Thursday, June 28, 2012

lizzy's guide to san diego

I've been working on a San Diego Guide for a long time now so here it is! A few things to keep in mind. These are just a few of my personal favorite things to see, eat and do while in San Diego. I don't drink, party and I have small children so this guide is geared towards family-friendly or clean, adult fun without kids (that part is minimal cause we haven't been able to do too much in that area).
cute print from here
To Eat:
Con Pane: I've mentioned this before but it's my favorite place to eat in San Diego - favorites: brioche cinnamon rolls are perfection, veggie cobb on rosemary bread, Italian sandwich on kalamata olive bread and you have to get their dark chocolate chunk cookies and/or peanut butter toffee cookies.
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Cucina Urbanaa favorite adult place of ours - favorites: daily polenta ragu board, mushroom pizza, squash blossoms appetizer - make a reservation at least a week in advance unless you don't mind dining really late and/or at the bar.
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Burger Loungemy favorite burger in San Diego - maybe ever - favorite: all natural, grass fed beef, perfect buns, awesome sauce, white cheddar and my mom and sister are obsessed with their quinoa burger for the vegetarian types.
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Snooze: this is the BEST breakfast in San Diego. There's a LONG wait on the weekends so get there early, but it is worth every second. One of the best things about this place (besides the awesome retro vibe and the unbelievably delicious food) is that they'll split their meals so you can get half savory, half sweet. My favorites are the Chilaquiles Eggs Benedict and the Cinnamon Roll Pancake (not on the menu).
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George's at the Cove: We love eating at the Ocean Terrace at sunset. It is the most romantic view and great food - favorites: Mexican shrimp cocktail, smoked chicken, broccoli and black bean soup and grilled halibut with roasted corn and tomatoes is amazing (not usually on the menu but it's often the special).
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The Kebab Shopdowntown, casual spot - favorite: the falafel doner kebab and they have yummy fries
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Rincon Del Mar: the BEST fish tacos ever. Good prices, tiny place, ghetto locations - basically all the components of a great taco shop.

Ortega's Mexican BistroBaja style Mexican - cool atmosphere, great food - favorites: queso fundido appetizer is amazing and very rich. Everything we've had here has been good.
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Taco Surf: beach side whole in the wall where everyone is in either wet swimsuits or sandals. Great to grab for breakfast on the beach - favorite: I like the breakfast burrito with refried beans, hashbrowns, bacon, cheese and they have the best hot sauce! 
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Piattiromantic La Jolla spot - favorite: ricotta ravioli with lemon cream sauce, amazing bread, pizza.
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Tender Greensdelicious, healthy "California" food - favorite: I almost always get their daily special and I also love their cobb salad.
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Blue Water Seafood Grillnot super nice but incredibly fresh fish - favorite: perfectly grilled, fresh fish on a sandwich, taco or plate or salad.
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Boney's Bayside Marketcute little market on Coronado Island - favorites: the perfect place to pick up a sandwich for a day in Coronado.
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Mariposa Homemade Ice Cream: looks crazy outside and inside but you won't regret it - favorite: cookies 'n cream - has cinnamon in it! - and chocolate peanut butter (sadly, a rotating flavor).
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Richard Walker's Pancake House: busy, downtown breakfast place - go early! - favorite: just plain ol' amazing buttermilk pancakes.

Extraordinary Desserts: hip, evening, dessert spot - perfect way to spend a night out. We always bring out of of town guests here! We even had several of their cakes at our Open House after we got married. favorites: the Viking cake (my favorite), Passion Fruit Ricotta Torte (David's favorite) and their hot cocoa is rich and heavenly.
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Tacos El Paisa, Inc.: not a fancy place (i.e. probably don't go there at night) but it has really good street tacos. favorites: carnitas, carne adobada and pollo asada tacos.

Board & Brew: really good sandwiches in Del Mar. favorites: all their sandwiches are good but I usually get the Turkado or the Chicken Club.

The Cottage: what is sounds like - an adorable little cottage in La Jolla. Really delicious breakfast or brunch with a looonnnng weekend wait.

Punjabi Tandoor: our very favorite Indian food in San Diego. Don't bother anywhere else. It's totally out of the way and in the strangest business park neighborhood but it's just dang good. Also, has very little seating and served on styrofoam plates so don't expect anything fancy. favorites: chicken vindaloo, vegetable samosa, malai kofta.
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Pizzeria Luigi: some of my favorite pizza by the slice - favorites: BEST BBQ chicken - when they have it - and the Frenchie - honey ham, pear, caramelized onions and blue cheese.
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Basic Pizzaacross from Petco ball park, go before hitting up a Padres game - favorites: mashed potato and bacon white pie or the sausage, pepperoni and onion red pie and their salad is amazing.
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To Do:
Mercato Farmer's Market: in Little Italy only on Saturdays from 9 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. - such a fun, beautiful thing to do in the morning. Great food and as you walk up the market street, turn around and observe the ocean behind you. Also, fun music and great street food vendors.
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Bike around Coronado Island: see tip above about Boney's Market - so fun to start at the San Diego bay side after picking up a sandwich to take with you and then make your way all around the island, stopping every once in a while to take in the beautiful views and dream about living in one of the amazing homes there.

