San Diego is one of the most important, historic cities in North America, sitting just north of the border with Mexico and the city of Tijuana. Whilst the areas that you will most probably visit are all concentrated in a small central area, the city is the 9th biggest in the United States, stretching North, South and Eastwards.
The historic centre is the Gaslamp District, so called for the style of lighting that was introduced back in the day. Today it is where all the pubs and restaurants can be found. One of the easiest ways to get around the centre is to take the Old Town Trolley Tour which does a two hour circuit of the centre, stopping at around a dozen points. Tickets can be bought at most main hotels as well as onboard.
If you only have time to see one attraction then it should be the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier, one of the biggest floating military vessels every to grace the ocean. Today, the deck is filled with aircraft to demonstrate the sheer size of the powerhouse but was once the floating home of the Top Gun Pilot Training squadron.
Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre urban cultural park in San Diego. In addition to open space areas, natural vegetation zones, green belts, gardens, and walking paths, it contains museums, several theatres, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo, housing over 3,700 animals including giant pandas. Keeping the animal theme, many people associate San Diego with Seaworld, the first aqua-marine theme park in the world. It is home to the fantastic Atlantis, Manta and Wild Arctic rides. Tickets aren’t cheap so hunt around for some online bargains. Further out of town is Legoland which could be a good stopping off point if you are journeying from Los Angeles.
Come when the sun is shining, which let’s be honest is almost every day and you could catch a Baseball game at Petco Park. Sitting in the centre of the historic Gaslamp District, ball fans fill the bars and restaurants around the ballpark on match days, although mostly to drown their sorrows as the Padres are one of the perennial under-performers in Major League Baseball.
Want to see some sport on TV, served by some of the prettiest waitresses in California, then head to Barley Mash at 600 5th Avenue in the Gaslamp District. Superb food (the Buffalo chicken topped fries will keep you going for days), superb beers (Californian Creamin’ ale is an explosion of cream soda followed by a hit of IPA) and superb service. One of the most traditional restaurants in the district is Lou & Mickey Steak and Seafood House which has an eye-watering array of steaks and decent wine. A few doors down is the Gaslamp Strip Club, disappointingly for some is a great steak house not a strip house, slap bang next to the infamous Dick’s Last Resort, known simply for the deliberately rude service (and some decent beers and food mind!)
The hotel chains are all represented along the marina, with the ultra-shiny Marriott offering 5 star luxury, whilst the Hyatt has the views over USS Midway. Expect to pay top dollar when there is a conference in town. The US Grant on Broadway offers old-school luxury and more affordable prices. Budget accommodation can be found towards the freeway.
If these aren’t good enough reasons to visit San Diego, then how about these facts:-
- The city produces more avocados than any other place in the country. Singer Jason Mraz owns a 5.5 acre avocado farm not far from the city centre – that’s surely enough to make anyone visit or try the green gunk.
- The district of La Jolla used to have houses built strictly for small people, sometimes referred to as “the munchkin houses” due to the fact that they were inhabited by some of the actors who played Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz film.
- Whilst the lakes close to the city look very tempting, it is illegal to swim in them.
On a good day, the city is around a 2 hour drive from Los Angeles, although it is rather nondescript freeway journey. For a few dollars and an hour more of your time then head down the Pacific Highway that hugs the coast and takes in the towns of Carlsbad and Oceanside. San Diego’s airport can get a bit congested, being the second busiest single runway airport in the world behind London Gatwick. It is certainly worth the effort if you have a spare day whilst on the West Coast.