San Diego City Guide

San Diego is the second largest city in California, home to around 1.3 million people. The city is located on the Pacific coast in Southern California, and is indeed known for its close proximity to the Mexican border and the city of Tijuana. There’s plenty to see and do in San Diego, with stunning beaches, nightlife, lots of history and a nice  warm southern Californian climate. San Diego is known for having a slower, more relaxed pace of life than you would normally expect from a city of its size, and can provide a nice break from the hustle bustle of other large cities like Los Angeles.

San Diego Skyline

San Diego Skyline from Coronado Island

San Diego Climate

Thanks to the fact that it is situated in Southern California, San Diego can be a great place to visit at any time of year. The weather is usually very nice, with low humidity and sunny days. However, the temperature can vary significantly with temperature increases of as much as one degree fahrenheit for every mile travelled east.  It is normally recommended to avoid May or June if you are looking for particularly sunny weather, as these months can be very cloudy on some days. The phenomenon is quite often referred to as “May Grey” or “June Gloom” by the locals. September is normally the warmest warmest month of the year with temperatures regularly hitting 80 degrees (27 degrees celsius). Being the warmer months of the year, September and October can be particularly susceptible to wildfires due to the lack of rainfall during this period. Coastal areas such as beaches can still get surprisingly cool after dark, even during the warmer months when it is noticeably warmer further inland. It is also not unusual to see between 3 and 7 foggy days per month.

Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Average Daily highs °F (°C) 63 (17.2) 62 (16.7) 64 (17.8) 65 (18.3) 66 (18.9) 68 (20) 76 (24.4) 80 (26.7) 80 (26.7) 75 (23.9) 73 (22.8) 70 (21.1)
Average Nightly lows °F (°C) 46 (7.8) 51 (10.6) 54 (12.2) 56 (13.3) 60 (15.6) 63 (17.2) 66 (18.9) 70 (21.1) 66 (18.9) 61 (16.1) 54 (12.2) 49 (9.4)
Precipitation inches (mm) 2 (50.8) 2 (50.8) 2 (50.8) 1 (25.4) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1 (25.4) 1 (25.4)

Getting to San Diego

San Diego International Airport is located a mere ten minutes away from downtown San Diego itself and provides a quick way into the city. The descent into this particular airport can appear a little worrying to first time visitors as  planes seem to pass fairly close to the tall buildings of downtown. Although the airport is international. the majority of flights served are domestic. International flights going in and out of the airport mainly go to Canada and Mexico, although there is one daily flight operated by British Airways to London Heathrow and one flight operated by Japan Airlines to Narita in Tokyo. Apart from these few flights, most other international visitors are likely to travel through Los Angeles or San Francisco, as these airports cater for far more destinations around the world. San Diego county also has another airport (McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad) that has operations by just one airline, United Express, providing a commuter type service to Los Angeles. Slightly further afield is Tijuana International Airport in Mexico. Although this is in relatively close proximity to San Diego, many passengers prefer to travel through Los Angeles or San Francisco due to the hassles that can come with entering the United States via Mexico.

La Jolla

La Jolla

Things to See and Do in San Diego

If you are visiting multiple attractions whilst in the city, then be sure to consider picking up a discount pass/card in order to get admission at a discounted rate:

Go San Diego Card – This grants you admission into 46 different attractions in the area including popular ones such as Sea World, San Diego Zoo, Legoland and Universal. The pass can be purchased for use from 1 day through to 7 days.

Southern California City Pass – This pass give you a day’s access each at San Diego Zoo, Seaworld and Universal Studios Hollywood, along with a 3 day ticket for Disneyland.

Balboa Park – Visiting Balboa Park can be a great way to spend a day as it features many sights and attractions including museums, gardens, parks, a clock tower and Neo-Classical Spanish architecture.

San Diego Zoo – One of the largest and most famous Zoos in the world, San Diego Zoo is situated in Balboa Park and houses over 3,700 animals from more than 650 species in its 100 acres of displays. There are plenty of animal shows to see too and a full day is required if you really want to make it worthwhile and do it justice. There are some really rare and unusual animals here so it is definitely worth a look. San Diego Zoo also has a sister park, San Diego Zoo Safari Park (previously called Wild Animal Park) which is located around 30 miles north of San Diego just outside Escondido. This is a massive park with 1800 acres to explore.

