1. Farmers’ Markets
We always love farmers’ markets (they are concentrated areas of free samples) but the ones in San Diego are just especially delectable. You can actually find fresh and local produce in an assortment of neighborhoods almost every day of the week. We visited two during our weekend stay: the Little Italy Mercato and the Hillcrest Farmers’ Market. The market in Little Italy is by far the most famous farmers’ market San Diego has to offer. Many of the cruise ships that dock in the local harbor bring their cruising guests to the market; with live music, produce, flowers and food, it has a ton to offer. The Hillcrest market is a smaller neighborhood market with many of the same products as its larger counterpart. What we loved most about both the markets were the numerous stalls of foreign food you could pick up for lunch. We had pad thai the first day and chana masala the second. Nothing like good cart food cooked right in front of your face!
2. The Big Bay
The Big Bay is 34 miles of waterfront alongside San Diego’s Harbor. The scenic walkway has plenty of shops and restaurants to explore along with numerous bicyclists haggling to take you a few miles down the harbor for a ‘mere’ $20. We spent a full afternoon people-watching and enjoying a small stretch of the extensive harbor.
3. Balboa Park
This park made me feel as if I was in Spain again (probably due to that fact that one of the gardens was modeled after the Alcazar in Sevilla and the buildings were constructed using Spanish-Renaissance architecture). Of course, I absolutely loved it! The 1,000 acres of urban park provide countless entertainment opportunities including 15 museums, the San Diego Zoo and the world’s largest outdoor organ. You can also find gardens with names such as the Australian Garden and the Japanese Friendship Garden which represent the ethnic diversity inherent to the population of San Diego. Another super cool aspect of the park is the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages. Each of the 32 cottages represents a different country, and together they promote global education and understanding. On Sundays at 2:00pm each cottage takes a turn providing lawn entertainment and illustrating their particular culture. During our visit it was the Philippines’ turn, so we watched as they sang their national anthem, talked of their history in San Diego and cooked ethnic food. Of course, the other cottages were also open, offering the public a chance to explore their history as well.
4. Black’s Beach
Our awesome host recommended this gorgeous beach to us, so we knew it had to be good! Located around La Jolla—a ritzy beach neighborhood—Black’s Beach is only accessible after a slightly treacherous hike down a cliff. But once you make it to the bottom, the views are extraordinary. Above you can see colorful paragliders flying out above the expanse of the Pacific Ocean. The cliffs shelter you from the road above and invoke the feeling of a secluded island. But be aware, the seclusion comes with a price. This beach is also known as one of the best nudist beaches, so it is likely you will see a few people dawning only their birthday suit.
5. Gaslamp Quarter
This 16 block historic district is home to restaurants, boutiques, art galleries and nightclubs. Most of the buildings were constructed during the Victorian Era, and recent renovation has made them even more inviting than ever. The name ‘Gaslamp’ is actually fairly new (it accompanied the renovation in the 80’s and 90’s) and is a reference to San Diego’s gas lamps that once lit the entire city.
6. Stuff is Free!!
San Diego has the reputation of being a very expensive city. And if you are living there, it probably is. But San Diego also has a ton of stuff to just walk around and see—for free!! Other than our lunches at the Farmers’ Markets (which were only $7 total for the two of us to eat more than our fill) we didn’t spend any money enjoying all the activities above.