San Diego might be a U.S. vacation favorite, but what about those of us who live there? One can only explore the craft beer scene for so long (before it develops into a problem). Besides, we all need a break from where we live.
Beaches, up-and-coming foodie destinations, wine, and legos — let’s escape the city with these weekend getaways from San Diego.
Family-Friendly Weekend Getaways from San Diego: Carlsbad
The Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort will solve all your Vitamin Sea deficiencies. Inspired by its breezy Pacific ocean location, the decor here is basked in the colors of the sea and the sunrise, with shades of coral and aqua found throughout.
Some units have fireplaces and jetted tubs or hot tubs while others boast full kitchens. The property happily accommodates visiting families with rollaway beds. The beachfront location includes rentals of boogie boards, pool and sand toys, plus beach chairs & umbrellas. If you get bored of the beach, Legoland is about a five-minute drive away or you can join in the slew of activities offered by the resort including karaoke, village walks, and pizza bingo.
Carlsbad is the perfect family-friendly weekend getaway from San Diego. Home to the first Legoland outside of Europe, there are thousands of LEGO models, gentle rides and a model miniature LEGO depiction of America. There’s also a waterpark to cool down on a hot day. Equally alluring are the seven miles of beaches available for swimming, sandcastle building or even surfing.
The Flower Fields blooms every season with over 50 acres of flowers, gardens, mazes, and festivals taking place on site. The Museum of Making Music lets everyone try out their own renditions of their favorite tunes thanks to the hands-on instrument exhibits in addition to those on display.
Hungry? For a kid-friendly friendly breakfast, lunch, and brunch, The Naked Cafe knows just what the kids want by offering simple meals like PB&J sandwiches made on wholesome carrot zucchini bread while the adults get to enjoy the fusion of Asian flavor and SoCal Mexican. For dinner, try out Campfire. The restaurant concept revolved around the open fire that is as nostalgic as it is delicious with a market-driven menu that caters to everyone’s taste.
Experience a stay at working vineyard at the Carter Estate Winery and Resort. You’ll be put to work in their sampling room, sipping your way through their signature wines and picking up tips about the fine art of tasting. Draped against the backdrop of SoCal’s beautiful landscape, guests should come prepared to indulge. The Mediterranean-inspired bungalows have private decks and balconies best enjoyed accompanied by the resort’s own wine, full of California sun and aged in fine European oak. Beds are dressed in rich linens that elevate the feeling of ultimate luxury even further.
Grape lovers can rejoice — and celebrate their weekend in Temecula by popping the cork off a bottle from any of the 40 nearby wineries. With so many tasting rooms and private tours available, it’s hard to see how you’ll make time during your weekend escape to do much else. But hear us out: stroll around the historic Old Town across the wooden boardwalks, popping in and out of boutiques, galleries, and antique shops. Another worthy stop is the Temecula Olive Oil Company for a sampling and souvenir.
Another bucket list Temecula activity is a sunrise balloon ride. Launch off early in the morning to soak in the early rays and extraordinary views of the valley. We can promise it will cure the previous night’s hangover like a dream.
Hungry? Sample what the stylings from south of the border at Espadín. True heritage flavors are joined by local ingredients. While wine might be the reason you’re in town, the margarita concoctions will have you quickly ordering a second round. The Public House gastropub also forgoes wine in favor of tap beer and lots of foodie-focused menu offerings including Cali-favorite, avocado toast.
For a quick drive past the border, straight to the hotel and then out on the town, consider a stay at the Hotel Lucerna Tijuana. This property is divided into the more classic Hotel Lucerna and its adjoining boutique KTower Hotel, both just over two miles from the border and ideally situated for a Tijuana weekend. Rooms are spacious and elegantly decorated with free WiFi. Further amenities include an outdoor pool, rooftop pool with jacuzzi and a bountiful buffet breakfast that is as popular with guests as it is with foodie locals.
Tijuana may drum up shady visions of spring breakers, but prepare to be surprised by the wealth of art and food changing the city’s reputation. The enormous terracotta balloon shaped Tijuana Cultural Center building is a feat of architecture and set against the piercing blue sky, an impressive photo opportunity. Inside you’ll find exhibits on the history of the Baja Peninsula, loads of performance spaces and an IMAX theatre. For more on the history of the Baja Peninsula, head to the Museo de las Californias. If you’re itching to pick up some art for your own collections, La Caja Galeria showcases local artists in a hip old warehouse.
We’re still on board with drinking in Tijuana. Pick your poison from local craft beers at the locally-loved Mamut Cerveza or cocktails at La Justina, known to San Diegans due to its connection to the Snake Oil Cocktail company.
Hungry? Tacos! Try the chili shrimp tacos at Mazatenois, the city’s most-loved taqueria or try the more elegant octopus pesto taco offerings at Kokopelli. To sample a bit of it all, head to Telefonica Gastro Park, a dedicated food truck park that has everything from Mexican breakfast at La Carmelita all the way to locally fished mariscos (seafood) at Otto’s Grill.
Reinvent your definition of a motel at the Idyllwild Bunkhouse. Designed for nature lovers who fear braving a tent, the property is tucked into the hillside with fabulous views over the San Jacinto State Forest. Pet-friendly and eco-friendly, the rooms are decked out in knotty pine with high ceilings, kitchens, balconies with views of the forest and free WiFi. The mountain lodge delivers a breakfast worthy of a mountaineer every morning straight to your door in a fishing basket. Expect scones, homemade jam, muffins, fruit and oatmeal that will fuel you well into lunchtime.
