San Diego Travel
January 10, 2005 8:34 AM   Subscribe

Rather unexpectedly, I'm going to be in San Diego this Saturday thru Monday and I'd like to do something fun, maybe unusual. [+]

I'll be staying here on Mission Bay, but am renting a car. I'm thinking of driving down to Tijuana and surrounding areas. I know I'd need Mexican Auto Insurance. What else do I need to know to assure safe passage to and from? I won't have a passport.

Is there anything going on in San Diego that I should know about and make sure to see/do? Places to avoid? Thanks for the help.
posted by FlamingBore to Travel & Transportation around San Diego, CA (16 answers total)
Although not very adventurous or unusual, the Cabrillo National Monument offers a "spectacular view of the bay and city, Spanish exploration exhibits, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, tidepools, whale watching, and more."

I make a trip to San Diego every year or two, but don't usually get out much other than to catch up with old friends. I look forward to seeing what others recommend.
posted by hartsell at 8:45 AM on January 10, 2005

You can't take rentals into Mexico w/o breaking your rental agreement.

What you can do is park over on the US side and walk over the border. From there you can take a taxi into downtown TJ. It isn't that expensive and you don't have to worry about the rental agency finding out.

You don't need a passport. Having proof you're an USian --like your drivers license + your voter registration card can help if asked. However, most often people that "look American" are just asked "Are you a citizen?" and that's it. Darker skinned people are often asked to show ID.

Be cool down there. It is safe but being a dumbass gringo can get you in trouble.
posted by birdherder at 8:53 AM on January 10, 2005

Response by poster: birdherder, according to the reservation I made with Dollar:
SAN - San Diego-Lindbergh International Airport, California

Driving Restriction: Driving is restricted to the continental United States and into Mexico with the purchase of Mexican insurance at $25.00 per day.

Is that not suitable insurance for getting into Mexico or am I missing something?
posted by FlamingBore at 9:00 AM on January 10, 2005

No, that is cool -- I guess I should have prefaced it with I've never been able to take rental cars into Mexico -- from Texas though. You are good to go.

Driving in Mexico is fun! The wait at the border coming back into California can sometimes be very, very long.
posted by birdherder at 9:05 AM on January 10, 2005

if you're into Zoos, the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park are the best in the country. Sea World is also here. I don't know that they would be considered "unusual" but if it's your thing, you'll like it.

If you're not from the west coast, i would recommend checking out some of the beaches. Pacific Beach (PB) has great views and a good place to have breakfast (Kono's) and watch the ocean/surfers.

Hotel Del in Coronado is also beautiful for sunsets and having a cocktail.

My favorite beach is Torrey Pines State Reserve. On the weekends, it costs a few bucks to get in, but it's a beautiful beach to walk on and there's some fun hiking if you like that.

cabrillo monument is pretty but if you have the time and patience, i would recommend "Joshua Tree National Park" much more avidly. It's about a 4-6 hour car trip from the city but really magnificent.

you can also checkout the reader for local events.

we moved to san diego about a year and a half ago and i have a whole lot of photographs from different parts of the city on my site if you want to look at them to see what might be more of your scene and feel free to email me if you have specific questions. we've had the worst weather in the last few days but it should be reasonably calmer by the weekend.
posted by karen at 10:07 AM on January 10, 2005

Response by poster: karen, thanks so much. That photo archive is pretty nifty, thanks for sharing. I've heard good things about Torrey Pines - just wasn't sure it was worth the drive, sounds like it may be.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:29 AM on January 10, 2005

The Computer Museum of America is worth a visit, and will only take a couple hours of your time.
posted by Mark Doner at 10:38 AM on January 10, 2005

Tijuana is a shit hole (I've been there about 30 times last year)- You could drive the airport road in your Hire Car - major companies let you take their cars across the border if you buy the appropriate insurance - and look at all the crosses painted on the border fence for those who have died in the attempt to get to USA. On the road to Tijuana playas (beaches) you can see all the derelicts and junkies shooting up next to the fence.
In the queue waiting to cross back into USA you can be entertained by young kids who should be in school; doing their juggling acts.
Stick to San Diego. The downtown Gaslamp area has some lovely restored buildings. The Prado has some great museums, and the Zoo is world class. If the weather is fine - walk the Embarcadero - plus what karen says above.
posted by adamvasco at 11:55 AM on January 10, 2005

Tijuana truly is teh suck. Avoid.

