San Diego, CA

7 things you should know before visiting San Diego

Mike Peterson

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San Diego, as seen from above.Daniel Guerra/Unsplash

San Diego is a popular town for tourists -- and for good reason. We have miles of beautiful coastline, the weather is seemingly always perfect, and there's no better Mexican food this side of the border.

There are a few things you should know before visiting America's Finest City, however. Although your trip will likely be smooth sailing, here are some helpful tips to make the most of your San Diego stay.

7. It's not always sunny

Many people falsely assume that San Diego has 70-degree and sunny weather all year around. Although there aren't necessarily full seasons here, we do get our share of cold days. In fact, it even snows in the mountain regions of the county.

Another thing most out-of-towners don't know is that it's often gray and cloudy by the coast in May and June, thanks to the marine layer. Locally, we call this "May Gray" and "June Gloom." The overcast skies will often burn off by the afternoon, but sometimes they don't. Plan accordingly.

6. You'll probably need a car

While the actual city of San Diego is fairly walkable, many of the best sights and attractions are located within driving -- and not walking -- distance.

One of our most popular distilleries is about a twenty-minute drive from the city proper. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, another popular spot to see, is located about half an hour from the city. It's recommended that you bring a car.

5. There are more than just beaches in San Diego

San Diego is known for its beaches -- there's 70 miles of coastline here. But there's actually much more landscape diversity than you might expect. You may not know, for example, that San Diego County has more biodiversity than any other county in North America.

Palomar Mountain, one of the only areas in Southern California with a Sierra Nevada-like atmosphere, is about an hour and a half away. If you want some desert vibes, the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is just two hours from San Diego. We also have miles and miles of hiking trails to take advantage of.

4. San Diego is the 'Craft Beer Capital of America'

If you drink beer and are a fan of craft brews, San Diego is probably one of the best cities you could visit. Many of our breweries, such as Stone Brewing and Ballast Point, have been operating for years and perfecting their craft.

The local specialty is a San Diego-style India Pale Ale, or IPA. But most breweries feature plenty of different options, from stouts to sours. We also have a local distillery, Cutwater Spirits, that creates delicious canned cocktails that you can find at nearly any liquor store in the area.

3. We have some local food specialties

Being so close to the border, San Diego really does have some world-class Mexican food. However, we also have some unique specialties that you won't find on the menu anywhere else. Although they're inspired by Mexican cuisine, they're as San Diego as it gets.

These specialties include California Burritos, which are basically a carne asada (steak) burrito with french fries in them. Another local favorite is Carne Asada Fries. It's a layer of french fries covered with guacamole, cheese, sour cream, and carne asada. It's every bit as delicious as it sounds.

2. Don't forget to soak in the culture

If you're visiting San Diego, you're probably planning beach days and water-based activities -- which you should! But San Diego, contrary to popular belief, also has plenty of historical and cultural activities that are worth taking part in during your trip.

San Diego is the birthplace of California, and some key historical sites you can see include Old Town San Diego and Point Loma. There's also Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre cultural park that features museums, botanical gardens, and plenty of space to picnic.

1. We're not Los Angeles

San Diego often gets lumped in with Los Angeles. It makes sense, both cities are only about 120 miles apart -- a little over a two-hour drive. Despite their proximity, San Diego couldn't be more different than its northerly neighbor.

For one, San Diego is much less populated than L.A., and it doesn't "sprawl" as much. Everything is much closer together. Not only that, but we don't have nearly the same kind of traffic. Most importantly, San Diego's vibe doesn't revolve around Hollywood or celebrities. Instead, it's much more family-friendly and laid back.

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Mike Peterson is a journalist, editor, and yoga teacher based in North San Diego County. He's a fan of indie bookstores, local craft beers, and excellent tacos.

San Diego, CA
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