What to do in San Diego Between Conferences

San Diego, California, may be known as a conference town, but there is so much to explore beyond the convention centre walls, from naval history attractions to Chicano street art and easily accessible green spaces. We’ve rounded up some of San Diego’s best attractions to check out between sessions, all doable within two hours or less (give or take).

Where to go hiking in San Diego

Ocean views on Torrey Pines Beach Trail A favourite for locals and travellers alike, Torrey Pines Beach Trail is an easy 3.7–kilometre hike that offers spectacular views of the Southern California coastline. Nature lovers take note: this is one of only two locations in the U.S. where you can walk among the rare Torrey pine – an endangered species of pine tree that grows in this area.

November 25, 2019
Torrey Pines Beach Trail
   Photo: Brianda Maldonado/Unsplash

The best museums in San Diego

Culture in a natural setting at Balboa Park The centrally located Balboa Park is home to 19 museums and cultural institutions ranging from automotive history to fine art. Take in the natural beauty of the park with a stroll through Palm Canyon and cool off under the shade of 58 species of palms, including a 1912 grouping of Mexican fan palms. If time permits, explore the adjacent historic cactus garden that dates back to 1935.

The Cabrillo Bridge, looking towards the California Tower, Balboa Park

Naval history at USS Midway Museum San Diego is home to the largest U.S. naval base on the west coast and visitors can soak up local history aboard the USS Midway Museum – a historic aircraft carrier that was commissioned after World War II and transported aviators, sailors and marines. Located downtown, the museum offers a variety of exhibits, from vintage World War II aircraft to flight simulators.

USS Midway Museum

Where to see Chicano street art in San Diego

Chicano street art at Chicano Park Located beneath the San Diego–Coronado Bridge, Chicano Park showcases the world’s largest collection of Chicano murals in Barrio Logan. Spread over seven acres and featuring more than 80 paintings, the park was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2017. Catch one of the cultural festivals held throughout the year or venture to the surrounding galleries, restaurants and bars.

Native Chicano street art
   Photo: Craig Steven Thrasher/Alamy

Where to eat and drink in San Diego

Tacos and guac at ¡Salud! Mexican classics like empanadas, tacos and ceviche are on the menu at ¡Salud!, a hopping neighbourhood joint in Barrio Logan. The casual locale pays homage to Northern Mexico street food with a Southern California twist. Al pastor tacos with avocado crema pair perfectly with a margarita or michelada – a Mexican beer concoction that includes shrimp shells, Tabasco, and saladitos (dried plums).

A selection of tacos and dressings from ¡Salud!

Italian takeaway at the Little Italy Food Hall Grab lunch from one of the six food stations in the Little Italy Food Hall, located on a pedestrian–only street in Little Italy. You will find a variety of take–away options, from pizza and gelato to fried gyoza and house–made dumplings. Italian focused wine and cocktails are available from the on–site bar and can be sipped alfresco on the Piazza della Famiglia.

Little Italy Food Hall
   Photo: Gensler

Fine dining at Juniper and Ivy This restaurant’s take on eclectic west–coast fine dining recently earned them a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand. From pork belly with chanterelle succotash and corn to rock cod with chorizo cioppino, executive chef Anthony Wells’ inventive dishes are expertly paired with award–winning wines. The restored 1920s warehouse has a buzzy atmosphere and the dishes are best when shared.

A dish from Juniper and Ivy
   Photo: courtesy of sandiego.org

Craft beer at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens While visiting the craft beer capital of America, stop by Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens to celebrate the city’s love of beer with 40 rotating taps. Located in historic Liberty Station, a former U.S. navy mess hall turned cultural hub, this brew pub features indoor and outdoor spaces where you can unwind with a local favourite. Short on time? Grab a growler to go from the adjoining Stone Company Store.

The interior of Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens
   Photo: courtesy of sandiego.org

A caffeine fix at James Coffee Co. Find this ultra–hip café and coffee roaster housed among the boutique shops in Space, an aptly–named retail hub in Little Italy. Pull up a stool for an espresso, pour–over or cold brew, and don’t even try to resist a Nutella Cruffin from Le Parfait Paris. Pick up a bag of their blended or single–origin beans and stock up on at–home brewing essentials at neighbouring James at Home.

The exterior of James Coffee Co.
   Photo: James Coffee Co.

Where to see sporting events in San Diego

Stadium food and team spirit at a Petco Park Even if you can’t stay to see all nine innings, pop in to catch the San Diego Padres play a home game at Petco Park, touted as the “world’s best ballpark in America’s finest city.” Root for the home team with local stadium fare, like a shrimp burrito from Lucha Libra or a pulled pork sandwich from Phil’s BBQ, rated the best barbecue joint in the city. Wash it all down with an ice–cold pint of American craft beer.

A baseball game at Petco Park
   Photo: courtesy of sandiego.org