San Diego is the second largest city in California and one of my favorite destinations. The weather is great all year round in San Diego. If you are ever in the Greater Los Angeles area and have two days to spare, I highly recommend you take a drive down to San Diego. Below are my suggestions (with a map for reference):
1. From LA, take the 405 South and pass Orange County. Exit La Jolla to check out downtown and the cove. La Jolla is a beautiful place to grab lunch before you continue your drive down to downtown San Diego. Go to one of the restaurants located along the cove (Prospect Street) for a great view while you dine.
2. After lunch, continue south on Interstate 5 and go past downtown. I recommend you make a stop at Coronado which is an island across the strait of downtown San Diego. Take exit 13B on Interstate 5 which is the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge. Once you are on Coronado island, go by Hotel Del Coronado which is on the southwest side of the island. Grab a drink at the hotel and walk along the shores where you can watch the sunset at Coronado.
3. After the sunset, you will be ready for some fine dining in the Gaslamp Quarter. Cross the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge and get back on Interstate 5 North. Get off on Market Street and head west. Instead of looking for meter parking around Gaslamp, I recommend you park at Horton Plaza where you can get 2 hours of free parking before 9PM. For Horton Plaza free parking, you will need to get your parking ticket stamped at a validation machine inside the mall. The downtown Gaslamp area has plenty of food options spanning from Sushi to Mexican to traditional American bars.
1. To start Day 2, I recommend you start breakfast at the Seaport Village located by Harbor Drive and Kettner. Grab breakfast or brunch at one of Seaport Village’s restaurants. You can park in the lot as all restaurants and shops will validate your parking. After breakfast or brunch, take a stroll along the boardwalk for a view of the marina.
2. After breakfast/brunch, swing by Balboa Park for a mid-morning walk. There are museums, gardens, carousel inside Balboa Park. It is a very nice park to walk in. The San Diego Zoo is also inside Balboa Park.
3. While you are at Balboa Park, I highly recommend you go visit the San Diego Zoo. The San Diego Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the US and has tons of animals including pandas from China. I personally think the San Diego Zoo is the best zoo in the US.
4. Wrap up your day in Old Town after a day in the park and zoo. You can get to Old Town from the Zoo by taking I5 North to Exit 19. Old Town is a historic park with tons of Mexican restaurants and shops. You can have dinner at one of the restaurants or grab street food from vendors. There are also handcraft shops where you can buy a nice souvenir.
Day 3, 4, 5 (if you have the time)
If you have time to extend your stay in San Diego, consider the following attractions:
1. SeaWorld - great amusement aquarium.
2. Legoland - where you can recapture your youth or bring your kids
3. Wild Animal Park - the San Diego Zoo’s sister… this is where you can see animals live in the habitat.