-- It’s easy to understand why San Diego inspires travel, with its 70 miles of beaches, entertainment that ranges from kid-friendly to adults-only and a growing revolution in all things culinary. As a former San Diego resident, I can vouch that the rumor is true: The weather does stay practically perfect year-round. Throw in a swarm of activities and a major value factor, and this sunny Southern California enclave never disappoints. Next time you go, add these suggestions to your San Diego to-do list.
Skip Summer, Go in October
Skip the Dog Sitter, Bring Fido
Skip the Bar, Visit a Brewer
Skip the Brew, Sip Wine
Skip Starbucks, Drink Craft Coffee
Skip the Guide, Eat Like a Local
It’s the locals who’ll point you in the direction of the best grub spots in town, though. Anna Crowe, a PR maven who’s lived here for 12 years, likes what’s happening in Little Italy. The Crack Shack by “Top Chef” alum Richard Blais has “the best fried chicken sandwich around and a cool outdoor vibe, with bocce ball,” she says. And The Music Box, with a variety of craft beers and cocktails on the menu, features a steady stream of live music acts. Crowe also likes Wonderland, overlooking the pier in Ocean Beach, where “the team does a nightly sunset shot, getting everyone involved.”
Lynda Martin, a longtime San Diego TV personality, raves about Tortas Ahogadas. “It’s a food truck that you would never think has amazing sandwiches, right in front of Toys ‘R Us in Chula Vista,” she says. “It’s delicious and different.” Martin also likes happy hour at Chez Loma on Coronado Island, “a quaint little French restaurant converted from an old house. I love sitting at the bar, with the French music and a prix-fixe menu on Wednesdays and half off wine bottles.” Grazing at the Liberty Public Market in Point Loma is a must, too, she adds: “The best cheese shop ever!”
Martin’s former co-anchor on San Diego morning TV, my friend Marc Bailey, has a foodie secret on Coronado, too. “Rent bikes by the historic ferry landing and cruise the beautiful bike paths that will show off the bay, San Diego skyline and take you under the Coronado Bridge,” he suggests. “Finish for lunch, dinner, coffee or desert at Tartine. A nice outdoor patio, even pet-friendly. Delicious fresh bistro food and desserts made daily -- huge dessert case. And try the cioppino fish stew! Call ahead, because the chef visits the fish market each day and only makes it if he likes the ingredients he sees. Twice the price if you order it at one of the big-name restaurants!”
Skip the City, Visit the Island
Martin shared a locals’ secret: To the right of the famous Hotel del Coronado, the sand dunes just on the other side of Ocean Boulevard spell out C-O-R-O-N-A-D-O. “It's so big you can't see it from the ground, but very cool from the sky,” she says. “I like to bring a blanket and a picnic with friends and watch the sunset on the O, the second letter in, right down the stairs by the Del!”
There’s great kayaking on Coronado, or you take a gondola cruise.
Skip the Theme Park, Head to Balboa
Skip the Gaslamp, Party in Hillcrest
Gabe Saglie is senior editor for Travelzoo, which features exclusive deals on San Diego hotels, spas, restaurants and activities at www.travelzoo.com. Have your own favorite spot? Let him know: @gabesaglie.