Day trip to Coronado Island: if you don't want to bike around the island, drive over to the Hotel Del Coronado and walk around the historic hotel, then on to the boardwalk and into town to look at the cute shops (Seaside Papery is a favorite). This is also my favorite beach in San Diego for kids - clean, small waves and nice crowd. Plus they're public bathrooms aren't heinous (although they never have soap!)

Cabrillo National Monument: fun thing to do for a few hours to see some views, walk around the lighthouse and check out the nearby tide pools - check here for low tide times.
San Diego Zoodo NOT miss going to the San Diego Zoo at least once in your life - we have annual passes and after having been at least 20 times I still never get tired of going. It's world famous for a reason!

Sea World: we also have annual passes to Sea World and love it but we usually don't go in the summer - too many people - but their summer shows and nightly fireworks are really fun.
Seaport Village: pretty touristy but it's still fun. Kids may like walking along the harbor and seeing the boats, there's a fun grassy area with trees to climb if you want to have a picnic, and always interesting street performers and artists along the boardwalk.

Hike Torrey Pines: if you want to get a small workout with beautiful views of the ocean and La Jolla, hike up this paved path. It's free as long as you can get a parking spot along the main road, otherwise parking is $10.

San Diego Harbor: this is where you would leave for a cruise and the USS Midway would be a really fun thing to do with kids who love big boats, planes, anything historical.

Mormon Battalion Center/Old Town: I'm not just mentioning the Mormon Battalion Center because I'm Mormon - it's actually really amazing and interesting! Fun for kids because it's really interactive and you can pan for gold at the end. Afterward there's some fun things to check out in Old Town.

La Jolla Coves and Shores: my second favorite beach in San Diego - fun to walk along the shoreline and see the sea lions. Also good for snorkeling.

Balboa Park: this is a free, beautiful place to spend an afternoon (or a full day if you want to visit museums). Beautiful gardens, Spanish village, interesting museums. If you come in December, be sure to visit for December Nights. There are free organ concerts on Sunday afternoons in the organ pavillion. Also, lots of free summer concerts.

Cedros Avenue: take a leisurely stroll down this cute street filled with boutiques and shops. Be sure to stop in at my favorite store - Bixby and Ball. There's also a farmer's market on Sundays from 1:00 - 5:00 p.m.

Transportation:
San Diego doesn't have great public transportation but it's OK. We do have the trolley which takes you to some of the main sites in the central area of San Diego and you could likely take a cab to some other sites that aren't in that route. However, I think renting a car is a good idea if you plan to do anything that's not in downtown area.

17 comments :

  1. Ooh, I love this post! I'm fabulously lucky to have married a San Diego guy, so when we visit our in-law's I'll keep this list close. See a few of our favorites (Piatti, George's, Balboa), but this is really handy to help a Kansas girl figure out what else we could mix things up and do (especially with our 1 year old). I've been reading your blog forever...wish we lived closer!

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  2. Thanks, Liz! This will be really handy for our visit next week!

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  3. great post! I've always been so intrigued by San Diego. LOVE California!

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  4. Thank you so much! We are going to be there in July and I just popped in to check our your archives, and here is a delightful guide all ready for me!!! I'm so excited to check it all out!

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  5. I echo Con Pane, Hash House, and George's on the Cove. All must-eats!

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  7. A lot of those restaurants are my favorites as well! I can't wait to try the others. Great suggestions!

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  8. Too perfect - we will be in San Diego for the 4th of July and I was just going to look back at some of your recommendations! Thanks for posting this!

    P.S. My mom went to Extraordinary Desserts last summer after reading about it on your blog and she has not stopped raving about it since! Pretty sure it's 50% of the reason she wanted us all to take this trip.

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  9. This is great! Many of the restaurants you listed are my favorites (including Con Pane - my absolute favorite! I ate 3 chocolate brioche twists once in an insane pregnancy moment...and the PB&J's oh my goodness, I'm want to drive over right now!) I'm so excited to try the other restaurants you listed!
    The activities look fun too...
    I have one to add - San Diego Botanic Garden's (formerly Quail Gardens) It is 37 acres. The gardens are gorgeous and the children's gardens are magical! They also have fun children's activities. It is worth the drive to Encinitas.

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  10. Some of my good friends that I met in Boston have moved to San Diego. I'm sending them a link to this post right now!

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  11. My parents lived outside of San Diego for two years and I just loved it there!! I kept smiling and nodding at your list. The Burger Lounge was so great. And the farmer's market!! Such a happy place. There was a panini stand that was amazing. Have you heard of Architectural Salvage? It's a shop downtown and I'm sure that I lived in SD, I would be a regular there!

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  12. Burger Lounge is a favorite of mine. Their turkey burgers are perfect. I am very wimpy about going downtown for things, so it seems like I am missing out on some good places to eat.

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  13. This is awesome! I will have to go to a few of these next time we are in town! :)

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  14. Genius I tell ya! What a perfect post Liz!! Love it all!!! Wow do I miss San Diego right about now!

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  16. Such an amazing blog you have posted dear i like it and also suggesting it to my friends for visiting your blog because it has really admirable and informative data which provide us through your blog so i would like to thank you for sharing it with us and also appreciate you on this so keep it up.
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  17. I remember you posted this a while ago. Thank you! I'm headed to sd tomorrow for a kid free week. I can't wait to try some of these yummy foods and fun things to do!

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