I’m a little biased when it comes to San Diego. I lived there for six months (which wasn’t long enough) and I got married there too. Now that my parents are living in the area, I find myself down there at least every couple of months, which is certainly enough time to craft a well-worn list of favorite activities in and around the area. Here are my top five:

The cactus garden at Balboa Park: Yes, Balboa Park itself is fantastic, from the world-class museums to the incredible architecture to the shady pathways just perfect for strolling. I’m partial, though, to the outdoor cactus garden right at the back, which you can explore for free. Take tons of pictures!

Brunch and browsing in Hillcrest: Park at a metered spot on the side of the road, then wander around San Diego’s vibrant Hillcrest neighborhood, home to a large proportion of the city’s gay community. Stop in at Bread & Cie for a loaf of the incredible fig and anise bread.

The drive-in cinema in Santee: For those of us who didn’t grow up in the 50s and 60s, the novelty of a drive-in cinema never gets old. The best part? Every showing is a double bill! Can’t beat that for a bargain.

Swami’s Gardens, Encinitas: If you’ve got a car and you’re in the mood for a little om, whiz up the coast to charming Encinitas, where you can explore the stunning Encinitas Gardens at the Self Realization Fellowship. A wander through the foliage is beyond therapeutic: and the backdrop is the Pacific Ocean!

Apple pie in Julian: Think you’ve had good apple pie? You ain’t had nothing until you’ve tried the pie in Julian. It’s a charming little gold-mining town, just perfect for a Sunday afternoon drive. Only one rule: come very, very, very hungry.

Want to experience San Diego for yourself? Head over to Visit California and enter for the chance to win a trip.

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