With winter temperatures plummeting around the country, there’s no question: San Diego is the go-to vacation destination for the winter months. For unlucky locals who are charged with the task of hosting out-of-towners during the impending holiday stretch, the million-dollar question is: what to DO with these people?
While all visitors expect to check out San Diego’s beautiful beaches, locals know it’s too cold for sunbathing & swimming in December. There is SO much MORE to see (and NOSH) here. Join those out-of-towners and become a local tourist and check out some new or off the beaten path restos and hot spots in ‘hoods all over the sprawl.
From Coastal North County to the heart of Mission Valley, take guests on a day-tripper to one (or all) of these burgs for the ultimate insider’s tour of San Diego. Start or finish all excursions with a food fest at these not-to-be missed spots and create an ideal day with plenty of local flavor!
This cozy coastal town is known for sand and surf, but has recently garnered praise as a vivacious culinary and shopping destination. Stop for lunch or dinner at brand new Crush Italian Cuisine and Wine Lounge <http://solanabeachcrush.com/> on historic Highway 101 for an enticing Italian-inspired menu from mangia maestro, Executive Chef Jason Colabove. What’s hot? The handmade pastas, fresh seafood, truffle-rich polenta, creamy burrata bruschetta and the mile long menu of celebrated wines. Crush offers a chic yet relaxed atmosphere that showcases local, rustic and modern design, inside and out. Stop for a quick winter stroll on the sand and take in the stunning views of the surf, then move the group along for holiday shopping along bustling Cedros Avenue <http://www.cedrosavenue.com/> . With more than 85 unique shops (our fave: SOLO <http://www.solocedros.com/> ), boutiques and galleries, Cedros offers more than the average neighborhood strip mall. Cedros is also hosting two holiday events this year worth checking out—the Cedros Holiday Carnivale on Saturday, Dec. 3rd and Feliz Navidad Cedros on Saturday, Dec. 10th.
For comfort food with a gourmet twist, head to Sublime Ale House <http://www.sublimealehouse.com/> in San Marcos – the (very) recent addition to this community’s historic Old California Restaurant Row. What began as a simple fruit and vegetable stand, has now grown into one of North County San Diego’s largest dining and entertainment experiences. Check out newcomer Sublime Ale House’s standout food and craft beer menu with indulgent dishes such as the macaroni & cheese: Made ten different ways with sinful flavor combos like ham and jalapeno, pulled pork with caramelized onions, and gorgonzola béchamel with bacon. Wash it all down with beer or wine from one of the finest craft selections in San Diego – a blend of over 56 esoteric selections on tap and in cask – and enjoy the newest addition to what has become lovingly known as San Diego’s “beer triangle” (local breweries and beer destinations including Mother Earth <http://www.motherearthbrewco.com/> and Lost Abbey <http://www.lostabbey.com/> are just a Stone’s <http://www.stoneworldbistro.com/> throw away).
Want to add wild animals to the mix? Hop on highway 78 for a short ride to the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park <http://www.sdzsafaripark.org/> in Escondido, CA. A recent makeover of one of the largest tourist attractions in Southern California, now known as “Safari Park” might just make this old fave a new experience – even for the locals.
If you’re traveling to the “Craft Beer Capitol of the United States,” taking a tour and tasting of one of the many thriving craft breweries in the city is a must. Plan an adults-only excursion to the craft beer loving local’s favorite – the new Green Flash Brewery <http://www.greenflashbrew.com/> in Mira Mesa. With beers that break outside of traditional guidelines with hybrid, benchmark varieties, Green Flash is the perfect way to escape from a traditional restaurant jaunt. Green Flash’s tasting room is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday afternoons. To soak up the world class ale and satisfy the beer munchies, a stampede of local San Diego food trucks station themselves outside of the brewery on a rotating basis, and you can count a few to be on hand during Tasting Room hours for all snacking (or devouring) needs. Round out your Mira Mesa trip with a flick at Edwards Stadium 18 & IMAX. Or, for a more fast-paced option, head to the Miramar Speed Circuit <http://www.miramarspeedcircuit.com/> and challenge the in-laws to some indoor kart racing (perhaps pre-beer tasting for safety’s sake).
Of course, no trip to San Diego is complete without some authentic Mexican fare – inspired a la music great, Carols Santana. Maria Maria Inspired Mexican Cuisine <http://mariamariarestaurants.com/> , located in the heart of San Diego proper, is a must-stop for savory cuisine and cocktail classics – shaken and with salt, please. Known for their rolled duck tacos, chicken mole and sweet mango ceviche, this salsa spot also boasts an expansive outdoor oasis and one of the longest happy hours in the city – a relaxing respite from the “ho ho ho” of holiday family entertaining. Tuesday’s are all about Fiesta al Fresco with the San Diego tradition cum ritual: Taco Tuesday. While in the area, head to the Fashion Valley Mall <http://www.simon.com/mall/?id=765> for last minute holiday shopping, or skip the crowds and burn off your holiday indulgences with a hike in Mission Trails Regional Park <http://www.mtrp.org/> . Try out Cowles Mountain if you’re really motivated – this one hike is not for the faint of heart!
Everyone loves San Diego’s “it” burg for about a dozen good reasons. With a true neighborhood feel as vibrant as the dining and drinking destinations lining its 30th street corridor, South Park is a true gem. Located just southeast of Balboa Park <http://www.balboapark.org/> , the historic homes and growing influx of homegrown local businesses add to the charm. Pubs, cafes, boutiques, European markets and more are packed into its charming few city blocks. For a meal with local, sustainable ingredients and nod to popular street food from around world, bring the family to award-winning Alchemy <http://alchemysandiego.com/> . Start with their braised Niman Ranch pork belly Taro Tacos paired with their signature beer-tail: organic tobacco leaf infused Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon, Carpono Antica Vermouth, Angostura Bitters and Rouge Brewery’s “Dead Guy Ale”.
Take a stroll around the ‘hood’s historic streets and then head to one of the many museums in nearby Balboa Park. If friends and family are in town early this year, make sure to stop by Balboa Park’s December Nights, the nation’s premier holiday festival, taking place Friday, Dec. 2nd from 5-10 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 3rd from noon-10 p.m.