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Three Perfect Days: San Diego

San Diego offers perfect weather, spectacular beaches, tasty waves and a host of top-notch restaurants. There's also a zoo, if you like that sort of thing.

Author Sarah Horne

Little Italy

DAY TWO You consider a trip to the zoo, but you’ve seen one naked mole rat, you’ve seen them all, right? Instead, walk several blocks east from your hotel to petite French bistro 1 Cafe Chloe, named for its owners’ six-year-old daughter. With stacks of magazines and local papers to devour, it’s the perfect spot to grab a glass of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice and yogurt with apricot-hazelnut granola. With any luck, it might help you acquire that healthy glow all the locals are sporting.

Still in a foodie frame of mind, you hop in the ragtop and head to 2 Little Italy Mercato, the Saturday farmers market, one of the best-stocked in the city. Walk off breakfast in the hilly neighborhoods just off of India Street (dotted with vividly painted cottages once inhabited by Italian tuna fishermen), and survey the market’s stands. You’ll soon see that it’s not just attractive valet parking attendants who benefit from the perfect climate. There are heaps of artichokes the size of an infant’s head, delectable piles of deep green avocados and photogenic lemons at every turn.

San Diego Zoo’s Skyfari

After you’re pestered by several strangers to visit the famed 3 San Diego Zoo, you realize you’ll never be able to relax until you can say you’ve seen the thing. So, fine. You go to the zoo. First thing you see is a gaggle of pink fl amingos sunning themselves in a creek, and then a gaggle of tourists, attired in similar colors, gaping at them. While trying to decide which group looks more ridiculous, you step onto the vintage Skyfari, an aerial tram with breathtaking views of the museums of Balboa Park, many of them Spanish colonial fantasias conceived for the 1915 Panama-California Exhibition.

You step off the tram and descend the hill past prehistoric peccaries and quizzical gazelles on the way to the Polar Bear Plunge, which looks to be, um, a vast, empty expanse of water. What’s the big deal?, you wonder, until there’s an immense splash as Kalluk and his sister Tatqiq dive in and begin their playful water ballet, and suddenly, against your better judgment, you’re charmed. (Just not enough to jump the fence, please!) If you are very, very good in this life, you conclude, you might come back as a critter in the San Diego Zoo.

Until then, you settle for a drive to boho Mission Beach, a skinny peninsula fronting the Pacific to the west and Mission Bay to the east. Stop for an iced coff ee on the patio at 4 Cafe Mono before heading to Cheap Rentals a few steps away to grab a beach cruiser bike. Indulge your wildest real estate fantasies as you wend your way past simple shingled beach cottages painted kiwi and tangerine. A psychedelic mural asks you to LIVE IN THE SUNSHINE, SWIM IN THE SEA, DRINK IN THE WILD AIR. Yes, you think. Yes I will! If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of local legend “Slomo,” a 66-year-old retired neurologist who spends his days ’blading in balletic slow motion along the boardwalk while blasting classical music. Nice life, huh?

Head north toward Pacific Beach, Mission Beach’s tonier sibling, for lunch at the chic, white-on-white Jrdn, the terrace restaurant at the 5 Tower 23 Hotel. Watch virtuous joggers pound their way past your table as you tuck into a fresh lobster BLT, then laze away the rest of the afternoon with your feet in the sand.

After your relaxed, sun-drenched day, it’s back downtown for a siesta and then dinner at 6 Neighborhood, a whimsical burger spot on G Street. Sample the signature beef patty, served with caramelized onions, blue cheese and pepper greens and a side of sweet potato fries. If you’ve still got some energy to play, make your way to 30th Street and University Avenue and walk around 7North Park, an emerging neighborhood that makes a virtue of its banal 1960s strip mall architecture. Toast the day—and your newly mellow outlook—with some warm pear bread pudding and a glass of local wine at 8 Urban Solace.

From top, photographs by Joanne Dibona, San Diego


One Response to “Three Perfect Days: San Diego”

  1. Todd Says:
    June 8th, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    A nicely done overview of San Diego. With one glaring omission.

    San Diego has been at the forefront of the craft beer movement for well over ten years. It is home to over a dozen microbreweries and brewpubs, that have been lauded by both professional beer critic associations (e.g. the Brewer's Association, GABF, et al ) and the beer community on the whole (BeerAdvocate.com, RateBeer.com, et al).

    With that kind of gravitas — and at a superb beer-centric restaurant such as Urban Solace, for example — the author instead makes the overly bland suggestion of “…a glass of local wine”? Without even a token reference to the fine wines of Temecula, no less?


    Todd Bissell,
    Premier Executive Member since 1999
    San Diego, CA