For too long, San Diego has been the middle child of California cities. After the cool, good-looking younger sister Los Angeles, and artsy, aloof older brother San Francisco, San Diego gets lost in the shuffle. (Not to mention the debauched cousin Las Vegas.) SD has a great balance between affordable, average-joe offerings and more upscale, luxurious hotels and restaurants that make the city perfect to celebrate in style without breaking the bank just getting breakfast. This trip should be about you and the guys. Not you, the guys, and the four million other tourists clogging up the line for everything. So here’s your guide to 72 hours of awesome in “America’s Finest City.” And if that’s somehow not good enough for you, well, you’ve got options.
— Jimmy Im
12 p.m. Check in at Hotel Coronado
Before landing at San Diego International Airport, make sure to catch a bird’s eye view of the coastal city below as your plane descends (the airport is shockingly close to the city, so you fly right over it). San Diego is chock-full of party-centric hotels, like W, Andaz and Kimpton’s Palomar, but you’ll take an Uber to Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island. Not only is it one of few hotels directly on the beach, the historic, 1888 hotel received a recent, massive renovation. Check into Beach Village, a private enclave of 78 contemporary cottages and villas on the beach. They’re equipped with a personal concierge and entry to secluded pools.
1 p.m. Lunch at Romesco
This “Mexiterranean” bistro serves upscale Mexican cuisine (you can’t visit San Diego without eating tacos) with a Mediterranean flair. It’s a unique dining experience that’s at once simple and elegant, which makes Romesco a perfect place to dine whatever your vibe. Stay in the main dining room to rest up for the night in a more relaxed European bistro atmosphere, or head into the Spanish tapas bar to start the party early with a rowdier midday meal.
3 p.m. Ocean Beach Brewery Hop
Take a fifteen-minute Uber to the Ocean Beach hood, which is considered the “Venice Beach of San Diego.” Translation: laid-back, artsy, creative types. San Diego is one of the best cities in America for breweries (there’s more than 80), and Ocean Beach is home to some of the best microbreweries in town. Start at Culture Brewing Company with up to 18 great suds on tap (including some nitro). Tip: They do sell kegs if you’re going that route later on. Recently opened Mike Hess Brewing features some solid IPAs and Ales (including a complex malty dark beer in Cappuccino Porter). All, like a lot of SD, it’s dog-friendly. Then end up at OB Brewing, a massive, family-run, three-story brewpub with a rooftop patio for crystal clear coastal views and 20 beers on tap.
5 p.m. Shop and Swim in La Jolla
Hop in an Uber and head twenty minutes to the seaside village of La Jolla. It’s the closest thing to the French Riviera on the west coast. Shop along the main drag, check out/hike Torrey Pines State Reserve, cruise the boardwalk and (the main reason we’re sending you here) kick back at La Jolla Cove. Right on the water, this sliver of beach paradise (bring your swim trunks) is one of the most gorgeous spots in San Diego. Sea lions hang out on the beach, which makes it an Instagram-happy location.
8 p.m. Dinner at Rustic Root
In the Gaslamp Quarter, home to bars, clubs, and entertainment, Rustic Root makes waves with the hood’s only restaurant rooftop. It’s a total scene but ambitious when it comes to dining, a better option than many of the tourist-trappy, ho-hummy restaurants in this hood. It’s all about rustic American cuisine, particularly guy food like the RR Burger with bacon jam, fried egg, aged cheddar, and mustard aioli or the huge, 8-oz flat-iron steak with chimichurri. Make sure to grab a reservation for the rooftop, which is slammed for dinner. And remember, the bachelor party dinner is the most important meal of the trip. So don’t mess it up!
10 p.m. Gaslamp Quarter Bar Crawl
Gaslamp Quarter is the ultimate district for the ultimate bar crawls. In fact, the pedestrian-heavy area was built about a decade ago specifically to be a nightlife/entertainment district. It’s crammed with bars, lounges with live music, gastropubs, nightclubs and everything in between. Start at Prohibition Lounge, which pays tribute to the Prohibition era with a secret entrance, a distinct 1920s vibe, and live music. It actually feels like a true speakeasy with brick walls, hardwood floors, an unassuming entrance, and the booze-enthusiast crowd. Order up smart craft cocktails with smarter names like Goonies Never Say Die and You’re Killing Me Smalls (with Platinum vodka, housemade cranberry, lime, and curaçao).
