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San Diego: 4 nights/5 days

Hello everyone! I hope summer is treating you well! 'Tis the monsoon season here in Phoenix, AZ and so it is hot and humid, but I never complain about the weather... I do not mind one or two months of three-digit degree days since the rest of the year is just perfect!

My friend from NJ and I are getting together for the first time in four years (!) in San Diego (first time visit for us) in less than two weeks and need some help with our itinerary. Would like to hear your suggestions for must see/do sights and activities, as well as culinary adventures!! Below I've listed activities I've read online and eateries (definitely seafood!) suggested to me by ex-pats to try. Would love some input to maximize and efficiently spend our short time in the city. Which should we drop? Which should we definitely do? We ARE NOT renting a car; we'll either travel by foot or use trolley and then utilize taxis and tricycle "cabs" (?). Thank you for your help!

Sights/activities:

Palomar observatory/state park for hikes
Horton Plaza
Wildlife Animal Park
La Jolla
Mexico
Balboa Park (Tuesdays for free museum passes; eat at The Prado)
Gaslamp (5th Avenue; House of Blues show?)
Old Town (State Historic Park; Old Town Mexican Cafe)
Seaport Village (stroll from hotel)
San Diego Zoo
Sea World (early morning to see active pandas)

Culinary ventures:

Bandar
Cafe on Park
George's on the Cove
Wine-tasting (I'm there for the food!)
Parkhouse Eatery
Adams Avenue Grill
Oceanaire ***
Bay Park Fish Co
Blue Water Grill
Izakaya Sakura***
Tsuruhashi Japanese BBQ
Blue Point
Kemo Sabe ("Pacific rim meets Southwest cuisine")
Marketplace Grille (Middle-eastern)
Chopahn
Cafe Chloe (French)
Ba Ren (Chinese, Sichuan)
Cafe Pacifica
Candelas

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  1. Palomar, the Wild Animal Park and La Jolla are not reachable by foot, trolley or pedicab and would be a pretty expensive cab ride. I'm guessing from the list of sights and restaurants that you'll be staying in the downtown area?

    About half your restaurant selections are in the greater downtown area and should be easily accessible, the other half would probably be a $15-20 cab ride (one way) away. Kemo Sabe is in Hillcrest, but you could go to Indigo Grill which is in Little Italy and get the same thing (same owner, same architectural food). Cafe on Park, Adams Ave. Grill, Oceanaire, Bay Park Fish, Blue Water, Sakura, Cafe Chole, Ba Ren and Candelas are all solid choices that you should be happy with.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DiningDiva

      Yes, we decided on staying downtown and concentrating our time there. Thanks for your suggestions!

    2. I would spend the money and take a cab to La Jolla for the day,which is where Georges is..so have an early dinner there(make reservations!!).. eat at Codys for lunch ..drinks at Jacks beach Bar..lots of shopping etc.. on Sun. there is a concert in the park.. lovely grassy area overlooking the ocean..

      for an extra long day start in Mission Beach and walk along the board walk.. breakfast at Jordans... then another quick cab into la Jolla.. now that would be a great day!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: butterbutt

        We're arriving on Monday morning and leaving Friday afternoon. Thanks for all the suggestions so far!

      2. Just as an aside- Pandas are at the Zoo, not SeaWorld...and one of them is pregnant and close to delivery, so viewing may not be open. There have been other pandas born here and the whole "silence thing" is in effect- but they will have videos outside the exhibit.

        Palomar and Wild Animal Park are more than 50 miles from downtown, one way. Cab would cost more than renting a car. Mexico is about 20 miles south but Trolley goes to the border.

        Also if Padres are in town, ballpark is right where you are staying. Major crowds before and after game. Seaport Village and Gaslamp is where you will be and those are touristy and expensive, but Oceanaire is wonderful...and also expensive. Horton Plaza is downtown also and has a food court on top floor. Nordstroms has a cafe that has good food. On the way to Horton, on fourth just north of Market Street is the Cheese Shop (www.cheeseshopdeli.com) that is nice and not expensive

        That being said, Sakura and Tsuruhasi are in same parking lot. Also long cab ride (about 15 miles one way and depending on time of day, maybe bad traffic) But I would always go to Sakura,

        I personally would plan on walking and talking and not particularly touristing. Stop and eat wherever. More memories talking and eating I think.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Cathy

          Thanks, Cathy, for your post. Yes, I knew that pandas were at the zoo. That was a very bad job of cutting and pasting on my part on the original post <so embarrassed!>

          And yes, we'll probably concentrate on food and conversation, but it's nice to see a few landmarks.

