A Weekend Escape to San Diego: What to See, Where to Stay, How to Get Around - 5 Day Itinerary

Monday, June 12, 2023
Ready for an adventure? As a tried and true Jersey girl I can tell you that venturing out to the west coast for a girls' getaway isn't something I get to do often, especially since the pandemic. But an opportunity came up (thanks to Emily Kaufman and Camp Travel Mom, which you can read about here) so I grabbed my bestie and started planning a whirlwind long weekend getaway in sunny San Diego. Want to do the same? Read on for my itinerary of our weekend trip to California! 

Disclosure: We visited San Diego to attend a travel event with The Travel Mom. Some accommodations meals and activities were provided for this trip via The Travel Mom and the event sponsors, and others we purchased ourselves. Plane tickets were not provided, nor was transportation. 

Be sure to Pin this post for future use! It's imperative to keep weekend escape plans handy, right?

Travel Details

Airline: United, Non-Stop, Economy Blue (worth it to be able to bring a carry on and keep seats together)
Duration of Trip: Departed New Jersey (via EWR) in May, Thursday, 6:30am EST departure flight from New Jersey, arriving in California at 9am PST). 
Return Flight: Departed San Diego Airport 12:30pm PST, arriving in New Jersey at 9:15pm EST.

*Flights were on time and our return flight even arrived early. We found that the airports were the ones who caused slight delays due to traffic on the runway or lack of gates, etc.

Transportation in San Diego: We did not rent a car but opted to use Uber instead for the duration of our trip. Using Uber was easy, fast and convenient in San Diego. Rates were fare and kept us from having to worry about filling up a rental car with expensive gas prices. Shout out to Uber driver Maria who picked us up in a Tesla. That was a first for me!

San Diego Weekend Getaway 
Day One (Thursday)
Gaslamp Quarter, Waterfront Areas

Transportation: We arrived on time in San Diego and grabbed an Uber from the airport, which was easy to do from the app. There is a designated area right outside of baggage claim for Uber/Lyft pick-ups. Our first stop was Omni Hotel San Diego, since we had a day to kill before our Camp Travel Mom conference started.

Hotel: The Omni is located in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego. The hotel is directly in front of Petco Stadium where the Padres play. Across from it is San Diego Convention Center (great hotel choice if you're ever attending a Padres game or San Diego Comic Con!). When we checked in, there were no scheduled baseball games or events at the convention center. The area was very quiet and the streets almost seemed deserted! 

Afternoon: Luckily, our room was ready early so we were able to settle in, drop off our bags, etc.  So now we had the afternoon free to have lunch, explore, shop, etc. We decided to explore the Gaslamp Quarter and the waterfront areas.

Gaslamp Quarter

Lunch: We had a late lunch at Rockin Baja Lobster Coastal Cantina (friendly service, good food, yummy margarita!). 

Shopping: There is a Hard Rock Hotel here, as well as a small ItSugar (one of my fave candy stores) down the block. You'll find other stores, bars and restaurants, and from what I hear, it really comes alive at night during baseball season and special events. 

Dinner: Later we had drinks at West Coast Social at Omni San Diego, then ate dinner at Mary Jane's at the Hard Rock Cafe and I loved it. It reminded me of something from Pulp Fiction. It was a retro-looking diner/lounge serving just about anything you could ask for.  Breakfast for dinner was my choice but to each his own! The ambiance was everything here. If you like that retro look, this place is for you!

Seaport Village and Embarcadero

We walked and explored the waterfront area. 

Seaport Village: this is where there were little shops and places to eat. The main Seaport Village area was bustling. If you're looking for a place to eat along the waterfront, this is the area to go!

Tuna Wharf, Embarcadero and Memorials: We kept walking further and further down till we got to the Embarcadero section, where we saw the giant Kissing Statue and the National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military, which is a beautiful collection of statues overlooking the USS Midway Museum. You can also watch boats, jet skis and such along the water.

Day One Helpful Links

In Hindsight: we probably should've taken the ferry to Coronado Island but we didn't feel like doing more Uber rides once we got over there. This section of our trip was mostly by walking exploration! Gaslamp Quarter is very quiet (not many people or crowds) unless there is a game scheduled or an event going on at the convention center. 

Days Two & Three (Friday-Saturday)
Mission Bay 

We had an easy check-out from The Omni and when we went downstairs to call our Uber, we noticed already how much busier things were. The streets were bustling with Padres fans and weekend convention people. Definitely a different vibe from Thursday! But off we went to our next stop, San Diego Mission Bay Resort. 

Breakfast: *Note: we ate breakfast at the Fres.co Cafe in The Omni. Quick and easy, delicious cinnamon bun and muffin!

Transportation: we used Uber to bring us to our next location, San Diego Mission Bay Resort. 

Mission Bay Resort

San Diego Mission Bay Resort was a complete package. Once we checked in here for our Travel Mom event, I knew we weren't going to want to go anywhere else for a little while. The whole resort has a tropical feel, similar to a Hawaiian getaway. There are lots of open air buildings to walk through. The entire place has such a warm, inviting vibe! I wanted to just park my butt by the pool and not move! Our weekend was filled with activities as part of our event (you can read about that here) but even if you were not attending an event or conference, you can still fill an entire weekend at Mission Bay Resort without ever leaving the premises! 

Our Room: We stayed in the Belmont Building and we had a great room on the second floor with a beautiful view of the water. Note that this building did not have an elevator so if you have trouble with stairs you may need to request a first floor room. 

Lunch: We enjoyed mai tais, mini burgers and chips/dip at Solrisa, by the pool at Mission Bay Resort. 

