S an Diego likes to call itself America's Finest City. But scratch its tan chin and you'll find much more than a pretty face, a pert butt, and a torso hammered to a sleek "V" by years of popping up on a surfboard.
Take a breath here, and look again. Quietly, in the past few years, this city has established its youthful energy, with a resurgent Tijuana at its hip. In food and culture, San Diego is bursting. The crackle of the place lives in neighborhoods like Barrio Logan, whose murals and galleries tell the story of both Chicano history and the flourishing homegrown arts scene. Without driving too far in this county, you can hike and surf in the same morning. And, yes, as anyone who lives here will tell you, those famous beaches overshadow all of this because more so than in LA, they are real, and they are spectacular.
You really want to get a local chatting? Just ask where to go for their favorite Cali burrito or IPA.
W elcome to town, you're looking great -- wait, are those actual abs I see coming out of hibernation? Props on the grapefruit brunches. Now put your pre-beach-vacation fast out of its (and your) misery. Start with that first, just-by-the-airport stop at In-N-Out. Then, to go truly native, keep your eyes peeled for San Diego's signature creation, the California burrito: a gringo marriage of carne asada, French fries, cheese, and sour cream (guac recommended). While you're at it, grab a golden, beer-battered fish taco for good measure. I can already hear your stomach growling. Against those fragile abs it sounds like wind chimes.
Zarlito's Family Restaurant | Bradford Tennyson/Thrillist
By JACKIE BRYANT

Until recently, San Diego's most sought-after culinary offerings were, simply, whatever you could eat on a patio overlooking the Pacific. Nothing against an oceanside table for two, but the city has quietly grown into a food destination in its own right. Click here for full article...

Pizza Port Brewing Company | Pizza Port Brewing Company
By BETH DEMMON and SCOTT KLEMME

San Diego is awash in craft beers like nowhere else in America. The sheer volume can be overwhelming, but if you speak the beers on this list, you'll get around San Diego like an expert -- and once you leave, never go thirsty again. Click here for full article...

San Diego Poke Company | Erin Jackson/Thrillist
By ERIN JACKSON

San Diego's food continually gets better and more creative, even when we're talking about such staples as lobster rolls and pizza. These are the San Diego restaurants where the city's best keep improving, and that we keep coming back to over and over. Click here for full article...

SAN DIEGO BREWERY CRAWLS | Cole Saladino/Thrillist
By BETH DEMMON

San Diego County is home to fully a quarter of California's independent breweries, and more than the entire United States had just 30 years ago. Here's how to be comfortable (and responsible) as you visit our best and brightest. Click here for full article...

La Puerta | Bradford Tennyson/Thrillist
BY KYLE HALL

These are bars where you absolutely know you're in San Diego, including a video-game lover's paradise, a sanctuary for vegan death-metal fans, and, of course, open-air joints with fabulous views. Click here for full article...

TACOS PERLA | COURTESY OF OF TACOS PERLA
By Erin Jackson

San Diego is bursting with great spots to score seasoned meat, fish, or veggies wrapped in a warm tortilla. Because life’s too short to eat less-than-extraordinary tacos, we tapped 9 San Diego chefs to name their favorite. Click here for full article...

By THRILLIST VIDEO

The Grass Skirt, a faux-Polynesian temple to all things tropical, has become an instant Tiki destination in San Diego's Pacific Beach neighborhood. Its greatest advance: the Tuna Ribbon Poke Fishbowl. Click here for full article...

P hysically this town sprawls out like a kid on a towel, giving you plenty of options to crash. But let me guess: You're a beach person. Definitely stick to places west of I5 to stay within a mile or two of the breakers. And if that's just not close enough, you can (booking far in advance) find coastal camping in North County, including South Carlsbad State Beach and San Onofre.
The reason everyone looks so damn fine isn’t because they skip meals.
Y ou run into a lot of visitors here, and there's a good chance their bosses shipped them. This place hosts industry conferences non-stop -- Comic-Con gets the most press, but the weather is prime and predictable year-round. Too many visitors drop in, spend their days in the convention center, and leave thinking it's just a beach town with sturdy carpeting.
MISSION BEACH | BRADFORD TENNYSON/THRILLIST
By SARA NORRIS

Don't be fooled by the beautiful weather, beautiful beaches, and beautiful people. Before you get sucked into the "anything goes" philosophy, take steps not to wind up sunburnt, broke, and/or incarcerated. Click here for full article...

