San Diego Trip
July 30, 2004 6:39 PM   Subscribe

CaliFilter: I'm going to be in San Diego for a brief last minute vacation in mid-August. I know nothing about the place other than the weather must surely be better than the awful Phoenix weather I'm leaving. That said, what are some things to see & do that you think shouldn't be skipped on a San Diego trip?

Also, I know we've talked about restaurants and hotels before, but more restaurant rec's wouldn't hurt. I'm up for any type of cuisine.

Also, I'm doing a daytrip up to Dodger Stadium. I'm assuming mapquest is generally accurate; nevertheless, if you've got any time-saving tips for approaching the ballpark from the south, I'd appreciate them.
posted by .kobayashi. to Travel & Transportation around San Diego, CA (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you enjoy the beach, Coronado is one of the nicest on our planet.
posted by scarabic at 7:41 PM on July 30, 2004

Here are some from me. I was born and raised in San Diego.

- San Diego Zoo. I'm not a big fan of zoos but this is one of the best on the planet.
- Tijuana. Its only an hour or so drive south. The culture shock is incredible.
- Mission Bay. Tons of coves and water recreation. Great place to learn to sail, waterski etc.
- Beaches! My favorites are the ones in Del Mar and some hidden ones in La Jolla. Cardiff has some great coves too. At night, campfires along Pacific Beach. Watch the surfers at Swami's (Cardiff) or up in Carlsbad.

As for neighborhoods, I'll admit to being a bit of a snob. I only spent time in the north coastal towns (pacific beach, la jolla, del mar, solana beach, cardiff, carlsbad) and downtown (gaslamp, hillcrest area)
posted by vacapinta at 10:29 PM on July 30, 2004

Black's Beach, which is the popular name for what is one end of the beach at Torrey Pines, by La Jolla. Its a clothing-optional beach and lots of gay people go there. It happens to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Sunset at Torrey Pines can be fabulous. Last I was there, the dolphins came to play in the waves. You could see them in the waves with the sun behind. Awesome!

To reach the nude area of the beach, either park at the beach then walk towards the city along the shore (a wet walk at high tide). OR park on top of the clifs and find the path down, which is more effort but more fun.

Take plenty of sun screen!
posted by Goofyy at 10:40 PM on July 30, 2004

If you're into theatre, try to get a ticket for one of the plays in the Old Globe's Shakespeare Festival--my parents and I had a good time last night at As You Like It. (The other two plays in rep are Antony and Cleopatra and The Two Noble Kinsmen.) The theatre is in the same park complex as the zoo.
posted by thomas j wise at 11:03 PM on July 30, 2004

Best answer: K... long post... fasten your seatbelt...

Seaport Village is full of shops and restaurants; it's right on the water, and a pretty nice way to spend some time walking around. It's nice at night too. A block or two from Seaport Village (and right behind a rail/trolley stop) is Kansas City BBQ - if you're into doing cliche touristy stuff, you might enjoy stopping in, as it's the bar that was used in the movie Top Gun for the ol "goose-on-the-piano" scene. They have some pretty cool photos from the production hanging on the wall. And surprise, the food is good too.

Coronado (the area across the water from SD) is beautiful, and while you're over the bridge, you might as well stop and see the Hotel Del Coronado. It's traditionally a rather upper-scale ritz-fest of a hotel, but it's not uberexclusive -- my girlfriend and I just walked up one night, meandered around a bit, and ended up down in the bar/restaurant dancing. No evil-eye or monkeysuits-with-earpieces or anything.

FWIW, I found the public transportation system to be quite splendid. The last time I was in San Diego, I was too young to rent a car, but old enough to not want to sit in the hotel room all day. The bus system is an easy way to get around. Make sure you stop by a transportation office to get a great deal on unlimited 'day trippers'. (or buy online!) Not only are the busses pretty easy to use, but the rail line is nice as well. You can hop on downtown and ride it all the way to Tijuana in a relatively short amount of time.

And like vacapinta suggested, Tijuana will probably be quite an experience. It's easy to get to, everything is cheap as hell, but watch out for the mayhem. You'll feel like a gazelle being pounced upon by a bunch of cheetahs as you experience how merchants will clamor for your american dollar. Don't go early in the morning and dear lord, don't go at night. You'll appreciate having a large crowd of Americans later in the afternoon, as it will take the pressure off you in terms of how many people try and sell you shit. And that's what a lot of it is: utter shit. But for every shop selling $60 fake movados (which you can talk down to 3 for $5 very easily - you can talk *everything* down - remember that!), there are wonderful little shops selling pottery and crafts that are simply beautiful. They'll be pretty inexpensive and will make great gifts. The mexican food down there, not surprisingly, is very good, and you'll find a ton of places selling 3 for 1 drinks. One downside of leaving the country is, of course, the hassle of getting back in... and if you wait until more Americans are around you later in the day, that means more people are trying to return to America as well. Getting through customs into Tijuana will take 2 minutes (Walking through some gates). Getting into the US can take 2 hours. Of standing. In line. With a bunch of mexicans everywhere trying to sell you more crap. Overall, I think Tijuana is worth the experience, but I don't know how often I'll go back. (Unless I need dental work.)

