City break (noun): a short holiday spent in a city, such as when on business travel.
Before there was bleisure travel, there was the city break—the short space of leisure time that grants you access to the cultural and culinary amenities that big cities offer. In this series from TripIt, we explore some of the world’s best cities for planning a quick getaway or extending a work trip.
Here are our tips for making the most of your city break in San Diego.
Where to fly in
Located a quick three miles from downtown San Diego, San Diego International Airport (SAN) serves as the main airport for the city.
Once on the ground, a taxi or shuttle is a quick and easy way to get to your destination. Both can be found outside of each terminal. Alternatively, Lyft and Uber are available from SAN. A wide range of rental car agencies are also available both at the airport’s Rental Car Center and off-site.
Where to stay during your city break
Good news for travelers craving a bit of luxury—you’re spoiled for choice in San Diego. For starters, consider a stay at the iconic Hotel del Coronado. Built in 1888 and frequented by stars like Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe, Hotel del Coronado is ideally situated along the Pacific coastline and offers luxurious accommodations, first-class amenities, and exceptional service.
Modern amenities more your style? The 5-star Pendry San Diego, located in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter, has six on-site bars and restaurants, an aptly named Spa Pendry, a rooftop pool and lounge, and even a beer hall.
If you’re all about location, the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego is perfectly situated in Downtown San Diego, close to both the San Diego Convention Center and popular tourist attractions. We recommend ending your work day at the Top of Hyatt Lounge and Bar—the hotel’s 40th floor rooftop bar with views of San Diego Bay.
Andaz San Diego offers a unique guest experience in its Lounge—a dedicated lobby space for guests to relax, get some work done, or catch up with a client. Located in the Gaslamp Quarter, this hotel is also well-situated for business travelers attending an event at the Convention Center or Petco Park.
In need of event space? The Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter offers 10,000 square feet of event facilities. Amenities also include a 24-hour fitness center, outdoor pool, and on-site restaurant offering innovative California cuisine.
How to get around
There are four Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) trolley lines that service the downtown San Diego communities and beyond: UC San Diego Blue, Orange, Sycuan Green and SDG&E Silver. Trolleys run every seven minutes during peak hours and every 30 minutes during off-peak hours.
If you're staying in Southern San Diego, Downtown, or Mission Valley, the trolley is a convenient way to get to places like the Santa Fe Depot and the San Diego Convention Center. Before you board, simply download the PRONTO app to purchase a one-way or one-day pass right from your smartphone. One-way PRONTO card tickets are also available at all trolley stations.
If you prefer a faster mode of transport, hailing a cab, Uber or Lyft is likely your best option for getting around San Diego in a jiffy. Or if you prefer to traverse the city at your own pace, renting a car is a great option, as well.
Pro tip: Use TripIt’s Navigator feature to search transportation options available to you. It will show you the estimated costs and travel times for each option, so you can decide which works best. You can find Navigator within your flight, hotel and rental car details screens. Plus, if you add a restaurant reservation to your itinerary (more on where to eat below), Navigator also helps you find the best transportation options for getting to your table.
Where to eat
Food festivals. Top Chefs. Urban wineries. Farmers markets. What do all of these things have in common? They’re all found in San Diego’s Little Italy—and exactly where you should head at least once during your trip (or every day, if you’re so inclined!). Little Italy’s Kettner Boulevard is home to hot spots like Juniper & Ivy, Kettner Exchange, and Herb & Wood. You’ll also find authentic Italian eateries lining India Street, including Born & Raised.
Craving Mexican food? Choose from authentic spots like Lucha Libre (multiple locations), Las Cuatro Milpas (Logan Heights), and Puesto (multiple locations).
Looking for casual dining with beachfront views? Head to Poseidon's or Jake’s Del Mar—both are located on the beach in Del Mar and serve delicious seafood.
For breakfast, The Cottage in La Jolla and Broken Yolk with locations in Downtown and Pacific Beach are great options. Just need a cup of joe? Coffee and Tea Collective has two great locations in North Park and East Village. You could also swing by Communal Coffee, a combo coffee and flower shop with locations in North Park and South Park.
What to do on your city break
Looking to get some sightseeing in while you’re in town? Rent a Pedego electric bike and pedal your way around the city’s landmarks. First, head to Balboa Park—a beautiful, 1,000 acre park home to 15 museums, botanical gardens, and the San Diego Zoo. Then, make your way to the historic Gaslamp Quarter—San Diego’s epicenter for art galleries, trendy boutiques, rooftop bars, gastropubs, and fine dining restaurants. Old Town, Coronado, Liberty Station and Harbor & Shelter Islands are all within biking distance, as well.
If you’re visiting San Diego during baseball season, be sure to catch a Padres game at Petco Park. More interested in the social aspect of the game (read: beer over baseball)? The area surrounding Petco Park offers loads of great places to grab a drink or bite to eat both before and after games at places like Mission Brewery and East Village Tavern and Bowl.
Of course, there are plenty of kid-friendly things to do, too. Start your day at the San Diego Zoo, then head to The New Children’s Museum for a hands-on art experience. Families will also love learning about San Diego’s maritime heritage at the USS Midway Museum and the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
Adults only? By day, visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, or for retail therapy, head to the shops of Seaport Village. By night, visit the East Village, a revitalized warehouse district now known for its vibrant nightlife, cafes, and craft beer bars.
Note: As cities reopen around the world, be sure to consult and adhere to all local guidelines and travel restrictions, as they vary widely and will continue to change. One way to stay on top of changing guidelines is to consult the COVID-19 travel guidance feature in the TripIt app for destination-specific information, including current infection rates, quarantine rules upon arrival, testing requirements, and other information you need to know before visiting the area.