Gwynne Spann

Where to eat, what to drink

Where to eat, what to drink
Endless Sun, Oceanfront Dining & Craft Breweries

With its endless sun and oceanfront location, as well as strong influences from Mexico, San Diego offers plenty of dining options—from flaky fish tacos in house-made tortillas to chef-driven menus featuring hyper-local ingredients presented elegant surroundings, and capped with a California sunset view.

For an easy first night in San Diego, head to Old Town for classic margaritas and Mexican food served with a side of mariachi music. Try the gooey cheesy chile rellenos at the always-lively Old Town Mexican Café. The Gaslamp Quarter in town has trendy eateries; sample farm-to-table dishes at celebrity chef Brian Malarkey’s Searsucker restaurant. Or go retro with a flaky favorite from San Diego Chicken Pie Shop, a San Diego tradition since 1938. Further up the coast in classy La Jolla, try Chef Malarkey’s Herringbone, with oversize wicker chairs and a live olive tree centrepiece. Also in La Jolla, take in wraparound ocean views at George’s At The Cove, where Chef Trey Foshee presents a California Modern tasting menu that focuses on hyper-local, ultra-fresh ingredients. For an unforgettable experience, put your order in Chef Foshee’s capable hands with the TBL3 experience: each thrilling dish is custom designed that day based on what’s freshest and in season. At The Marine Room, also in La Jolla, Chef Bernard Guillas serves up memorable creations with an equally unforgettable view: the restaurant is literally perched atop a seawall foundation, right on the ocean’s edge. Sit here in a winter storm, sipping a craft cocktail, for a truly wild experience.

Gastropubs and craft breweries are a big deal in the San Diego region. The North Park neighbourhood, on the north side of Balboa Park, has standouts serving great food and local beers; local favorites include always buzzing Urban Solace and The Smoking Goat. In Carlsbad, relax post-Legoland California with a Blackball Belgian IPA paired with ahi sliders at expansive Karl Strauss Brewing Company. It’s one of the pioneers of the region’s explosive boom in craft breweries (more than 85 breweries dot the county). Experience them on guided tours, such as the fun and informative Brew Hop—you not only taste great beers but you learn the history behind them. And you don’t have to drive.

Marcela Valladolid on San Diego's Culinary Scene
Celebrity Chef Marcela Valladolid on San Diego's culinary scene.
San Diego Chefs Dish On the Cali-Baja Culinary Movement
Food critic and TV personality Troy Johnson meets with Cali-Baja chefs Trey Foshee and Javier Plascencia to explore a taste revolution. Cali-Baja cuisine is San Diego’s unique (and delicious!) food culture that comes from open collaboration between chefs on both sides of the border.
Myles McGuinness

Discover San Diego County

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June
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June - Aug
74°
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65°
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Sept - Nov
73°
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June - Aug
74°
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Mar - May
67°
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56°
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Imagine 70 miles of sun-drenched coast, an inviting ocean, and a year-round daily forecast of 70°F, and you’ll understand why this southernmost stretch of the state is all about outdoor fun. Discover top theme parks and attractions like SeaWorld San Diego, San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and LEGOLAND California.

The first European explorer to land in California, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, came ashore in San Diego in 1542.

Relax at legendary retreats like Hotel del Coronado, find art and culture in San Diego and surrounding cities like luxurious La Jolla, and enjoy world-class golf at Torrey Pines, and enjoy culture and diversity, all at the edge of a sparkling blue sea.

Escondido
George Ostertag/Alamy

Escondido

Explore the craft breweries, culinary scene, and adventurous outdoors of this unique San Diego city

About 30 miles northeast of downtown San Diego, Escondido is the best little...

ZUMA Press/Alamy

Del Mar

This San Diego County beach town is home to blissful ocean views—but it also knows how to throw a party

Despite Del Mar’s idyllic oceanfront setting, this little town just north of San Diego was, in many ways, born around horses. The...

Photograph by Peggy Sirota

The California Questionnaire: Annie Lawless

The Suja Juice co-founder, yoga instructor, and wellness aficionado is passionate about her Southern California home

As one of the founders of the nation’s leading organic juice brand, Annie Lawless knows a thing or two about living a healthy lifestyle. She...

Apr 7
This San Diego music festival combines A-list acts with local flavor and upscale beach culture

You don’t need a high tolerance for open fields, concession-stand dining, or possibly mud to enjoy KAABOO, a...

KAABOO Del Mar
C Flanigan/Getty Images
Courtesy of Cohn Restaurant Group

Coasterra

Book a table at this San Diego waterfront knockout

Got a boat? That’s the only way you’ll get a better view of San Diego’s waterfront skyline and twinkling bridges than the panorama you get from...

Steve Skinner/Getty Images

Where to Watch a La Jolla Sunset

Want to nail your sunset shot? Our expert has six sensational recommendations to match any mood

As a San Diego concierge for more than a decade, Brett Hamblen is well versed in sunset recommendations. For his role as the chief concierge at...

