From Coronado to La Jolla, San Diego is another SoCal spot worth the jaunt.
Often overshadowed by its golden state cousins to the north, San Diego seems quite content to simply go with the mellow flow. Unplugged from the frantic, frenzied pace you’d expect of the nation’s eighth-largest city, this 4,269-square-mile canvas of possibilities is painted with more than 100 colorful, distinctive neighborhoods.
To wrap our minds around this big chill, we just add water. While cruising at sunset aboard a private yacht from Loews Coronado Bay Resort, we tune into how San Diego Bay reflects the skyline of a city that has managed to remain genuine rather than superficial.
Along the Embarcadero, we eye endless sailboats—an armada of historic vessels that collectively comprise the Maritime Museum of San Diego and the USS Midway that still garners salutes from veterans.
A seedy red-light district swarming with Chinese opium dens, brothels and gambling halls in the late 1800s, downtown’s former Stingaree was scrubbed and polished to make way for the lively Gaslamp Quarter. While the 16.5 blocks are now a hotbed of galleries, eateries and music venues, Victorian-Era architecture, brick sidewalks and lighting help preserve the historic mood.
As with Hawai`i’s pineapple plantations, San Diego’s once-thriving tuna industry drew immigrants from across the globe in the 1910s. You’ll find remnants of this legacy in pocket communities like Little Italy and Point Loma’s Roseville, which was settled by Portuguese fishermen and boat owners.
And then there’s the La Jolla, Del Mar and Solana Beach trio–those quintessential coastal villages merging highfalutin’ zip codes with smooth attitudes.
What’s most enchanting about this diverse SoCal destination is that the longer we explore its treasures, the more new jewels we discover.
Rest assured that San Diego’s mother lode of accommodations has you covered from reserved to ritzy. Affectionately dubbed “Th e Pink Lady” for its rosy, stucco exterior, the legendary La Valencia Hotel (lavalencia.com) shares more than common color with Waikiki’s Royal Hawaiian Hotel. A celebrity haunt since debuting above La Jolla Cove in 1926, this 114-room haven also ushered in a new era of glam travel.
Prepare to relax in sophisticated style. Vintage, Classic, Villa and Icon rooms are embellished with 300-count imported bed linens, down comforters, Keurig coffee makers, spa robes and posh toiletries. After charming you with classic touches, this 90-year-old Grand Dame skews modern at Café la Rue, a people-watching bistro adorned with terrazzo floors, Venetian plaster ceilings and glass enclosed wine vault.
Home to Del Mar Racetrack’s swanky Opening Day After-Party, AAA Four Diamond L’Auberge Del Mar (laubergedelmar.com) balances beach casual with upscale elegance. Reminiscent of a private coastal estate, the 171-room getaway is perched on five gracefully landscaped acres with a pathway to one of SoCal’s top beaches.
West Coast chic accommodations–including seven spacious suites recently redesigned by Barclay Butera–raise the bar with balconies or patios and cozy fireplaces in select categories. Spa L’Auberge’s “wellness by the sea” approach plays out with open-air relaxation areas and a warming fire pit.
On a private peninsula flanked by Coronado Bay and the Pacific, Loews Coronado Bay Resort (loewshotels.com) dazzles with 439 sea-inspired guestrooms and suites. Multi-generational appeal spans from a kids club, Coronado Surfing Academy for tweeners to adults, and Silver Strand State Beach for beachcombing diehards.
Edging the high-pulse Gaslamp Quarter, AAA Four Diamond Andaz San Diego (sandiego.andaz.hyatt.com) twists tony by balancing modern and classic genres. Reflecting its Hindi moniker—meaning, “your personal style”—the boutique urban retreat walks the talk with evening wine tasting.
Sleek, stylish accommodations are decked out with glassed enclosed showers, workstations, separate sitting areas and select complimentary snacks/beverages, replenished daily. Maxing the glam factor, each Andaz Cabana Suites’ private balcony leads to the oh-so chic RoofTop600 lounge via a spiral staircase.
TO DINE FOR
With imaginative posh nosh cropping up in every conceivable nook and cranny, San Diego hits foodie nirvana.
Helmed by executive chef Richard Blais of Top Chef All-Stars fame, Juniper & Ivy (juniperandivy.com) has debuted its “refined American food with a left coast edge” in a converted 1920s saw tooth warehouse skirting Little Italy. The whimsical, evolving menu puts seasonal spins on staples like barbeque carrots with jalapeño chimichurri and pickled apricot purée, butternut squash agnolotti and San Diego chicken with brie bread pudding.
