I can't claim to have even scratched the surface of what San Diego has to offer, but I really enjoyed my time in America's Finest City (seriously, when you google their nickname, that's what the Internet tells you). I'm recapping this trip by giving you the play-by-play of what I did each day, including activities and restaurants. A lot of my trip — from restaurants to activities to where I stayed — where based on recommendations from one of my favorite blogs, C’est Christine, who is San Diego-based. Buckle up, folks, this is going to be a long one.
Monday - Wednesday
The main purpose of my trip to San Diego was the eduWeb conference at the beginning of the week. It’s the first conference I’ve ever been to, and I think it went really well. I feel like most of the sessions were great, and I learned a fair amount. Two other coworkers from UNC were there, and I was grateful to have a couple of built-in conference buddies. We had a great dinner together at the Hotel del Coronado (a famous spot right on the ocean) on Monday night and on Wednesday we saw Tottenham play Roma in the International Champions Cup — fun San Diego things!
My first day alone in the city was, admittedly, not the best. I walked to OrangeTheory in the morning, which was just about a mile from my hotel — totally doable! Except there was a very slight incline for the entire walk, and I was sweating profusely by the time I got to the studio. And that kind of set the tone for the rest of the day. I worked remotely and was much busier than I thought I would be. I did have a phenomenal lunch at The Taco Stand — the most delicious quesadilla of my whole life.
I checked into my Airbnb in the North Park neighborhood, a very fun and trendy area, then went to the most adorable coffee shop to chill and read my book. Holy Matcha was made for millennials to Instagram it. On Thursday afternoons North Park has a neighborhood farmers market, so I perused that and bought some fruit and cheese, a kombucha, and a crystal — literally peak California. I popped in and out of a few shops, the highlight being Pigment; I could have bought everything in that store but it was soooo expensive.
I went to Sunset Cliffs to try and see the sunset and was disappointed by grey skies. I’m not going to lie — it kind of ruined my mood. I had built up this experience and then was totally disappointed, so I went back to North Park and got dinner (poké bowl), and I tucked in early to read and get a good night’s sleep.
Also known as Balboa Park Day! I took myself to breakfast and then rode a Bird scooter from the restaurant to the San Diego Zoo. It didn’t require any travel on major roads, so I felt safe doing it. Boy is it irritating that those scooters are just littered all across the sidewalks, but it was fun (and a little scary) to ride it. The zoo was crowded, hot, and fun. I saw lions, flamingos, koalas, giraffes, penguins, zebras, and more. The one thing I didn’t wait in line for was the pandas, because I spent a lot of time with them in DC and that line was long. Honestly my favorite part was the air tram they had to carry you across the zoo! I love a ferris wheel and a tram and anything with views, so the tram was a great surprise and delight.
The zoo is located within Balboa Park, and I spent the entire day wandering around, poking in the Botanical Building, the Timken Museum of Art, and the Lily Pond, and sitting outside just reading my book and watching a bubble artist play. The San Diego Museum of Art hosts a number of events throughout the year called “On the Steps of SDMA,” and there was an event this day. The museum stays open late, and this time they were highlighting their exhibition “Epic Tales from Ancient India” with Bollywood dancing and instruction, artists, textiles, pottery. The dancers taught the crowd some moves, and there were 5 year olds and 75 year olds learning how to dance — it was so cool! I also went into the museum, and while Indian art isn’t totally my thing, there was also an extremely beautiful installation “Moon Gold” by an artist named Nancy Lorenz that I loved. I kept meaning to leave to go to the beach for sunset, but I was too inspired by the park.
Look, we all know that I love SoulCycle. The Soul in San Diego is actually in La Jolla, so I had debated about whether or not it was worth Ubering all the way out there for one class. Then, lo and behold, I get a text from a friend from college I hadn’t seen in awhile asking me for advice on SoulCycle. She was doing an away rotation in med school and wanted to try it out this weekend in — you guessed it — San Diego!! I met Nelly at Soul and we got brunch afterwards, and I can’t even tell you how wonderful it was to catch up with her.
After a leisurely brunch, I zoomed back to San Diego to change my clothes and head to my sunset sail. I love boats and being on the water and figured this was the perfect early birthday gift to myself. We had no wind and there was not a dramatic sunset, but it was still a perfect way to spend an evening. I also met two lovely women who were there to celebrate one of their birthdays. They invited me to go to dinner with them afterwards, and we had steak and drank lots of wine. It’s exactly the adventure I imagined when I thought about solo travel.
I woke up early naturally on Sunday and took a lazy and lovely morning. I read in bed; I read on the balcony; I read by the pool. It was cozy and relaxing, the perfect “final vacation” day. I stayed at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina and would absolutely recommend it; I was upgraded for free (first time that has ever happened, can we please make it a pattern, universe?) and had a gorgeous marina view. The afternoon was a real highlight of the trip when I went to see the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus perform their show “ABBA’s Greatest Hits.” I cannot emphasize how much fun it was. Joyful, colorful, fanciful, musical. After seeing Mamma Mia 2 earlier in the week, it just continued the ABBA fun. With one last dinner and ice cream flight (this one from Salt & Straw, which I would like to move into), my time in San Diego came to a close. Back into comfy clothes and on a red eye back to North Carolina.
San Diego was so great, and it was the perfect place to go as a first-time solo traveler. I think the major drawback is how freaking expensive it is, especially if you don’t have anyone to share meals with and you want to try lots of different things. But if you bring a good book and are ready to eat and drink your way through a very charming city, you will love San Diego as much as I did.