairarapa, and all under 2 hours drive from home!

Amanda of NotaBallerina.com

There are quite a few benefits to living in Perth, Western Australia, the most isolated city in the world – and one of them is that a typical “nearcation” is to hop on the ferry to idyllic Rottnest Island, just an hour away.

Ele of Kootvela

In 1772 there was a partition of one European country by its neighbours. A mere 30 years before there was a boy born in a poor family in France. Both events are related because this boy grew up to be one of the greatest botanists in the world and he came to spend a great part of his life in a partitioned country. The result today are the beautiful Kairenai botanical gardens.

Eva of ThatsHamori.com

When you think of southern France do you conger up an image of vine covered countryside and Plane trees along the Canal du Midi winding its way towards the Mediterranean Sea? Do you dream of sun bathed afternoon walks, a baguette under arm and sandy coast lines? With so much tradition and culture for tourists to sample, the south keeps visitors coming back back for more.

Craig of Indietravelpodcast.com

Most Aucklanders live well outside the city centre, only venturing in for business or a night out. There’s plenty to do during the day though, especially when you’re out exploring the sparkling Waitemata harbour. Find the best things to do in Auckland harbour.

Jen of GearUpandPlay.com

One of the coolest things about living in Portland is that so many great places are within reach; the ocean, the mountain, the desert.  But sometimes it’s good to get farther away, to a place that is a little more…theatrical. Ashland is a great escape with entertainment that can take you to other worlds.

Jim of AroundtheWorldinEightyYears.com

My kids aren’t quite turned on by the image I hold of myself as an intrepid Saharan explorer. So we load our little tent, sleeping bags and some coolers of food and drink into the car and hustle a quick two hours north on Highway 522 from our home in Taos, New Mexico, into Colorado and to the 85,000-acre Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Lauren of SpanishSabores.com

Extremadura is a part of Spain that few people know about. But only an hour away from busy Madrid, Extremadura makes a great choice when traveling in Spain. Visit the charming town of Trujillo to see its gorgeous castle and taste world famous Torta de Caser cheese. If you prefer something bigger try the capital, Cáceres, to see its perfectly preserved old town. Finally, head down to Mérida where the Roman ruins rival those of Rome, without groups of tourists getting in your way.

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  • http://notaballerina.com/ Amanda Kendle

    Ooh, I wish I lived close enough to San Diego to make it a “nearcation” (instead of a 20+ hours flight). I have been there once as a day trip from LA and I loved it – in fact it reminded me quite a lot of Perth and Fremantle here in Western Australia. Come down one day and compare for yourself!

    • Anonymous

      I was actually in Perth about this time last year and spent a week or so in Freemantle at one of the hostels there.  Had a great time in both cities.

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  • http://listraveltips.com/travel-blog Lis

    I like San Diego – I passed through it years ago on the way to Mexico – and it  was a much nicer town than LA! 

  • http://traveldestinationbucketlist.com/ AnitaMac

    Very cool – love the concept of a nearcation blog carnival!  Great way to get local knowledge on places to visit!  Have been thinking about San Diego for a while now – need to add to my list of places to go.  Fingers crossed for a work conference this summer – tack on an extra day or two to see the sights…..with a sunset like that first photo – I may never leave!

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  • http://thatshamori.com/ Eva Hamori

    Been a long time since I have visited San Diego! I loved the zoo as a kid and of course Sea World
    :)

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  • http://www.milfordplaza.com/accommodations New York Accommodations

    San Diego is my one of the favourite destination which is most popular for holiday tour. I am so excited for spend my next holiday in San Diego. Here these all information and photos looking awesome.

  • Anonymous

    Wonderful San Diego!! 

  • Jacob Marlfoyle

    San Diego truly is a sparkling gem on California’s coast – one of the best places to live and to vacation! Love your recommendations of favorite things to do.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Jacob! I know everyone’s got a different list of the “best” things to do. What else would you add to this list?