What to Do in San Diego, California

Head to Old Town’s state park for regular exhibitions celebrating Kumeyaay Nation culture, stroll Little Italy to browse jam-packed farmers’ markets or head to San Diego's heart – the cultural hub of Balboa Park. You’ll need more than a few days blocked out on your road-trip itinerary to unravel it and, even then, cheery Californian town surprise you.

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Hike the cliffs at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Head north to this coast-hugging nature reserve at the city’s extremis to spot the skewwhiff silhouettes of North America’s rarest pine clinging to honey-toned cliffs. The windswept landscape, some 800 hectares in size, is the only mainland site where the endangered Pinus torreyana grows, twisted and sculpted by sea winds into strange, but elegant, ornamental shapes. Arrive early in the morning for a quiet walk along 13km of trails looping through dramatic landscapes, being sure to keep an eye out for breaching humpbacks as you tackle the clifftop coastal route. You’ll spot rare seabirds around the large saltwater lagoon, too, and, fingers crossed, might catch a rare bobcat sighting. These ferocious felines can sometimes be seen sunning themselves on distant rocks in the morning rays.

Address

12600 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037

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Explore the city’s Latino side in Barrio Logan

The city’s oldest Mexican-American neighbourhood is a compact introduction to San Diego’s historic Latinx community. Begin your exploration of this richly cultured district at the Chicano Park murals, a visually arresting representation of the local community’s history of resilience. The 80-plus designs were painted after a successful local protest over land use in the 1970s. Read up on the history, then swerve into the surrounding streets – if you’re there on the second Saturday of the month, the Barrio Art Crawl will be kicking into action, showcasing artisan producers and live music. Swing by the pastel-pretty Simón Limón for handmade trinkets from both sides of the border, then fill your belly at Barrio Dogg, which serves up Chicano comfort food in the form of Tijuana-style hot dogs. Alternatively, head to Salud, beloved for its tacos with a twist: think beer-battered shrimp under pico de gallo and chipotle sauce.

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Catch up on the SD art scene

Read the mission statement of the Museum of Photographic Arts for an idea of how San Diego approaches art: this Balboa Park institution flips Eurocentric perspectives on their head, showcasing contemporary photographers from South and Central America, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Elsewhere in the city, you’ll find creative ambitions quite literally on the streets – a benefit of San Diego’s balmy, year-round good weather. From the Barrio Logan murals to public sculptures dotted through the East Village and Little Italy, art can be spotted around virtually every corner, no matter which district you’re prowling. Dig deeper at the Visions Art Museum, a showcase of modern textiles craft, or head to the experimental Bread & Salt in Logan Heights, a multitasking community space hosting exhibitions by local and international artists.