With its gentle climate and even gentler temperament, San Diego is LA’s cooler grown-up sibling.
Where to Stay in San Diego
Whether you’re just passing through on a West Coast road trip, or here for a longer sojourn, from chic downtown crashpads, to long-standing celebrity stalwarts, San Diego has a selection of places to stay to suit every style. And if there was ever a more fitting example of a destination hotel, it has got to be handed to the gorgeous Hotel del Coronado (or the Del as it’s known to the locals). Rumoured as the place that Wallace Simpson first met Edward and infamously as the film set for Marilyn Monroe’s Some Like it Hot, its celebrity credentials are impeccable, and with its iconic red turrets, restaurants and bars, if you’re in San Diego, it's the place to be and be seen (1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA 92118). If you want to be in the thick of the action, then head to the Gaslamp quarter, the former red light district turned upmarket downtown area is now home to the uber-chic Hotel Palomar and its rooftop pool (1047 5th Avenue, CA 92101). Perched on a cliff, high above the lapping waves of the Pacific is La Valencia in La Jolla (1132 Prospect Street La Jolla, CA 92037), a stunning series of palm-strewn patios, hand-painted ceilings, impeccably designed suites and a restaurant that dishes up to-die-for food against a backdrop of the ocean.
Where to Eat in San Diego
Despite being the seventh largest city in America, San Diego retains a sociable, neighbourhood feel. Couple that with a ton of farmers' markets and a firm focus on a healthy lifestyle and it's hardly surprising to hear that the city's got some of the best eateries in the state. Given its coastal location, just-been-caught fish and plenty of good seafood feature heavily on menus. Over in the Gaslamp Quarter (611 Fifth Avenue, CA 92101), and adding a bit of high-octane glamour to the laid-back beach vibe, is one of Brian Malarkey’s latest ventures, Searsucker (incidentally named after the fabric, the next restaurant he has in the pipeline is called Herringbone...) For the ultimate in American comfort food, you should seek out Urban Solace (3823, 30th Street, CA 92104), while over on Adams Avenue the brilliant Blind Lady Ale House verges on the crazy side (in a good way) and has an ever-changing list of ales, along with some fairly unusual pizzas (3416 Adams Avenue, California). If for you it’s all about the breakfast, queues have continued to snake around the block for the daily baked bread at Bread & Cie since it first opened (350 University Avenue, CA 92103 - Hillcrest, between 3rd & 4th Avenue). For more American dining and a menu to suit even the pickiest eater - soy-free, carb-free, lactose-free (this is California after all) - there’s the laid-back scene at Neighbourhood (777 G Street, CA 92101).
Where to Go Out in San Diego
Decadent dancing all night? Or more the civilised cocktail scene? If it’s the former, head to Fluxx, with its ever-changing themes (from its decor to the staff outfits) it’s a nightclub where nothing seems too outlandish (500 4th Avenue, San Diego, CA 9210). For something a little less flamboyant, head up the road to Hotel Palomar where the experienced mixologists at Saltbox will shake you up a mean cocktail. (1047 5th Avenue, CA 92101). To up your game in the celebrity-spotting stakes, then the US Grant over on Broadway is your place, the 1910 built Californian icon is all marble hallways, million-dollar crystal chandaliers and, of course, the A-list. With hand-crafted cocktails from Sam Ross (he of NYC Milk & Honey fame) has opened downtown speakeasy Noble Experiment, where, sassy cocktails aside, the decor alone is worth a visit - think sultry interiors, gold skulls and a hidden entrance through a keg-wall doorway from restaurant Neighbourhood (777 G Street, CA 92101). If you’ve been surfing all day and aren’t really up for the glitz and the glamour, you could head to Village Hillcrest, a cool independent cinema showing the latest art-house films (3965 5th Avenue, CA 92103).
Where to Shop in San Diego
In a word (well, two) Adams Avenue. Over in Normal Heights, the street is jam-packed from top to bottom with vintage delights. Try out Hezzy’s Antiques and Retro and Rags (2831 Adams Avenue, CA) for awesome one-of-a-kind jewellery; for all the big names (and a Mac store) hit Fashion Valley (7007 Friars Road, CA, 92108), and if you’re desperate to find a Victoria’s Secret head to Westfield in La Jolla (4353 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla, CA).
What to Wear in San Diego
More laid-back than its Californian counterparts, there’s not the same look-you-up-and-down feel of LA. Beachy (dare we say, boho) dresses will cut it for the day, while evening dressing requires a little more effort. If you have a dog to put in your handbag, all the better...
Don’t Leave San Diego without...
Unleashing your inner child and heading to San Diego Zoo (2920 Zoo Drive, CA 92101) for the polar bears and the pandas. Alternatively, there's more child-like pleasure to be had in clearing the supermarket shelves of Reese’s peanut butter cups, salt water taffy and anything remotely resembling candy. Plus, with Mexico just 18 miles across the border, you probably shouldn’t leave without trying a taco or two...
Beauty SOS – Where to Go for Pampering in San Diego
It being California and all, pampering was always going to come pretty high on the agenda in San Diego. For the best massage in town - and generally the all-round ultimate in indulgence - head to the Se Spa at Hotel Palomar (1047 5th Avenue, CA 92101). Rock Spa sees the hipster crowd trotting through the doors for the trendy decor and stellar treatments (207 Fifth Avenue, CA, 92101). Although on the pricey side, strolling round the grounds at The Grand Del Mar Spa takes your chilled out state to another level (5300 Grand Del Mar Court, CA 92130). And if you want to listen to the sound of the ocean while you’re having your pedicure, then head to the Hotel del Coronado, which gets tops marks for serenity and relaxation (1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA 92118).