Pros: Easy to get around, great weather and beautiful scenery
Cons: Maybe the traffic, but plan accordingly and it's possible to avoid it.
Summer is in full-swing and for those who love quick, recharge-your batteries, type mini-holidays, a 3-4 day getaway to San Diego seems to be the perfect choice.
Why San Diego:
While most of the U.S. suffers from intense heat in the summer, summer is by far the nicest time of year to visit San Diego, with enviable temperatures averaging in the high 70s during the day and comfortable 60s at night could it possibly be more perfect than this? On top of perfect weather, San Diego has more than 75 miles of beautiful coastline and thats not counting San Diego Bays 22 square miles, which means: lots of outdoor activities!
We flew from Houston to San Diego on the 07:25 Continental flight, which left on time and landed on time at 08:45 (we gained two hours!). The crew was very professional and pleasant, a light breakfast was served and our luggage came out right away. We quickly got on the bus to take us to National Car Rentals and picked up our car without any delays, and we were on the road around 09:30. About 25-minutes later, we were checking into the W San Diego Hotel.
What can one do in four days?
Actually quite a lot! At the airport we picked two brochures: "101 Things to Do ~ San Diego and SanDiegoThisWeek. Obviously in four days, its impossible to see all of the things listed on these brochures, but you will certainly have many choices of fun things to do. The bottom line is: how much money do you want to spend, how much driving are you willing to do and how much time do you want to spend on each attraction?
We made a lot of last minute decisions about what to see and do, and it worked out perfectly. Below are the some of the things we did, and since we dont have children, with the exception of the Zoo, all of our activities were more suitable for adults.
The San Diego Zoo:
For us, this attraction was a must see, as we had heard so many good things about this zoo. We arrived right before noon, and the crowds were already large. We paid $32.00 per person (yikes! thats high) which included access to the zoo, a bus tour, the sky-ride and unlimited use of the express bus. The day we visited, it closed early, at 5:30 pm due to some fundraising event that evening, so we felt short-changed, but we had no choice but to see as much as we could in that time-frame.
The tour buses are double-deckers and the demand for the upper deck is great, but you can shave off a substantial amount of waiting time by taking the lower deck. The bus tour is an excellent way for a first-time visitor to get their bearings and see the animals from a different perspective. Tour lasts 45 minutes and one returns to the Zoos entrance.
Of course, the Panda exhibit was the highlight of our visit, but the queues are quite long and once inside the exhibit, you get maybe one minute to stare/photograph the pandas and then the staff will urge you to move along. Nevertheless, it was nice to see pandas doing their thing lounging and chewing bamboo shoots!
This zoo has some great exhibits (and some not so great) and the weather makes it so easy to walk around in comfort. We were happy to have visited this zoo and it was a nice way to spend the afternoon and but we were not impressed by it, as the Bronx Zoo and the Singapore Zoo will always remain the yardstick by which we measure all other zoos. What makes the other zoos better? For example, the Singapore Zoo subscribes to the Open Zoo Concept where the animals live in open exhibits where the animals are separated from the visitors by wide moats covered by lush vegetation, cleverly designed to keep the visitors safe, while doing away with metal link fences and glass walls, thus allowing the visitor to see the animals move around freely and naturally.
We returned to the hotel to enjoy a few cocktails during happy hour. I suppose that getting up at 04:00, walking for several hours in the sun, and three cocktails was a bit taxing for us! We went back to our room to rest just a few minutes before going out to dinner and we fell asleep, never making it to dinner! I suppose were getting old!
Part of any getaway should include sleeping in until at least 08:30, drinking coffee in bed, reading the newspaper and watching TV, something we hardly ever get to do!
