San Diego is like that fun uncle who grew older but not up. Taco shops, gorgeous beaches, sunny days and a fresh attitude are all mainstays of this once sleepy Navy town. The years have been kind to San Diego and a surge in growth over the last two decades has added a sparkling skyline, swanky night clubs and some of the country’s best craft breweries to an already lengthy list of things to do in America’s Finest City. These eight experiences will give you a taste of what San Diego has to offer and keep you stoked long after your tan fades away.
At the southern tip of Point Loma is the Cabrillo National Monument. The site commemorates the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay in 1542. Visitors to the park are greeted with a 360-degree view that encompasses San Diego harbor and downtown, Coronado, and, on clear days, Tijuana and the Coronado Islands. During winter months, migrating Pacific gray whales can be seen from the park. In addition to the visitor center, the park also features the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which is now a museum.
Named as one of America’s best beer towns by Men’s Journal, San Diego boasts 78 craft breweries with nearly two dozen more expected by the time the ball drops on 2015. In fact, there is so much good beer flowing through San Diego neighborhoods that you could literally spend your entire vacation bouncing from one tasting to the next. For those who don’t have that luxury, check out Pizza Port, Coronado Brewing Company, Ballast Point, Stone Brewing or newcomer BNS Brewing and Distilling.
At its core San Diego as always been about beach culture, so it should be no surprise that some of the world’s best skateboarders call San Diego home. I’m talking about Tony Hawk, Mike McGill, Bucky Lasek and Bob Burnquist, just to name a few. When the city ran into financial trouble in the late-2000s, it could no longer afford to staff its relatively new skateparks, so the city waived admission fees and now the city’s five parks are free for everyone.
Whether it’s your first or 100th time crossing the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, you’ll be hard pressed not to crack a smile as you cruise along the curve of this engineering masterpiece. Referred to locally as the Coronado Bridge, the bridge was designed to be high enough for all U.S. Navy ships to be able to pass under. With minimal railings on either side, a drive across the bridge provides phenomenal views of either side of the bay, and if you are traveling west into Coronado, you’ll also be able to catch your first glimpse of the historic Hotel Del Coronado.
Torrey Pines State Reserve rises 300 feet above the beach below and provides some of the best views in San Diego. A network of trails on the sandstone bluffs weave through Torrey Pines, a rare tree found in only one other place in the world. The trails are suitable for hikers of all skill level and offer postcard panoramas of the coastline. And if the wind is right, you’ll be treated to a sky full of colorful hang gliders flying overhead from the Torrey Pines Gliderport.
San Diego’s crown jewel also happens to be the nation’s largest cultural park. The Spanish-style buildings were born out of two world’s fairs (1915 and 1935) and now provide the perfect space for Balboa Park’s 15 museums. The park also features gardens, theaters, trails, a disc golf course, and is home to the San Diego Zoo. On Sundays, a free concert is held at the historic Spreckles Organ.
Tee off at one of the best golf courses in the world. Set on the steep coastal cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Torrey Pines Golf Course offers two public championship 18-hole golf courses. In addition to hosting the U.S. Open, each January the top golfers from around the world come to San Diego to play Torrey Pines at the PGA Tour’s Farmer Insurance open.
Nothing screams 70s California like a good nude beach. In San Diego, if you want to bare it all then there’s only one place to go: Black’s Beach. Designated as the United States’ largest nude beach, Black’s Beach is located below the high sea cliffs of Torrey Pines State Reserve. If you plan to go sans clothing, it is important to remember that only the state park side of Black’s Beach is nude friendly; in the city section—south of the trial head to the Torrey Pines Glider Port—nudity is illegal.