Regardless of official city lines, the entire county is usually referred to collectively as San Diego. From downtown proper, San Diego stretches north for about 40 miles with a seemingly endless string of beach neighborhoods (from Ocean Beach and Pacific Beach to La Jolla and Del Mar) and 15 miles to the south, where it dead-ends at the Mexican border; meanwhile, the sprawl continues to creep east toward the Anza-Borrego Desert and the Laguna Mountains.
WHEN TO GO
Anytime is fine, really. San Diego's near-perfect climate averages 70 degrees year-round, with a little spike in July and August (although temperatures do vary with topography, which creates distinct coastal, mountain, and desert environments). There are also 267 annual days of sunshine; in summer, expect some marine-layer clouds, known as "June gloom." Locals live for autumn, when the air is crisp, the sun is shining, and most of the tourists have gone home.
HOW TO GET THERE
Fly into San Diego International Airport (Lindbergh Field), about two miles from downtown. Taxis and rental cars are plentiful, and a trip downtown costs about $8.
Unfortunately, San Diego's roads and public transportation haven't been able to keep pace with the area's growth (San Diego is now the eighth-largest city in the nation). There is very limited bus, trolley, and train service outside of downtown, Old Town, and Mission Valley, so a rental car is a necessity if you're serious about exploring. Interstate 5 (locals call it "the five") is the main artery from the Mexico border to Los Angeles. For hours on both sides of rush hour, and all summer long, plan to spend plenty of time in heavy traffic. Call 866-500-0977 or visit www.dot.ca.gov for on-demand traffic reports. Alternatively, U.S. 101 ("the 101") will take you on a slow (there are lots of traffic lights) but at times scenic tour of the coast from Del Mar to Oceanside.
International Visitor Information Center
1040 1/3 W. Broadway at Harbor Drive (downtown)
7966 Herschel Avenue (Ja Jolla)
Tel: 619 236 1212