I knew I’d love San Diego. California’s “beach city”. The place to get a fix of city life and also breathe in the fresh sea air. It’s been described to me before asa “laid-back, “outdoorsy” with “great food”. What’s not to LOVE? All these things were true, I had heaps of recommendations given to me from friends and my friends at Visit San Diego so I wanted to whittle everything down to 6 things I absolutely loved about this leg of my California roadtrip.
1. Stay at The Lafayette Hotel
I fell deeply in love with this hotel. It’s situated in North Park, super easy to find and packed with Hollywood glamour. On first arrival, you get a sense that this hotel has CHARACTER. Even next to the hotel’s carpark round the back there were improv lessons happening! I don’t know why, but I really loved that. The full name of the hotel is actually “Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows” which kind of has a Dirty Dancing vibe to it. The rooms are gorgeous with a real boutique feel, an each room has a balcony with two loungers on it overlooking the glorious (famous) pool. The breakfast offerings are incredible, my favourite being the brioche and avocado brunch option. Red Fox Steakhouse and Piano Bar is also something special. Located just next door, it is a lively pub-esque style bar that plays live music every night. The bar itself dates back to 1560, with lots of furniture that came from Surrey, England.
This is a really lovely video summing up the fun and nostalgic vibe of the hotel.
2. Go Shopping in North Park
I loved the relaxed nature of North Park. Imagine lots of people walking their dogs in the evening sun, and browsing the shops. My favourite stores were Pigment (the cutest gift shop in the world), Verbatim books (the best second hand book shop ever, new looking books at a 3rd of the price), and Hunt & Gather (a really fun vintage shop, with crazy sunglasses and dresses!)
3. Say Hi To The Seals at La Jolla
It was amazing to see the seals and watch them lie there (and sometimes move). Paul had recommended an episode of the very popular podcast This American Life to me called “When The Beasts Come Marching In”, and it’s about when nature and humans have shared territory and the problems that come with that. There were lots of animal activists making sure people weren’t taking pictures or getting to close to the seals, which I totally agreed with, but at times they were slightly too aggressive. People shouldn’t frighten the seals and it’s a shame they do. It’s recommended to enjoy watching the seals from a distance and there’s plenty of places to stand and view them. La Jolla is an absolutely gorgeous part of San Diego and I totally recommend you go.
4. Visit The Amazing Museums
I was pleasantly surprised at how awesome the museums are in San Diego. Balboa Park is home to 15 major museums and it’s really great how they are clustered together to save walking time between them! San Diego Zoo is also here but I didn’t get a chance to visit this time round. We visited Centro Cultural de la Raza, a very understated museum with Mexican, Indigenous and Latino exhibitions with occasional performances too. It’s not very big but is worth a quick look round. The Japanese Friendship Garden is really lovely, full of zen gardens, ponds and strolling paths that are very relaxing. The Museum of Photographic Arts was really interesting, depicting many people from different countries and their struggle with floods. The gift shop was really good too, so if you love photography, make sure you check it out. San Diego Air and Space Museum devoted to flight from da Vinci to Space exploration. And my favourite of them all, was the San Diego Natural History Museum, it’s really interactive and I learnt a lot about dinosaurs, bones, and watched movies in 3D.
5. Pay A Visit To Ocean Beach Farmer’s Market
This farmer’s market has been going strong for 25 years and has something for everyone. There’s an amazing free-spirited vibe to this market atmosphere, peace signs, colourful buildings, people playing music and dancing in the street. It’s really quite amazing. You’ll find lots of lovely fresh produce, tasty ready to eat meals, homemade arts and crafts, and live music to get you in a good mood. It’s located at 4900 Newport Ave, San Diego.
6. Eat All The Fish Tacos
We tried our very first fish tacos in San Diego and I wouldn’t have had it any other way! Our absolute favourites were at a place called Sandbar in Mission Beach (go during Happy Hour!) and Tacos Perla in North Park.
(Apologies for these non art-directed iPhone photos!!!) I was too excited to eat them that we couldn’t be arsed to get a stylised artistic picture. Apologies. But omg, they were so delicious.
7. Explore The Gaslamp District
We really enjoyed this district, it’s packed full of clubs, bars, restaurants and cafés so you have a LOT to choose from. Some of our favourites were eating tapas at Cafe Sevilla, pizzas at The New Yorker (love ordering one big slice) and cocktails on top of the Rustic Root. Downton recommendations include Tivoli bar (the oldest bar in Gaslamp!), Altitude (amazing views!), The Star Bar (dive bar vibes) and Tin Roof (for really fun live music).
Thank you so much Visit San Diego for a chance to explore this wonderful city with so much to offer. If you love shopping, food, the beach, art and culture this city is FOR YOU.