12 Best Downtown San Diego Hotels - Jul 2019
Hilton San Diego Bayfront
The Sofia Hotel
Hard Rock Hotel San Diego
Omni San Diego Hotel
Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina
The Bristol Hotel San Diego
The Westin San Diego
Kimpton Solamar Hotel
The US Grant a Luxury Collection Hotel San Diego
Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter
The Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter
The Westgate Hotel
Your Travel Guide to Downtown San Diego
San Diego is famous for the San Diego Zoo, its Air and Space Museum, and SeaWorld. But there is a lot to see just in the downtown section, with neighborhoods dating back from the time that San Diego was first established (the Gaslamp Quarter), when it was used primarily for fishing (as in Little Italy), and easy access to the waterfront and lots of things to do at the San Diego Marina. Spend a couple of days seeing what there is downtown, before you try new vistas, further out from the city center.
What are the Must-Do-s and See-s in Downtown San Diego?
Little Italy of San Diego
San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood, as you can guess, features Italian restaurants and cafes. Many Italian residents settled here and worked as fishermen in the 1970s and 1980s--and the newly constructed Piazza Pescatore is intended to memorialize the city’s fishing past. Nowadays, there is a Farmer’s Market on Saturdays and Wednesdays, and numerous food and wine tasting events throughout the year. Especially noteworthy is the Piazza della Famiglia, with its cobblestone streets and fountain.
The Gaslamp Quarter has sort of become San Diego’s version of New York’s “Greenwich Village”. It was the first part of San Diego that was established by land developers William Heath Davis and Alonzo Horton. (The Davis-Horton House has become a sort of museum, where you can learn about the history of the founding of San Diego.)Although the area was infamous for adult entertainment and prostitution for most of its history, it underwent a major cleanup and revival in the 1980s. The Victorian architecture was renovated and restored, giving the neighborhood a historic look. Presently, it’s dotted with art galleries and theaters. By the way, there are some parts that still use gas lamps--but the neon lighting is quite distinctive, and gives this section of town it’s character.
If you’re interested in shopping, go see the Seaport Village section of the Gaslamp Quarter. It has 45 very distinctive shops, as well as street performers and musicians, a carousel, restaurants, and more!
Embarcadero Marina Park--Maritime Museum
The Embarcadero (Spanish for “wharf” or “landing place”) Marina Park is a lively waterfront park near Seaport Village. It includes the Maritime Museum of San Diego--a collection of 11 ships, including a sailing ship from as far back as 150 years ago! There is also the B-39 Submarine and USS Dolphin Submarine, the steam ferry Berkeley, and the San Diego Harbor Pilot Boat. The San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina is located nearby. If you’re with children, don’t miss the 12-acre Waterfront Park, a newly-constructed public park with spray fountains and slides!
If you’re interested in art, there are sculptures and other art works situated along the length of the Embarcadero, starting near Petco Park all the way up to the Maritime Museum! (There is also the Museum of Contemporary Art of San Diego, which is undergoing renovation and will reopen April 20, 2019.)
There are also cruises and water taxis departing from the Embarcadero, such as Flagship Cruises and Events, which give you a 2-3 hour view of the harbor, as well as opportunities to go searching for dolphins and whales. The Seal Tour takes you on a cruise and a bus tour of the city--in the same amphibious vessel!
USS Midway Museum
The USS Midway was an aircraft carrier that was launched after WWII, and has been used as a museum since 1992, when it was taken out of action. It takes approximately 3 hours to cover everything--and some of the tour guides actually served on the ship (or are veterans of the naval forces)! The guides take you over 60 places on the ship--you can even get inside one of the planes on the ship’s deck. If you want, there are also flight simulators to dramatize what flying a war plane is like!
Petco Park--Home of the San Diego Padres
If you’re in the mood for a baseball game, Petco Park is the stadium of San Diego’s Major League Baseball team, the Padres. Petco Park is at the lower end of the Gaslamp Quarter of Downtown San Diego. The San Diego Marriott, the Hard Rock Hotel, and the Hilton San Diego are all located in the area of the stadium.
Getting Around in Downtown San Diego
Getting into San Diego
San Diego International Airport
International flights will usually enter California via Los Angeles’ or San Francisco’s airport. San Diego International Airport receives mostly domestic flights, as well as flights from Canada and Mexico. It’s advised to arrange your flight itinerary such so as to include a Los Angeles-San Diego flight in advance. There is a shuttle service taking passengers from the airport to downtown San Diego, for a flat fee per passenger. The Hilton San Diego Airport on Harbor Island is near the airport.
Getting around San Diego
Amtrak and Coaster Commuter Rail
The Amtrak and Coaster Commuter Rail connect San Diego with Los Angeles and Orange County, as well as lines to Arizona, Nevada, and the rest of the United States.
San Diego Metropolitan Transit System
The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System runs a bus, trolley, and “Rapid Route” system that connect the airport to the city center, and allow you access to all of the noteworthy sites: the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, Seaport Village, and more.
San Diego Trolley
The San Diego Trolley is the local light rail system, which runs four lines: Blue, Orange, Silver, and Green. The four lines interconnect in a diamond-shaped pattern in the city center, allowing you to switch between train lines with ease. There is a hop-on/hop-off privilege, so you can pay one fare and ride the trolley as much as you want!