Hotels in San Diego

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A relaxing antidote to the hustle and bustle of LA, San Diego is – despite its size – one of the most relaxing cities in California. Even the weather here is mild for the West Coast, although of course you can still bask on the area's many golden beaches to your heart's content. It's not just about sands and surf, though – San Diego also boasts the famous Balboa Park, an immense, immaculately sculpted green space dotted with a cactus garden, numerous museums, and ornate examples of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture.

Things to see

The very first SeaWorld was created here in San Diego, and it's still a top draw to this day. Walk through its underwater tunnel to see sharks glide ominously overhead, gawp at the killer whale shows set to rock music, chatter with penguins, and brace yourself for wet and wild thrill rides. And if you want more animal magic, head over to San Diego Zoo, which is world famous and with good reason. It's a world in itself, featuring a veritable slice of Africa where big cats and elephants wander, as well as thickets of bamboos where giant pandas frolic together. Yet another family-friendly attraction is Legoland California – from pirates and dragons made of the little building blocks to rollercoasters and other rides, it makes for a grand day out. If you're here for the seafront, make a bee-line for Mission Beach. Here you'll also find Belmont Park, an amusement park which has stood since 1925 and features historic wooden rides. For an atmospheric night out, the Gaslamp Quarter is perfect – this is the historic center of San Diego, with clubs, bars, and restaurants nestling within old Victorian buildings.

Hotels in San Diego

It's easy to find plush hotels in San Diego – in fact, you can find yourself in island resorts with guestrooms styled after beach bungalows, with views of sandy beaches and blazingly colorful tropical gardens. You don't necessarily need to splurge to enjoy the mod-cons during your stay though – there are San Diego hotels which are reasonably priced and still offer neat, modern guestrooms, small swimming pools, and fitness centers.

Where to stay

If you're here on business or to attend a conference, you may want to book your San Diego hotel in the Downtown area. There are numerous hotels clustered here, putting you very close to the offices of the financial district. Alternatively, if you're here to play rather than work, the Beach Cities are a very attractive prospect with resort hotels in areas like Mission Beach and Pacific Beach putting the sands, boardwalks, and perfect waves within strolling distance. Another option is to book a hotel in the Old Town, often called the birthplace of California as it's where the first European settlers made their homes. Lovers of Mexican food and margaritas will especially relish the bars and eateries here.

How to get to

San Diego International Airport is located less than 10 minutes away from downtown San Diego, and there are frequent airport shuttle services making the trip to your hotel a doddle. There are daily connections between this airport and many locations across the United States and the rest of the world, although some visitors may have to fly to Los Angeles first and transfer from there. McClellan-Palomar Airport handles general aviation, while the distinctive red trolleys of San Diego regularly pull into Gaslamp Quarter Station.

When are the best times to travel to San Diego?

Summer, June through August, is the most popular time to travel to San Diego, and you’ll find many vibrant street festivals taking place during this buzzing season. If you are going to visit in the height of the summer season, be sure to book your San Diego hotel well in advance to get the best deal. If you want to avoid the heat of the summer, visit San Diego in the spring or autumn when the climate is pleasantly temperate and the streets are less bustling.

What are the top must-see attractions in San Diego?

Get a feel for this historic city by taking a stroll through charming Old Town San Diego which features many preserved and restored buildings dating back to the 19th century. A great way to appreciate San Diego’s Pacific coast is to take a walk along Ocean Front Walk, a boardwalk much favoured by skaters, joggers and cyclists. The splendid 1888 Hotel del Coronado boasts turrets, towers and cupolas, and was immortalised in the classic movie Some Like It Hot.

What are the best types of food and restaurants in San Diego?

Unsurprisingly, since the city is just a 30-minute drive from the border, San Diego is a great place to eat fresh and fiery Mexican food, whether it’s traditional fare or more contemporary cuisine available in fusion restaurants. Then there’s Little Italy where you’ll find locally run restaurants serving freshly made pasta and other Italian delicacies. The city also has a thriving gourmet restaurant scene and if your wallet is up for it, you’ll be able to dine in real style, especially in the downtown area.

What are the top things to do in San Diego?

San Diego Zoo is a must-visit when it town, and among its inhabitants you’ll see playful giant pandas, scaly Komodo dragons and huge western lowland gorillas. The Maritime Museum has an outstanding collection of historic ships including the British-built 1863 merchant ship, Star of India. If you’re on a family holiday, you’ll want to visit Legoland, a theme park largely constructed of the popular plastic bricks. Those looking for beaches, meanwhile, will find everything from long sandy stretches and secluded coves to rocky cliffs and wave-shaping reefs in the area.

What are some fun facts about San Diego?

San Diego is a city that saw astonishing growth during the 20th century. Its estimated population was 17,700 in 1900; the last census in 2010 recorded a metropolitan area population of 3,095,313. The city has often been sung about, and some of the hits about the city include Bing Crosby’s “Where the Turf Meets the Surf”, Bruce Springsteen’s “Balboa Park” and Tom Waits’ “San Diego Serenade”. San Diego’s Lindbergh Fields Airport is so named because the famous aviator’s legendary flight to Paris, via St Louis and New York, started there.

What kinds of public transport are there in San Diego?

San Diego has a network of trolley and conventional buses, and if you’ll be making multiple journeys you can buy a Compass Card which can be topped up as needed. It’s a great city to explore by bicycle, especially along coastal routes which are mostly flat, and you can rent bicycles from a few places in the city. Traditional taxis are available in the city as well as cabs booked via smartphone apps. To explore the whole county, it’s a good idea to hire a car.

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