San Diego is the perfect place to spend a summer vacation, especially if you want to escape the desert heat of Arizona, like me. It’s only a 50-minute flight from the Valley of the Sun. Yeah, I will be flying there more!
My trip was totally spontaneous because let’s face it-traveling is my spirit animal! I must do it, and do it often. Ok, so I decided to go to San Diego on Monday and fly out the next morning on a SOUTHWEST flight. They have several flights per day to pick from. I checked out several hotels and settled on staying in the city. Last time I stayed right on the beach, so I wanted to switch up the vibes a bit.
I checked into the The PALOMAR on 5thAve. It’s right in the hub of Gaslamp Quarter. The Palomar Hotel was very accommodating for my earlier than regular check in hour, and they had super friendly staff. It was middle ground for the places I wanted to visit. This area is known for its night life, but it wasn’t so loud that it kept me awake. You know me-early to bed, early to rise. They have a beautiful pool with a full food/drink bar on the 4thfloor, and a gym-which I only used once since I did so much walking!
THINGS TO DO
You know how much I love animals, so my first priority was the SAN DIEGO ZOO. It’s HUGE and your admission ticket comes with a guided bus tour. I decided to go at my own pace and walk the grounds so I could take time taking pictures-you know how I just got a fancy camera! I got there when it opened at 9am and walked to the monkeys first. I don’t think I have smiled that big in ages! It was like being in another world with these creatures. Africa Rocks was definitely my favorite section of the SAN DIEGO ZOO. There’s a ton of places to eat in the zoo from restaurants to mini snack stands. I walked the entire zoo in 4 hours, and headed to my next stop…
BALBOA PARK! The zoo is part of Balboa Park, & the park is huge! You could make a whole day of it. I explored Balboa & was in heaven! The weather was perfect so I checked out the Botanical building & Lily Pond, soaked in the gorgeous architecture, stumbled upon the Japanese Friendship Garden, and of course took a ton more pictures. There’s museums, shopping, gardens, and scheduled tours.
It’s pretty hard to get me out for night life, but when it comes to baseball, I’m in! This was my first time at PETCO PARK where the PADRES were playing the A’s. It was a 10-min. walk from my hotel, & there were plenty of people walking too. I had great seats behind home plate-talk about views! I ordered food from PHILL’S BBQ. It did not disappoint. The chicken was so juicy and coated in the most delicious BBQ sauce. I can still taste it! It came with fries & slaw which were great.
Other suggestions:I was close enough to hop right over to Coronado Beach and enjoy the gorgeous beach, or go to the water for a beautiful HORNBLOWER boat tour (both of which I did last time I was in San Diego), but I wanted to check out new spots this trip.
WHERE TO EAT
Lucky for me CALI CREAM ice cream shop recently opened down the street. With over 60 ice cream flavors, you can make more than one stop here! Plus, they give you unlimited samples before you order. I went with Dat Brownie Dough flavor. Total heaven!
The staff at the Palomar recommended eating at IRONSIDE FISH & OYSTER in Little Italy. Little Italy is a 5 minute Uber ride or a 15-20-minute walk from Gaslamp. I did both a lot since I kept going back to Little Italy. IRONSIDE is a totally gorgeous place with a wood and plant entrance, octopus décor, and the wall of piranha!
I went back a couple days later because the food was so delicious and the staff was a super welcoming. I had oysters, rock fish ceviche, swordfish over salad, and shrimp. They have the best cocktails I’ve ever had! Definitely order a Negroni!
Finally, I made it to CAFE GRATITUDE. Each dish is named with an affirmation & I am all about using affirmations! Their menu is packed with plant-based, organic meals & drinks.
I had the soup of the day-a butternut squash. It was a delight in my mouth bowl of goodness. Next, I ordered the delicious BoochCraft kombucha (I am seriously counting the days until this stuff hits Arizona). Then I got the I am Welcoming Mediterranean Plate. The falafel, hummus, tabbouleh, and crostini were so tasty and filling.
Pizza is one of my true loves, and I can say I found the best pizza in San Diego-NAPIZZA! They serve pizza by the slice, plus salads-my favorite combo of all time if you really know me well. I ordered the BBQ chicken, veggie combo, & cheese slices. The crust is to die for! NAPIZZA is also in Little Italy. Now can you see why I kept going back?
-Nuts for Donuts-
Hello DONUT BAR!
The deco of this place caught my eye. It’s a lot of pink with angel wings-a girl had to check it out! The unicorn donut was a beauty so I ordered that first, then their famous Homer ‘s donut, and a salted caramel donut.
They were the perfect sugar treat to have before walking for hours in the zoo. I liked the Homer’s Donut best-pink, with a cake batter glaze & sprinkles.
-Dinner of my Dreams-
LIONFISH. It was a 5-minute walk from the hotel, right down the street in fact. 5thAve is filled with night life and plenty of places to eat and visit. LIONFISH takes reservations, but they were very happy to seat me after I walked in. It’s a two-story place, with rooftop seating (I’ll have to sit there next time), and a huge fresh seasonal ingredient menu.
I’ll just say it was really hard to pick since everything sounded so great. After asking my waiter and the chef for recommendations (I can be very specific when it comes to ordering), I made up my mind. I actually started using Tim Ferriss’ tips for getting a table (and being VIP) at Hot Restaurants HERE and they work! FOOD I ordered: the lobster appetizer, the cod fish which comes with mussels & clams, and side of brussel sprouts mixed with squash & lumps of goat cheese. It was all so delicious & my waiter surprised me with a chocolate mousse dessert cake. What a gent!
That was a lot of running around & eating for a 4-day trip, but it was so worth it! My dogs were tired so I spent an afternoon by the pool- that California sun felt so good!
There’s so many more places in San Diego I want to visit & people to see, but that only gives me another reason to go back! Tell me more places I need to go next time I’m in San Diego!
See ya next time!