San Diego Activities
100 Park Blvd., Downtown
Whether or not you’re a San Diego Padres fan and whether or not you’re even a baseball fan, it’s hard to resist the charms of sitting outside at twilight, drinking a cold beer, and watching the sun set over the city. Petco Park, located right in downtown San Diego, is the Padres home stadium, and it’s occasionally used for events and concerts. Whatever you go for, try to make it a late-afternoon event—watching dusk settle on the city from here is lovely.
One of the most pedestrian-friendly areas in San Diego, Little Italy is a charming jumble of bars, trattorias, shops, and markets—and it’s one of those rare neighborhoods that’s as lively during the day as it is in the evening. Spend the day window-shopping and checking out the local galleries, stop for a virtuous lunch at Café Gratitude, stroll down to Waterfront Park, and should the afternoon bleed into evening, you’re perfectly positioned to treat yourself to a cheese tray and a glass of Verdicchio at Enoteca Style wine bar (which is as much a name as it is a design aesthetic).
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
12600 N Torrey Pines Rd., La Jolla
Torrey Pines is 1,500 acres of pure, pristine, untouched California. This nature reserve is right on the water and delivers some of the prettiest views you’ll find anywhere in the state. First the bad news: This is a reserve, not a park, which means you can’t bring food or drinks inside, so no picnics. (No pets are allowed in the reserve, either.) But the good news is you won’t really care. The reserve is so full of hikes and trails and cliffs and places to explore, it feels like a vacation within a vacation. If you have kids, this place is heaven (actually whether or not you have kids, it’s pretty much heaven): There are deer, rabbits, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, lizards, snakes, opossums, bobcats, and all kinds of insects—so watch your footing. The reserve is open every day of the year from 7:15 a.m. to sunset.
Liberty Public Market
2820 Historic Decatur Rd., Point Loma
Picture 25,000 square feet of Maine lobster and craft beer and live music and New York pizza and food trucks and happy hour and art exhibits and handmade ice cream and picnic areas and Bangkok street food and Italian soda and fresh-made popcorn. Now you have scratched the surface of Liberty Public Market. The marketplace, a collection of local food vendors and artists, is in Liberty Station, a grand and imposing building in Point Loma. The space is as impressive as the shops that fill it—plan to spend at least an afternoon here.
La Jolla Playhouse
2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla
La Jolla Playhouse comprises three theaters on the campus of University of California San Diego. It’s basically a miniature Lincoln Center with a reliably good selection of plays and musicals. Many well-known actors—Matthew Broderick, Laura Linney, Neil Patrick Harris, and Billy Crystal to name a few—have gotten their start at the La Jolla Playhouse and the quality of the performances never disappoints. Go early to have dinner at James’ Place beforehand—the preshow menu is full of crowd-pleasing options. Whatever you’re seeing, we’ll wager it’ll be more enjoyable with a lychee elderflower martini and beet and blue cheese salad beforehand.
Gaslamp Quarter, Gaslamp
The Gaslamp Quarter is not unlike a miniature New Orleans (and in fact, this is where the city throws its Mardi Gras parade): a historic pocket of downtown full of Victorian-style buildings, bustling sidewalks, late-night revelers, and restaurants that stand cheek by jowl next to bars that spill onto the street. This district is the epicenter of nightlife in this city. Given the fame and popularity of the Gaslamp Quarter, it can get pretty touristy, and one of the best places to take it all in is from a rooftop bar, like the one at the Andaz Hotel. Sit by the firepit, order a wild mushroom flatbread pizza and something called a Smoky Ginger (like a smoky margarita with ginger), and listen to the sounds of the city coming to life after sunset.
Balboa Park, San Diego
Calling Balboa Park a park is like calling One World Trade Center an office building. These 1,200 acres include over a dozen museums, several performing art spaces, gardens, trails, and perhaps most notably, the famous San Diego Zoo. (The zoo doesn’t get the highest ratings for humane treatment of its animals, so we skip that part.) You can easily spend a morning, an afternoon, or both here. And if you’re with children, you can’t go wrong at the Natural History Museum or the Modern Railroad Museum.