Normally, we’d remind you about San Diego’s perfect weather, its beautiful beaches, the best Mexican restaurants that serve the best California burrito, and all of the amazing places to visit in this beach town, but these are different times. The pandemic has shut down a lot of businesses, implemented curfews, and put a ton of our favorite activities on pause. However, some activities are back open and restaurants have pivoted to takeout.
If you’ve been able to get vaccinated, the CDC says you are able to travel to select areas. Planning a trip to California? Here’s our guide to the best things you can still eat, see, and do in San Diego, California.
Where to Stay
We’ve selected our three favorite places to stay in San Diego based on neighborhood surroundings, design, amenities, and attention to detail when you’re traveling around this 2021.
Best Luxury: The US Grant, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Diego
The US Grant was built by Ulysses S. Grant’s son in 1910 to honor his father. Thousands of people flocked from across the region to take part in the opening ceremonies of this untold luxury hotel. That’s not all the history that lies behind this hotel. It was home to a speakeasy during the Prohibition of the 1920s, and in 1969, women staged a ‘lunch-in’ at the hotel’s restaurant to protest its ‘men only’ rule. By the 1980s, there was talk of tearing the building down to make way for new development in the city, but it was ultimately renovated in 2017, preserving its All-American style with a continental twist. The hotel’s legacy has captivated famous men like Charlie Chaplin, Woodrow Wilson, and Albert Einstein. Make sure to follow the hotel’s safety protocols that were put in place due to the pandemic.
Price: From $208/night
- Time: 5 minutes by car
- Distance: 3.2 miles
Best Classic: The Guild Hotel, San Diego, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel
As the number of military bases in San Diego increased in the 1920s, a need for a place of community and recreation for the uniformed men and women also grew. This is where the iconic Army-Navy YMCA building (now The Guild Hotel) came into play. The Guild Hotel, once a YMCA, was registered as a National Historic Place in 2007. The property has retained some historic details but there are plenty of new touches, too. Velvet accent chairs, upholstered paneled headboards, and lacquered coffee tables adorn each room. There is also a pool and a gym with Peloton bikes.
Price: From $129/night
- Time: 5 minutes by car
- Distance: 3.3 miles
Best for Family: Spanish Bungalow
Unwind in a classic 1920s Spanish bungalow with Mexican accents. This casual, colorful, light-filled casita truly embodies the city’s Hispanic influence. Its two-bedroom, two-bathroom layout makes this ideal for families of four. Eat breakfast on the sunny, plant-filled patio while the terra cotta fountain bubbles, or take a walk to nearby Little Italy for dinner. The host recommends watching the sunset and boats in the harbor with a glass of wine from the front balcony to get a true taste of old San Diego.
Price: From $145/night
- Time: 5 minutes by car
- Distance: 3.2 miles
Best for Couples: Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa
Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa’s luxurious rooms feature a natural stone bathroom in every guestroom come with plush guest bathrobes, an in-room safe, a cable TV, and a work desk with a high back reading chair. The hotel itself has an outdoor pool for the sunny weather, 3 restaurants for a food trip, a wellness center for your well-being, and a spa for leisure.
Price: From $249/night
- Time: 20 minutes by car
- Distance: 15 miles
Best Budget: Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina
Save more on transportation with Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina which offers a 24-hour transfer service to San Diego International Airport. This eco-friendly hotel features 5 restaurants, 3 outdoor heated pools, and an on-site spa, with all rooms having flat-screen HDTVs. Each nonsmoking room has a mini-bar, a work desk, and a private patio or balcony. In order to stay active during your leisure time, Sheraton also offers guests lighted outdoor tennis courts and a 24-hour fitness center in each tower variety of games including billiards, table tennis, croquet, and volleyball.
Price: From $135/night
- Time: 3 minutes by car
- Distance: 0.5 mile
What to Eat
While a number of restaurants in San Diego are closed for the duration of the pandemic, more and more are offering curbside pickup, takeout, or delivery. Some restaurants, like OpenGym, are delivering meals with sustainability in mind.
Charles + Dinorah
Charles + Dinorah is a love letter to the original husband and wife owners of the Pearl Hotel (where the restaurant is located). The couple embarked on a journey to create the Sportsmen’s Lodge in the 1960s. Decades and a name change later, Charles + Dinorah is paying homage to the property’s history through this namesake eatery. This retro-chic restaurant has launched a brand new menu with popular dishes being the Japanese fried chicken sandwich and the shrimp tacos with diablo sauce and avocado mousse. Items are available for pickup or delivery via Toast, Postmates and Uber Eats.
- Best for Breakfast
Rollin Roots Food Truck
Rollin Roots Food Truck‘s mantra is ‘eat less meat’. The concept of the truck was birthed by the notion that people should cut down on the amount of meat they eat — for the planet, their health, and the animals. Rollin Roots is not out to completely cut meat out of your diet, but to make it easier to exchange a meal or two for a vegan version. They pride themselves in re-creating meals that don’t make you miss meat. The truck sources most of its ingredients from local farmer’s markets and most of their waste is compostable (even the forks!). Rollin Roots also puts community first. When you order something for yourself, you can ask for a Veggie Gang Meal to receive a free meal for someone in need. A pay-what-you-can option is also available to combat the stigma that vegan food is only for those with higher incomes. If you want to help support Rollin Roots’ efforts there are four ways to donate: donate food, donate goods, donate time or donate money.
- Best for Lunch and Brunch
Cloak & Petal
Cloak & Petal draws its concept from its name. The word ‘cloak’ implies secrecy, which inspired the idea of a hidden social sphere. ‘Petal’ alludes to the Japanese tradition of hanami, when family and friends gather under cherry blossoms to savor food, drinks, and companionship. In addition to a unique backstory, Cloak & Petal is also distinguishing itself by giving back to the community. The restaurant offers dinner packages that give back to front-line workers and first responders. There are various packages to choose from, which send two, three, or four meals to those essential workers.
- Best for Dinner
What to Do
The commitment to driving makes for an easy escape to towns nearby. Our three picks for the places worth visiting within a short drive of SD? The photographic Potato Chip Rock hike, a Catalina Island getaway, and an adventurous swim with sharks.
Fulfill Your Step Count Hiking Potato Chip Rock
The biggest allure of this hike is the potato rock formation at the hike’s summit. The iconic potato chip rock has become a popular destination for a photo op posing on the ledge. The hike is a fun escape from quarantine life, totaling 7.6 miles roundtrip. It’s also quite the workout, as most of the trail is uphill. At the top of the summit, you’ll get to enjoy beautiful 360-degree views of San Diego.
Escape to Catalina Island
Santa Catalina Island is a tropical excursion just 22 miles off the coast of Southern California. Today, the island has gained fame from the Catalina Wine Mixer featured in the movie, Step Brothers. But, back in the day, Catalina was the ultimate getaway for A-list celebrities. Catalina has also served as a location for a number of Hollywood hits (think: Jaws). The Island offers a lot more activities than most people realize, making it the perfect escape.
Swim with Sharks in La Jolla Shores Beach
Leopard sharks gather in La Jolla Shores Beach’s shallow waters throughout the year and the best part is, you can snorkel with them. The sharks typically range from just a few to hundreds and you can find them under ten feet of water near The Marine Room Restaurant and off the La Jolla Tennis Club. The sharks may look intimidating (some are five feet long), but not to worry, they have tiny mouths and don’t attack humans. There are several shops nearby where you can rent snorkel gear and wetsuits.
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