LA MONA, TIJUANA | Dobino/Shutterstock
By MAYA KROTH

Where else can you see a Rembrandt in the morning, tan your naked butt in the afternoon, attend a lucha libre match at night, and slurp some of the best ramen of your life in a nondescript strip mall at 3am? Click here for full article...

S an Diego County covers more area than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, so navigating can be challenging without your own set of wheels. Are you just taking a city break, visiting beaches, and checking out the local neighborhoods? Uber, Lyft, or taxis have you covered and let you skip parking, which can be a huge headache. Also, Uber's dirt-cheap in Southern California, geared to compete against car ownership and rentals.
Too many visitors drop in, spend their days in the convention center, and leave thinking it’s just a beach town with sturdy carpeting.
HOTEL DEL CORONADO | meunierd/shutterstock
By Thrillist Travel

In San Diego time has a way of getting away from you, often in the best ways. But even in the middle of an endless summer, you’ve still got to find your way around. The DestiNATION: San Diego guide has mapped out the best places in town to score burritos or ceviche, to sip experimental craft beers or classic cocktails, to catch a wave or twenty, or to just take it nice and slow. Click here for full article...

T here's so much to do in San Diego that most visitors get overwhelmed, throw up their arms in exasperation, and just end up moving here. (Yes, most locals you meet are transplants.) With a historical average of 64 degrees on Christmas Day, the weather is so perma-great that you can pretty much get out and do anything, anytime of the year. Surf during the winter? Sure, the waves are better! Snowboard during the summer? No, that's why it says "pretty much."
Imperial Beach | JON BILOUS/SHUTTERSTOCK
By JACKIE BRYANT

More than just patches of surf and sand, beaches allow so much of life in San Diego to revolve around the water. These are the spots (and the neighborhoods) that make San Diego a world-class beach town. Click here for full article...

Temecula Valley | ZAB Photographie/Shutterstock
By KYLE HALL

There's more to do in San Diego than simply sunbathe your days away. The city rewards anyone who wants to jump off cliffs, shoot marines with paintballs, or simply get a bargain on a round of golf. Click here for full article...

WINDANSEA BEACH | flickr/Seth Rader
By KEN LEWIS

Year-round gentle weather, consistent waves, warm water -- if you're not a surfer when you get to San Diego, you should be by the time you leave. Let my three decades as a surfer here help you pick your spots. Click here for full article...

BY Thrillist Video

Barrio Logan, one of the most dynamic Mexican-American neighborhoods in San Diego, is home to a distinct subculture of men and women with their own spin on throwback 1950s-era rock styles. These are Chicano rockabillies. Click here for full article...

B ecause stories about decapitation tend to write themselves, Mexican border towns caught in the drug wars of the past couple of decades developed a dismal reputation. In the early 2000s that cloud all but snuffed tourism in Tijuana, a city that a century ago heroically welcomed Prohibition-era American refugee drinkers and has ever since catered to the various debaucheries of border-hoppers.
Mercado Hidalgo, Tijuana | Flickr/Rebeca Anchondo
By MICHAEL A. GARDINER

Tijuana used to trade on its gritty reputation, selling itself with a pre-Vegas "what happens there stays there" attitude. But the city has begun to remake itself into a broader, more upscale tourist destination. Click here for full article...

BY Thrillist Video

Imagine a wrestling match crossed with a glitzy Broadway show, hopped up on amphetamines and staged in Mexico. This is the scene 15 minutes south of the border from San Diego, where lucha libre, or "free fighting," rules Friday nights. Click here for full article...