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San Diego is currently the second most populated city in California, housing 1.4 million residents in 2019. We could see why so many people are drawn to this coastal metropolis because it has a perfect balance of tropical life and urban living. With a ton of history and amazing food, this city is sure to impress. Historically speaking, San Diego is home to the only roller coaster that is registered in the National Register of Historic Places. If you’re interested, go check The Giant Dipper, a wooden roller coaster at Belmont Park.

Also, with food on the brain, San Diego produces more avocados than any other US city. That’s a lot of guacamole! Whether drawn to the city with great food or simply interested in a place to add to the list of visited cities, San Diego has a lot to offer. Continue reading as we dive into that idea in more detail.

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When to Visit

You’ve decided on San Diego, but you’re not sure when to book the trip. If your vacation days are limited, but you want to squeeze in a mini getaway, San Diego is a fantastic option. The weather in this Southern Californian city is perfectly temperate for a majority of the year, making it a great place to visit all year round. Because of the city’s splendid summer climate, it does get more crowded between the months of June until August. If avoiding large crowds and long lines is important to you, then it would be best to plan your trip sometime between the tail end of summer and the following spring. The winter is also a great time to visit if you want to beat the rush.

For anyone eager to pack their bags and head to San Diego soon, we’ve got just what you need to make the most of a weekend beach trip. Read on to learn more about this incredible city. We’re diving into the best spots for you to hit on your trip.

Finding a Vacation Rental by the Beach

First order of business: finding the right place to stay. If you’ll only be in the city for a weekend, the best thing you can do for yourself is to find a vacation rental that’s walking distance to a majority of the spots you want to hit. There are two central locations to find a rental for beach-goers: Mission Beach and Pacific Beach. Both options are legendary in their own right, there are some major differences between the two. Let’s start off by looking at them individually before comparing the pros and cons of these two iconic beaches.

Stay in Mission Beach

Anyone coming to San Diego eager to soak up the sun and spend time in the water will love the Mission Beach area. This small strip of land is sandwiched in between the Pacific Ocean on one side, and Mission Bay on the other. You could walk from oceanside to bayside in under ten minutes, and you don’t even need a car to access the best sites, restaurants, and bars in the area. Everything is just a short walk away, or you can also rent bikes and scooters, too. The neighborhood scores are high in convenience. For that quick beach getaway, eliminating even a few minutes of travel time is important when trying to take advantage of every moment. For more info on Mission Beach, check out our ultimate guide!

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Find a spot on Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach is a larger neighborhood right above Mission Beach. If you’d rather stay on a quieter end of town that’s still relatively close to all the fun, then Pacific Beach is the place to be. Because this area is much larger than Mission Beach, you’ll have more options for vacation rentals as well. If relaxing and vibing is the goal, Pacific beach is the right move.

In terms of location, both neighborhoods are sensational. The biggest difference between the two is the amount of time you’ll spend traveling between lunch and the beach. For a long weekend with a special someone, we’d tend to gravitate towards Pacific Beach; however, if the end goal is to take in as much as possible in the more exciting of the two, grab a spot on Mission Beach.

What’s in the Area?

Both Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are connected along Mission Boulevard, where you’ll find everything you could possibly need on your trip. Start your day off right at Better Buzz Coffee Roasters, where they serve delicious acai bowls and amazing espresso-based handcrafted drinks. There are several Better Buzz locations scattered around the city, but the Mission Beach branch is known as “The Lab.”

Pro Traveler TipAll of the Better Buzz Coffee Roaster locations are fantastic, but the best one is over on 3745 Mission Blvd. If you’re serious about your coffee, that’s where you should start your day in San Diego.

When you’re ready to get active on the water, you can walk up the street to Catamaran Resort Hotel to pick from a variety of water sport rentals such as powerboats, kayaks, paddle boards, surf boards, and more. Once you’ve settled on your water activity of choice, you can spend the whole afternoon roaming around the blue waters of Mission Bay and Sail Bay.

