Perfect Day in San Diego

Pacific Coast Highway Travel suggests how to spend the perfect day in San Diego, taking in Balboa Park, the Gaslight Quarter, and Little Italy.

There are dozens of ways to spend the perfect day in San Diego, and none of them would disappoint, but here's one suggestion from us. It'll be a long day, a full day, but a very satisfying day.

San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa ParkSan Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park

Perfect Morning in San Diego

Nothing sets you up for the day like a good breakfast, so head to one of the best eating places in San Diego: Café 21. Their University Heights location at 2736 Adams Avenue is just a few minutes from your next destination, Balboa Park, and they open at 8am so get in there for an early start. They do breakfast classics but also some unique options - hard to beat their Tiramisu Pancake!

From there it's a seven-minute drive to Balboa Park, and here you could do as much as you can, depending on your interests. You can simply stroll around and enjoy the various gardens, you can spend some time in San Diego Zoo, or you can visit one of the many museums.

A Tiger in San Diego ZooA Tiger in San Diego Zoo

A morning isn't nearly enough. It would take you at least a week to see everything that Balboa Park has to offer, but if you only have a day, you need to at least see it. Read more on our page about Visiting Balboa Park.

Lunch

A Burger at the Crack Shack Restaurant in San DiegoA Burger at the Crack Shack in San Diego

From Balboa Park it's only a few minutes' drive to get down to our perfect lunch choice: The Crack Shack. Those folks in the south might think they have the monopoly on fried chicken, but wait till you taste the California Fried Chicken at this place. They have plenty of other options but... just ignore them. The outdoor seating area is also perfect for soaking up the California sun.

Perfect Afternoon in San Diego

A ten-minute drive from The Crack Shack is our afternoon suggestion, the USS Midway Museum, located at the Navy Pier. Explore the aircraft carrier turned museum and learn about its history and the role it played in the US Navy.

USS Midway Museum in San DiegoUSS Midway Museum in San Diego

If you have time, take a stroll along the Embarcadero, a waterfront area with shops, restaurants, and beautiful views of the bay. You can also visit the Maritime Museum of San Diego to see historic ships.

See our page on the Best Museums in San Diego, which has more information on both these museums, which are about a ten-minute walk away from each other

Late Afternoon

Head to the Gaslamp Quarter, a lively neighborhood known for its nightlife, restaurants, and entertainment. Just take a walk around the streets, which are lined with Victorian-era buildings, explore the shops, and enjoy a pre-dinner drink as a reward.

A personal favorite place is Henry's Pub on Fifth Avenue.

Our Pick of San Diego Guides

Fodor-San-Diego-Travel-Guide-2023.png

Perfect Evening in San Diego

End your perfect San Diego day with dinner in Little Italy, San Diego's best culinary district. There are plenty of excellent restaurants to choose from, ranging from cozy Italian trattorias to trendy seafood eateries. Be sure to save room for gelato or cannoli for dessert!

The Juniper & Ivy Restaurant in San DiegoThe Juniper & Ivy Restaurant in San Diego

Some of our favorite places include Ironside Fish & Oyster, Juniper & Ivy, and Herb & Wood. See also our page on Where to Eat in San Diego.

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    San Diego Zoo

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