How To Spend Less Than 48 Hours In San Diego (And Make Your Time Count)

I bought a last minute flight out to San Diego. It set me back roughly $850, but this was a chance for me to go to a city that I’ve been wanting to visit for a while now. And I’m really happy I did. (You need to enjoy life!)

San Diego is located on the very southern end of California. Tijuana, Mexico sits roughly 10 miles south of the city. The locals call it “TJ”.



Gabby and I flew Delta (this one was an older plane) out of JFK. We flew out of Terminal 4. Odd, considering it’s the international terminal. Thankfully, the security line wasn’t too long. Gabby arrived late and to the wrong terminal. She got to ride the shuttle from Terminal 3 to Terminal 4.

The flight was unremarkable. Aside from clusters of lights from what I believed to be Amarillo and Albuquerque, the journey was nothing exciting. The in-flight dinner was pretty good, though! We both got the veggie wrap.

When we were coming down to land at San Diego International, the passenger who sat next to me said, “This is the coolest part. The airport is in the middle of the city, so you come in through downtown and it looks like you’re flying between buildings.”

And it was pretty damn cool.

The airport is pretty straightforward, except when it comes to your Uber/Lyft. You have to walk outside the airport and walk up a flight of stairs to a “skyway” and wait for your cab there.

Our hotel was the Four Points Sheraton and it was pretty clean. Gabby is a SPG member, so they upgraded our room. From the 15th floor, we got to see a pretty cool skyline of San Diego. Our hotel window pointed towards the Gaslamp district.

The hotel’s entrance was a bit difficult to find, considering it was right before an offramp to the highway. A couple of our Lyft drivers almost missed it.

Here’s the view from our hotel room.

San Diego
San Diego – Cortez Hill

Exhausted, we fell on our bed and slept. We had a full day of exploring, so we set our alarms for 5:00AM, which meant we had only four hours to get rest.



I woke up first and got ready and moseyed around until Gabby woke up. Hungry, I volunteered to go out and get some breakfast for us.

I walked down 1st Avenue towards a cafe called Skybound Coffee and Dessert Lounge. The weather was fairly cool and pleasant that morning. It took me roughly 20 minutes of walking to get to the cafe. I called a Lyft to go back.

San Diego - Spreckels Theater Building
Spreckels Theater Building

According to Wikipedia, Spreckels Theater was built in 1912 and was claimed to be “the first modern commercial playhouse west of the Mississippi”.

We ended up leaving our hotel around 10AM, after calling Delta to change my flight from Sunday morning to Sunday night departure. I wanted to stay and soak in more sights while in this great city.

Our first stop was at the first mission ever erected in all of California: Mission San Diego de Alcalá. It was constructed in 1769!

San Diego - Mission San Diego de Alcalá
Mission San Diego de Alcalá

It only cost $5 per person to enter.

San Diego - Mission San Diego de Alcalá
San Diego – Mission San Diego de Alcalá

Here’s how it looked, looking down the hallway near the entrance:

San Diego - Mission San Diego de Alcalá
San Diego – Mission San Diego de Alcalá

The first thing you see after you exit the gift shop / ticket booth is an excavation site!

San Diego - Mission San Diego de Alcalá
San Diego – Mission San Diego de Alcalá

Here’s how it looks like in the main chapel:

San Diego - Mission San Diego de Alcalá
San Diego – Mission San Diego de Alcalá

We went out to the garden and saw an incredibly tall palm tree (I think) and checked out the small but informative museum.

San Diego - Mission San Diego de Alcalá
San Diego – Mission San Diego de Alcalá

From the mission, we traveled out to La Jolla, which is a very spectacular place.

Originally, we were going to book a hotel closer to La Jolla, but we thought we’d be better off next to Balboa Park (which ended up being the right thing to do, at least for us).



The trip from Mission San Diego de Alcalá to La Jolla took roughly 15 minutes with little traffic. Thankfully, the sun was out and shining, so we were delighted to be next to the Pacific on a wonderful day.

However…when we arrived and stepped out, a horrible smell hit our noses. I remember asking about the smell. We didn’t know what it was and where it was coming from until we started walking back up the hill to go out to the cove carved out by the sea. Pelicans. And loads of them.

