Illustration by Josie Portillo
The awesome thing about San Diego is that it offers so many different vacation experiences: stretches of perfect southern California beach, a surfeit of family-friendly attractions, and picturesque, walkable waterfront. Knowing what kind of trip you're looking for can help you determine where to stay and how to apportion your time. Unsure when to go? Don't sweat it. San Diego's climate is welcoming year-round (though May and June can be foggy, and drizzle isn't unknown in December and January). If you can manage a trip in October, you'll find that many of the city's best attractions, including the zoo and the Air & Space Museum, have kids-free policies all month (check individual venues for information).
Where to Stay:
Beaching it? Bunk down in the classic SoCal beach towns of La Jolla or Encinitas, or the family-friendly Coronado neighborhood. For an urban vibe, well-priced hotels, and easy access to the waterfront and Balboa Park, stay downtown. Great vistas abound in Mission Beach and Mission Bay (both a short hop to SeaWorld), where you can now cycle the entire 14-mile perimeter of Mission Bay Park, thanks to a new bike and pedestrian bridge.
The San Diego Trolley (sdmts.com) is fun and can transport you around the core of the city, but to really experience spread- out San Diego, you'll need a car.
Where to Eat:
For sheer variety, the restaurants on University Avenue in Hillcrest (including the 1950s-themed Corvette Diner) are unmatched. Fans of locally grown, organic produce will find it in many of the welcoming eateries in North and South Park. Where's the pasta? In Little Italy, of course. And nearly 60 different food trucks serve everything from sushi to patty melts all around the city (sdfoodtrucks.com). Want to eat like a San Diegan? "You can't come to SoCal and not have fish tacos," says native Amy Maikkula, who recommends Roberto's (a local chain with locations across San Diego).