1. It’s Always 70 Degrees. Always.
A friend of mine living in San Diego before me put it this way: “It’s always 70 degrees. Winter. Summer. It’s always 70 degrees.” While the outer parts of the city can reach closer to 80 or in the 100s in the suburbs, you can count on ditching your winter clothes.
2. The Beer. Oh, the Beer.
It’s No. 3 on the Forbes best beer cities list (after Portland and San Francisco) for a reason. Nearly every bar carries a selection of local brews like Stone, Coronado, and Karl Straus. SD knows its way around a tasty IPA. And the beer festivals! The Festival of Beer in September donates money to cancer-fighting causes while the International Beer Festival in June crowns a best in show.
3. South Beach Bar and Grille is Fish Taco Heaven
A local favorite for fish tacos and a view to die for. Get mahi, calamari, shrimp, lobster, or shark tacos at Happy Hour and watch the sun set.
4. You Get to Spend Your Money on Something Other Than Rent
5. Our Beaches Destroy All Other Beaches
Where does everyone go on the weekend? Because they sure aren’t downtown. If the sun is shining then they’re at the beach. Even the freeways just lead you to Beaches. And there’s one for each flavor. Get a bit of prep at Pacific Beach and bit of slummy hippy at Ocean Beach. Or check out Mission Bay for some great biking.
6. The Zoo Is Out of this World
It’s easily the most recognizable thing about San Diego. Take a long leisurely stroll through this city owned zoo where the plants are worth more than the animals. See the elephants get a pedicure, watch the mama and baby pandas, or check out the new koala exhibit which has more koalas than any zoo outside of Australia.
7. You Can Touch a Freaking Whale
Skip Sea World and book a whale watching cruise. See the local dolphins get up close to the boat or in the summer, you might catch some great blue whales on migration from Alaska to Mexico.
8. Comic-Con is Nerd Nirvana
The little convention that could has turned into a massive press junket for Hollywood but still maintains its geeky roots. Didn’t get a badge? There’s plenty going on around the convention outside. And don’t forget the after parties.
9. There Are Secret Bars Worth Hunting For
Scattered through the city are some pretty amazing drinking holes, with equally great names like The Hole and The Casbah. But you’re going to have to find the rest for yourself. That’s half the fun, after all.
10. La Jolla Cove Is Pretty Much Perfect
Just a little north of downtown is La Jolla Cove, a beautiful stretch of wild life preserve with crystal clear water and warm sand. Check out the tide pools and seal/children’s beach or take a kayak tour of the sea caves. Then get some ice cream in town.
11. It’s a Great Place to Get Schooled
With three large universities and many more community colleges, SD is perfect for students looking for a combination of serious studies and some fun in the sun.
12. We Always Keep It Casual
While the entire Bay Area is running errands in their gym clothes, SD tries to make it a little more casual with their combination of flip flops, maxi dresses, and big glasses. No one’s pretending they’re going to the gym here because it’s pretty obvious they are, which brings me to number 13…
13. Hot People. Everywhere.
What do you get when you combine the military, three colleges, and beach tourism? Gorgeous, in shape eye candy running around in next to nothing for 9 months of the year.
14. It’s a Burger Boomtown
The only place I’ve had better was in South Carolina and this is pretty damn close. Hodad’s, an Ocean Beach institution since 1969, has a line down the block for a reason. Neighborhood in the East Village is packed any night of the week. And Burger Lounge offers a green burger in Hillcrest and the Gaslamp.
15. Bookstores Don’t Get Better than The Upstart Crow
It’s a bookstore and coffee shop at the ultra tourist-y Seaport Village but it’s still one of my favorite bookstores ever. There’s something to be said for spending hours combing over their shelves in the cozy two-story space and then getting a mocha to sit and read on the patio.
16. The Padres Might Not Be So Great, But the Games Are
They may not be the best team, but who cares when you’re catching a game one summer’s evening in mild weather while sitting on the grassy hill in Petco Park?
17. Balboa Park Is Huge, Green, and Magical
One of the largest urban green spaces in the country, Balboa Park is home to the San Diego Zoo as well as a number of museums, gardens, and the Rueben H. Fleet Space Center, where they do stargazing with experts the first Wednesday of every month. Don’t forget to check out the outdoor organ show, Japanese Friendship Garden, and the global village.
18. It’s a Great Place to Be a Kid
If you’re a parent, it’d be hard to beat San Diego for entertaining the kids. Between all the museums, the zoo, the parks, the beach, Sea World, and Legoland, you’re all set.
19. Coronado Island Offers a Different Kind of SEAL Watching
Coronado and San Diego go together like Oakland and Alameda. Like Manhattan and Brooklyn. It’s great to stroll through the town checking out all the houses and, of course, historical Hotel Del Coronado. But the real draw here is the wide stretch of pristine beach, where you might see a Navy SEAL or two popping out of the water.
20. Hookah Bars Are Neighborhood Fixtures
They’re everywhere! Seems like every neighborhood has their own, but Excalibur in Hillcrest is particularly fun for the fruit hookahs, and Fumari in the Gas Lamp is a great way to end a night of partying.
21. There Are a Million Ways to Get Healthy
Do you like yoga? Muay Thai boxing? Kendo? Running? Surfing? Rock Climbing? If you can think of it, they’ve got it here and everyone has a workout routine.
22. Del Mar Is Race-y
Home to the San Diego County Fair, Del Mar is perfect for kicking off summer or catching a horse race near the ocean.
23. Carlsbad Flower Fields Explode with Color
From early spring through May, you can see the fields at Carlsbad Ranch covered in glorious runiculas. I mean really, this is some impressive stuff. Like Monet’s garden kind of impressive.
24. Torrey Pines Natural Reserve Is Beautiful
Between La Jolla and Del Mar, just 20 minutes north of San Diego, is this glorious nature reserve. Enter near the beach and climb your way to the top for a fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean.
25. December Nights Come Alive
Every December, Balboa Park puts on a fantastic holiday lights display and all the museums open their doors to the public for two awesome days of holiday goodness. It’s the largest event in the city after Comic-Con, so be sure to carpool or take public transportation to avoid the parking mess.
26. Old Town Is Old Fashioned But Still Great
It’s a little hokey as most tourist attractions are, but for some amazing Mexican food and some Californian history it’s a great place to start. Check it out on Cinco de Mayo, when the whole park turns into a big party.
27. Farmers’ Markets Are Everywhere
From Tuesday to Sunday, you can find a farmers’ market in any neighborhood and each have their own flavor. Little Italy Mercato has plenty of meats to choose from while you sip your espresso on Saturday while North Park and Hillcrest, the hip towns, have a selection of tasty food trucks on Thursday and Sunday. The place to be though is Ocean Beach on Wednesdays where the vendors share space with live bands and llama rides.
28. North Park’s Hipster Scene Has to Be Seen
Yes, we have a hipster neighborhood too. Probably the most ethnically diverse neighborhood, North Park is where you go for your indie coffee shops, cute houses, and art galleries. Also, check out the North Park Music Thing in the fall on El Cajon Boulevard.
29. Tijuana Is The Happiest Place on Earth
We’re just a stone’s throw from Mexico, and specifically Tijuana. You can take a shuttle across the border for a day of shopping and strolling along the Avenida Revolucion. Plus, I hear the nightlife there is something else. Hear.
30. The Mexican Food Will Change Your Life
That proximity to the border also means that San Diego is home to some absolutely killer Mexican food. Like, the best anywhere. I personally like Lucy’s Taco Shop, but Lucha Libre and La Puerta are also to die for.