Lunch at Filippis Pizza Grotto Restaurant
The hotels Concierge suggested eating lunch in Little Italy and recommended Filippis Pizza Grotto Restaurant, located in Little Italy, on 1747 India Street (open 11:00a.m-11:00p.m). This restaurant has been family owned for over 50 years and everyone in S.D. raves about it! To access the restaurant one must enter through the grocery store and the aroma of cheeses, salamis, pizza, etc. is quite pungent but heavenly, all the while making you very hungry! In the grocery store, there are many empty Chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling and once youre inside the restaurant youll realize that this place is certainly very plain and humble but we were there for serious Italian food and not the decor! Having said that, the food is staple Southern Italian and there are no fancy dishes on the menu, but oh, the food is out of this world the meatballs and sausages are to die for! Highly recommend it!
Husband wanted to go to La Jolla and I wanted to go to Tijuana we flipped a coin and South of the Border it was! TJ is less than 20 miles from downtown S.D and please know that driving your rental car into TJ is not permitted unless youve made previous arrangements with the rental company. Therefore, one should park the car in a day parking lot; fees vary from $5.00 to $8.00. After parking the car, everyone walks over to a big, brown a building, which I suppose is Immigration and walk through a series of wrap-around hallways that seem to go on forever then one goes through a turnstile and voila!, you are in Mejico.
We examined the you are here map and then walked to the Mercado Artesanal (arts & crafts market) browsed through the various stalls but did not purchase anything. There werent many tourists that day and the market was empty. We stopped at one of the little restaurants and ordered two margaritas, but we actually got four as the special of the day (everyday) was two for the price of one! After drinking the margaritas and eating a taco with the hottest salsa in town, we decided to return to California as we didnt find TJ very exciting. We found our way to U.S. Immigration and queued up for about 35 minutes, while chatting the time away with some people in the queue. Once inside Immigration, we produced our drivers license and answered a few questions. By the way, effective 2007, American Citizens will be required show their U.S. passports in order to cross the border. Total time spent: 3 hours
La Jolla in time for dinner and a sunset
From San Ysidro (border town) we traveled north on I-5 towards La Jolla and since the traffic was light, we arrived in LJ in less than 40 minutes (LJ is actually only 15 minutes north of downtown SD). We immediately drove to the scenic part of town, La Jolla Shores. This is a very pretty section with grassy picnic areas, volleyball areas, and pathways for the entire family to enjoy. The beaches are not long, open beaches, but are cove-like and the rest of the coastline is very dramatic and rugged, providing outstanding photographic opportunities! The area was full of tourists, but that did not take away from the beauty of the scenery!
La Jolla is also famous for its restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, but what appears to be the biggest (and somewhat controversial) attraction in La Jolla is "The Casa Beach" (one of the many little beaches in LJ) where the harbor seals make their home; here you can see a great number of seals swimming or just lazing around. The seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and you can watch them from the seawall walkway, but may not approach them as it is considered a federal offense to harass them.
La Jolla has several award-winning restaurants and it was difficult to decide what type of cuisine to enjoy that evening. After walking around and reading the menus at various restaurants, we thought Ashokas Indian Cuisine Restaurant had great potential, as the aroma of spices was quite appealing The menu at Ashokas is quite varied and reasonably priced and we recommend this restaurant for its selection of authentic Indian dishes, as well as attentive service. Total time spent in La Jolla: 4 hours
After a late breakfast, we walked around the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego, admired the unique architecture and we also visited the Horton Plaza, a shopping mall, with a very attractive architecture. After lunch at the hotel, we decided to spend the rest of the day traveling along the coast and make it to Carlsbad for dinner. Carlsbad is only about a half-hour north of San Diego, if you travel on Interstate-5, that is; but to truly experience the atmosphere of some of the coastal towns, a drive along Coastal Highway A-1 is a must.
On Highway A-1, youll be driving mostly at 25-30 mph, and sometimes you'll be able to drive at the posted 40 mph, but it doesnt seem to matter, as theres always something thatll catch your eye along the way, such as gorgeous views of the ocean, beautiful architecture and quaint little shops. Of course, one must stop at the various beaches, for a few minutes to watch the surfers, just take a little walk along one of the beaches, or inspect one of those quaint little shops. The drive along A-1, to Carlsbad, with many stops along the way took slightly over three hours.
