San Diego relaxing beachy vacation
July 5, 2016 10:30 PM   Subscribe

I perused many of the San Diego questions but didn't feel that any fit the bill. I'm going to San Diego with my husband the last weekend (Thu-Sun) in July (weekend after Comic-con). We'd like to do relaxing beach-y (walking along or swimming, not surfing) or historical sight-seeing things, sit in nice coffeeshops and eat good food. More snowflakes inside.

1) Where should we stay? We'll stay 2 nights in a Starwood hotel on points, so options here include the Gaslamp district, Mission Valley, La Jolla, and Carlsbad. We will have a car. I'm leaning towards La Jolla because we won't be doing much bar-hopping downtown (preggo), but is it too boring? Are other beach areas better? Are there walkable downtown areas in La Jolla?

The other night is a wild-card where we're going to stay in an AirBnb or another hotel which could be anywhere in town - someplace that isn't covered in the previous list, maybe Pacific Beach? Any suggestions?

2) We'd like to go to an upscale (entree $30-$75 each) restaurant one night. We live in Tucson so we are pretty easily impressed. Interests include fresh seafood, farm-to-table, and fancy cocktails. Probably not sushi. Where should we go, in any part of town?

3) Is there anything fun going on that weekend that we should know about?
posted by permiechickie to Travel & Transportation around San Diego, CA (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
None of the Starwood properties are ideal. Gaslamp and Mission Valley are non-starters for the beach. (Mission Valley is just no-no-no-no.) The Carlsbad property is pretty far away and in a boring area. The La Jolla property isn't near the beach; it's close to the university. The Grant is the nicest Starwood property, but like the Westin next door, it will be difficult with a car unless you have the patience for valet. It depends on what's important to you. If you want to walk somewhere and get breakfast, then the Gaslamp/downtown ones are your best bet. If you want to be able to drive places easily, then probably the one in La Jolla.

For dinner, I love Juniper and Ivy. Whisknladle is similarly fabulous - I also like its sister restaurants PrepKitchen and Catania. Smoking Goat is very good. (If you get the desire for sushi, Sushi Ota is the only place we go. It's perfect.)

If I were going to Airbnb anywhere as a tourist, it would probably be in Leucadia. It has a very SoCal beach vibe. It's a bit north of the city but not as far as Carlsbad. (In fairness, Moonlight Beach is where I met my I might be overly fond of it.)
posted by 26.2 at 11:20 PM on July 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've said this in a couple of earlier San Diego threads, but I feel strongly enough about them to mention them again here:

First, the Maritime Museum is one of my all-time favorite museums because you can step aboard actual (moored) ships. A must-see stop if you have any interest at all in historical travel/sailing, the navy, or old or modern boats/ships.

There've been a number of additions since I last visited; my favorite was exploring the Star of India which is the world's oldest active sailing ship (built in 1863). The museum also offers various boating and sailing excursions, and since it's the summer it's open for longer hours.

Secondly, Cabrillo National Monument is a historic place that also offers wonderful views and is a great place to walk around (there's also a neat little lighthouse you can walk up). (Wikipedia page)
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 2:42 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just stayed at La Jolla Shores hotel for a conference. It was nice and right on the beach. We were in a garden patio room, and it still was pretty decent. I don't know much about San Diego's geography, but we were able to walk and get food at our choice of restaurants only a couple blocks a way. There were bars as well, but the food was pretty nummy. There is also a convenience store right there. For me, that's a big plus. It was more expensive, but not horribly overpriced.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:59 AM on July 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

As for food, we were there last summer and really liked Donovan's in San Diego and Brockton's Villa in La Jolla.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:24 AM on July 6, 2016

Coronado Island has a number of lovely places to stay. It may be one of my favorite places on earth.
posted by Thistledown at 5:21 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of Coronado because it has a small, walkable downtown, really nice beaches, and some good restaurants. I tend to sort of park myself there and not leave except to visit the Zoo or Safari Park (f/k/a Wild Animal Park). I'd stay downtown / Gaslamp and drive over the bridge to Coronado, spend the day at the beach there, and come back and have a nice supper somewhere in the Gaslamp (or take the ferry, depending on how much you like to walk.)
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 7:00 AM on July 6, 2016

nthing no to mission valley, when I lived in SD I avoided that area like the plague, even for simple trips like going to target. I still get mad thinking about trying to navigate the multiple intersecting freeways just to get in and out of there.

La Jolla is nice-ish but sorta bland but if you are near la jolla shores the beach is great and there are other nice beaches nearby (my personal favorite is blacks beach which is a harder to get to, with a long curvy walk down) but is therefore far less crowded, has more wildlife (like dolphins and other things, but do the stingray shuffle for safety) and if you walk further enough north it becomes a nude beach. which might be fun just to checkout for a bit.

Pacific Beach is not a relaxed place to visit, it is a pretty gnarly bar scene that is for college kids and others to get verry drunk and try to fight and/or hook up with each other. it's gross and everyone is on their worst behavior.

Ocean Beach on the other hand is like a hippie town (replete with old hippies, crust punks and beach bums) on the beach that is super friendly and low key, if a little scuzzy.

