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San Diego City Trip - Torrey Pines

A sailboat in the bay beyond San Diego
A Sailboat in the San Diego Bay

SAN DIEGO DAY 2: Torrey Pines, Balboa Park, Gaslamp

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Maybe you would prefer another beach adventure? Hikers will appreciate the eight-mile path through the Torrey Pines State Reserve. The reserve, located between La Jolla and Del Mar, is a seaside kingdom that acts as the perfect showcase for the famed local wind-bent Torrey pines. A wild stretch of beach, the Torrey Pine Reserve offers a stunning parade of ocean views, sandstone formations, wildflowers, chaparral and picturesque trees. Most trails aren't difficult, but make sure you bring bottled water and a snack, and stay on the trails to avoid unstable cliffs.

The waves are gnarly but perfect at Black's Beach in San Diego
Surfing at Black's Beach

If the day turns out to be of the wonderfully balmy variety, check out Black's Beach at the bottom of Torrey Pines Reserve (just follow the hiking trails down to the water). The surf here is world-class and the majestic cliffs frame the sand beautifully. But don't be surprised if you see a few bodies without bathing suits as part of it is a nude beach.

For those interested in learning to surf, head to the nearby La Jolla Shores beach which has perfect beginner waves with fun lessons by Surf Diva whose humorous and expert instructors will have you hanging ten in no time.

Torrey Pines State Park
Torrey Pines State Reserve

Just north of downtown, the San Diego Zoo features more than 4,000 rare and endangered animals that include: giant pandas, mandrills, extremely rare pygmy hippopotami, koalas, clouded leopards from Vietnam, Indian gharials, African gazelles, Visayan warty pigs, Tahitian blue lories and Micronesian kingfishers. There is also a botanical collection of more than 700,000 exotic plants. This 100-acre park closely recreates many of the animals' original habitats from across the globe. It can take all day to see the flora and fauna on display, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes, drink plenty of water and get ready to see lots of lions, tigers and bears.

For an alternative, you can visit the adjacent Balboa Park, San Diego's version of NYC's Central Park. Upon arrival, take a quick stroll around to absorb the relaxed, yet vibrant feel of this 1,200-acre park's grassy knolls and gorgeous Spanish architecture. Balboa has its 100-year anniversary of the Panama California exposition in 2015, so enhancements and events are getting underway for the celebration. Next, it'll be time to pick your pleasure: Balboa Park has a museum for every inclination, whether it's art, photography (MOPA features photographs by Alfred Stieglitz, Dorothea Lange, Irving Penn and James Nachtwey), natural history, vintage cars or aviation. Yes, there's even something for the kiddies, as there is a Railroad Museum, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and an IMAX Theater. Check out the all-day combo pass to maximize your sight-seeing potential. Hit the museums or just wander about admiring the Old Globe Theater, Japanese gardens and the international village — you might even catch a free concert at the Organ Pavilion. After traversing the immense Balboa Park during the day, a hearty dinner is definitely in order.

Searsucker is one of the hottest bars in San Diego
The trendy bar at Searsucker

Head back downtown to your hotel and get dressed for a night exploring the Gaslamp. Start at Searsucker, chef Brian Malarkey's social dining hotspot for creative cocktails prepared by the infamous Snake Oil Mixologist team. We love the peter rabbit cocktail with Pimm's #1 liquor, bruised basil, pressed lemon and a pickled carrot to nibble on. Then grab a table and order from the chef's playful protein-heavy menu that features dishes like shrimp with bacon grits, swordfish with drunken cherries and pork butt with grilled peaches. It is one giant party at Searsucker, and Malarkey's other clothing-named eatery, Herringbone, carries the festive torch to La Jolla.

For couples' dinners, try chef Jason Knibb's cuisine at The Grande Colonial La Jolla Nine-Ten Restaurant. It's a cozy, sophisticated dining room with ambient lighting that's terrific for romance. Favorite menu items include port wine-braised short ribs with chanterelle mushroom foam; the slow-roasted lamb rack with fava beans and rhubarb and onion relish; and the 72 per cent chocolate cream with banana gelato, butterscotch and ginger mousse. Those more family-oriented will love dining at Sammy's Woodfired Pizza, where the menu runs the gamut from pizzas to kefir cheese dip to beef quesadillas and even their famed messy sundaes.

Continue to Day 3

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