How to Plan an Awesome San Diego Weekend Trip

How to Spend a Weekend in San Diego

Twilight in Downtown San Diego
••• Twilight in Downtown San Diego. Adapted from Photos by Clark/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

At first glance, it seems easy to plan a weekend in San Diego. All you need is a hotel reservation, a quick look at an app or two and off you go. Some experts claim that poor planning and being impulsive can lead to big wins in life in general. That may be true, but if you apply that philosophy to planning your weekend getaway, you're not likely to experience those "WoW!" moments that you were hoping for.

Read on, and you'll find out first whether San Diego is a place you will enjoy visiting, then get all the tips and insights that can help you have a weekend that you'll be bragging about for months.

Why Should You Go? Will You Like San Diego?

If you want to get an idea of what San Diego is like, take a quick look at these pictures of their gorgeous beaches and then check out downtown.

San Diego is especially popular with families, who enjoy the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Legoland and Sea World.

It's also a great place for beach-lovers. Shoppers like to go bargain-hunting in nearby Tijuana.

San Diego is also a great place for water sports, where you can play in the ocean or a large city park full of bays and lagoons.

Best Time to Go to San Diego

San Diego weather is great almost any time, but forget those old song lyrics that go: "It never rains in Southern California." In fact, it does rain in San Diego, especially in winter.

If rain happens to your weekend, I've got your back. Try some of these things to do on a rainy day in San Diego.

May and June may also bring lots of coastal fog that can linger all day long.

The annual Comic-Con convention draws so many people that it's nearly impossible to get a hotel room. Check their dates and avoid them if you can.

Things to Do in San Diego

If you're visiting San Diego in the spring, the Carlsbad Flower Fields are an Instagram favorite. It's a commercial operation that grows flower bulbs to sell, but their colorful fields of ruffly-flowered ranunculus are as pretty as any botanical garden.

If you're going in the summer, you'll find lots of fun things to do on a summer night in San Diego.

The rest of the year, you can check out the Top Things to Do in San Diego. If you've been to San Diego before, check out some of these things you didn't know you could do in San Diego

Tips for Visiting San Diego

I know it's popular, but I I avoid the Gaslamp Quarter. The restaurants are too expensive, and it's almost impossible to find parking in the area. If you like history and 1800s architecture, it might be worth a quick trip, but find somewhere else to eat.

San Diego is a big metropolitan area and sprawls over more than 300 square miles. And that's just the city itself. Tourist areas are more spread out than in some other places, and public transport is thin. Your best bet is to have an automobile, but you could also use Uber or Lyft to get to places that are otherwise hard to reach. The one exception is the Wild Animal Park which is so far from downtown that any transportation other than driving yourself would be almost as expensive as your tickets.

If you are planning to visit Tijuana, you'll have no trouble getting into Mexico. To get back, U.S. citizens should take their passport because a Driver's License isn't enough. If you are not a U. S. citizen, a passport or green card is essential. You can use this guide to find out everything you need to know for a smooth and easy border crossing.

Few restaurants in San Diego have a dress code. Unless you have an extraordinary evening planned, leave your fancy pants clothing at home and relax. Fill the empty spot in your bag with an extra jacket instead. Evenings near the ocean can be cooler than you may expect, validating the tired old advice to dress in layers.

Best Bites

You probably have your favorite ways to find a place to eat, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time recreating other people's lists here.

Instead, I'll make just one recommendation. If you don't mind getting out of the typical tourist rut, Bleu Boheme in the Kensington neighborhood serves an excellent brunch (lunch and dinner, too).

If you like jazz music, the swanky music-and-supper club Anthology is a good place to get all glammed up and listen to some great musicians. There's not a bad seat in the house; the sound system is top-notch, and the food is quite good and fairly priced, considering the classy surroundings and show that comes with it.

Where to Stay

San Diego is bigger than you might think and the best place to stay depends on what you're going to do. Start with this: How to decide where to stay in San Diego. You can also check the recommended hotels and campgrounds.

Getting to San Diego

San Diego is about 130 miles from Los Angeles and 330 miles from Las Vegas. Find out how to get there from Las Vegas, how to travel between San Francisco and San Diego, and ways to get to San Diego from LA.

San Diego's airport is called Lindbergh Field (SAN).