It’s the time of year when summer outings and fun in the sun turns into frost, chilling wind and snow. If you live in Canada or any country with harsh winters, escaping to an exciting, accessible destination may be just what you need for a little rest, warmth, relaxation and adventure! The beautiful city of San Diego sits on the Pacific Coast of California and offers travelers a vibrant array of art galleries, beaches, scenic coastline, museums, parks and unforgettable culinary delights showcasing cultural diversity. The city center is just 17 miles from Mexico and in October during the “Kids Free Month” there are 100+ free deals for children at all major attractions - great for vacationing families and easy on the budget.
As I left the frigid, damp streets of Toronto and jetted off to sunny San Diego I began to unwind, warm-up and get into vacation-mode. SpringHill Suites Downtown Bayfront is a short drive from the airport and centrally located across from the bustling harbor. From afar the expansive glass facade surrounded by willowy palm trees is quite impressive and the airy art deco lobby splashed with bright color is open, cheerful and inviting.
Check-in went smoothly thanks to the courteous staff and before long I was settling into my clean, spacious suite with spectacular views of the sparkling bay and famous USS Midway (the most visited ship museum in the world).
USS Midway Museum
The tech-savvy room was clean, comfortable and modern with all the amenities needed for a fabulous stay and I was delighted to find a bottle of wine and chocolates waiting for me.
The pool and lounge area overlooking the city is a great place to relax with a cocktail and watch the sun set over the harbor. The hotel is also walking distance to great restaurants, bars, attractions, parks and shopping with many tours and harbor cruises departing just across the street.
(Visit the website by clicking HERE).
(Visit the website by clicking HERE).
5th floor terrace
I began my expedition bright and early the next morning. The Old Town Trolley offers a hop on, hop off, narrated sightseeing tour to many points of interest including: Seaport Village, Horton Plaza Park, Gaslamp Quarter, Coronado Island, Balboa Park, Little Italy and more! A map and schedule is provided and you can use the trolley as one of your main modes of transportation while learning about San Diego’s rich history from personable guides. (Tickets start at $39.00 per person. For more information visit the website by clicking HERE).
Horton Plaza Park
I hopped on the trolley across the street from the hotel, and hopped off at Balboa Park (America’s largest Urban, Cultural Park) including 15 museums, stunning European architecture, lush gardens, tasty restaurants and the world famous San Diego Zoo!
Balboa Park Green House
I spent hours exploring the grounds and the Go San Diego Card grants access to all of the park’s museums, the zoo and 41 top attractions including the Birch Aquarium, USS Midway Museum, Sea World, Lego Land, Harbor Excursions and much more! If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing this multi-pass provides substantial savings and allows you to skip ticket lines. (The Go San Diego Card starts at $84.00 per person, visit the website by clicking HERE).
Museum of Man
Natural History Museum
The San Diego Zoo is home to over 3,700 animals and immerses visitors in a wild, exotic environment with colorful vegetation and educational exhibits. On average it takes about 4 hours to make your way around the park but if you get tired of walking there are double-decker bus tours that circle the perimeter.
With a melting pot of culture and strong Mexican influence, San Diego offers tourists a wide variety of delectable dining options. I took the trolley to Little Italy where Lunch at Sulunto included one of my favorites - Napoli style pizza with fresh bubbling cheese straight out of a wood-burning oven.
To satisfy your sweet tooth make your way across the street to i-dessert for creamy gelato stuffed into colorful meringue shells and loaded with your choice of fruit and sauces.
The trolley tour also crosses the San Diego-Coronado Bridge to sunny Coronado Island- an exuberant resort city ideal for family fun, romantic getaways, water sports and sandy beaches. I highly recommend spending a few hours touring the charming streets, grabbing a bite to eat, browsing the shops and checking out the iconic Hotel Del Coronado - the first seaside resort on the west coast. The island may only be a short drive away from the city but life on the other side of the bridge is as mellow and harmonious as the Caribbean offering guests a unique small-town experience.
Hotel Del Coronado
When I wasn’t enjoying the abundance of restaurants and shops in the Gaslamp Quarter, casually strolling Seaport Village or munching on my favorites at the Cheesecake Factory, I was having local craft beer, tacos and crispy chicken sandwiches at Carnita’s Snack Shack located across the street from SpringHill Suites on Embarcadero. The outdoor bar and patio is a great spot for a quick bite, late night snack or a leisurely dinner with friends and the menu focuses on pork-centric American Cuisine.
To see this mesmerizing city from a different perspective and enjoy some time on the water, Hornblower Cruises departs from North Harbor Drive (again right across the street from the hotel). The two hour harbor cruise offers spectacular city views, seal/sea lion watching and a narrated tour of the large naval fleet. Simply kick back, enjoy the fresh air wafting off the bay and soak up some sun on deck. (Cruises start at $25.00 per person. (For more information click HERE).
There are countless things to do in the city with excitement around every corner but when you crave a more leisurely pace head over to La Jolla’s seaside community along the Pacific Ocean.
Scripps Inn - situated along the magnificent hillside is the perfect place to be if you appreciate panoramic ocean views, fresh air, walking trails, beaches and romance.
This boutique style hotel features custom furnishing, luxurious linen and soothing coastal-inspired decor with thoughtful accent pieces, plush beds and suite-style comfort.
With just 14 rooms your stay is sure to be is intimate, quiet and peaceful. Guests also enjoy a private balcony, kitchenette, large bathroom with double sink, complimentary Wi-Fi and breakfast.
In the morning sunlight pours in through the French windows casting the room in a warm glow and in the evening you can enjoy the magnificent sunset just a few steps away at the rocky cliffs of Whale Watch Point. La Jolla reminds me of the spectacular coastal drives I took in Hawaii with miles of natural beauty, swaying palm trees and deep blue sea. (to visit the hotel website click HERE).
I spent my evenings touring the charming village, visiting the seals at La Jolla Cove, learning about the bay’s marine life at Birch Aquarium and lounging in my Ocean Vista Suite as the calming waves melted the stress away and lulled me into relaxation.
Along the coast visitors can embrace their adventurous side and get a little exercise by renting kayaks and paddling to incredible sea caves.
One of the hottest and most upbeat spots in La Jolla is Galaxy Taco. The restaurant celebrates the flavors of Mexico using San Diego’s local seasonal ingredients to create scrumptious dishes that will tantalize the taste buds. Start off with a tart sangria bursting with ripe fruit accompanied with creamy guacamole and fresh tortilla chips. Executive Chef Trey Foshee highly recommends the spicy grilled octopus tostada and the cheesy stacked enchilada is the epitome of comfort food.
Grilled Octopus Tostada
If you have room left for dessert, the sweet, crunchy churros with rich Mexican chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream is the perfect end to a fabulous meal.
In town there are also many options for casual or fine dining including a delicious organic gelateria! Many couples seeking romance and breathtaking views head to George’s at the Cove. The restaurant is usually quite lively so make reservations in advance, grab a great table on the lounge-style terrace and delve into some spicy, house-made salsa.
From beautiful coastline, amazing wildlife, green parks, exhilarating city life and calming, laid back Coronado Island, San Diego’s diverse landscape offers a unique travel experience to all tourists seeking a memorable vacation. For more information or to help plan your trip visit sandiego.org.