Executive chef/partner Deborah Scott garnishes her trendsetting Cohen Restaurant Group with Harbor Island haute spots where scenery serves as dessert. Sharing a stilt-supported structure extending over San Diego Bay, C Level and Island Prime (cohenrestaurants.com) are akin to a dinner cruise setting without the motion. Th e latter satiates with traditional, offbeat selections, like prime Kansas City strip, Superior Farms’ mustard-rubbed rack of lamb and cedar plank salmon.
Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa’s Mustang & Burros (estancialajolla.com) heats up evening soirée with the warm glow of a large brick fireplace in its Rancho-inspired dining room and patio. The hefty, small-plate menu brims with Southwestern-infused bites changing with the seasons. Vino aficionados can stir in pairings and crafted cocktails at intimate Trinitas Cellars Wine Bar.
It’s only fitting that AAA Five Diamond Fairmont Grand Del Mar garners that same stellar status for Addison (addisondelmar.com). Chef William Bradley’s artisanal approach tastefully merges local ingredients with French influences in a setting that defines opulence. The splurge-worthy Chef’s Tasting Menu elevates fine dining in a multi-course masterpiece showcasing the resident Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef’s flair.
RAISE THE BAR
If you’re into spirits in the sky, San Diego’s rooftop and al fresco libation locations deliver a smoking-hot vibe where everyone feels cool.
Andaz keeps it sultry at RoofTop600 (rooftop600.com), a hipster hangout where Thursday-through-Saturday velvet rope affairs are coveted for oversized fire pit lounging areas, massive day beds and VIP bottle-service cabanas. Sustainability centric mixologists merge locally distilled spirits, farm-sourced produce and herbs from the rooftop garden.
Perched on the 22nd floor of San Diego Gaslamp Marriott, Altitude Sky Lounge (sandiegogaslamphotel.com) becomes an even bigger hit during Major League Baseball season. You’ll hear the crack of a bat as fans cheer on the Padres playing at PETCO Park below. Post game, the mood swings to chill for socializing on couches and cluster seating.
Crowning a Banker’s Hill skyscraper near Balboa Park, Mr. A’s (asrestaurant.com) outdoor, wrap-around terrace mesmerizes with bird’s-eye and chicken-skin views of aircraft on final approach to San Diego International Airport’s solo runway. Toast the landing with signature concoctions, like the heavenly A’s French 75 fusing barrel aged gin and fresh lemon with Champagne.
George’s at the Cove (georgesatthecove.com) swaggers with glorious La Jolla sunsets, inventive cuisine and a vibe that’s restrained without being stuffy. Spirits run amok with house-infused vodkas, handcrafted margaritas and “homegrown” brews from Alesmith, Benchmark and Stone.
With a staggering 115 breweries and counting, San Diego’s hot spots are downright intoxicating. Sharing this suds scene dominated by West Coast IPAs, Brew Hop (brewhop.com) customizes liquid marathons with luxe Navigator transport to high profilers like Stone, Green Flash and Mission Brewing.
Good times also flow with Temecula Valley’s flourishing vino scene, an hour from Downtown San Diego. Oenophiles can swirl and sip a grand cru or two at Callaway Vineyard & Winery, Hart Family Winery and Stuart Cellars. Th ornton Winery adds mood music May through October with its Champagne Jazz Series.
If you’re thirsting for culture, Balboa Park enamors with “Smithsonian of the West” architecture, monuments, museums and gardens. Home to a Summer Shakespeare Festival, Old Globe Theatre (theoldglobe.org) garners Tony Award-winning status in tandem with La Jolla Playhouse. Among Broadway biggies originating in “America’s Finest City” are The Who’s Tommy, Memphis, Jersey Boys, Jesus Christ Superstar and Bonnie and Clyde.
A sure bet for a see-and-be-seen scene, hightail it to Del Mar Racetrack (dmtc.com). From the moment Bing Crosby collected the first ticket at the turnstile in 1937, this “surf meets the turf ” site became a swank playground for the rich and famous. Aside from Opening Day’s outlandish hat antics, the thorough-breds truly steal the show from mid-July through Labor Day Weekend. Adding to the action, fall’s five-week Bing Cosby Season lets you graze and gawk during Sunday’s Bing+Bubbles+Brunch in the exclusive Turf Club. Brace yourself for plenty of cheers!