San Diego is synonymous with great weather, on-point food, and some of SoCal’s best beaches. So we won’t blame you for spending your entire San Diego trip with your toes in the sand, indulging on fish tacos, and washing it down with a frosty craft brew.
But the truth is there are a ton of things to do in San Diego that go well beyond beach time. We like surprising guests with a few things that could be easy to miss. On your next trip to this SoCal playground, consider mixing in one (or all!) of these unexpected experiences to round out your San Diego itinerary:
Sip Wine In San Diego’s Very Own Wine Region
When you talk wine and San Diego, most people think Temecula, but (surprise!), Temecula is actually part of Riverside County. Semantics aside, San Diego is where by the way the first vines for wine production were planted in California and today is home to more than 100 wineries. Grapes can be found all over San Diego’s diverse landscapes from the coast to the mountains and even the desert.
San Diego is home to two designated wine growing regions —The San Pasqual Valley and Ramona Valley, both in North East San Diego — and a growing number of urban wineries.
Even better, the beauty of San Diego’s location means that Temecula to the North, and the rising reputation of Baja California wines (and of Valle de Guadalupe specifically), means you have access to three different wine regions is less than a few hours’ drive.
Art Meets the Surf
San Diegans take full advantage of fantastic year-round weather by doing as much as possible outdoors (one day here and you’ll notice an abundance of patios, joggers, and dog-walkers). So, it only makes sense that immersing yourself in art and culture should be an outdoor experience, too.
The public art murals in La Jolla brighten up the walls of various buildings in the area, like the colorful piece on Eads Avenue by local artist Roy McMakin entitled, Favorite Color. Or, for another an Instagram-worthy piece, make your way to Ivanhoe Avenue for Kelsey Brookes’ One Pointed Attention.
Find Your Zen in North San Diego
While we love the bohemian vibes of Ocean Beach and La Jolla’s understated elegance, if we had to choose a favorite beach city north of downtown San Diego, it would be Encinitas. There is no shortage of snug coffee shops (don’t pass up the Salted Caramel Latte at Lofty Coffee, or a cortado at Iron Smith) and cutesy cafes, and beachy boutiques in Encinitas. Not to mention legendary beaches, like Swami’s and Moonlight, are in the area.
These things would be more than enough for a blissful afternoon, though for a few truly quiet moments, head to the Meditation Gardens off of Highway 101. Wander around – be sure to silence your cell phone – surrounded by lush plants, a koi pond, private nooks to sit and reflect, and an expansive view overlooking Swami’s beach.
Unwrap San Diego’s Fave Burrito
If there’s one uniquely San Diego food item you have to try (besides our favorite fish tacos, of course), it's the California burrito. Not to be confused with the more popular San Francisco Mission-style burrito, the California burrito is 100% San Diego. We’re talking tender carne asada, cheese, a dollop of guac, pico de gallo, and, the kicker are crispy french fries in place of rice or beans. You’ll find carne asada burritos up and down the Golden State, but the addition of fries are what make a California burrito in San Diego.
Yes, it will be one of the more filling burritos you will ever have, but trust, you won’t regret it. The Cali burrito (as the locals call it) is popular at taco stands and sit-down Mexican restaurants all over Southern California, but San Diego is credited with having created it sometime in the 80s. Try it for yourself at quality standbys like Lolita’s or Lucha Libre, in multiple locations throughout San Diego.
Get A Slice of Provence in the Valley
Yup, there’s even a pocket of San Diego that feels a little bit like France. In the Spring and early summer, lavender fields are in bloom at Keys Creek Lavender Farm, in Valley Center. View more than dozen varieties of lavender on its eight-acre grounds, peruse the gift shop for housemade essential oils and soaps, or even stay the night in its country chic cottage – we’re eyeing the clawfoot tub – or one of their glamping tents.
More Southern California on Salt & Wind
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Photo credit: Kate Daigneault