Ahhh, San Diego. Your name evokes such fond memories. Some so strong, I can almost taste the saltwater spray on my lips (or was that margarita salt?) and hear the waves. I recently traveled there after being gone for many years. It was just like coming home.
When planning our trip, I knew I wanted to hit all the tourist hot spots. Places I didn’t want to go while living there for fear of looking like one of “those” people. I was proud of my 619 area code, ok? San Diego is not cheap and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a better steward of my finances, so planning this trip on a budget was a must.
If you have never been to San Diego, put it on your bucket list. I am going to give you my top 10 things to do and places to stay on a budget. You really can have the trip of your dreams without going broke! Now, I could break this down into my top 10 San Diego beaches to visit, my top 10 restaurants to eat at, and on and on, so I’ll try to rein it in and give you my best of the best.
San Diego’s Best of the Best
- My favorite place to get in my fill of people watching and checking out the waves is Mission Beach. Not only is there a fantastic amusement park, Belmont Park (costs $$ for a day pass though) but the beach bars, souvenir shops and miles of boardwalk makes for a great day of exploration and catching some rays.
- You can’t visit San Diego without seeing the gorgeous harbor and what better place to stay than the Best Western Island Palms Hotel. We visited off season, so the prices were cheaper. However, I can’t recommend this place enough. My top requirement in any hotel has got to be a private terrace with a view and the Best Western did not disappoint. Watching the boats outside our window was incredibly peaceful.
- Old Town. Enough said. Old Town is a shopper’s dream come true. In fact, you could easily spend days there wandering in and out of all the open air stores, shops and boutiques. You can find a little something special to bring home while still enjoying an amazing day full of beautiful weather, strolling musicians and cheap eats.
- La Jolla. I recommend this super expensive town because even though it’s full of multi-million dollar mansions and beach villas, it has a lot of free things to do such as watching the seals bob in and out in La Jolla Cove and the downtown area is the perfect place to window shop and watch the fancy cars drive by.
- Or why not rent a bike and cruise around the area instead? Bike rentals start at $8 an hour. Or if you’re more adventurous, try renting a kayak for as little as $15 for 90 minutes at Bike and Kayak Tours.
- If buying incense and cheap tacos is more your speed, visit the eclectic Ocean Beach area. Not only do they lay claim to some of the best fish tacos I have EVER had in my life at the South Beach Bar & Grille, if you go on Tuesday for Taco Tuesday, you can fill up for $2.95 each. Pair that with a drink special and you’ll forget you’re on a budget. 🙂
- The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Old Town is the perfect place to wind down a long day of shopping. They combine a mix of warm hospitality and a laid back attitude that only San Diego can offer. But, at very reasonable prices, you can wander the streets, eating, drinking and window shopping to your heart’s delight all right outside their front door. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of their very own ghost.
- One place you won’t want to miss is the stately Point Loma Lighthouse. If you want a free souvenir that you’ll remember forever, snap some photos of the picturesque landmark and the gorgeous waves down below.
- Caught the ghost hunter fever? Then, head over to the haunted Whaley House. Located right in Old Town, take a tour for $6 through this historic house from the late mid-1800’s and see if you can tune in with the local spirits.
- Right on the scenic San Diego harbor, Seaport Village is another place to shop and see the sights. But on Sundays, they host free outdoor concerts. What a great place to listen to live music on one of America’s most famous harbors.
I would love to hear some of your favorite spots and things to do!