Urban Explorer: San Diego, California

Urban Explorer:  San Diego, California

San Diego is sometimes called the birthplace of California, as it was where early explorers first landed along the West Coast. The city has been a popular destination ever since.

With a bustling downtown area populated with both old and new architecture, San Diego expresses itself with art, cafes, restaurants, and museums, making it an ideal city center for traversing by motorcycle. With a Mediterranean climate, the city enjoys almost year-round sun and warmth. With that, unfortunately, comes a flood of tourists, which can congest the streets and freeways. But that makes it all the better to be aboard a motorcycle.

Host to a number of popular attractions within relatively close proximity, San Diego has a lot to discover, so give yourself enough time to do so. In addition to being a unique setting for urban rides, San Diego has plenty of easy parking that will help you get around quickly.

If you want to stretch your bike’s legs a bit, head out onto the Strand (also called the Silver Strand) which straddles San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. If you need a break from the city, travel east just 45 minutes to find pleasantly twisting country roads and wineries. Be aware though, on return to the city limits the freeways can come to a screeching halt at rush hour. A plus—lane-sharing is legal in California.

Points of Interest

San Diego Zoo

The obvious, yet justifiably so, tourist attractions include the famous San Diego Zoo, located in the sprawling Balboa Park, which offers attractive architecture and serene tree-lined walks.

Military Museums

San Diego’s deep harbor makes it ideal for serving big ships, hence a strong Navy presence. It’s also home to the USS Midway aircraft-carrier-turned-museum, with a great self-guided tour of this historic ship. Closeby is the Maritime Museum, with several square-rig tall ships, including a man-of-war and a merchant sailing ship, available to board and explore. Not far away is the Air & Space Museum.

Little Italy

For cultural immersion, there’s Little Italy, where you will find authentic Italian restaurants and a pleasant atmosphere. There’s also the Gaslamp Quarter, rich with history and illuminated with old-fashioned gas lamps. Both districts make for easy walking, shopping, and sightseeing. San Diego has a youthful, friendly, spontaneous energy, with a cross of classic and hipster eateries, cafes, bars, and breweries.  

Urban Explorer:  San Diego, California

For a classic urban revival experience, there’s the quaint Sofia Hotel. Located in the heart of downtown San Diego, the Sofia is a member of the National Trust Historic Hotels of America.

The hotel offers standard rooms and suites, with a wide option of amenities. Pricing can be surprisingly affordable (depending on time of year for booking).

The location will grant you easy access to a number of restaurants, clubs, and local bars, or you can book a table at the on-site restaurant if you want to stay in. The Sofia offers guests spa treatments.  

Facts & Information


Approximately 97 miles


San Diego offers bicycles and motorcycles a decent amount of designated parking. However, the great urban ride may turn into the great urban crawl. It can often be stop and go, but the downtown traffic manages to maintain a flow, with low speeds that actually make sightseeing a little more feasible.

Lunch Stop: The Crack Shack

Located in Little Italy, this lunch spot is completely open air with a full bar and plenty of lawn games. They serve a variety of delicious sandwiches, fried chicken, and salads.

Best Time to Travel

Summers in San Diego can be hot and sunny, or overcast with fog. But rest assured, if you’re here for at least a few days, you’ll find good weather eventually.

Contrary to popular belief, it does in fact rain in California, although it’s mild by midwest standards. Winters bring cooler climes, with occasional snaps of cold (for California, that is).

Naturally, being a sun destination, summers draw the tourists like gnats. Consider traveling during off-season for smaller crowds.