San Diego, the sunny SoCal metropolis that styles itself as America’s Finest City, is a place that knows how to have a good time. Home to the San Diego Zoo and the USS Midway Museum, it provides visitors with plenty to see and do, while also boasting long stretches of beach for those seeking relaxation and outdoor activities.
The southern California coast is known for sun, fun and excitement – and San Diego is no exception. It mixes surfing-friendly beaches and the expansive urban oasis of Balboa Park with world-class destinations like the San Diego Zoo and the USS Midway, a decommissioned aircraft carrier turned into a public museum. What’s more, it’s just a short drive to some truly spectacular destinations: from Joshua Tree National Park, with its awe-inspiring stands of tree-sized yucca, to excursions across the border into Tijuana for authentic Mexican flavours and markets.
San Diego is a sprawling affair, with each neighbourhood having its own distinct character. Luxurious La Jolla is a must-see for its sea views and manicured gardens, while the historic sites in the Old Town are worth a visit as well. Of course, the vibrant nightlife and boutique shopping is centred on the Gaslamp Quarter, though the neighbourhoods of Hillcrest, North Park and Kensington, located around Balboa Park, have plenty of their own flair to offer, with innovative restaurants and trendy boutiques.
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When is the best time to visit San Diego?
If your main prerequisite is a mild, sunny climate, San Diego can be visited year-round: its temperatures rarely drop below 10°C and are usually much higher. The winter months of December to February are generally rainier, so winter visitors would do well to bring along a raincoat or a windbreaker. During the hot summer, the city does see a good deal of periodic fog and clouds that have been termed the “June gloom” or “July gloom”.
How do I get around San Diego?
San Diego is a large, spread-out city – so, depending on the attractions you have in mind, you are unlikely to be close to all of them. Public transit is generally a convenient option within the city centre, with three tram lines (called trolleys locally) and a decent bus network, including a bus line to the airport. For locations like La Jolla or the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, you may find that a rental car or taxi may be the better option. If you do travel by car, remember that the motorways can get quite congested at peak hours.
Where is the best place to stay in San Diego?
Since San Diego is so spread out, you should choose your accommodation based on the attractions you want to spend the most time at. Drawn to the zoo, Balboa Park, or the shops of the Gaslamp quarter? Stay in a hotel downtown or in the so-called “Hotel Circle”, near the Old Town and a short tram ride from downtown San Diego, though these areas can become quite expensive in peak season. For natural views and a little bit of distance from the city centre, options include Coronado, Mission Bay and La Joya.
Bask in San Diego’s laid-back charm
Despite being the eighth-largest city in the United States, San Diego has a relaxed charm that keeps visitors coming back year after year. Spread out over miles of shoreline, the cityscape includes the beaches and waterparks of Mission Bay, the naval museums and base in San Diego Bay, and the ever-active streets of the Gaslamp Quarter.
Don’t miss Bilboa Park
You’ll want to make sure your stay includes a visit to Balboa Park, which features over a dozen of the city’s best museums alongside the world-famous San Diego Zoo. The zoo is home to over 3,000 animals belonging to over 800 species with beautifully landscaped settings that recall their natural habitats. Make sure to arrive in the morning to beat the crowds and observe the animals at their most active. Other sights in Balboa Park include:
- San Diego Natural History Museum
- Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
- San Diego Museum of Art
- San Diego Air & Space Museum
Old Town and city centre
San Diego’s Old Town is a fair distance from the modern city centre, but is home to the oldest European settlement on the USA’s west coast. It is centred on the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá, an eighteenth-century church that overlooks the marine panorama of Mission Valley. Meanwhile, the city centre itself is home to the popular Gaslamp Quarter, a hodgepodge of bars, restaurants and boutiques. The seaside holds monuments to the city’s maritime past, including the Maritime Museum and the USS Midway Museum, in which visitors are guided through one of the US Navy’s flagships, which only went out of service in 1991. You’re sure to spend an enjoyable time in San Diego, whether you’re in town for a weekend conference or a two-week stay. Fly from Zurich to San Diego to experience it for yourself.
Free your inner foodie in San Diego
Traditionally known for its ubiquitous Mexican eateries, the San Diego culinary scene has exploded in recent years to include flavours from across the world – but not to worry: tacos and margaritas haven’t gone off the menu. They’ve just been joined by the seafood restaurants and steakhouses in the downtown centre and trendy restaurants in the neighbourhoods around Balboa Park. Head to Kensington, North Park or Hillcrest for speciality coffee, world-class sushi or delectable noodle soup.
Party it up in America’s Finest City
For an unforgettable night out on the town, your best bet is to head to the bistros and nightclubs of the Gaslamp Quarter. World-famous DJs spin at the most in-demand venues, while live shows are on offer at others, ranging from flamenco to burlesque. Or stroll through the bars and pubs around Balboa Park, which offer craft beer and unique menus to keep your night going. And if bar crawls aren’t your thing, maybe you fancy an all-hours arcade, poetry slam, or an axe-throwing session.
Indulge yourself in San Diego’s malls
San Diego’s premium shopping centres are your key to unforgettable deals: from the deeply discounted brands at Las Americas Premium Outlets, located right on the US-Mexico border, to high-end Luxe La Jolla or Fashion Valley, where upmarket brands offer their wares in pristine surroundings. If you prefer a more boutique experience, wander the pedestrianised avenues of the Gaslamp Quarter or check out the alternative and retro offerings in hip Hillcrest, the centre of the city’s LGBT community.
Zurich - ChicagoFlight duration: 09:45 hrs total, Frequency: 6 x daily
Departure ZurichTerminal: 1 / 3Counter opening time: 24 h prior to departure
Airbus A330-300Height: 16.80 mLength: 63.70 mSeats: 236
Crew:Pilots: 2Cabin crew: 11
Transit OHare Intl Arpt (ORD)Arrival: 12:25Transit time: 3h 40m
Chicago - San DiegoFlight duration: 04:15 hrs total, Frequency:
Arrival San DiegoDistance to city centre: 5 km