SCRIPPS is cool to wander around for a bit. There are steps there overlooking the water that are the perfect place to see the sun set (in a place where every sunset is like a postcard).
posted by mkultra at 12:52 PM on January 10, 2005

I agree that TJ is crap, but I think it's just something you kind of have to do. You can drive down there, but given that the wait in traffic to get back across can get to be an hour or more you may just want to park and walk over. Taxi fares can be haggled with the cabbie before you leave. You'll probably want to go to Avenida de la Revoluccion. If you'd like to avoid the stinking hell of TJ, drive over the border and keep driving south on highway 1, and go down to Rosarito, or even further to Ensenada. Highway 1 is a toll road.

The zoo and wild animal park are okay, but Sea World is horrible (especially at more than $40 a ticket) unless you've got kids under age 10. The zoo is located within Balboa park, which has some other interesting attractions (including the museums mentioned by adamvasco).

The beaches are nice, but with the recent rains you won't want to go in the water because of storm water runoff. Besides, it's cold. Nice beachside walks are as listed by others above, and the coast walk around La Jolla in the area of the cove.

The Gaslamp is uber-touristy, and full of trendy night clubs. I'd check out Little Italy instead--it's the up-and-coming area around downtown, although it's starting to get kitschified with some of the more recent condo construction. Nearby is the Casbah, which hosts local and national indie/underground acts. Hillcrest is also sort of fun to walk around in--lots of shops, and it's our version of the Castro or Greenwich Village, plus it has an over-abundance of Starbucks. Closer to where you'll be, Mission Beach and the boardwalk are nice to walk around on.

If you head east, you can hike up Cowles Mountain to get a panoramic view of the city and its surroundings; or you can drive to the top of Mt. Helix for almost the same effect. The mountains further to the east will probably have snow on them if the weather holds--you might not even need chains. Over the mountains is the Anza-Borrego desert, which I love, but is hard to really appreciate from a car.

If you need anything more specific, email's in my profile.
posted by LionIndex at 12:59 PM on January 10, 2005

Hillcrest and University Heights have the best of SD, I think. Lots of clubs, shops, and really good restaurants to suit any taste. Sorry you're coming at such a weird time- the weather we've had lately is some of the wettest I've ever seen in my life as a southern californian (so probably not very to anyone else, but I've never seen this much water fall from the sky).
A friend of mine just went snowboarding and said that in his 30+ years of skiing and snowboarding he has never seen snow this good, so if that's your thing you might want to check that out.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 1:21 PM on January 10, 2005

I agree with everyone above.

I would also recommend going to the Top of the Hyatt for a cocktail. Its on the 40th floor of the downtown hyatt hotel and has spectacular views of downtown, the harbor, and Point Loma. If you go about 4 in the afternoon or so you can see the daytime views and then when the sun sets (around five) you watch the lights come on in the city.

South Beach bar and grill in Ocean Beach across from the pier. Some of the best grilled fish and lobster tacos in San Diego in my opinion.

By the way, the weather looks good for the weekend
posted by keithl at 1:49 PM on January 10, 2005

[karen! I'm a big fan of your photolog]

I'll agree that TJ is kind of a hole but it also fits the poster's need to see something unusual. It's not "Mexico" so much as it is a border town with a third-world feel. I'd recommend it just for the amazing contrast between it and San Diego with its maincured lawns.

But, I'd head past TJ anyways as LionIndex said and head down to the coastal towns of Ensenada or Rosarito. Have some cheap seafood by the beach. I once went down there and rented horses which a friend and I took out for a ride on the beach. It's what you make it.
posted by vacapinta at 2:38 PM on January 10, 2005

Response by poster: Yeah, I'm okay with it being a "hole". Mostly I'm interested in the experience. Thanks!
posted by FlamingBore at 3:36 PM on January 10, 2005

Actually, Puerto Nuevo has really fine lobster for only ten bucks. Check that out, maybe. It's a bit of a drive though.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 5:57 PM on January 10, 2005

some more good advice from a previous AskMe about San Diego. The stuff here helped me a lot. All I'll add is that there's lots of good sushi to be had; I can't remember names of places, though.
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:33 PM on January 10, 2005

« Older Is the pill stuck in my throat or is it all in my...   |   Does anybody know of a way to automatically... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.