One of the greatest charms of this southernmost big city on California’s coastline is its humility. Which is what makes it all the sweeter a discovery for living the good life marked by 70 miles of coastline (and gorgeous beaches), and ideal climate, a local passion for healthy living and exercise, walkable neighborhoods full of historic homes from bungalows and cottages to Spanish Revival mansions, a diverse economic base that includes the U.S. Navy, universities and research centers, and technology; and what is considered the best craft beer scene in America.
San Diego by the Numbers
Average July high: 79
Average January low: 46
Median home price: $542,300
Average commute time: 27 minutes
Number of sunny days: 266
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Best Beaches and Other Attractions
It’s a twofer: La Jolla Shores has one mile of tawny sand and gentle surf, and the adjacent, wildly picturesque La Jolla Cove plays home to sea lions and other classic California marine life. Head to Blacks Beach (formerly Torrey Pines City Beach) for a two-mile stretch of golden sand that sits at the base of 300-foot cliffs.
Meanwhile, if you can’t have fun in Mission Bay, you’re not trying hard enough. SeaWorld San Diego shares these sheltered waters with Mission Bay Park, which has family friendly beaches and every sort of water sport imaginable. The wooden Giant Dipper rollercoaster has been bringing the thrills to Mission Beach since 1925; if you’ve got the skills, you can also surf the epic Flow wave pool at Belmont Park.
And for the ultimate off-the-water hangout, Balboa Park is the ideal gathering spot in a city full of action and life. Green, leafy, and full of cultural action and places to play, it’s a beloved destination for locals and visitors. The world-famous San Diego Zoo is home to more than 4,000 animals, including giant pandas.
Another great way to do up San Diego is to explore its neighborhoods: North Park, just north of Balboa Park, is a hot culinary zone. The Gaslamp Quarter, with more than 300 restaurants, nightclubs, bars, and shops, offers a hip yet historic sampling of San Diego. And Little Italy, the oldest business district in San Diego, has reinvented itself from a 1920s fishing port into a nexus of restaurants and funky bars, plus the year-round Little Italy Mercato farmers' market. And upscale La Jolla
is known for fine dining, luxury shopping, and lavish lodging.
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Where to Eat and Drink
AR Valenten artfully presents San Diego cuisine on the Lodge at Torrey Pines’ Craftsman style patio, presiding over the 18th hole of the Torrey Pines Golf Course. Waves crashing below the dining room windows are an exhilarating appetizer for fine dining of the Marine Room La Jolla; book one of the special High Tide Dinners for nature’s most dramatic dinner show.
Get up close and personal to San Diego’s incredible beer culture with a visit to Coronado Brewing Company, which specializes in West Coast-style ales, but also produces pilsner, stout, and Belgian-style wheat beer. The menu travels south of the border with dishes like carnitas (pork) quesadillas and green chili-jalapeño hummus. Among many top-shelf coffeehouses in the city, the hallmark of “location, location, location” wins the day for Lofty Coffee Co. All three of its locations (two in Encinitas, one in Solana Beach) are steps from the beach.
Where to Stay
You may not be to the manor born, but you’ll feel like royalty when you stay at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, a palatial Mediterranean-style mansion in San Diego’s horse country. L’Auberge Del Mar, A Destination Hotel, is an intimate spa hotel with an excellent courtyard restaurant (Kitchen 1540) and easy access to town and Del Mar Beach. The Hotel Del Coronado is San Diego’s classic Victorian beach resort on charming Coronado Island.