Muzita Abyssinian Bistro is an amazingly delicious Ethiopian restaurant that is upscale but still small enough to be intimate and has excellent waitstaff in University Heights, which itself is pleasant but more of a (LGBT leaning more towards L) bar scene. (or was 7 years ago.)
posted by gnar_gnar at 7:14 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips everyone! Very helpful, especially on Pacific Beach; Ocean Beach sounds way more our speed. One last question for anyone still listening: if we stayed downtown or in Ocean Beach, how difficult is it to get to and park on Coronado Island on the weekend, if we still wanted to see it? We definitely can't stay there without blowing our budget but it still sounds awesome.
posted by permiechickie at 8:22 AM on July 6, 2016

Parking on Coronado seemed crazy at first because I was on the main drag. Go a few blocks off of it, closer to the beach on the southern coast and you should find plenty of free open street parking. If you go to the Cabrillo National Monument, go down to the shore on the west as well (turn right after you pay to get in). Parking was totally crowded in the afternoon, but practically empty before 10AM.
posted by soelo at 8:40 AM on July 6, 2016

Coronado beach is beautiful, the sparkly mica turns the water gold...Not sure about parking but I visited easily without a car - buses are very regular to and from downtown.
posted by freya_lamb at 8:43 AM on July 6, 2016

Parking won't be a problem on Coronado, so long as you're willing to park a couple blocks away from your destination. Alternatively, there's a ferry that goes across to Coronado from downtown that's very nice. You could also uber/lyft over on the bridge and not worry about parking at all.
posted by hootenatty at 8:52 AM on July 6, 2016

More suggestions, mostly in La Jolla:

My husband and I liked Herringbone in La Jolla for its very cool interior decor and delicious food. Both sets of parents didn't like the restaurant that much, mostly because their music was pretty loud.

Prepkitchen is also awesome, as suggested above. See if you can get a reservation for a table outside.

My parents, who are also from Tucson, really love The Fish Market or Anthony's, both downtown, because you can sit right by the water and eat seafood, which they can't do at home. My husband and I think they're a little overhyped for the quality of the food and are too crowded, but we're food snobs and antisocial, so you know.

Whatever you do, you should go to Pannikin while you're there. We love the La Jolla location, though they have a few others. Place your order inside, grab a seat outside, and read a good book or people-watch while you enjoy amazing coffee, tea, and baked goods. My husband is serious about his coffee and loves it there, and I avoid caffeine and I love it there too, because they'll essentially make you whatever you want, with or without caffeine, etc. We also love their curry chicken salad for lunch.

A great beach walk is La Jolla Shores - park at La Jolla Shores Park and head north towards the pier and Scripps. If you want to go longer than about a mile total, time it for low tide and clamber over the rocks/tide pools (super cool, though slippery) and keep going pretty much as far as you want (eventually you get to Black's Beach as someone suggested above). That's also a great beach for running if either of you wants to go for a run. Or park a little farther south on the street, near the Marine Room Restaurant, and wander through the neighborhood and look at gorgeous ocean-front mansions.

Have fun!
posted by bananacabana at 10:08 AM on July 6, 2016

Carlsbad has a lovely, relaxing beach not far from Carlsbad Village. If you do not want to stay there, the train stops in Carlsbad Village like two blocks or so from the beach. Carlsbad Village is very walkable and has places to eat, including a Chocolate Bar.

The beach in La Jolla tends to be foggy, the water tends to be cold and it is popular with surfers. I spoke (online) with a surfer friend who told me the conditions there are related to a steep drop off of the ocean floor, which is probably why the Scripps oceanography stuff is right there as well.

I liked the beach in Carlsbad a lot better than the one in La Jolla. But if that is too far out of your way, you could also check out the beach at Torrey Pines State Park. It is in La Jolla, but at the northern edge. So, you would likely want/need to drive.
posted by Michele in California at 10:51 AM on July 6, 2016

If you end up in PB/OB, then dinner at either Oceana or Tidal are very good. Both are in little bay resorts and are on the water. The patio at Tidal is right at the edge of the bay - we take out of town guests there all the time. (We are foodies and yes, I'm suggesting food in a resort. Executive Chef Amy DiBiase has it going on. If you stop by for a just a nibble it has an exceptionally good cheese board and good drinks.) Much better quality than Anthony's and a quiet, peaceful view of the water.

I also like Herringbone, but I think their desserts are okay at best. If dessert is important, then it's not my favorite place. Searsucker (Gaslamp) is the sister restaurant, and it's also good for dinner, but only okay for dessert. Herb&Wood is that chef's new restaurant and it's very good, but no where near Juniper and Ivy or Whisknladle.

Lots of people recommend Point Loma seafood for lunch, but everything is fried. A better choice is Mitch's (which is a few steps away and right on the big bay.)
posted by 26.2 at 11:38 AM on July 6, 2016

If you stay in Ocean Beach (and you should) definitely go to Cotijas on Voltaire and get a California Burrito. It will change your life. Also get sandwiches at Poma's and eat them on Sunset Cliffs at, you guessed it, sunset. Once your child is born, you can come back and go to Pizza Port for great beer and decent pizza.
posted by Aizkolari at 3:43 PM on July 6, 2016

Bracero Cocina has upscale Mexican
posted by brujita at 4:32 PM on July 6, 2016

The Ocean Beach burrito that changed my life was the breakfast number at Nico's, on Newport.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:20 PM on July 6, 2016

Wow. I live here and I can't believe people are recommending OB. It's all tourists and taco shops. To each his own I suppose.

If tacos are your game, then PB fish shop for non-fried fish tacos. Oscars for surf and turf tacos (and don't forget to grab the crema out of the fridge).
posted by 26.2 at 8:05 PM on July 6, 2016

« Older Help me be brave   |   How to make a house a home Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.