Activities: yoga was offered mornings at 10am. We enjoyed pool time, hot tub, sitting by the fire pits, bike rides along the bay. Had it been a little warmer (it was chilly when we visited in May!) we also could have rented jet skis or paddle boards. The resort gift shop had some lovely items to purchase and also sold wood for fire pits (some rooms come with their own fire pits on the patio), wine, and other alcoholic beverages for purchase. They also have a spa, fitness room, and multiple on-site places to eat

Other Choices: For Friday and Saturday nights we dined at our Camp Travel Mom event, but if you wanted to explore the area, some choices include LEGOLAND California, Sea World San Diego, SEA LIFE at LEGOLAND, Little Italy or check out the tourism site (link below).

Day Two and Three Helpful Links:

Day Four (Sunday)
La Jolla and Old Town

Transportation: We took an Uber to La Jolla (a quick car ride) and enjoyed walking EVERYWHERE. There were so many beautiful sights along the water, from the seals and sea lions to the gorgeous flowers.  So much to explore, great photo ops. 

Lunch: we skipped lunch and just had a snack and drinks at Starbucks. This was just because I had a gift card and we weren't hungry. FYI there are tons of fun places to eat in the town of La Jolla! 

Notable Attractions: Aside from the shores of La Jolla and La Jolla Cove, you can also take a tour of Sunny Jim's Sea Cave and walk along the Coast Walk Trail

Evening: Although we were a bit tuckered out from our trip to La Jolla, we took an Uber back to the resort, freshened up, then grabbed another Uber to Old Town. All of this Ubering might sound tiring but it was SUPER EASY through the app and didn't cost much to get to each location at all. Big props to our return Uber driver, Maria, who picked us up in a Tesla!

Old Town: because it was Sunday night, many of the shops were closing by 6pm. We were a bit bummed by that, but we still enjoyed shopping in the ones that were open. I absolutely loved Old Town. I loved all of the handmade crafts, cultural influences and beautiful Mexican-inspired music. There were live bands playing in different locations and it was just such a nice experience to explore here.

Dinner: we ate at Casa de Maria (Casa de Reyes was the restaurant in the center of the village that everyone seemed to be dining at, but their wait was too long so we opted for the quieter Casa de Maria and it was wonderful!). They had live music and I even got up and danced.

In Hindsight: we didn't have time to take the Sunny Jim cave tour in La Jolla and I wish we did (we did visit their gift shop, though, and we loved it). I also wish I had researched which stores and restaurants were in the town of La Jolla ahead of time so I wouldn't have missed anything. You can do that through the links below. I also wished we could've shopped more at Old Town, so if you go, be sure to check the store operating hours and plan accordingly. We didn't! 

Day Four Helpful Links

La Jolla (it's pronounced "La Hoya")

Day Five (Monday) 
San Diego Zoo 

Breakfast: we grabbed a quick breakfast at Mission Bay Resort's Mission Joe Cafe, then took an Uber to San Diego Zoo.

San Diego Zoo: The San Diego Zoo was a quick Uber ride from the resort. We had purchased general admission zoo tickets online in advance. We started with the bus tour (which was included with admission). Glad we did because in all honesty, the zoo map was TERRIBLE and so was the app. We had trouble finding our way around within the zoo and the bus tour at least helped us figure out some locations. The Safari Park is a separate admission fee and we did not have time to experience it, but we heard it's a must-do if you have the opportunity. The Safari Park is billed as San Diego Zoo's "sister park" and they are located about 35 miles apart (so you can't walk between them). I didn't think the San Diego Zoo website explained the difference between the two parks very well. You can read more about the Safari Park on the San Diego tourism page here

Lunch: we had a very late lunch at Safari Kitchen (inside the zoo) because we really wanted a hamburger and this was one of the only places that offered a basic burger (not a spicy burger or turkey burger or whatever!).

All of the souvenir shops were great and items were priced fairly. There were tons of food choices and even alcoholic beverages throughout the park. 

Departure: we took an Uber home and it picked us up right in front of the zoo. Very convenient!

Tips: there's a lot of walking, so wear good shoes! Don't forget sunblock and a light jacket if it's chilly when you visit (which it was for us). 
In Hindsight: Albert's Restaurant in the treetops (inside the zoo) looked like a fun place to eat. If I visited again, I'd make reservations there so we could have a nice sit-down meal in the treetops. We did not have time to visit the Safari Park, but I wish we did. I think we missed out on some key experiences (including seeing rhinos) because of this. I also regret not buying more souvenirs from the artist BRITTO, which were made exclusively for the zoo. I did get a keychain and some stickers but those plushies were SO cute!!

Dinner: we ate a light dinner at Mission Bay Resort's Plaza del Sol. It was such a relaxing night- they had live music and firepits and it was just so fun with a chill vibe! The perfect way to end our trip.

Day Five Helpful Links

Final Day (Tuesday) and Closing Thoughts

This was our departure day, so we called one final Uber and headed to the airport! Easy peasy.  

Airline: United, Economy Blue, 12:30pm flight, putting us back in NJ around 9:15pm EST. 

We loved visiting San Diego!! It was a wonderful getaway and worth every minute of travel. This is a great family trip, too, and Mission Bay Resort is wonderful for families, couples, corporate events- pretty much everything! The Omni in San Diego is an INCREDIBLE location if you want to stay and attend a Padres game or a convention event. When we visited, weather was cloudy and cool (we didn't get to see much of that famous California sunshine). Locals kept telling us about "May Gray" and "June Gloom," so definitely keep that in mind when booking your trips. Happy Travels! 

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