Discover San Diego: A Beginner’s Guide

By: Casey Chiotti

June 27, 2013

San Diego’s slogan “America’s Finest City” may sound a bit boastful, but with palm tree-lined beaches and an average temperature of 21.4 degrees, you may want to move here too – or at least book a holiday and discover San Diego for yourself. To make the launch of our new codeshare agreement with Delta we’ve produced a beginner’s guide to San Diego for some sun-drenched holiday inspiration…

The 8th largest city in the United States is situated on the Pacific Ocean, about two hours south of Los Angeles and 18 miles from the US-Mexico border. Explorer Juan Cabrillo first discovered San Diego Bay in 1542, but it was another 200 years before Europeans settled the area, establishing a fort and mission in what is now known as Presidio Park in 1769. San Diego became part of the U.S. in the mid 19th century, and remained a very small town until the military started establishing a presence in the 1880s due to its strategic location on the Pacific Ocean. The longest serving Naval aircraft carrier of the 20th century, the USS Midway, is now a maritime museum and can be visited in the San Diego Harbour.

San Diego Essential City Guide | Gaslamp Quarter

The entrance to the Gaslamp Quarter © John Bahu

San Diego’s vibrant nightlife scene centres around the Gaslamp Quarter, a historic downtown neighbourhood dating back to the Victorian era. At one time the area was a hub for houses of ill repute and gambling, and legendary outlaw Wyatt Earp ran three gambling halls here during the 1880s. Today, the streets around 5th and Market are lined with upscale bars and restaurants including celebrity chef Brian Malarkey’s comfort food eatery Searsucker. Other neighbourhoods, including the East Village, Little Italy, Banker’s Hill, North Park and South Park, have all seen an influx of new shops and restaurants in recent years.

Essential City Guide to San Diego | The Balboa

The Casa del Prado Theater in Balboa Park © Joanne Dibona

A visit to San Diego isn’t complete without a trip to its centre for arts and culture, Balboa Park. The 1200-acre urban-park was originally built for the World’s Fair in 1915 and houses manicured gardens, museums, theatres and the San Diego Zoo. A lawn bowling club has operated in the park since 1931. It’s fun to watch the members – all dressed in white – play on the green on the northeast side of the Cabrillo Bridge.

The Essential San Diego City Guide

Surfers near Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach © Joanne DiBona

Surfing is a popular San Diego pastime and the beach communities of Pacific Beach, Mission Beach and Ocean Beach are all worth a visit if you’d like to stroll along the boardwalk or splash in the waves. Due to its proximity to Mexico, San Diego is known for Mexican cuisine. Try Las Cuatro Milpas in Barrio Logan for extremely authentic tacos on handmade tortillas or for San Diego’s favourite dish, the fish taco, head to South Beach Bar and Grill in Ocean Beach for tacos and tostadas piled high with fresh mahi-mahi.

The Essential San Diego City Guide | Del Mar

Del Mar Race Horses at Starting Gate ©

San Diegans love sports and every summer they put on their finest and head to the racetrack in the beach community of Del Mar. Horse races run from July to September and the event also includes a summer concert series. The city is home to two major sports teams, The Chargers football team and the Padres, a major league baseball team who play at Petco Park. The state-of-the-art facility is attached to one of the city’s finest hotels, The Omni, via pedestrian skybridge.

Header photo: View of the San Diego Embarcadero and downtown © John Bahu

Our partnership means you can enjoy our award winning service on Virgin Atlantic flights to New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago and San Francisco and then travel onwards to 45 North American destinations with Delta Air Lines – earning miles every step of the way.

You’ll also be able to book direct flights from London Heathrow to Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis. Plus, you can look forward to more frequent flights from Heathrow to New York and Boston, giving you even more choice.

Have you been to San Diego recently? Where did you spend your time in town? Share your tips in the comments below.


Casey Chiotti

Casey Chiotti has a passion for food and travel. She regularly crosses the globe to experience a destination restaurant and sniffs out bakeries like a bloodhound. A freelance food and travel writer, her work has appeared in Sunset, San Diego Magazine, and on Casey lives with her husband in San Diego and shares her travel musings on her own website

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