This town is famous for its spectacular Flower Fields that bloom on a hillside overlooking the ocean. The nearly 50 acres of flowers are in full bloom approximately six-to eight weeks each year, from early March through early May, and sadly we were about one month too late.
Another big attraction for this lovely town are its clean, family beaches where one can enjoy a variety of activities such as surfing, swimming, and on shore, picnicking and sunbathing.
We walked along State Street and browsed the many little Antique shops, and admired the quaint architecture. Carlsbad has many hotels/motels and restaurants for every budget, and based on what we saw and the numerous attractions listed on the visitors brochure, it would appear that Carlsbad is a fun place for a family vacation.
Restaurants: Fidel's Norte and Gregorio's Pizzas & Pastas
For a Happy Hour margarita we stopped at Fidels Norte on Carlsbad Boulevard and we had some very good margaritas, chips/salsa, and an excellent guacamole side dish. The atmosphere was pleasant and the prices are reasonable.
We continued to walk around the town and browsed through many little shops. After admiring the sunset on the beach, we walked around the Village (the heart of Carlsbad) trying to decide on a restaurant to eat dinner, but every restaurant we came upon looked equally appetizing and it was very difficult to decide where to eat! We decided to eat dinner at Gregorios Pizzas Pastas (hours 11:00 10:00) because this restaurant offers al fresco dining in a beautiful setting. The menu lists a great selection of pizzas and pasta dishes, and a very good selection of wines is offered by the glass or the bottle. Our pizza, a basic Margharitta was very good, the crust being thin and crispy. My main dish, Shrimp FraDiavolo was quite spicy and satisfying! Prices are reasonable, and the bill, for two, including three glasses of wine was around $45.00 including tax.
Seaport Village, Edgewater Grill, and Karl Strauss Brewery
We booked the last flight (5:15 p.m) of the day in order to maximize our stay in San Diego. Early in the morning, from the hotel, we jogged to the Seaport Village in San Diego Harbor and through the paths along the waterfront. If youre a runner, this is a very pleasant experience!
On our return to the hotel, we decided to stop at the Edgewater Grill for breakfast, as this restaurant has outdoor terraces facing the harbor and looked like an ideal location for breakfast. To summarize our experience at this restaurant: the service was very slow, the food was greasy, the food was expensive, the unlimited coffee very good, and the unobstructed views of Coronado bridge and island were wonderful. Therefore, dont go to this restaurant for the food, but to enjoy the views!
After breakfast, we walked around the Seaport Village and browsed the various little shops. The Seaport Village is definitely a touristy attraction; nevertheless, it would appear to be a pleasant experience for the whole family.
Around lunch time, from the hotel, we walked over to the Karl Strauss Brewing Company, located on Columbia Street, Downtown S.D. This restaurant/brewery is somewhat of a legend in S.D. offering excellent food, great beer, in a nice old brick building!. I ordered the Spinach Sirloin salad, and Jerry, the no frills cheeseburger; both items were delicious and the food presentation was excellent.
For the beer, there is quite a selection of beers and the waiters walk around with a tray of tiny glasses offering a taste of the various Strauss beers. I ordered the Karl Strauss Amber Lager, since this is their low-alcohol volume beer; this particular beer is quite delicious with medium body. Jerry ordered two different beers: the Red Trolley Ale, for which he found the flavor too fruity, but he really enjoyed the second beer, called Woodie Gold, which is a classic Pilsener beer. At the time of our visit, the World Cup was in progress and the atmosphere was truly alive and was fun. We recommend this restaurant for delicious food, outstanding beer, and friendly staff!
Our return flight on Continental left on time, a snack was served, we were offered a complimentary cocktail/wine, and our luggage did not get misplaced. A perfect ending!
We found San Diego to be a fun, elegant and friendly U.S. destination, blessed with a beautiful coastline and enviable weather. From the historic Gaslamp Quarter, all the way to Carlsbad, there is a myriad of events and attractions to keep even the most hard- to-please person happy and busy! Since dont have children, we dont need a week-long vacation to visit all of the attractions geared for families, therefore, for us, a four-day getaway was fun and refreshing!