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World Travel Guide > Guides > North America > United States of America > California > San Diego

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San Diego Travel Guide

About San Diego

Life in SoCal’s second city, San Diego, has a more laid-back edge than its frenetic northern neighbour. Shake up historic neighbourhoods, terrific eateries and the Pacific Ocean, and you have an irresistible cocktail of urban hip and beachside utopia.

Surfboard-wielding dudes, skinny-jeaned hipsters and Gucci-wearing stylistas converge on the southern-most corner of California's coastline to enjoy never-ending sunshine, unspoilt beaches and a lifestyle most people only dream of.

Downtown’s distinctive neighbourhoods are the epicentre for all that's cool and hip in San Diego. You can amble around the shops and cafés of the historic Gaslamp Quarter, pick up one-of-a-kind artworks and coffee in Little Italy, or climb aboard historic ships in the Embarcadero District. Across the bridge from Downtown, the island of Coronado has small-town charm by the bucket load, with glittering beaches, the iconic Hotel del Coronado, and a beachfront boardwalk for two-wheeled coasting. Hillcrest, meanwhile, is San Diego’s LGBT hub, a walkable neighbourhood crammed with indie restaurants, vintage stores and wine bars.

But what most people come for is San Diego’s 110km (70 miles) of coastline. Upmarket La Jolla (think: luxury hotels, fine dining and championship golf courses) attracts surfers in droves to its phenomenal beaches. At Mission Beach, you’re more likely to spot crowds of youngsters flaunting their stuff on the boardwalk, or windsurfers, kayakers and waterskiers whizzing across Mission Bay.

San Diego isn’t short of stellar attractions away from the beach either. Balboa Park is super close to Downtown and home to 15 museums and a clutch of performing arts venues amid 500 hectares (1,200 acres) of beautifully landscaped gardens. Whether you’re into space, natural history, art or cars, this park has it covered. Also in the park is the fabulous San Diego Zoo, where you can tuck into breakfast with the koalas in the Australian Outback or encounter cheetahs and rhinos in the Urban Jungle.

Thirsty? San Diego is churning out new craft breweries at a lip-smackingly delicious rate, so grab yourself a hoppy ale and plot a way to stay here for good.

Key facts

Population:
1394928
Latitude:
32.715329
Longitude:
-117.157255

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Inn at the Park

This historic hotel in San Diego, formerly the Park Manor Suites Hotel, occupies a gorgeous seven-storey Italian Renaissance style building in the heart of Balboa Park, adjacent to the Hillcrest neighbourhood. The structure was built in 1926 and designated a historical site by the City of San Diego in 1991. It is situated on the west edge of Balboa Park and offers sweeping views of San Diego Bay, Downtown and Hillcrest. All suites come with full kitchens and dinettes. Deluxe continental breakfast is on offer every morning.

Omni San Diego

A sky bridge connects the tasteful Omni with Petco Park's baseball stadium and a nearby pedestrian crossing makes the walk from the hotel to the Convention Center easy. Baseball memorabilia fills display cases in public spaces. Corner rooms on the east side have a spot-on view of the ballpark; others overlook the Convention Center and bay. The 511 rooms are sensibly and comfortably designed and the outdoor pool with fireplace is the favourite hangout. A McCormick & Schmick's restaurant serves decent seafood.

Hotel Solamar

A member of the hip Kimpton Hotel group, the 10-storey Hotel Solamar is a modern, stylish hotel in San Diego located in East Village, just one block from the Gaslamp Quarter and Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. Excellent both for leisure and business, this 4-star hotel is artfully designed with 235 guestrooms characterised by modern, clean sophistication. A fourth-floor patio houses an outdoor splash pool with the poolside Jbar featuring DJ music and cabana seating at night. The hotel's Jsix Restaurant serves Asian-inspired Californian cuisine.

La Valencia

Beauty, elegance, and charm live inside the pink stucco walls of this property, known locally as La V. Stunning views of La Jolla Cove and the ocean act as backdrops in the richly appointed La Sala room (where martinis and tapas are served in the evening) and many of the 100-plus original guest rooms and 15 villas, each boasting a whirlpool tub, king-size bed, and personalised butler service. The hotel's exclusive =Sky Room , with just a dozen or so tables and a small bar, is one of the most elegant restaurants in San Diego. The sidewalk level Whaling Bar is a La Jolla institution where local nabobs mingle over steaks and martinis.

Gaslamp Plaza Suites

The Gaslamp Plaza Suites is a European-style, San Diego hotel built in 1913, with many elements of the original décor intact such as the sculpted Corinthian marble, Australian gumwood carpentry, hand-cut mosaic tiles and bronze and brass embellishments which can be seen throughout the hotel. The location is as central as it could get - in the heart of the Gaslamp District. Complimentary continental breakfast is served daily on the rooftop terrace overlooking the beautiful Downtown area of the city.

Sofia Hotel

One of the oldest hotels in San Diego's Downtown has been transformed into a chic boutique inn with 212 rooms that have the feel of urban studios with efficient Wi-Fi and access to Currant, one of lower downtown's most happening cafes. Some rooms are dark and noisy - ask to see a few before unpacking.