San Diego, USA travel guide and things to do: Nine must-do highlights

THE ONE NEIGHBOURHOOD

Once an insalubrious part of the city, North Park has had a hipster makeover and is now the coolest 'hood in town. Today, you'll find an eclectic mix of quirky shops, breweries, galleries, restaurants and bars. Check out the steak and cheese burrito at Breakfast Republic, the banana bread cold brew at Holsem Coffee (trust us) and the authentic Mexican wares at Artelexia. See explorenorthpark.com

THE ONE HOTEL

Taking full advantage of its waterfront location overlooking San Diego Bay, the InterContinental San Diego offers sigh-inducing views from its 400 luxuriously appointed rooms. You'll find equally engaging panoramas at the property's two restaurants and three bars, which include an outpost of Del Frisco's acclaimed Double Eagle Steakhouse. The best bit? The hotel is walking distance from the lively neighbourhoods of Little Italy and the Gaslamp Quarter. See intercontinentalsandiego.com

THE ONE BAR

Bringing a welcome dose of sophistication to the city's theme park-ish Old Town, Tahona specialises in mezcal, tequila's smoky sibling from the Oaxaca region of southeast Mexico. Enjoy it in a cocktail such as the appropriately fiendish Diablito (Little Devil) or sample some of Tahona's 120 mezcals at the tasting bar. Feeling peckish? You'll also find delicious, authentic Oaxacan cuisine here too. See tahonabar.com

THE ONE RESTAURANT

Mexican food rarely gets the acclaim it deserves. Puesto aims to change that. Utilising fresh, locally sourced ingredients and preparing everything in-house, this innovative eatery in the former San Diego police headquarters has elevated the humble taco to gourmet status. Standouts include the filet mignon taco with spicy pistachio salsa and the smoked tuna taco with manzano corn sauce. See eatpuesto.com

THE ONE DISH

The tiramisu French toast at Farmer's Table is a decadent, retirement-threatening stack of rum- and coffee-infused toast filled with mascarpone cheese. It has more kilojoules than a cruise buffet, but damn it's good. In fact, everything at this funky, farm-to-table establishment in Little Italy is hard to resist, including the barn-chic decor of rough-cut wooden tables, wall plants and a 1940s tractor. See myfarmerstable.com

THE ONE CULTURAL HUB

As the United States' largest urban cultural park, Balboa Park gets most of San Diego's cultural kudos. But make sure you also check out Liberty Station, a former naval training centre that's now a thriving complex of galleries, restaurants, workshops and dance studios. Watch a contemporary ballet performance, sign up for an art class or eat at one of two Michelin Bib Gourmand-awarded restaurants (El Jardin and Solare). See libertystation.com

THE ONE BEACH

A 15-minute drive from downtown, Mission Beach genuinely does have something for everyone. Great surfing and a vast swathe of sandy beach? Tick. A three-kilometre-long wooden boardwalk for jogging, biking and skating? Tick. Laidback cafes and beach bars for a sundowner? Tick. A family-friendly amusement park with a historic wooden rollercoaster? Tick. Lively cocktail bars and a happening nightclub scene? Tick. See sandiego.org

THE ONE TOUR

You can't come to San Diego without exploring its bay and Flagship Cruises offers the widest range of harbour tours, thrill rides and dinner cruises. The south harbour itinerary passes the USS Midway aircraft carrier (now a museum) and the city's imposing flotilla of navy vessels. The north harbour loop skirts downtown and the entrance to the Pacific. Our recommendation? Do them both. See flagshipsd.com

THE ONE VIEW

Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo made history in 1542 when he became the first European to set foot on the west coast of the United States. The place where he clambered ashore was the tip of Point Loma, the protective peninsula that forms one side of San Diego Bay. In addition to a monument and a small, informative museum, the point offers sweeping views of the bay, the Pacific Ocean and – on a clear day – Mexico. See nps.gov/cabr

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ONE MORE THING

Don't visit San Diego without popping over the border to Tijuana in Mexico. It's only a 45-minute trolley ride from downtown and local tour operator Turista Libre will change your perceptions about this much-maligned city. See turistalibre.com

Rob McFarland was a guest of United Airlines (united.com) and San Diego Tourism (sandiego.org).

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