From Sightseeing To Nightlife, Here’s What To Do & Where To Do It In SD
By Kevin Wilkerson, PubClub.com San Diego Blogger
The sun it out, you’re in San Diego – San Diego! – and you’re as anxious to get moving as a teenager who has a date with the head cheerleader.
But like that person, you don’t want to fumble the opportunity. You want to make the most of it and from sightseeing to nightlife, here’s what to do and where to do it when you have a weekend in San Diego.
The key is to not be in a hurry. This guide is set up to where you can casually take in the main and most scenic sights while also enjoying the city at a pace that is in step with the culture of San Diego.
This guide does not include the San Diego Zoo and Sea World because those are parks that will take up at least half the day, if not all of it.
Saturday In San Diego
Make this your day at the beach. Or, more appropriately, day at the beaches.
• Mission Beach & Pacific Beach
Experience the true laid-back Southern California beach life by walking along the concrete biking and walking path that runs parallel to the sand and Pacific Ocean. Locals call it the Boardwalk, tho it has no boards. Lay on the beach, pop into a beach store, grab a couple of tacos from a stand, ride the Mission Beach rollercoaster and have a beer at a beachfront bar; Beach House in Mission Beach and Lahina in PB are two of PubClub.com’s top watering hole recommendations.
PubClub Tip: Rent a bike and ride along the bike path; this is the easiest and best way to move between the two beach towns. Do not, however, rent one of those motorized scooters for they are illegal and you will get a ticket if caught riding one along the beach path. Click here to read more about the ban on electric scooters.
• La Jolla Cove & The Cliffs
Wrap up the day by walking along the spectacular cliffs in La Jolla, winding up at La Jolla Cove. If its summertime, rent a mask and snorkel, and swim in the cove.
PubClub Tip: Watch the sunset here then pop over to Jose’s for a post-sunset margarita.
Friday/Saturday Nightlife In San Diego
• The Gaslamp Quarter
For Las Vegas-style nightlife, head to the Gaslamp Quarter. There is every bar imaginable, from hot clubs (Omni is a top one) to live music venues (PubClub likes The Field when the Irish band is playing) to pubs to regular hang-out bars with a solid singles scene (Barleymash, Tipsy Crow) with basements that range from lounges to dance clubs and a dueling piano bar (Shout). There’s even a bar that’s like going into a trailer park (Trailer Park After Dark).
PubClub Tip: Most of the nightlife action is along lower Fourth Ave., a couple blocks up from the Convention Center, and along Fifth Ave., all the way up to Broadway.
Sunday In San Diego
Use this as your getting-around adventure day.
• Brunch In The Gaslamp (Careful Of The Bottomless Mimosas!)
This will either make or kill the rest of your day. Several bars and restaurants – way too many to name – have weekend brunches that include bottomless champagne and/or mimosas. These bottomless bonanzas are in the $15 range and that will really set you up for the rest of the day. That is, unless you get buzzed and comfortable and stay until the last pour at 3 p.m.
PubClub Tip: The best place to look for a bottomless mimosas bar or restaurant is along Fourth and Fifth Aves.
• Balboa Park
Time a trip to this scenic park on a hill just above downtown to where you are seated at the outdoor pipe organ small amphitheatre for its weekly concerts. They go from 2-4 p.m., and are a fantastic way to relax and say to yourself “am I really here!?” It’s free (donations are accepted).
Then tool around the rest of the park with its Spanish and Japanese-style buildings. In addition to the museums (some of which are donation only), there are vendors and street performers. There’s even a few restaurants where you can sit outside and eat or just have a cold beer or glass of wine in your hand.
PubClub Tip: Pack an sandwich and sit down for a picnic lunch or eat at one of the restaurants.
• Ferry To Coronado Island
Hustle back to the bay and catch the ferry to Coronado Island. You can do this at the Broadway Pier or next to Joe’s Crab Shack behind the Convention Center. It’s $10 R/T and ferries leave every half hour. And they run until 10 p.m. You’ll have to take a bus or shared ride service to go the few miles to the Hotel del Coronado, the focal point of activity on Coronado. There’s a cool little beach shack serving food & drinks, a bike and walking path along the beach and live music Sunday afternoons at the large bar deck.
Of course, the hotel is worth exploring on its own. It became famous for the movie Some Like It Hot starring Marlyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon but few people know it was also where Jimmy Buffett came up with his song “Pre-You.”
Be sure and walk across the street to check out more shops and restaurants.
PubClub Tip: There is a bus ($2.50) from the ferry to and from the Hotel del.
• San Diego Bay
Back on the “mainland,” walk around Seaport Village, take in the massive USS Midway aircraft carrier, see the end-of-WWII kissing statue and catch the sunset from the Embarcadero.
PubClub Tip: Top off your San Diego adventure by having a beer at the Top Gun bar, the one used in the movie (it’s Kansas City BBQ, directly across from the Hyatt hotel). Who knows, you might even see “Maverick” in there having a beer. I did!
Transportation In San Diego
San Diego has an excellent public transportation system with trolleys (a rail line; don’t confuse the name with the red cable car-looking things from San Diego Trolley Tours) and buses. Buy an all-day pass for $7 ($6, plus $1 for a card).
In the Gaslamp, there is free transportation via a neat little service called FRED. It stands for Free Ride Everywhere Downtown and it utilizes a free Uber-type app called Circuit and covers all of the Gaslamp Quarter, downtown, Little Italy and goes to the edge of Balboa Park.
PubClub Tip: While in San Diego, don’t drive. Use the above methods of transportation and/or shared ride apps like Uber or Lyft.
Okay, we didn’t make it to Little Italy (a 5-minute trolley ride from the Convention Center), the cool area of neighborhood restaurants and bars known as Banker’s Hill, up to any of North County that includes Del Mar and even more beaches, to any of the many concerts or festivals that take place all the time here and certainly not down to Tijuana for a different kind of San Diego experience.
But by following this itinerary, you won’t leave town feeling as if you missed anything.