How to Spend a Weekend in San Diego, California

Heading to the beach is always a must when visiting the San Diego area
Heading to the beach is always a must when visiting the San Diego area | © Joshua Brown / Unsplash
Kathryn Beeson

“What do I do for two to four days in San Diego?” is a tricky question to answer, simply because the city offers so much. Hopefully, you can start to narrow your options down with these insider tips, which cover nearby day trips, sunny beaches and city center attractions. The next question you’ll have (“what should I do first?”) is entirely down to you.

1. Encinitas

Architectural Landmark, Natural Feature

Just 35 minutes north of San Diego, Encinitas is a beach town with a big surf scene. It’s 100 percent worth the trip just to watch the acrobatics from Beacon’s Beach, and if you’re determined to catch some waves yourself, there are plenty of hire shops and surf schools. Once you’ve packed your board away, there’s a lively downtown food and bar scene to explore – check out Culture Brewing Co, Modern Times and Saint Archer Brewing Co for local craft beer and La Especial Norte for some of the tastiest Mexican food around. Alternatively, head to Le Papagayo for food and live music. Recommended by local insider Lauren Rogers

2. Solana Beach

Natural Feature

To experience a slower pace of life and indulge a little in the pleasures North County San Diego has to offer, head to Solana Beach. This relaxed, well-heeled beach town is filled with art galleries, boutiques and artisan coffee shops, and every Sunday there’s a farmer’s market selling local produce. You can lose hours browsing down the main Cedros Avenue – give yourself plenty of time and make a day of it, and perhaps head to Fletcher Cove for a sunbathe or a paddle afterward. You have plenty of dining options here: local insider Lauren suggests Lofty Coffee for hot drinks and sweet treats; gastropub Pillbox Tavern and pizzeria-brewery Pizza Port for dinner; and Belly Up for late-night live music. Recommended by local insider Lauren Rogers

3. Carlsbad

Architectural Landmark

Carlsbad is a buzzing beachside city about 45 minutes north of San Diego. If you’re visiting with kids, you may well end up over this way to visit LEGOLAND California – which is brilliant fun even for adults. But Carlsbad’s attractions don’t end there. There are good surfing opportunities, several luxury hotels and a lively bar scene. Pour your own beer samples at Barrel Republic, listen to live mariachis over dinner at Casa De Bandini, or engage in something entirely more restorative (but no less Californian) at the Mantra Yoga Studio & Juice Bar. Recommended by local insider Lauren Rogers

4. Little Italy Mercato Farmers’ Market

Farmers' Market, American, Italian

For those looking for a lazy Saturday inside city limits, the Little Italy Mercato Farmers’ Market offers a wide range of stalls selling food, flowers, crafts and more – it’s a pleasant place to browse around. Pick up some fresh produce for a lunchtime picnic, or tuck into something hot and delicious from one of the many food stands. Enjoy live performances from local artists as you make your way through the stalls for a perfectly balanced culinary and creative trip out. Recommended by local insider Hebah Bukhari

5. The Comedy Store La Jolla


San Diego’s branch of the famous LA comedy hotspot is a great group hangout. Bring some friends, place your orders at the bar and settle down to watch some of the country’s best-loved comedians do their thing. Find out when your favorite is on and reserve in advance, or come on a random weeknight to see what the local scene has to offer. You’ll have a great night and might even catch the next big thing before everyone else does. Recommended by local insider Hebah Bukhari

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