Having moved a lot over the past few years, I've been lucky enough to explore the vast majority of the United States. Before my memories of each city and state start to blur, I am going to put together a handful of guides to my favorite places. First stop: San Diego!
Where to Eat
You cannot visit San Diego without having breakfast at Snooze. This is a very popular spot in the heart of Hillcrest, and there is always a long wait, but that is only because the food and service are incredible. You can find any and all classic breakfast/brunch foods on the menu, as well as seasonal and daily twists on traditional meals. You can also mix and match almost anything on the menu at a very reasonable price. The patio is dog friendly, the coffee is delicious...I cannot rave about this place enough!
The Little Italy Mercato Farmer's Market is one of the best farmer's markets I've ever been to. It takes place every Saturday, and there are hundreds of vendors (and hence, hundreds of free samples!) with a huge variety of produce and products. This is the place to shop souvenirs, specialty food items, groceries, and handmade jewelry and clothes. Every time someone came to visit me in San Diego, I brought them to the market for a walking Saturday lunch.
Kindred is by far my favorite dinner and cocktail spot in town. Their all-vegan menu, and ever-changing cocktail list are absolutely incredible. Kindred has won many awards since its opening: for interior design, food, and drinks. Personally, I'd rather stay home and cook a meal than go out to eat somewhere with a menu of foods I can make myself, and that's exactly why I adore this place. Good luck making your own General Tso's fried seitan nuggets! This cocktail bar-restaurant is "hardcore" themed, meaning there's usually metal flowing gently from the speakers, and the artwork and wallpaper are ever so slightly dark and twisted--in a tasteful way of course. If you're looking for an exotic meal and a unique dining atmosphere, look no further.
Where to Explore
Built in 1888, Hotel del Coronado is certainly a landmark worth visiting. Anyone can walk into the hotel and give themselves a tour, free of cost. The beach is also open to the public, but has a very private feel and is much less crowded than the majority of beaches in the area.
This place. Swami's Beach and Meditation Gardens are about 30 minutes from San Diego city limits, and so worth the drive. I used to drive out here to read in the garden or swim in the ocean and watch the surfers. The Meditation Gardens are next door to the temple, so if you want an even more relaxing and contemplative experience, you can time your visit with one of the temple's free meditation classes. In my opinion, this is by far the best beach in the area, and you'll rarely find other tourists here.
If you're a wildlife nerd like I am, you absolutely can't miss out on seeing the seals in La Jolla Cove. I used to volunteer for the local Seal Conservancy, and spent a few hours a week educating tourists about these adorable little guys. Here in the United States, there are so few places where you can observe wild animals up close like this. If you want to learn more about San Diego's seal population and/or contribute towards protecting them, check out the Seal Conservancy's website and consider making a donation. If you make it to the Cove, I also highly recommend paddleboarding, snorkeling, or kayaking--you can rent everything you need on Avenida de la Playa.
Cowle's Mountain is a perfect local hike. My favorite time to do it as at sunrise--the view of the city is incredible. This is a short, family-friendly, one mile hike. Leashed dogs are welcome too.
Where to go Out
Park & Rec is an indoor/outdoor bar tucked away in San Diego's University Heights neighborhood. There is almost always live music on the weekends, and if you just so happen to be in San Diego on the first Friday of the month, you've got to experience 90s night at Park & Rec. Local 90s cover band, The Big Lewinsky, never disappoints, trust me.
Vin de Syrah is an underground, Alice In Wonderland themed, wine bar. While I generally do my best to avoid the Gaslamp District (a haven for college kids and party-going tourists), I can always make an exception for this place. Vin de Syrah hosts all kinds of different events--from tarot readings to live music to burlesque nights--and the atmosphere is unlike anywhere I've ever been. Disclaimer: this is definitely a gals' night out spot.
Hamilton's (next door to Kindred, above) is my favorite dive-type bar in San Diego. They have an excellent, rotating selection of beer, late night snacks, and pool. Always a crowd-pleaser!
Call it a cliché, but I'm a sucker for speakeasies. The Noble Experiment is a swanky speakeasy tucked inside The Neighborhood. You need reservations to get in, which you can make by texting the number listed on their website. The Noble Experiment's talented bartenders can make you just about any cocktail you can think of--this is a perfect date night spot.
The Shout House is a dueling piano bar in the heart of San Diego's Gaslamp District. The show is driven by the audience's requests, and the pianists are unbelievably talented--seriously, they can play anything. You're guaranteed to laugh and sing your butt off at The Shout House. I recommend going on a week night, as it is usually packed on the weekends. There is no cover Monday-Wednesday, a $5 cover on Thursdays after 8 PM and Fridays before 7 PM, and a $10 cover Friday after seven, and all night Saturday. This is an awesome place to bring your family members (21+) if that's who you're traveling with!
Where to Have a Cup of Coffee
Communal Coffee is a girly girl's dream come true. This place a little off the beaten path, but worth the trek. The coffee is delicious (they serve San Francisco-based Sightglass Coffee), and the atmosphere is to die for. Nestled in the coffee shop is Native Poppy, a floral design company--in other words, the coffee shop is filled with beautiful flowers. You can expect to hear good music, browse unique, locally-made trinkets, and if you're anything like me, you'll probably grab some flowers to go.
I have endless recommendations in this city! If you want some more, please don't hesitate to reach out and tell me what you're looking for (parks, food, cocktails, coffee, hikes, gyms, music venues, etc.), I'd LOVE to help!