San Diego consistently ranks among the top places in the country to live, recently being listed in the top 3 “coolest cities” in an article written by Forbes (1). Praised in the article for everything from it’s a plethora of choices for recreation to its friendliness for electric vehicles, it’s easy to see how this beautiful city in the southwestern corner of the US is a must-see tourist destination. Add to it the fact that San Diego has some of the best year-round weather in the country, if not the world, and it’s no surprise the home of Ron Burgundy has people flocking to it every year.
Perhaps the most challenging part of San Diego is deciding how to spend your time while there. After all, there’s so much to do! Having lived in San Diego for almost a decade, I have fielded this infamous vacation question a lot and have boiled down everything I think a visitor should know. Here are some hidden secrets you might otherwise miss.
1) There Are Mountains, Too!
San Diego is widely known for having incredible beaches and world-class surf. The sands of Pacific Beach, Coronado, and La Jolla are rightfully well known and celebrated, and, if surfing is your thing, Black’s beach is a must! What many people don’t realize, though, is that San Diego’s nearby mountains are equally impressive! Taking a short 45-minute drive east from Downtown will bring you to Mount Laguna, a quaint mountain town with some of the most spectacular alpine mountain scenery in Southern California. Check out the Pacific Crest Trail and be wowed with stunning vistas as the mountains fall steeply to the desert floor thousands of feet below.
2)Take A Historical Deep Dive
San Diego is known as an extremely progressive west coast city that pushes the envelope in ways the rest of the country will eventually follow. All of that innovation and open-mindedness doesn’t mean we lack history, though! San Diego was the landing point of the first European expedition to explore the western half of the country. Check out where Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his men landed and learn the history of San Diego’s settlement, all with stunning views of the city and bay, at Cabrillo National Monument. Only a 10-minute drive from downtown, this hidden gem in San Diego will give you a birds-eye view of the city layout as well as a deep understanding of our history.
3) Refuel With Authentic Mexican Food
You may be wondering why Mexican food is on my list of secrets for San Diego. It’s a fair question. Most visitors to our city understand that the border with Mexico is only a 20-minute drive from downtown and correctly assumes that tacos are a must while they are visiting. Many people don’t understand, though, that the most authentic tastes of our neighbor to the south are hiding in plain sight. In San Diego, the general rule should be that if it looks like a hole in the wall, typically, it’s going to be excellent. Chain restaurants will usually fall short to the mom and pop shops where generations of family recipes are on their side. Don’t forget to try a California burrito or adobada in your taco!
The best part of a vacation somewhere new is exploring the city and discovering the things that speak to you. These are just a couple of helpful hints that I see most people miss. Perhaps the best part of San Diego is how friendly the people are, so if you find yourself wanting a suggestion, just ask a local!
See you around town!