Soak up the sun and skip in the surf: It’s all part of a San Diego weekend.
Beyond the relaxed beach scene, the city pulses with energy. Here’s how to experience both sides.
San Diego locals could get away with being smug: This endless-summer Southern California city challenges you to choose between beach days, park days, and world-class beer tastings. Fortunately, though, the cityscape is so mellow that you won’t encounter much ’tude, whether you’re seeking out the newest hot spot in the Gaslamp Quarter, strolling the Mission Beach boardwalk, or sampling the posh boutiques of La Jolla.
Spend a weekend and explore at your leisure. With well-known animal havens and amusement parks, it’s exceptionally family friendly. But everyone can enjoy the city’s textured dining scene, gorgeous beaches, and famous year-round mild weather.
Here’s how to make the most of a few days here.
San Diego is, at its heart, a giant beach town, though each sandy enclave has its own personality. La Jolla’s a great place for hanging ten; beginners can learn from a local operator like Surf Diva. Standup paddleboarders and kayakers can rent gear from Aqua Adventures and paddle around Mission Bay. And if you’ve always wanted to make super-elaborate sand castles, pick up some sculpting skills on the beaches of Del Mar with a lesson from San Diego Sand Castles.
But the city isn’t all about the beach. Check out Wonderfront, the annual music and arts festival on the waterfront; multiple stages feature genre-spanning artists and blend breakout sounds with familiar names For an adrenaline rush of a different sort, check out SeaWorld San Diego’s Tidal Twister rollercoaster, which spins riders through the air at speeds up to 30 mph.
Day-trippers can head to Coronado Island (taking the ferry is a popular choice) to relax on its award-winning beach or to go tide pooling at low tide. Rent a bike and explore the various architectural styles of homes here, then stroll the boutique shops and tempting restaurants along Orange Avenue.
To wind down, head to sprawling Balboa Park. In addition to the multiple museums and eye-popping gardens, don’t miss quirky spots like the Spreckels Organ Pavilion (a rare outdoor pipe organ with free concerts on Sundays) and the International Cottages, a charming mini UN of houses where, one Sunday a month, you can sample everything from strudel to kimchi.
Understandably, finding the perfect version of the local delicacy—the fish taco—is a priority for many visitors. Start your own search downtown at Puesto (in the city’s former police headquarters), where you can choose the smoked tuna with manzano corn sauce, avocado, and fried quinoa; or opt for a taco with shrimp, grilled red onions, slaw, and creamy jalapeño salsa.
Beyond tacos, the foodie hot zone is in downtown’s Little Italy, which has become increasingly known for its non-pasta-style delights. The centerpiece is Juniper & Ivy, launched by Top Chef winner Richard Blais and helmed by Anthony Wells, whose spontaneous, omakase-style menumight include a steamed bun of seafood sausage; soppressata on focaccia with pickled peppers; or the don’t-miss, rolled-cake Yodel for dessert.
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To get a taste of San Diego’s renowned beer scene, you almost have too many good options. Begin at city stalwart Stone Brewing, then compare the experience with a more recent startup, La Mesa’s Fourpenny House, which brings a Scottish theme to its tasting room. After, head north to Oceanside, whose emerging dining scene includes Breakwater Brewery, which has more than 40 pizza-complementing beers on tap, including house beers like the Kali Kush—a hoppy pale ale imbued with California sage brush.
And if your tastes veer toward agave, North Park’s Cantina Mayahuel is where to indulge. Choose from hundreds of tequilas, mescals, sotols, raicillas, and bacanoras. It’s the perfect place to toast the end of an ideal SoCal weekend.
The best San Diego hotels offer Instagram-ready views with plenty of indoor delights, and that’s certainly true at the gleaming Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina. This 25-story-high hotel overlooks the bay and comes packed with all the amenities of a big-city hotel, including three onsite restaurants, a spa, a fitness center, and two outdoor pools. Many rooms have their own balconies, while concierge-level accommodations add breakfasts and access to the plush lounge.
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Include a dose of historic ambience with a stay at the THE US GRANT, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Diego, first built in 1910 by the son of the 18th president and home to one of the few portraits of Grant himself. Rooms feature their own artistic flair, with high ceilings, original crown moldings, and painted-canvas “Sleeping with Art” headboards. Outside, the city’s Gaslamp Quarter buzzes with bars and eateries, but you’ll want to stay in for at least one dinner at the Four Diamond, Art Deco-style Grant Grill.
With three outdoor pools, six dining destinations, tennis courts, and a luxury spa, the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina—set on Harbor Island right outside downtown—offers a wealth of choices for every kind of traveler. Water views abound as well; take them in from your room’s private balcony, or get up-close looks at the boats in the marina.
Discover how Marriott can open the door to more unforgettable weekend getaways at Marriott.com.
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