In every party city, there’s that one place with a mechanical bull, and it’s flipping over drunks at Double Deuce. Not a total shocker, but everyone here is celebrating a bachelor or bachelorette party. Double Deuce has a solid Wild West nightlife theme (like line dancing and bull riding competitions) and also private rooms you can rent should you want to camp out the entire night.
You’ll feel like you’re at a private, True Blood party at Noble Experiment, a speakeasy tucked away behind a secret door (basically, a wall of kegs) that holds 50 people max. The design is goth inspired in a stylish way (with Victorian-style chandeliers, Renaissance-ish paintings and a wall made entirely out of skulls (not human, we think). It’s all about handmade craft cocktails here but what makes the bar stand out for both libations and buzz factor is that the bartender will basically concoct your poison based on your booze likes and dislikes. You can make a reservation in advance, but it never really goes beyond a party of six (note: it’s not a reservation only bar, they do accept walk-ins).
10 a.m. Brunch at Hundred Proof
Wake up the dead and revive with promises of nourishment while packing them into an Uber headed towards the University Heights neighborhood of SD. You’re headed to Hundred Proof for a boozy brunch to get the day started right with their deep selection of Boilermakers (a shot and a beer). Might we suggest The Diddy (Tequila Ocho and Dos XX)? Then wolf down some Smoked Beef Brisket Hash to put out the fire of the previous hangover so you can get to work on the next hangover.
12 p.m. Pool Party at Harrah’s
There are plenty of hotel pool parties in San Diego, but nothing tops Harrah’s Splash Pool Party. Expect Vegas-style action at Harrah’s Resort Southern California, where flocks of fine young things make a beeline for proper partying by three pools with VIP cabanas, daybeds, live DJs, SoCal’s only swim-up bar, three hot tubs, and an amazing lazy river. It’s basically a water theme park for adults—everyone is wasted by 3 pm. It’s about an hour away from Coronado, but the resort offers a free, daily shuttle at regular intervals on the weekends.
5 p.m. Legal Boozing at Coronado Beach
Head back to your hotel, which is one of few places in all of America where you can legally booze on the beach (for real!). Hotel Del Coronado actually owns 12,000 square feet of Coronado Beach (ranked one of the top beaches in America), so you can drink legally with feet in the sand. Sit back in one of the lounge chairs and knock back a cold one while you watch the sunset.
8 p.m. Dinner at Kettner Exchange
Make a reservation for Kettner Exchange now. Even if you are 50/50 on going to San Diego for your bachelor party, play it safe and make a reservation. They run several weeks deep. Why? It’s helmed by Brian Redzikowski. His resume? Nobu Aspen, Joel Robuchon in Vegas, Yellowtail in Vegas, Iron Chef America star, and Rising Star Chef with James Beard Awards. This is one of the most unforgettable dining experiences in San Diego, and it’s surprisingly casual. Expect an elevated, SoCal/New American menu comprising classic dishes cooked up by a star, like Prime Creekstone NY Strip, Texas Red Fish, and Duck Meatballs. You are going to order several cocktails as the beverage director trained with NYC cocktail gurus (Sam Ross of Milk & Honey / Attaboy and Phil Ward of Death & Company). What makes this restaurant a must for bachelor parties is that they offer private cabanas for groups, which effortlessly feels VIP.
11 p.m. Nightclub Crawl
After Harrah’s Vegas-style pool party and Redzikowski’s Vegas background, top off the Vegas-themed day with a night at Omnia. The swank nightlife venue by Hakkasan Group (and Omnia Vegas’ Southern California branch) ensures an all-night affair. Expect velvet ropes, strict dress code, drunk Marines, drunk surfer chicks/publicists and legendary DJs flown in like Hardwell, Calvin Harris, and DJ Politik. The lavish, 22,000-square-foot space is the only nightlife venue with a rooftop component (with cabanas to boot). Throw down on the huge dance floor and be sure to book a VIP table for proper partying.
Another option is Fluxx, an equally high-end and high-energy nightclub in the Gaslamp Quarter. Locals love it because the mood, lights, and motif constantly change, so there’s always something different with each visit. The cool factor is the “tree house,” which feels like “Alice in Wonderland” for adults (basically a bar with porthole floors and hanging bulbs and, you guessed, it, a tree). Party down on a circular dance floor as EDM DJs throw beats, and book the VIP tables literally in the center of all the action, not tucked away to the side. Fluxx is a smaller club (so the ladies get priority) but booking table service ensures prompt entry.