Wow. Way too much info on Tijuana.

The Zoo, as mentioned above, is also a great way to spend a day. It's in the middle of Balboa Park, which you could spend a day relaxing in as well. It's easy to visit via bus line, only a short distance from downtown. Like vacapinta said, regardless of your stance on zoos, the SD Zoo is as good as they get. One thing to note (and hopefully it doesn't detract) is that the zoo is pretty expensive. It will cost $32 per adult for a day pass to the zoo. If you have two adults and/or have even a remote idea that you might want to come back another day of your trip, you'll probably get much more satisfaction out of just signing up for a zoo membership! My girlfriend and I knew we'd want to spend at least 2 days at the zoo -- at normal price, that's $128; therefore, we signed up for a dual membership for a year for $86 and saved $42 bucks. Additionally, you get all sorts of tchotchkes in the mail for the rest of the year and you can write it off on your taxes.

I have a photo album from San Diego (3rd down), if you'd care to browse. It has some shots of Seaport Village, Tijuana, and the Zoo.

I apologize for the length of the post, but I had a really wonderful experience in San Diego, and I hope you have a nice time as well. FWIW, I stayed at the Holiday Inn Harborview and found the experience to be wonderful. I didn't expect much from a Holiday Inn (I lowballed it via priceline, iirc), but the staff provided better service than I've had at many of the other ritzy hotels I've stayed with. It's probably a mile or so from the water & seaport village, but it's entirely walkable. The food was good, the staff very helpful, and had a free shuttle for the airport, zoo, and other areas. At the time, I had to pay for an ethernet connection (that wasn't mac-compatible). Hopefully, they've improved on their services by now.

Have fun!
posted by Hankins at 8:21 AM on July 31, 2004

Oh, and if nobody has mentioned many restaurants its because San Diego is not a foodie town. Despite being near the Mexican border its never even developed good mexican food - its actually better here in San Francisco and no better than Phoenix certainly.

This is one of those cities where places like Olive Garden and TGIF's appear in polls of the city's best restaurants.

That said, the chain (or chain-like) places in San Diego are actually of a higher calibre than chain places in other parts of the country, presumably because thats where everyone eats. Places like Kansas City BBQ as Hankins mentions, or Roberto's chains, or Alfonso's. Corvette Diner in Hillcrest for diner food, Humphrey's by the Bay for seafood etc.

In that vein, San Diego has a poor nightlife. Most of it is around the gaslamp quarter downtown and some in the Pacific Beach area. People in this city go to bed early but on the flip side, get up before the break of dawn. By the time the sun rises, the beachside boardwalks are full of runners and walker and strollers, the waves are thick with surfers and everyone looks like they walked off the cover of a fitness magazine.
posted by vacapinta at 11:13 AM on July 31, 2004

When I lived in Phoenix I remember that the AZ Republic would do a big supplement on San Diego every summer. Too lazy [jealous] to see if it is online. But I think the tips above are sweet.

Also, the AZ Republic was available in several outlets in SD in the summer because so many Phoenicians would go there. I guess some people would read the local paper to see if anyone they knew melted.

No matter what you end up doing, escaping the blast furnace that is Phoenix in August will be refreshing. I used to go to Newport Beach, Oregon [high of 60F was a 'hot' day].

I now live in Austin, and I'd trade the dry heat of PHX @ 115 with the wet heat of Texas @ 95.
posted by birdherder at 11:36 AM on July 31, 2004

If you're at all into baseball, check out PetCo Park. I think you can buy a standing room only ticket for a couple of bucks and just stroll the park if you don't want to spend 9 innings at one place during your brief stay.
posted by herc at 1:30 PM on July 31, 2004

Response by poster: i love baseball, but the padres will be away that week. hence the trip up to dodger stadium. thanks for the suggestions, hankins, and everyone.
posted by .kobayashi. at 2:34 PM on July 31, 2004

I'd say that visiting the beach at Point Loma (Ocean Beach) and walking down the very, very long pier to the cafe where you can have INCREDIBLE lobster tacos for almost nothing has to be tops on my list of things I'd do.

Not to mention the fact that it's gorgeous out there.
posted by yellowcandy at 4:56 PM on July 31, 2004

Go to the Cabrillo National Monument at the end of Point Loma. The view is incredible, and you can watch the port and airport traffic.

Look out the window when you land at the airport - you'll swear the wing is going to touch the parking garage.
posted by Wet Spot at 8:34 PM on July 31, 2004

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