Idyllwild lives up to both the wild and idyll(ic) of its name. The mountain town charms on all fronts and the adventurous are sure to find some action among the pine trees. Rock climbers can take on the challenge of Tahquitz Rock and Suicide Rock, both with a range of difficulty and views that will justify the purchase of a GoPro. If you’ve always fantasized about flying, try the peace and quiet of a hang glide above the mountains.
If you prefer to keep both feet firmly planted on the ground, the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail is a great starting point for hikers new to the scene. The San Jacinto Peak is a hefty eight hours roundtrip to reach the highest peak in the range, but one that is as awe-inspiring as it remains wild and less traveled. Fishermen can trawl the Lake Hermet or Lake Fulmor for rainbow trout, Largemouth bass, bluegill and catfish with proper licensing. Additionally, you can canoe, mountain bike, horseback ride and geocache your way around this outdoorsy paradise.
Hungry? The Plant Food Supper Club presses fresh juices, tonics and smoothies to help fuel your activities along with delectable all vegan, all organic cuisine like the tofu scramble tacos. Everybody loves a slice of Italy, especially when it comes on small sharing plates at the hip Italian osteria Ferro.
Running from the incessant hum and buzz of the city? Tucker Peak Lodge is set amid five beautifully wooded acres near the town of Julian. Far away from the noise and light pollution of the city, rooms at the lodge are cozily decorated with each capturing the unique character of the home in its own way. Cathedral ceilings, wood, and stone detailing and additional sleeping spots in the loft spaces make it the perfect escape for families or couples.
SoCal enjoys fabulously sunny skies year round, but what is more bucolic than seeing the trees shed their leaves? With a seasonal climate closer to the foliage of New England, the town of Julian enjoys their distinct seasonal shifts that have also afforded it a beautiful agricultural tradition. The California Historic Landmark town was once known for its gold rush but these days it’s the golden deliciousness of its apple pies and ciders that bring visitors from afar. More than 21 types of apples supplement the flaky, buttery crust of the pies which can be found in practically every shop, restaurant, cafe or bar in town.
Not to be missed is a visit to the Eagle Mining Company for a mineshaft tour and demonstration on how to strike it rich with gold. The best spot to admire the changing colors of the forest is smack dab in the middle of it. No matter what hiking trail you take on, the golden orange, red and yellow canopy illuminated by the sunshine follows you. For an adrenaline-fueled hike, take on the Three Sisters Falls and expect plenty of brusque ways down, rappelling and river crossing to keep your heart thumping.
Hungry? The Julian Pie Company humbly serves up the staple dish of Julian with a whole tempting fleet of other pie flavors as well. For something a bit heartier, Jeremy’s on the Hill has a menu as seasonally infused as the landscape with farm-to-table fare satisfying the most ravenous of pangs of hunger.
SoCal doesn’t simply deliver beachside experiences. A throwback to the heyday of summer lake resorts, Lakehouse (in nearby San Marcos) is a modern rendition of the songs, campfires, and games of a summer by the lake. Call up your pals for a weekend double date: a multitude of spatial configurations are available depending on the size of your crew, all the way up to expansive cottages with two King-sized beds. Rooms have delightfully large windows ushering in views of the pool and hot tubs or lake. Outside you’ll find enough activity to keep you summer-camp busy: boating, fishing, swimming and golfing are at your fingertips.
Surf and skate Encinitas, the iconic SoCal beach town. If it’s your first time taking on the waves, join SurfHer school for a four-hour clinic — boys welcome too! You’re in good hands with Linda Benson, who became the world surfing champion at the sweet age of 15 back in 1959. The Encinitas YMCA skate park might put you face-to-face with champions as well. (Local resident Tony Hawk can often be found in the bowl.)
There’s also nothing wrong with just bumming at the beach. Moonlight Beach is the quintessential SoCal beach with plenty of sand for building castles and playing beach volleyball. Surfers prefer the breaks at Swami’s amid the bluffs and palm trees.
Hungry? Locals say that El Nopalito breakfast burritos are legendary — you control the level of spice with a trip to the salsa bar and a side of guac from the self-serve fridge. The Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria makes it all from scratch with plenty of love mashed into every bite of cheese, sauce, and charcuterie. Don’t miss the salted caramel & butterscotch pudding for dessert.
Weekend Getaways from San Diego: Del Mar
Wake up to the sound of crashing waves at the Del Mar Motel on the beach. This clean and simple property is located straight on the beach with unbelievable ocean views that dazzle at all hours of the day. The modern rooms have free WiFi and Cable TV with HBO plus air conditioning and ceiling fans to help beat the heat. Cribs and rollaway beds are available for those coming with kids, plus a sun deck, BBQ and free parking rounds out the convenience of a weekend here.
Tiny Del Mar just about fits onto its 2.1 square miles of beachfront. Tucked into a quaint package, the downtown is known for its half-timbered Tudor style buildings and the horses that pound down the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club racecourse every race season.
The Del Mar beach is kept fastidiously clean. Apply some extra sunscreen before stretching out on the notoriously soft sand — we don’t want you getting burned as you take that inevitable beach nap. Lifeguards are stationed at the beach year round making it a good choice for families. If you visit from July to September, join the swells of folks crowding into the Spanish-mission styled fairground to watch the ponies gallop.
Hungry? The proximity to the sea makes Del Mar the place to enjoy seafood. Jake’s Del Mar not only boasts fabulous views but everything is so fresh, it melts away in your mouth. For something a touch more elegant, Market blends Asian flavors with California freshness.