5 Great Ways to Beat the Blues in San Diego
With its scenic location on the shores of the Pacific Ocean and its remarkably moderate temperatures -- average winter lows of 49 degrees and average summer highs of 77 degrees -- San Diego is the perfect place to beat the blues in any season. There's something here for everyone, from outdoor family fun to a burgeoning craft beer industry.
1. Head to the beach
San Diego is centrally situated along a 70-mile long stretch of coastline that features more than a dozen beaches ranging from pristine and peaceful to party central. Without a doubt the area's most iconic beach is Mission Beach, which offers a roller coaster and roller blades, its signature boardwalk, and the best people-watching around.
For hanging with the young crowd, check out Pacific Beach. With three distinct areas -- North Pacific Beach, Tourmaline Surfing Park, and Pacific Beach proper, there's plenty of ways to enjoy yourself. Reserved for surfers, you'll find all kinds of surfing, kiteboarding, and windsurfing at Tourmaline. North Pacific Beach has lifeguard-supervised swimming and is usually a bit quieter than the rest of the beach. From Crystal Pier to Pacific Beach Drive there are all kinds of amenities, from bike rentals to biker bars.
2. Go whale watching
An Adult whale and its calf Photo: José Eugenio Gómez Rodríguez
If you happen to be in San Diego between December and April, consider yourself especially lucky! That's the season of the great gray whale migration, with peak viewing opportunities in January and February. In this annual pilgrimage, the gray whales -- about 20,000 of them -- travel 5,000 miles from Alaska to Baja California, where their calves are born. A few months later, the pods make the return trip to their homes in Alaska.
It's also possible to see blue whales in the area June through September and although they tend to stay further away from shore, you can often spot them from the overlook at Cabrillo National Monument. For an even closer view, there are a wide variety of whale-watching boats available for cruises and charter excursions. Prices are pretty reasonable for a once-in-lifetime chance to see these gentle giants, typically under $50 per person.
3. Visit the Zoo
Yun Zi the Gian Panda Photo: Tim Evanson
The San Diego Zoo's development of "natural" habitats for its animals revolutionized the philosophies of zoos throughout the United States, and made it famous all over the world. Today's zoo continues to break new ground, and now features numerous rare plants and foliage as well as about 800 species of animals in its diverse signature environments.
Covering 100 acres in beautiful Balboa Park, the best way to discover the zoo's many charms is on foot -- winding along paths past waterfalls and over bridges, from one enclosed environment to the next. Be sure to visit the Scripps Aviary, the Gorilla Tropics, and the Tiger River rain forest. When your feet get tired, take a tour on the Aerial Tram or on one of the zoo's double-decker tour buses.
4. Discover the rest of Balboa Park
Balboa Park - San Diego Photo: Tim Evanson
The zoo may be the famous of Balboa Park's attractions, but it's by no means the only one. This 1200 acre park contains a number of gorgeous green spaces, floral gardens, museums, theaters, and hours of pleasant walking paths. One day isn't nearly enough to enjoy all the culture and entertainment this great urban park has to offer.
Be sure to visit the antique Carousel, with hand-carved animals dating back to 1910. Take a peaceful stroll through the Japanese Friendship Garden, complete with koi pond and Zen garden perfect for a few meditative moments. Visit one of the world-class museums -- the Mingei Museum of folk art, the Museum of Photographic Art, or the Mesoamerican focused Museum of Man are all outstanding choices, although there are many more attractions in the park.
5. Explore the local craft beer scene
As if great weather and great beaches weren't enough of a draw, San Diego has also become home to a remarkably healthy craft beer and microbrew scene. With more than 30 breweries currently in operation and new ones popping up every day, this is a beer lover's paradise.
Enjoy beer tastings, light snacks, and full meals at a wide variety of brew pubs all over town -- local favorites include the tasting bar at Pizza Port, the award-winning offerings at AleSmith Brewing Company, and the signature Sunday breakfast at the San Diego Brewing Company, originally founded in 1896. Looking to spend a full day tasting and touring with a designated driver? A plethora of local tour companies have organized brewery tours for your drinking and dining pleasure.
If you're still rarin' to go after a full day of San Diego sunshine, this town also features a great range of clubs, from upscale lounges to speakeasies, dance clubs, and dive bars. Start your evening with dinner and drinks at Saltbox in the Gaslamp Quarter, and end it with cocktails at Noble Experiment -- remember to text ahead for reservations in this exclusive little bar. What you do in between is up to you!