The San Diego Zoo Entrance

The San Diego Zoo Entrance

La Jolla – This is an upmarket coastal area of San Diego, with beautiful beaches and secluded coves to explore. It features plenty of restaurants, coffee shops and high end shopping outlets, catering for those with more expensive taste.

Sea World – This needs no introduction really, we’re sure you will know all about it. Home of the famous “Shamu” killer whale and a whole host of other aquatic creatures, Sea World gives visitors a chance to interact with the animals and learn to understand about the creatures that inhabit the world’s oceans. The park offers many shows, displays and attractions that will keep you entertained for a full day or more.

Point Loma – Offers high vantage points where visitors can get stunning views of the Naval Air Station, Coronado Bridge, downtown San Diego and also the distant mountains. If you fancy a short walk, the Point Loma Lighthouse is not far away and offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean at Sunset.

Downtown San Diego – This is the urban city center with plenty for tourists including shopping, restaurants and nightlife.

USS Midway – This certainly can’t be missed when walking though the harbour, and was a former aircraft carrier for the US Navy. It is now open to the public for tours and offers a fantastic insight into life aboard a US Navy aircraft carrier. The flight deck features an array of ex navy aircraft that are available to see.

San Diego Maritime Museum – An interesting museum that houses a collection of 19th century sailing ships, including the Star of India. It also features a steam ferryboat and an attack submarine that came from the Soviet Union.

Hotel Del Coronado – A beautiful hotel that is located in Coronado by the beach and was constructed toward the end of the 1800’s. The hotel features high class shops and service.

Old Town – This part of the city includes plenty of shopping and restaurants, as well as preserved buildings of Spanish Heritage and from the Old West.

Sports Teams in San Diego

San Diego Chargers – San Diego’s professional football team play in the huge Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley (near the intersection of I-15 and I-8). Tickets typically range from $54 to $92.

San Diego Padres – The Padres are a Major League Baseball side that play at PETCO Park, located in downtown San Diego. Ticket prices vary from as low as $5 right up to $60.

San Diego State University Aztecs – The college has a baseball team, football team and a basketball team, with the football team playing at Qualcomm Stadium, the basketball team at the Viejas Arena on campus, and the baseball team at the Tony Gwynn Stadium also on campus.

University of San Diego Toreros – The Toreros also have a college teams for basketball, football and baseball with playing facilities located on campus.

The USS Midway in San Diego

The USS Midway in San Diego

Shopping in San Diego

The city has various major shopping malls and centers with the most popular of these being Fashion Valley and Westfield Mission Valley, both located in the Mission Valley area, and Horton Plaza, situated in downtown. There is also another Westfield that can be found in La Jolla. There are also plenty of smaller shops and boutiques that can be found throughout the city in places like downtown and also coastal areas and beach neighborhoods such as La Jolla and Ocean Beach.

Food and Drink

As with any large city, San Diego has plenty of restaurants that cater for almost all types of world cuisine at least somewhere in the city.  There are also well known restaurant chains found in all districts of the city.

San Diego also has a very popular craft brewing scene so is perfect for those who have a love of beer. There are plenty of micro breweries producing a wide range of beers that you can try, making the city a top US destination for beer lovers. Bear in mind that bars and clubs are only allowed to sell alcohol up to 2am, although some may stay open for a little while after this.

The Skyfari in San Diego Zoo

The Skyfari in San Diego Zoo

Mexico and Tijuana

With its close proximity to the border, San Diego has become a natural crossing point for those wishing to make a trip across the border to Mexico, with Tijuana being the closest city to the border. Tijuana can indeed be reached by public transport and a trolley ride takes around 45 minutes from downtown San Diego to the border. Once you cross the border, it takes around 20 minutes to walk to the main shopping district in Tijuana, or only around 5 minutes in a cab. If you are driving, particularly if it is a rental car, it may be worth parking up before the border and walking across. This saves you unnecessary hassles of having to buy Mexican insurance (which will be required).