San Diego & Palm Springs holiday highlights

Covering over 16 blocks of Downtown, the Gaslamp District is the heart of the city with its blend of modern and Victorian architecture, lively bars, art galleries and museums. Head to the waterfront Embarcadero to look at the ships at the USS Midway Museum or jump on board a harbour cruise around the bay. From Downtown you can hop on a trolley to Balboa Park or San Diego Zoo. If you’re searching for fine dining, pizzerias and Farmers Markets, then vibrant Little Italy is a sure stop, where ‘Top Chef Alley’ hosts a culinary playground of celebrity restaurants. If it’s the California beaches that bring you here, there are plenty of gorgeous coastal towns to explore including the breathtaking coastline of La Jolla and Mission Beach. La Jolla is an upscale village-style town surrounded by the golf courses, independent boutiques and scenic cliff walks. Come here for all your outdoor adventure - surfing, snorkelling and kayaking or hand gliding, whale watching and hiking. Mission Beach has similar California spring break vibes, with its huge 4,600-acre aqua park at Mission Bay and sailing, kite surfing and paddle boarding. End your evenings on Sunset Cliffs, a renowned local favourite for Pacific Ocean sunset views.

For a high-end desert escape, Palm Springs Coachella Valley location is a dream. Expect to find celebrity summer houses, country clubs and golf courses, surrounded by palm trees and mountains. There are the designer boutiques and art galleries on El Paseo, the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens and the Desert Hot Springs. Take the Aerial Tramway up to Chino Canyon, hike the Thousand Palms Oasis on the San Andreas Fault line and horseback ride along desert trails. Visit the iconic Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway, the Palm Springs Air Museum or cool off from the desert heat at the 16-acre Wet ‘n’ Wild Park.

Where is San Diego & Palm Springs

On the western edge of Coachella Valley, Palm Springs sits within the Colorado Desert, about a two-hour drive from Los Angeles. The San Jacinto Mountains are to the west and the Santa Rosa Mountains to the south.


About 140 miles east of Palm Springs and just 20 miles north of Mexico, San Diego is a sprawling coastal plain between mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It sits on San Diego Bay, one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the USA.

Getting around

The most convenient way to explore San Diego and Palm Springs is by hiring a car. If you’re relying on public transportation, in San Diego you’ll find trolleys, shuttle buses and taxi services. There are three Red Trolley lines taking you through Downtown, Mission Valley, Old Town and El Cajon and also the Old Town Trolley and the seasonal Big Bay Shuttle providing a hop-on/hop-off service through the Embarcadero waterfront area. It’s also possible to cycle through neighbourhoods, and there are lots of cycle lanes and bike rentals available throughout the city. You can also travel by water taxi between Harbor Island, Shelter Island, Coronado and Downtown.

In order to explore the wider Coachella Valley from Palm Springs including the national parks and preserves, it’s advisable to hire a car. But if you’re just here for the sunshine and pools, then Downtown Palm Springs is walkable, and there is also a bus service and taxis. Taxis can be hailed on weekends, but during the week, its best to call ahead.

Shopping
Expect to pick up gorgeous Moroccan rugs, California resort-wear and delicate jewellery in the Palm desert. The Shops at 1345 are a treasure trove of colour-coded rails, cool, contemporary clothing and desert-inspired gifts to put you in the holiday mood, and every Thursday evening, Villagefest transforms Palm Canyon Drive into a vibrant street fair of handcrafted gifts, late-night art gallery openings and entertainment.

In San Diego there’s 16 blocks of shopping in the Gaslamp District, over 200 at the super chic Fashion Valley Mall, and charming independent boutiques at Cedros Avenue on Solana Beach. Expect everything from big American department stores to laid-back surf boutiques and cute paper goods to stylish gifts.

Food & drink
Palm Springs

Expect creative global cuisine infused with wild juniper, certified sake sommeliers, peel-and-eat shrimps and those famous Palm Springs fish tacos. There are glamorous rooftop restaurants with San Jacinto Mountain views, sidewalk cafes with nightly happy hours and unique alfresco long-table dining experiences with seasonal cuisine. There’s craft beer and cocktails, open-air pizzerias and renowned taco Tuesdays. Hip crowds searching high-end restaurants and lavish weekend brunches head to the Uptown Design District or Downtown, but there are also plenty of delicious casual eateries serving everything from key lime waffles to Belgian-style steamed mussels.

San Diego
San Diego’s rich Hispanic heritage can be seen throughout a wealth of fine Mexican restaurants, but with so many cool coastal neighbourhoods you can also expect Baja-Med cuisine and casual places to grab a bite whether you want burgers, pizza or fish tacos. There are swanky rooftop bars, plenty of craft beer breweries and lots of cocktails and fresh seafood. Head to ‘Top Chef Alley’ on the Kettner Boulevard of Little Italy for award-winning cuisine, Harbor Island for waterfront lobster Mac n’ cheese and La Jolla for upscale dining with ocean views.

San Diego & Palm Springs key facts

Time difference

GMT -8 hours

Currency

US Dollar ($)

Flying time to destination

12¾ hours

Language

English is the official language, although many other languages are widely spoken in certain cities and communities. America has its own written US English spellings.

Passport & visas

•  Brits must have a full 10-year British Passport that's valid for six months after you return to the UK.
•  You will also need a USA visa or waiver form/ESTA. Apply for your ESTA at least 72 hours before travelling (http://esta.cbp.dhs.gov).

Voltage & electricity

The domestic electrical supply is 110V, 60 cycles AC. Sockets are for plugs with two flat pins.

San Diego & Palm Springs good to know

Tipping

Tipping is an established and accepted custom in America. For good service, waiters and taxi drivers expect 15-20%, and counter and bar staff 10-15%. Porters can expect from $3-$5 per case, while tour guides can be given the equivalent of £2-£3 per day.

Public holidays

• 1 January: New Year's Day

• Third Monday in January: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

• Third Monday in February: Presidents Day

• Last Monday in May: Memorial Day

• 4 July: Independence Day

• First Monday in September: Labor Day

• Second Monday in October: Columbus Day

• 11 November: Veterans Day

• Fourth Thursday in November: Thanksgiving Day

• 25 December: Christmas Day