Yesterday evening we got back from our vacation in San Diego. I still wish I was there. It was perfect – great weather, great food, tons of stuff to do. It was my first trip to the west coast and I adored it.
We got there in the morning on Thursday (thanks to it being 2 hours behind us) and spent the first part of the day walking around Old Town, which was really cool. It’s a mix of historic buildings and little shops that sell some tourist-y things, some food, drinks, etc.
Most of the buildings are replicas – it seems like a lot of them burned down in the 70s. We walked around a lot and then sat in the middle of the park area to eat a soft pretzel and drink some of the best root beer I’d ever had. This would be a great stop for anyone with kiddos too.
On Friday, we hit up the world-famous San Diego Zoo. It was huge.
Seriously, so huge. It was pretty cool because they’re a botanical garden and a zoo, so there were beautiful plants and trees everywhere. And they had practically every animal in the book – pandas, polar bears, koalas, lion, tigers, and the list goes on.
I’m no expert, we only went the one day, but a few tips from what I learned:
- Download their mobile app – it has a handy map included that will tell you where you are in real-time
- Bring water, snacks and sunscreen. Lots of sunscreen. But also lots of snacks – that’s one great thing is you can bring in your own food and drink. We brought reusable water bottle and refilled it along with some trail mix, beef jerky, etc. It’s typical theme-park type food with the price tag to match.
- Park admission gets you a free tour on the bus, free use of the express buses and a free ride on the Skyfari Aerial Tram. These things are not only really helpful to get around the park, but also really informative. And the Skyfari has a great view of the city!
- Get there early. It opens at 9.
We spent Saturday morning at La Jolla Cove and then headed over to Coronado Beach. La Jolla was so cool – there were Sea Lions (or seals?) and Pelicans everywhere! Just hanging out. The water was freezing so I watched from a distance, but Gabe jumped right in. At one point a Sea Lion swam maybe 4 feet from him and did this crazy spin jump in the air. They flip and stuff sort of like dolphins.
The Coronado Bridge has a beautiful view of Downtown. You can also take a trolly to the Island, and then there are tons of shops and restaurants to check out before/after the beach. (Go to Fuzziwigs Candy and the Coronado Cluster. You won’t regret it)
The Hotel Del Coronado is also on the island – it’s where Frank Baum wrote 3 of the Wizard of Oz books and where Some Like it Hot was filmed. I’m sort of a nerd and I love seeing icons like this, which was great because there were plenty in San Diego.
For example, we made a special stop on the campus at the University of California at San Diego just to see the Geisel Library – named after Dr. Suess himself.
We spent the last full day there at Balboa Park. The park is home to (obviously) a regular park but also so much more – all the city’s major museums, a historic organ, a Japanese Tea Garden, a Botanical Garden and even a Ripley’s Believe it or Not. We walked around the park, rode the free Tram around and listened to an organ recital for free. The architecture of all of the buildings was really neat.
And we ended the day in Little Italy. It’s near Downtown and the Gaslamp Quarter so it wasn’t too hard to find, but it was absolutely as cute as it sounds and had blocks of delicious sounding restaurants. We only got to try one (more on that later) but it was so worth it.
San Diego did seem to have pretty good public transportation in the city, but we rented a car and I’m glad for that because of how much time we spent in the outlying parts (La Jolla and Coronado). There is a ferry to Coronado from downtown SD though. Our hotel was a little bit north, making it cheaper, but if you didn’t want to rent a car I’d recommend staying near downtown. For such a large city, it was really easy to navigate.
We picked a great time of year to go too, because the weather was perfect and nothing was too crowded yet. I felt like it had the laid back vibe I was expecting from the West Coast, but then again maybe I’m just projecting.
For part two, which largely covers food, click here.