It’s out of the ordinary for me to visit a place more than once due to my admiration of experiencing new cultures, food, and scenic landscapes. On three separate occasions, I broke my travel pattern and decided to explore San Diego several times over. I guess it’s safe to say, I’m fond of the socal city. As a matter of fact, I’ve visited enough times to write this local-based guide for my fellow Liv Wanderers ★⌒ヽ(´ ❥ `). I can’t take all the credit for this guide though; a kind local of La Jolla helped me make the most of my San Diego trips and she deserves my thanks. Below I’ve compiled a list of destinations associated by region that will elevate your next San Diego trip to a whole new level.
Wherein many attractions lie scattered such as the famous San Diego Zoo, museums, food carts, artisan tables, and an abundance of gardens. Expanding over 1,200 acres, the cultural park is one of the main tourist attractions for San Diego. This first destination may not be a hidden gem but it is still worth your while. Balboa Park draws over ten million visitors a year. While not all the visitors are tourists, the beauty of the year-round park makes it a perfect photo opportunity for weddings, professional photographers, and influencers. While parking and photographs are free, not all of the attractions will let you walk in without paying something. Which brings me to one of my favorite locations from my most recent trip: The Japanese Friendship Garden. For $10 a piece, my friend and I spent a couple of hours in the hot sun enjoying Japanese plants and culture. I managed a green house for several years during and after high school which means I hold plants and nature dear to my heart. I easily spent hours looking around at the different flora and landscape designs. I know many people associate Japanese gardens with blossoming cherry tress but they had already had their spring bloom earlier in the year. I was fortunate enough to see cherry trees bloom in Minnesota’s Japanese Garden so I got a taste of what I missed. Even without the cherry blossoms blowing in the wind, the water features, koi fish, and pathways in Balboa’s Japanese garden were the perfect getaway for a serene and tranquil escape.
As mentioned above, the photo opportunities in the different gardens are astounding. If selfie-sessions intrigue you but you are looking to spend less, I still have two suggestions in the park for you to check out. The first picture in the slideshow is the Botanical Building where visitors venture “indoors” to a tropical escape. Another great spot is the Bea Evenson Fountain and the area around the Old Globe Theater. Honestly, the massive park’s layout feels pretty close together when you start walking around. The photo ops will jump out at your lense and you won’t even know how much time has passed.
The Beach Boys highlight La Jolla as a world renowned surfing destination but it offers so much more than bleached hair and sun kissed skin. The oceanside town community has an abundance of boujee shops and eateries. Tourists can enjoy local restaurants, cafes, and boutiques along the coastline. Before diving into the trendy spots, I want to highlight a few honorable mentions: I spent quite a few hours at the UTC Mall where I even won a $10 gift card for spinning a wheel. Sweet deal right? Well I’ll do you one better, UTC Mall is home to one of the Sprinkles ATMs for those that need a quick sugary treat. If you’re not excited about sweets and a dirty chai is more your speed, then you can’t go wrong with the quaint Brick and Bell; this cafe serves amazing scones and coffee right near the beach so you can walk along the shoreline in the morning with coffee in hand. Also, you can’t go to San Diego without trying a Mexican restaurant. I highly recommend Don Carlos or El Charro. Even though I’m not a fan, I hear the fish tacos are a rare delicacy that tourists and locals have to try at least once.
I created the video to highlight events in La Jolla such as the Children’s Pool–home of the sea lions and seals--Harumama’s adorable bao buns. and the vegan restaurant Trilogy Sanctuary & Totem Boutique. I purchased quite a few spiritual items from the boutique and they even have an online store to feed my shopping habits while I’m across the country. As far as the restaurant goes, my local friend didn’t disappoint me with her recommendation to get the Quinoa Bowl. I’m waiting to buy their cookbook because of this dish. They also offer yoga classes on the rooftop in addition to their shop and restaurant. It’s the perfect holistic business for your body, mind, and soul.
North Park and Hillcrest
Featured in the above video, Holy Matcha serves just as its name suggests. Heavenly green goodness. You can read a review I did of this beautiful establishment here. My friend and I stumbled upon Pigment after taking Scout (@scoutinthemountains) to the dog park. It’s an adorable shop that any boho fan will love. Supporting local artists and vendors they have items from cute pins and motivational books to plants.
Located in Hillcrest close to North Park, I featured Breakfast and Bubbles on my Instagram as a reel the day we went there. It was blissfully colorful, dog friendly, and acted as an excuse to try a mimosa on my birthday. They opened in 2021 during the pandemic and have picked up in popularity as people start venturing out more. We waited in line for about 45 minutes to get a table. As of right now they don’t take reservations, but the french toast and mimosas are worth the wait!
Sunset Cliffs, a Picnic, and Little Italy
Along the coast in a more private area, my boyfriend surprised me with an oceanside boho picnic. I was a real-life Disney princess for an hour and a half. The rolling waves and the breathtaking colors of the sky hitting the ocean set a romantic stage. Our picnic was filled with bubbly drinks, laughter, d’Oeuvres, and a relaxing scenic landscape. It wasn’t a completely undisturbed picnic, however, as we did have a couple of unexpected guests show up to our little private party–as Disney Princesses do. We didn’t mind making friends with the ground squirrels we came to know as Jack and Gus. While we enjoyed the chocolate truffles, they gorged themselves on strawberries and crackers we handed them. It goes without saying that spreading a little kindness gains you new friends (with big appetites). Anyway, it was a lovely time and I look forward to doing it again in the future. Maybe if I sing next time, we will have birds to join us too!
Bringing your friends, making it a romantic date, or just hanging out with the family are all great reasons to visit this Sunset Cliffs. Made for the perfect sunset photo opportunity, Sunset Cliffs covers a vast 68 acres near Point Loma. The rugged coastline overlooking the waves are perfect for camper vans looking to stay overnight. Unfortunately, it was very gloomy the night we decided to catch the sunset. Luck wasn’t on our side but that’s okay! We still got to see amazing views and get salty air in our lungs.
It’s always a good time to get sushi in my book. If the rest of your party disagrees when you visit San Diego, then this restaurant can fill other needs. Cloak and Petal hosts two large trees in the middle of the establishment while the bar and surrounding booths all face the red glowing leaves. As if the ambiance wasn’t enough to keep it trendy, the wait staff play birthday music for guests on their special day so they can break down while they eat free dessert. Little Italy has tons to offer so if you really don’t want to eat sushi facing gorgeous trees, then I suggest taking a walk through Little Italy. They have an abundance of bars and eateries for anyone to enjoy.
So there you have it. My list consists of excursions, walks, gardens, shops, photo ops, and of course food and beverage–I need to use my hospitality degree somehow. In any case, I hope you enjoyed reading about the different destinations you can visit to give your next San Diego trip a real boost. There were many more places I wish I could have visited while there but that will have to be saved for another trip and another article.
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