Chances are you wish you were cold right now. Not nips-poking-through-your-shirt cold, but comfortably cool. We know we are, which is why we’re dreaming of the San Diego area 24/7.
Anywhere but Dallas, really.
We just got back from a quick weekend to SoCal and darn if patio heaters at night in August aren’t something we could get really used to. Especially in contrast to a day soaking up UV rays on the sandy shores.
If you haven’t been to San Diego lately, now you can save a ton on your bar tab by partaking in a little legal recreational marijuana—if that’s your thing. A tiny edible can run you around $6 and last all night. Find a nearby dispensary to pick up your own or you can download an app or call a service to have your favorites delivered right to you.
But back to finding your home away from home. Here are five of our favorite parts of the area and must-visit properties in each—in every price point from standard accommodations to luxury. But trust us, you won’t want to be in your room more than showering, sleeping and sexing. Because pretty much any time of year you visit, the sun will be shining, the surf will be up and the gays will likely be sporting shorts and flip flops.
Unless they’re on Black’s Beach wearing much, much less.
The Gaslamp Quarter is a big tourist draw, but it’s also one of the coolest entertainment districts just a hop, skip and a sashay to many of the city’s best LGBTQ haunts in Hillcrest, a quick 12-minute ride share away.
The Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter
This beautiful property in the heart of the historic Gaslamp District was home base for us on our most recent trip and we couldn’t have been more thrilled with the location—or the hospitality, amenities and spacious rooms. The AAA Four-Diamond hotel feels like it’s close to everything from local coffee shops and retailers to the easily walkable marina area and all its attractions. One of the things that impressed us most were the fitness options, from the well-equipped fitness studio (hello, Peloton!) and full locker room with showers to the shaded rooftop pool just a few steps away. And like most Westin properties, you can rent workout clothes in case you forgot yours or prefer to travel light.
Of course, if food is a big part of your vacation experience like it is for us, knowing great nearby restaurants is key. It doesn’t get much more nearby than Pinzimini, A Downtown San Diego Gastropub just off the lobby of the hotel. Enjoy daily happy hour from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. and So Cal cooking from morning to night. If you’re feeling like getting in some steps then strap on your walking shoes and head to two nearby hotel restaurants that are destinations unto themselves.
For lunch, we recommend Trade inside Hotel Republic San Diego, a chic, beach-inspired boutique property a few short blocks away. (Who doesn’t enjoy a little Trade on vacation anyway, right?) Here you’ll find a southern California take on international classics with seasonal options that really impress. Same with the cocktails, but we recommend enjoying one (or several) at sunset or after dark at the beautiful Topside Terrace Kitchen & Bar upstairs. They also offer yoga and a bottomless-cocktail brunch.
At dinnertime, we usually opt for something a little more extravagant, so The US Grant Hotel‘s iconic Grant Grill fit the bill and then some. Best of all, the smart-casual dress code makes it easier to enjoy fine dining without the annoyance of having to pack a suit. (Yay!) On the menu, you’ll discover sublime steaks and seafood, but inquire with your server on specialties of the house. We let the chef take control and we were in awe course after course. And if you want to really splurge, order up one of the billionaire cocktails, which range from a $32 old fashioned to the Rockefeller, a $100 concoction that will make you feel like, well, a billion bucks.
Hard Rock Hotel San Diego
Hard Rock Hotel San Diego will always hold a special place for us because it’s where we had our first experience with the luxury accommodations arm of the popular brand, and our first time in the Gaslamp Quarter. Here, it’s all about chic combined with fun, from the guest-selected music playing in your guest room upon arrival to delivery of an electric guitar to your bedside. Dine like a sushi-lovin’ rock star with at on-site Nobu and relax like royalty at the small-but-wonderful Rock Spa. Visit during summer months and get two free tickets to the epic Saturday pool party, Sunburn. Or you can get tickets to the event regardless of where you’re staying.
Though technically not an island, numerous people refer to the peninsula off the coast of San Diego as Coronado Island because it truly seems like one. But we’re happy to visit no matter what people call it—or miscall it.
Hotel Del Coronado
If you want a nice excursion, head to this grand dame of a hotel and spend the entire day. The Hotel Del Coronado, known to locals as “The Del,” was built in 1888 and simply oozes history. You may know it from exterior scenes from the Marilyn Monroe cross-dressing comedy classic, Some Like it Hot.
The expansive resort is home to a magnificent spa, a variety of spectacular restaurants and a private beach area with cabanettes and waiter service (make sure to reserve ahead). Or, if you have more than a day to spare, it’s definitely worth getting a room overnight or for a long weekend away from it all.
Seaside communities don’t get much more picturesque than La Jolla, with its rocky cliffs, crashing waves and sparkling waters from sunrise to sunset. Hit La Jolla Cove for an up-close-and-personal kiki with some sea lions or head to the Torrey Pines Gliderport and hike down the steep hillsides to the Black’s Beach nude paradise filled with gay men.
The Lodge at Torrey Pines
Frank Lloyd Wright, party of 300! OK, so FLW isn’t really involved in this property, but the craftsman style throughout makes us feel like so many of his most famous landmark homes. But here, your home away from home is all about luxury from pampering spa treatments or a dip in the pool to a crazy-scenic golf course that hosts some of the biggest tournaments in the sport. Dining at A.R. Valentien was one of the most memorable meals we’ve had in years and well worth a reservation. Besides, you can walk off the calories the next morning at the adjoining trails that eventually lead down to the beach if you’re feeling in touch with your inner mountain goat.
Also not an island, this one actually calls itself one officially. Whatevs. Seems like an island to us landlubbers at least. Home to a handful of businesses, including a very active marina, it’s a unique place to experience the laidback lifestyle this area is known for.
Kona Kai Resort & Spa
Catch a Hawaiian vibe without the long, expensive flight to the South Pacific. Shelter Island is home to one of the best views of the downtown San Diego skyline, plus it’s refreshingly quaint and quiet. Overnight stays at Kona Kai Resort & Spa offer you plenty of time to explore the tiny island. Stroll down to Fathom Bistro for a craft beer while watching locals fish and navigate their beautiful boats through the marina. Then hit the Tiki-riffic Bali Hai a short walk to the other side of the island for dinner and sunset, while sipping on one of their famously potent Mai Tais. Afterward, head back to the hotel where the staff can have a fire on the beach waiting and all the fixings for s’mores.
Place your bets—and win in the game of vacationing. Another great place to get away from the bustle of the big city, Del Mar is a luxury community with world-class restaurants and a seaside track for horse racing. Things calm down immensely after dark, but it’s fun any time of day to stroll through the shops and restaurants or work your way down to the beach.
Hotel Indigo San Diego Del Mar
An overnight stay in the spacious, apartment-style rooms at Hotel Indigo Del Mar is a splendid add-on to your San Diego vacation, close to all types of adventure. On property, enjoy two separate pools, a spa and the Oceanview Bar & Grill give you plenty of options to relax and enjoy. Of course, you’ll want to explore the quaint little town, possibly starting with breakfast at the relatively new Americana Restaurant. Then burn off those eggs and carbs with some of the best surf lessons offered on the beach. After all that, you’ll be plenty hungry for the awe-inspiring seafood at Pacifica Del Mar, home to dramatic sunset views and even more spectacular cuisine from the sea.
For complete details on the San Diego area, please visit VisitCalifornia.com.