San Diego - La Jolla
San Diego – La Jolla

Forgive me for the yellow-ish tint on these photos. I need to resubscribe to Lightroom. The free editors don’t do these photos justice!

Here’s what the cove looks like:

San Diego - La Jolla
San Diego – La Jolla

And here’s the view from the cove:

San Diego - La Jolla
San Diego – La Jolla
San Diego - La Jolla
San Diego – La Jolla
San Diego - La Jolla
San Diego – La Jolla

After the cove, we paid $5 a piece to enter “The Cave”. I thought it was going to be underwhelming, but it wasn’t too bad. We had to walk down an incredibly narrow set of stairs, which were also steep and wet! Going down was far more difficult than going up. But the experience alone made it worthwhile.

San Diego - La Jolla "The Cave"
San Diego – La Jolla “The Cave”

After this, we walked farther down the shore until we got hungry. I bought a chicken gyro, which was dry and very forgettable.

We called a Lyft and was matched with the best Lyft driver that ever lived. Hoang, we miss you.

Our destination was Balboa Park and our goal was to go to at least one museum before closing. We decided on Museum of Man and hurried into the building. We wanted to see two exhibits: The Race Exhibit and the Cannibal Exhibit.

San Diego - Balboa Park, Museum Of Man
San Diego – Balboa Park, Museum Of Man

We rushed through the first exhibit, but Gabby managed to take photos of everything. As for the Cannibal Exhibit, we took our time soaking in how cannibalism came to be associated with the “Other” (a topic I wrote frequently about at university).



When we were finished, we walked around the park, taking mental notes on where to go next.

San Diego - Balboa Park
San Diego – Balboa Park

I was captivated by the architecture at Balboa Park. It was very Spanish-influenced. Gabby remarked that it felt like we were in the South of Spain. Or what she imagined it to be. (It was then that we decided to go to Seville together.)

Later on, after reading about the park, I came to learn that the park is named after the Spanish maritime explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa. Not Rocky Balboa, as I first thought (just kidding).

San Diego - Balboa Park
San Diego – Balboa Park
San Diego - Balboa Park
San Diego – Balboa Park

I was exhausted by this point. When we got back to the hotel, we ordered food, ate it, and I passed out. Before I passed out, we briefly talked about going on a haunted tour, because a couple of brochures claimed San Diego to be one of the most haunted cities in the United States. I checked to see if there were any slots open for a tour that Saturday night, but they were all booked. I’ll have to book one next time we’re there.

San Diego
View from our hotel on Sunday morning!

Sunday morning, we got ready and left the hotel to go to Old Town. According to California State Parks, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park was the most visited park in 2005 and 2006. That’s some random trivia for you.

Here, we grabbed a trolley tour around San Diego and was able to go to Coronado (for like 10 minutes) and saw Tijuana from the bridge.

Old Town San Diego
Old Town San Diego
Old Town San Diego
The Trolley!
San Diego and Coronado
Coronado to San Diego, looking out towards Tijuana

We got off the trolley at Balboa Park because our mission was to go check out the Science Museum. Pro tip: Google the museums beforehand. We didn’t realize the Science Museum was more for kids than adults. Whoops. At least we got to see a 42-minute movie about engineers!

With time running out (my flight was at 9:45), we called a Lyft and went back to Old Town to check out the park.



Here’s a jail cell they used in the “old days”. Can you imagine being in a cell like that for a week? The sun would kill you!

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
The iron was solid. No escaping this box.

We came to San Diego when it was close to Dia de los Muertos. Unfortunately, we were a little too early to see a parade, but people were still enjoying themselves!

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

I bought some trinkets here as souvenirs. Magnets. You know the drill. Since we were in San Diego, I had to get fish tacos.

For dinner, we went to Miguel’s and I finally got to taste what everyone was clamoring about.

San Diego - Miguel's Cocina
Miguel’s Cocina

Verdict: It was okay. I’ve had better fish tacos at, believe it or not, Far Rockaway.

Maybe I should try the California Burritos next.

And with that, it was time for me to pack and head to the airport.

I never got a chance to hang out around Mission Beach or Pacific Beach. I guess that’s for next time.

Until next time, San Diego.



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