          Thanks for the cheese shop reco!

          1. re: starlightjulian

            Well, the baby panda was born yesterday, starlight...As I recall, they won't put it out on display any time soon, but the Zoo itself is someplace I would go to see anyhow, and it is technically within walking distance from Downtown. It just happens to be uphill. There is a lot to do in Balboa Park and along the Bay. Enjoy your visit here and report back.

            1. re: Cathy

              Thought I'd post our itinerary (Monday, August 13th thru Friday, the 17th).

              Monday
              Lunched at Fish Market (Phoenix actually has a Fish Market of its own... had I known this was the same venue, we'd have tried Anthony's Fish Grotto/Fishette or even that restaurant on stilts next to Seaport Village; however, the bread served at lunch was fabulous! We were told that the resto uses two kinds of breads from two bakeries, one for lunch and another for dinner); Seaport Village; Dinner at Mimmo's (the bruschetta is a must-try!! So simple- bruschetta, buffalo mozzarella, slice of tomato, and basil with pesto and olive oil drizzled... superb! The cannelloni was a different matter- tasted of the frozen variety to me, so I was not impressed. My friend had never eaten cannelloni before, so she enjoyed it very much; Creme brulee, something new for her, as well, was very good).

              Tuesday
              Cafe on Park (she had the raspberry granola pancake and I had the mango-pecan pancake... we both enjoyed our selections, but I was told, once back home, that we should have opted for the scrambles), Balboa Park, Horton Plaza, dinner at Ocean Room [chose from the happy hour menu, all but fish tacos ($2.50) were $5 each, and all tasted great!]- She had the mini-crabcakes while I had the calamari, and we both had fish tacos, and one handroll each of salmon and spicy yellowfish; Gaslamp District.

              Wednesday
              Solunto Bakery (shared a light but oh-so-delicious blueberry turnover), Bay Cafe (she had an oatmeal muffin, while I had an apple turnover), Coronado Island, Sweetwater Cafe (delightful!! We shared the Chicken Avocado flatbread with black bean hummus, and chorizo sausage, and the chicken sandwich... you must try!), Mission Beach (I wished we had gone to La Jolla, instead, but she did not want to travel to La Jolla or Seaworld!), Dinner at Tin Fish (average- she enjoyed the salmon platter; my crabcakes were mostly made of filler, but the coleslaw was good... wished we'd gone to Bandar or Indigo Grill instead), Ghirardelli Fountain Shop for the Kona coffee hot fudge sundae!

              Thursday
              St. Tropez Cafe (she had the granola and yogurt, while I had the berry crepe... I do not recommend the crepe at all... we shared a chocolate croissant, a bust as well), Zoo, Cafe La Especial (we shared the tamale, enchilada, chile relleno, and taco combo and the quesadilla- both entrees were great, although I won't order the quesadilla again... the guacamole is out-of-this-world fresh! Also tried their AWESOME carrot cake and flan (skip this and order the carrot cake!), House of Blues (Lost 80's: Gene Loves Jezebel, Real Life, When in Rome, Dramarama, and A Flock of Seagulls).

              Friday
              Hob Nob Hill (she had the whole grain pancakes, while I had the above-average raisin nut French toast with fresh fruit), Pappalecco (gelato for her and a delicious coffee beverage made with crushed Amaretti cookies, melted chocolate, steamed milk and espresso for me... after sampling the flavor, I wanted to order the Pappalecco signature gelato, but the fresh batch would not have been ready for another 20 minutes...), Bandar (lunched alone as she had to leave for the airport; the lamb shank and Basmati rice and accompanying salad were very good! Wished I'd gone for a vegetarian appetizer plate, but that, as well as Sea World, Indigo Grill, The Prado, Croce's, and Oceanaire, will have to wait till my next visit!

              1. re: starlightjulian

                wow--lots of eating and traveling! thanks for reporting back!

        2. If you end up going to mission/pacific beach. I would def. stop at The Mission for breakfast. That place is my favorite breakfast spot in San Diego. They have all sorts of dishes to choose from (mexican breakfast to vegetarian breakfast). Rent bikes and cruise the boardwalk, and make sure to keep an eye out for Slo-Mo Man. He's legendary.