Since I was 15 years old, I have wanted to see California. A couple of decades later, I am flying back east after my first vacation to the Golden State.
My husband and I spent about three days in the San Diego area. For the most part, it’s fantastic. Of course, there are reminders of the drought. And the city’s homeless residents are quite visible which is understandable because of the city’s very mild weather year round.
Things we wish we had more time for:
1- Torrey State Park. Beautiful hiking and beaches. A FREE beach – you know what I’m talking about Jersey. It’s about an hour bus ride from Broadway in downtown San Diego (take the 150 bus and transfer at Gilman Drive and Eucalyptus Grove Lane and transfer to Bus 101. Get off at North Torrey Pines & Science Park Road bus). The trail we walked was an easy to moderate walk; the views were spectacular and the trail led us to the Pacific Ocean.
2- La Jolla. If you like to walk, I mean REALLY like to walk, it was a beautiful walk south along the shoreline to La Jolla. We passed through an unofficial nude beach and focused on the parasailing above. At low tide, we were able to climb over large rocks to cross over to a beach in La Jolla. We stopped at the first restaurant we saw, Caroline’s Cafe. The cafe is a causal place with outside seating overlooking the ocean.
And then we continued to hike into downtown -another hour or so- and saw sea lions that came up onto one of the beaches. The retail area extends for blocks with restaurants, art galleries and boutiques.
3- Balboa Park. We walked through the park to have dinner in the Hillcrest neighborhood. It was a nice walk, but I know we missed out on a lot in the park. Hillcrest is a lively neighborhood with a significant LGBT presence.
4. Little Italy. This neighborhood seems as different as it is far from Manhattan’s own. We spent our last night at the Urban Boutique Hotel on Columbia Street. The room was small, but clean so it was just fine. We had an amazing, fresh dinner on the front lawn of Queenstown. It’s a quaint house and the hostess described the menu as American food with New Zealand influences. Inside, the decor was off-beat but tasteful-even with the lambs on the ceiling of a side room and a American flag made of lace trimmings.
The neighborhood has a lot of newer construction and it is filled with niche and swanky bars and restaurants. It also reflects the craft beer craze in San Diego. There is also a small art scene; we picked up two prints from Mee Shim’s gallery – much better than a souvenir.
5. Sports. We took a ferry from the Broadway dock to the Coronado peninsula. It’s a nice trip across the bay and Coronado is similar to La Jolla – beautiful and clean, choices of restaurants as you get more inland but it’s expensive to live in.
We kayaked on the bay. Once I was secure that our little boat was not like to capsize in the wake of larger vehicles, I loved it.
6. Gas Lamp. Although it definitely is a tourist area, it doesn’t feel like too much of a trap. And, according to a local, San Diegans will go out there, too. It’s particularly lively on game nights because the Padres’ stadium sits at the edge of the district. A lot of restaurants and bars, a few galleries and souvenir shops. Broken Yolk on 6th Avenue was packed for Saturday breakfast.
7. Baja California. We took the Blue Line Trolley from downtown to the San Ysidro district. From there, it was a short walk to La Frontera. It was novel an international border on foot, but the parts of Tijuana that are accessible were not necessarily worth the two hour line to reach the United States customs when we were ready to return to San Diego. The area of Tijuana that we saw is set up to guide travelers into an area of tourist shops and restaurants. The immediate commercial district around it was mostly composed of basic retailers and lots of dentists.
We did not plan our morning in Mexico well, but it was interesting to be on line at the border. If we had more time in the region, it is likely worth a more in depth exploration further into Baja California.