Mr. A's, Bertrands, what to see in San Diego, trip wellness

Watch the airplanes from Bertrand’s at Mr. A’s in Bankers Hill.

Who doesn’t love to feel like they’re flying?

It’s such an odd sensation to look out across the horizon feeling like you have wings but your feet are still on the ground.

San Diego has lots of opportunities, both natural and man-made, with a new addition that just re-opened in time for the Balboa Park Centennial Celebration. This is the first post featuring urban viewpoints and most serve alcohol. Family option: Visit them during the daylight hours when you’re looking for what to see in San Diego.

What to see in San Diego: Skyscraper, Tower and Rooftop Views

There’s a bit of a rivalry on the downtown waterfront with two hotel rooftop lounges considering themselves tops. Numbers are hard to dispute but for the best view, it’s a matter of what you’re looking for.

Top of the Hyatt, What to see in San Diego, Trip Wellness

The afternoon view from the Top of the Hyatt – 40 Stories up!

1. Altitude Sky Lounge: At the top of the San Diego Marriott in the Gaslamp Quarter, 22 stories above street level, the Altitude Sky Lounge offers full views of downtown, the San Diego Bay and Petco park. It’s been named as one of the “Top 50 Bars” in the world by Conde Nast Magazine and the “#1 Rooftop Bar” in the Western United States by Sunset Magazine.  A swanky environment for the cocktail crowd there are happy hour specials Monday through Friday and all day Sunday.

2. Top of the Hyatt: At 40 stories high there’s little to argue about being the tallest waterfront hotel in the region. The Manchester Grand Hyatt hosts the Top of the Hyatt bar with views that stun you the moment the elevator opens. It’s a quieter atmosphere than the Altitude Sky Lounge and the drinks are pricey. Get a table near the window and marvel that you’re still technically on the ground. I’ve been there for a birthday cocktail and another time with my teenage son for the view and a soda with friendly service and unparalleled vistas.

Mr. A's, Bertrands, what to see in San Diego, trip wellness

Watch the airplanes from Bertrand’s at Mr. A’s in Bankers Hill.

3. Bertrand’s at Mister A’s: When you climb up from downtown to Bankers Hill you’re in a completely different atmosphere. The classic service at Bertand’s at Mister A’s is a treat for lunch or dinner. During the day from this 12th floor you can survey all of the San Diego Harbor but the greatest rush is watching airplanes swooping low as they come in from the East to land at Lindberg Field. It’s not every day you’re eye level with a flying jet. No wonder it was recently featured by for MSN as one of the Top 10 Penthouse Restaurants in the United States and Open Dinners chose it as the 2009 Best Scenic View.

California Tower, Balboa Park, trip wellness, what to see in San Diego

Climb to the view from the newly opened California Tower – Photo courtesy of

4. California Tower at the San Diego Museum of Man (Balboa Park): For the first time since 1935 visitors are welcomed to climb 200 feet, 125 steps (8 stories!) to see spectacular views. From the tower you can look across the treetops of Balboa Park in every direction. Tickets are necessary for a scheduled 40 minute tour and climb. There’s also a safety waiver to sign and a safety briefing but its worth the opportunity to spend 10 – 15 minutes at the top. As the Tower has just re-opened in January 2015 be sure to reserve in advance, especially on weekends.

5. Porta Vista Hotel: Head north to Little Italy and up the hill to admire the Marina view from the Glass Door Restaurant. Just off the tourist path, the Porta Vista Hotel is set on the hillside with expansive window views that seem much loftier than their four stories. Parking can be a hard to find in the neighborhood but use the hotel garage for two hours with free validation. Above the restaurant is a large deck for guests and special events, although there’s often a TGIF happy hour weekly. recognizes the Porto Vista Hotel as an Editor’s Choice downtown Little Italy San Diego urban hotel.

Glass Door, Little Italy, Porto Vista Hotel, trip wellness, what to see in San Diego

Admire the sun setting over the San Diego Marina from the Glass Door Restaurant and Terrace.

6.. Hotel La Jolla: Perched on the hill north of the crowds in La Jolla Village is the recently refurbished Kimpton Hotel La Jolla. The mid-century rectangular slab style shouldn’t deter a visit as the interiors are urban fresh and it’s a pet friendly space. The view magic waits on the top floor in the Cusp bar and restaurant. Watch the sunset while sipping or enjoy white table cloth dining. The Ladies room view makes washing your hands an artful experience too!

7. La Valencia Hotel: Set along the Prospect Road line up of art galleries, designer clothing stores and restaurants is the Spanish Colonial La Valencia Hotel. Step into the ‘Pink Lady’ and through the lobby to the La Sala Lounge where small tables and couches wait near a grand piano (it springs to life most weeknights around 6:30 and if you’re lucky a baritone will treat you to arias and show tunes.) Get there well before sunset to settle in and admire the view across the La Jolla Bay.

Perhaps you’ve visited San Diego and found a few other rooftop views to enjoy? Share your list of what to see in San Diego. Comments welcomed.

Next week: What to see in San Diego – Natural highs and hikes.