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Laidback surf-town vibes meet a buzzing metropolitan center in San Diego, a city situated on the Pacific coast just 15 miles from California’s southern border. Catch your first wave at Mission Bay and follow it up with a tasting flight at one of the 150 local craft breweries. Neighborhoods such as La Jolla and the Gaslamp Quarter offer trendy dining experiences that visitors expect from the Golden State, but San Diego’s abundance of sandy beaches and outdoor spaces such as Balboa Park encourage you to slow down and enjoy the sunshine. Resist the temptation to cram everything into one trip, and savor the relaxed demeanor that permeates San Diego.
San Diego International Airport (SAN) sits about halfway between the ocean and downtown, taking a mere 15 minutes to arrive at either destination. If you’re in town for a weekend and plan on sticking to star attractions such as Old Town, Balboa Park, and the Gaslamp Quarter, you can easily get by on rideshare services and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. Catch the 992 bus right outside baggage claim at the airport and relax on cushy seats for a short ride to the downtown area. For longer stays, rent a car to reach theme parks, less crowded beaches, and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California’s largest state park.
San Diego’s climate remains relatively moderate year-round: Highs hover between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and lows only dip down to the mid-40s in winter. After the gray, overcast skies of June Gloom clear away, the air becomes more humid than average through September. Late summer and early fall bring ideal conditions for experienced surfers as the Santa Ana winds kick up, but pay attention to local weather reports, as the Santa Anas also increase wildfire risk in Southern California. During all seasons, be sure to pack layers — after spending all day in the sun, you may want a light jacket to stave off the slight evening chill.
Encapsulating 17 museums, 19 gardens, a 100-year-old carousel, and even a miniature train, Balboa Park can feel like its own city. Highlights include the Botanical Building, one of the largest wooden lath structures in the world, the San Diego Natural History Museum, and the open-air Spreckels Organ Pavilion, home to a 5,000-pipe organ, the world’s largest.
This small, stroller-friendly neighborhood offers opportunities to soak up Spanish Colonial architecture, pop into boutique shops, and treat your dog to lunch on a pet-friendly restaurant patio. Fans of thrills and chills should visit the Whaley House Museum, considered by some the most haunted house in the United States.
Head to Mission Bay for equipment rentals and lessons in sailing, kayaking, waterskiing, and more. Bordering the bay is Ocean Beach and Pacific Beach, both ideal spots to learn how to surf. While in the area, check out Mission Beach to watch X Games hopefuls at the skatepark and take a spin on a 95-year-old wooden roller coaster at an oceanfront theme park.