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One must-try restaurant is La Playa Taco Shop, right beside Catamaran Resort Hotel. Work up an appetite on the water, then chow down on La Playa’s delicious tacos with a refreshing horchata on the side. Plus, two fun spots to grab drinks around sunset are El Prez, a trendy rooftop bar with a colorful interior, and Baja Beach Cafe, where they serve massive, ice-cold margaritas!

Pro Traveler Tip: La Playa Taco Shop is located at 3973 Mission Blvd, just up the street from the best coffee shop. Once you’ve tracked down your morning perk, be sure to locate lunch at La Playa Taco Shop.

And finally, at any point during your trip, you can’t forget to spend a couple of hours or even the entire day hanging out by the ocean. The street closest to the beach is called Ocean Front Walk, which is closed off to cars and literally meant for a two-mile-long walk on the beach, covering both Pacific Beach and Mission Beach’s shorelines. If you’re with the kids, you can make your way to the south end of the Ocean Front Walk and visit Belmont Park, packed with tons of amusements and rides.

Pro Traveler TipAs mentioned in the intro, Belmont Park is home to the only roller coaster list in the National Register as a historic site. Make history and hit up The Giant Dipper!

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Other Places to Explore

While the aforementioned spots are top-notch, the city is massive and has a ton of other neighborhoods and areas to check out. If you have the means to drive out of the area and see other parts of the city, we’ve got a list of must-sees complied below. Especially if food is important on your trip, you’d be wise to keep reading and hear what we’ve got to say.

Have a personalized Mexican Food Tour

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With San Diego sharing a border with Mexico, it’s only right that the city would have a hefty selection of authentic Mexican food. If you like Mexican food, then you should definitely stop by a few taquerias in San Diego. San Diego Magazine recently released their 2019 Best Restaurants list, highlighting the best places to eat, chosen by local critics and readers. One category on the list includes Best Taco Shop, with the top three restaurants being Lola 55Lucha Libre, and The Taco Stand. In the Best Mexican Food category, El JardínDeath by Tequila, and Las Cuatro Milpas get an honorable mention. Look up which restaurants make your mouth water and turn it into your very own Mexican food tour!

Pro Traveler TipGet over to The Taco Stand and be sure to taste the Nopal Taco. It’s loaded with cactus, cheese, cilantro, tomato, and avocado.

Outdoor activities galore at Torrey Pines

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In the outskirts of San Diego, just a quick 20-minute drive north of Pacific Beach, you’ll find Torrey Pines State Reserve and Torrey Pines State Beach. This gorgeous paradise is located within the coastal town of La Jolla. There are plenty of outdoor activities you can enjoy at Torrey Pines including golfing, hiking, surfing, paragliding, and nature tours. Head this direction if you want to get your explorer mode on.

Pro Traveler Tip: While there are plenty of places in the world to try paragliding, the folks at Torrey Pines Glideport are world-class. If adventure is what you seek, don’t miss this incredible opportunity to try something amazing.

Bar Hopping in the Gaslamp Quarter

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For a night out on the town, you’ll find plenty of lively bars in the Gaslamp Quarter. Two rooftop bars in the area that are worth your while include Upper East Bar on top of the Kimpton Solamar Hotel and The Nolen, a top candidate for the best urban view of San Diego. If you’re into the speakeasy vibe, be sure to make a reservation at Noble Experiment, an exclusive bar known for its strong drinks and skilled mixologists.

Pro Traveler Tip: Noble Experiment is an unbelievable establishment with some of the tastiest cocktails in the whole city. It is a little higher-end, though. Don’t show up in boardshorts and a t-shirt after a day on the beach.

Ready To Head To San Diego Now?

I hope you enjoyed digging into some of the great things that await you and your party in San Diego. Remember to find something on either Mission Beach or Pacific Beach.

While you’re looking for that perfect spot for your trip, don’t forget that VacationRenter has the best scoop on anywhere you’d seriously consider staying. Get over there and book your trip to America’s Finest City today!