Stretching 1,942 feet, the historic Oceanside Pier is the longest wooden pier on the Pacific Ocean.
John Bahu

Spotlight: San Diego

California dreamers, endless coastline & sunshine

As if all that sunshine isn’t enough, here’s a waterfront city brushed by perfect breezes, the light just right, the beer perfectly hoppy after a...

Courtesy of San Diego Zoo

Spotlight: San Diego Zoo

See rare and endangered species

Visiting this expansive zoo in San Diego’s Balboa Park is more than a chance to see animals from all over the world: it’s a chance to see one of...

Too darned pretty. Everywhere you look out there, everything's just too danged pretty! I'm usually the prettiest thing!
musician Little Richard on San Diego

Trip 8-10 days 10 stops

Ultimate Southern California

Beach Towns & Big Thrills
Los Angeles

Your trip begins in California’s largest city. L.A. has nonstop action and things to do, but it can be a challenge to navigate, so planning your trip in advance is a big plus. Start in the coastal city of Santa Monica, with a wide, uncrowded beach, a signature pier topped by carnival rides and...

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Famous for their giant sequoias, soaring mountains, deep canyons, and roaring rivers, this tandem set of parks have plenty to see, even though they are less well known than Yosemite, roughly 75 miles/120 kilometers north. Within the borders of Sequoia & Kings Canyon are Mount Whitney, the...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Discover quintessential sun and fun at these coastal charmers

Take one part water, one part sand, one part sun-soaked coastal charm, and you’ve got the recipe for some of the Golden State’s most appealing destinations....

Lucas Himovitz
SPECIAL FEATURE
Kid-friendly fun zones, special kids' menus & amazing wine for the grownups

Sure wine country is romantic, but now it’s a surprisingly great destination for families too, with a growing number of vineyards trading in elegant tasting rooms for kid-friendly fun zones that...

John/Flickr
SPECIAL FEATURE
Check these amazing experiences off your bucket list

Kiss a beluga, see cool movie props, and learn about Walt’s secret hideaway on exclusive and behind-the-scenes tours at California’s theme parks and attractions. Here’s a roundup of worth-the-...

Michael Saechang/Flickr
SPECIAL FEATURE
Unleash the kid within at California’s ultimate playgrounds

From Disneyland classics to beachfront carousels, the Golden State’s best-in-class theme parks deliver something for everyone. Take a tram ride to tour movie back lots at Universal Studios...

Lucas Himovitz
The historic 101 Café in Oceanside is the oldest continuously-operating restaurant on historic Highway 101.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Alexa Miller

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Find out where the wild things are

Like a journey to Africa, a day at this spectacular park lets you see some of the world’s most magnificent—and endangered—animals at close range...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini UFOs. Artisanal cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets...

Laura Flippen
Thanks be to God, I arrived here...at this Port of San Diego. It is beautiful to behold, and does not belie its reputation.
Father Junipero Serra
SPECIAL FEATURE
Make memories at some of California's family-favorite beaches

Sand, water, and kids—it’s a natural combination for easy family fun. This sandy dozen offers appealing, family-friendly features, such as calm water for new swimmers, tide pools for intrepid...

Alex Farnum
SPECIAL FEATURE
From north to south, beer is booming in California

With nearly 500 breweries statewide (and probably more by the time you read this), it’s safe to say that the craft beer movement isn’t just booming in California, it’s BOOMING—capital letters...

Dave Lauridsen
SPECIAL FEATURE
World-class accommodations in world-class locations

Head to the heart of California’s cities for luxurious stays at world-class accommodations. From San Francisco’s historic hotels to celebrity hot spots in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, California’s...

Lynn Gately/Flickr

Trip 5-7 days 10 stops

Highway One Classic

Take the trip that captures the heart and soul of the Golden State

Start in one of California’s sunniest destinations, not just in terms of the weather, but also in attitude. In the heart of the city, shop in Horton Plaza, or catch a baseball game at Petco Park. See the giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo. Next, explore one of the city’s diverse neighborhoods,...

San Francisco

Finish your trip in one of the world’s great cities. For a novel way to visit “the City by the Bay” park your car and explore by foot, bike, and unique public transportation. Pedal bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, then explore the lush Presidio, a former military base that’s now a...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Taste the delicious dishes from these amazing California chefs

From a candy-colored pastry shop to Michelin-starred dining rooms, top restaurants run by celebrity chefs dot the Golden State. And even if you don’t know these chefs from the TV...

Dave Lauridsen

San Diego Golf

Get your daily dose of greens at oceanfront courses

Perfect weather, challenging course, and incredible settings make San Diego County a golfer’s dream destination. It’s not surprising that many of...

Dave Lauridsen

Julian

Visit a surprising mountain town that’s as American as apple pie

Poised between the desert and the coast, a little more than an hour’s drive east of San Diego, this surprising mountain town makes a great day...

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
Jacques Yves Cousteau