If you don’t feel like blowing one-month rent in an upscale nightclub, switch gears and head to Moonshine Flats, a wild, country-themed bar, and nightclub known for having the longest bar in San Diego (at 80 feet). They’re always packed with a thriving, lively crowd immersed in proper, honky-tonk style fun. Moonshine also has the largest dance floor in the city and a huge stage for live bands, so you’re going to Footloose the night away. But the fun doesn’t end there. There’s an open-air patio area, The Deck, with foosball and yard games to make Moonshine the ultimate nightlife experience. Moonshine is known for their party bus and tailgate parties to Mattress Firm Amphitheatre for concerts (like Brad Paisley and Lady Antebellum) so check your calendar to see if you’re in town.
11 a.m. Enroll in Surf School
If you’ve never surfed, San Diego is a dream spot for beginners (and a haven for pro surfers). It’s home to some of the best swells on the west coast (and warmer waters down south) with more than 100 spots to ride waves, so you might as well give it a shot. Take a private surf class with San Diego Surf School in Pacific Beach, one of the better places you’re guaranteed to hang ten. If you’ve already mastered the cowabunga, skip the class and rent a board.
1 p.m. Lunch at FIREHOUSE
While you’re in Pacific Beach, which is home to a string of beachfront restaurants and bars, book a cabana at FIREHOUSE American Eatery and Lounge, which practically survives year-round on bachelor parties alone. The open-air rooftop patio is the perfect spot to kick back, toast the groom, and munch on perfectly portioned shareable plates like Kobe Beef Sliders, Mini Chicago Dogs, and signature Firehouse Tacos. The weekly Flamingo Domingo Sunday Summer series set the vibe right with DJs and $16 bottles of champagne.
3 p.m. Explore Balboa Park and the Museum of Man
Stick around Pacific Beach for proper beaching but don’t forget to pack sunscreen and towels. If you want more chirping birds head to Balboa Park, a famous, 1,200-acre park where locals attend yoga classes, burn calories with cardio or just, you know, relax. While you’re here, check out the San Diego Museum of Man that features some super interesting exhibits, like the history of cannibals!
6 p.m. Sunset Cruise
The outdoor lifestyle in San Diego is pretty contagious, and you can get your nature fix out on the water like most locals do over the weekend. Rent a boat for the perfect sunset, bachelor party cruise. Hornblower offers some epic cruises on a private yacht with packages that include three hours of free champagne, a standard bar, hors-d’oeuvres, a captain (you’ll need that), and fun times on the Pacific.
9 p.m. Dinner at Juniper and Ivy
There might be more small farms in San Diego than anywhere else in The United States, and you’ll get your farm-to-table fill at Top Chef alum Richard Blais’ Juniper and Ivy in culinary hot spot Little Italy. The creative space—a former 1920s sawtooth warehouse—has cathedral high-ceilings and exposed steel girders, and beams. The modern American cuisine highlights Blais’ smart creations, heavy on SoCal sensibility. Think fresh Baja yellowtail with shark sauce and squid ink linguine, a popular dish. Even chicken, perhaps the most “meh” entree on any menu, is elevated with garlic herb sausage, BBQ baked pistachios, green harissa and pickled green beans.
12 p.m. Strip Clubbing at Hong Kong Gentlemen’s Club
While there are almost a dozen strip clubs in San Diego, your best bet is crossing the border to Tijuana like every other dude for Hong Kong Gentlemen’s Club. It is legendary. All the ladies are 10s, staff (including security) are friendly, the VIP service/booths actually feel VIP, drinks are cheap ($5 tops for a well-drink), it spans two levels of entertainment and there’s even valet parking. Considering it’s in Tijuana, you’ll be surprised with what you can get for a buck here. Don’t forget to bring your passport! Also Uber, an hour drive, does make the trip out here and back (about $35 a person when split 4 ways) so there really are no excuses.
According to the Google, San Diego International Airport is a mere 17 minutes and just about eight miles from your hotel. If you’re planning on catching 40 winks, you’ve got the time but remember, you can always sleep on the plane (hungover of course). If you need any further helping planning this adventure of sea, surf, and sand, point your eyes in this direction.