Monday, October 21, 2019

San Diego October 4-6, 2019

I swear to you that I have spent the last four years of my life travelling all over the state of California (and even a bit outside of California) touring colleges. Dang, I've been to Berkeley, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Orinda (twice), Santa Clara (twice), San Jose, and even to Pittsburgh PA.  Yeah, these places all have one thing in common.  They are places that I might want to go to visit!! Luckily, my first child decided to go to school in a fabulous area, San Diego!  When it's time to go to "visit Natalya,"  it really is time for the whole family, my student included, to get to see all the fun this sunny city has to offer, and to take a mini vacay, all planned out to the last minute of course by yours truly.
San Diego is a huge city spanning just over 456 square miles, which makes it the second largest city in California by area, falling behind Los Angeles. Travelling within the city itself can take a long time, and city attractions can be widespread.  Travelling from Cabrillo National Monument on the south tip of the Point Loma peninsula to swanky La Jolla takes 35 minutes, all within the city of San Diego.  Just to put some college reference upon it, it takes 21 minutes to get from SDSU to UCSD.
Your trip is going to take some planning to prevent you from ping ponging back and forth across the city.  First, decide what you want to do, then where you are going to stay, then based on both those things, find yourself some great places to eat!


We made it to the top!!
San Diego has wonderful weather, so I say if you can, GET ACTIVE!  We have opted twice now for a quick sprint up Cowles Mountain, trailhead located at the corner of Golfcrest and Navajo Drives in the eastern part of San Diego about 10 minutes from SDSU.  This 2.9 out and back hike must be the most heavily trafficked in the area.  On a Saturday morning, the biggest problem was parking, as at 8:15 am the lot of about 20 spaces and all immediate street parking was completely full.  We still had to park on the street even when we went Friday morning at 11am.  The hike is a steady stream of people.  Frequently we found the need to step around slower hikers and even a few times the need to step aside while hikers RAN past.  No thank you.  The popularity if the trail is easy to understand.  Not only is it a really quick way to get your exercise (we cranked this out at a wicked pace in just about an hour) but the views at the top are beyond measure.  A clear day will allow you to see all the way to downtown and beyond to the harbor.  That's more than 13 miles.
Another great area to hike is the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, located in the northern part of the city between Del Mar and La Jolla, adjacent to the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course and Country Club. It costs something to park there, but my brother in law had it all figured out where to park without paying.  The hiking there will not wind you as did Cowles Mountain, except maybe as you descent the ridge to the beach.  The beach is lovely and not spoiled by industry.  No dogs.  No food on the trail.
Another option for getting active is to rent a bike and ride around the popular Mission Bay.  We were able to rent cruisers through Groupon in the Pacific Beach area last year with the intention of riding around the entire bay.  There really is no path that goes all the way around.  But we wove our way through picnic areas, parking lots, some city streets and beach paths to manage to circle the bay.  We were out about 2 hours and the ride was about 13 miles, plus some extra for going the wrong way.
There are lots of options on Mission Bay-kayaking, paddleboarding, jetskiing--we have a lot yet to try!
Enjoying the 2 Hour Harbor Cruise
This weekend we opted for the 2 hour Harbor Cruise tour run by Flagship Cruises.  Once again through Groupon, we took the 2 hour cruise for an adult fare of $15, which was less than half the normal adult price of $33.  Discounts are also available by booking ahead online through the Flagship Cruises website or even through, likely only if you booked your hotel through them.
This was a great way to spend a sunny San Diego afternoon on the water of the harbor.  The tour is well narrated.  I learned a LOT about San Diego and its layout.  The 1 hour southbound cruise heads past the USS Midway under the Coronado Bridge to views of Imperial Beach and the Silver Strand.  The boat then returns to port and after a change of a few passengers who could only tolerate an hour, the boat heads out via the northern waters of the bay, past Harbor Island and Point Loma. Bar on board.
There are a lot of other great options near downtown-Balboa Park, Mission San Diego, Old Town, the USS Midway, San Diego Zoo, Seaport Village, the Gas Lamp much more we have to see.


On all of the four occasions that we chose to visit San Diego, we had business at SDSU, which is significantly inland (about 20 minutes) from what might be considered the more touristy part of San Diego. Twice we chose to stay in a house about one mile from campus which offered us the ability to cook, to make our own drinks, and read and relax in the darling back yard.  If coming to campus as a family, we will never stay anywhere else. But literally there is no limit to the places you can stay in every price range.  If you want to stay downtown, get ready to pay top dollar and expect a steep parking and possibly resort fee.  The Hotel Circle area has a great selection of chain type hotels at a more reasonable price not far from the center of the action.  The most famous and historic hotel in San Diego is actually on Coronado Island, the Hotel del Coronado, or just simply "the Del."  This fancy hotel will set you back over $300 per night, likely a lot more in peak seasons.  The Fairmont actually costs more, at prices up to $650 a night.

The Hangover Burger!!
Well during this trip we knew that we were headed to the harbor so all I had to do was check out Yelp or Trip Advisor for the "Best Breakfasts Downtown."  We chose Breakfast Republic in the Gaslamp District but were sorely disappointed to find the wait was 45 minutes! (Incidentally, I'm not positive,but I seem to remember leaving this same restaurant in Irvine for the same reason!)  So back to the phone for "breakfasts near me" and taking its advice we walked just a block and a half to a delightful sports pub/restaurant, The Morning After.  The restaurant was neither crowded nor loud and the service was warm and unhurried.  The breakfast menu is full of both sweet and savory offerings of the type of comfort food you might seek on your own "morning after." Try the Buttermilk Biscuits and Gravy or the Meat Lover Omelette, or if that sugar bug is calling you, try the Oreo Cookie Waffle.  Or just quit beating around the bush and go for the Hangover Burger like my son and husband.  Moderate prices in gastropub-like surroundings.  Casual.  No wait at 11 on Saturday morning.
Looks like a Truckstop Pile-Up!
The last time we came we were meeting my brother in law in the Pacific Beach/Mission Beach area,Truckstop, also per the recommendation of  "best breakfasts near Pacific Beach."  What did we do before Google?? The menu has a wide variety of pancakes, waffles, skillets, benedicts, and "pile-ups."  I think I went for the Carne Asada Benedict but don't those Lemon Ricotta Pancakes sound good!  All meals playfully served on a metal tray.  Full bar. Parking available, no wait at 10 am Saturday morning. Good service. Casual.
also for breakfast.  This time we visited
Hey listen I could talk about food forever. Closer to State I have to throw a shout out to the sweet and reasonably priced Cucina Basilico, where I have been twice.  It has a good variety of simple Italian inspired dishes.  Service is attentive and thorough.  Another fun place close to the airport is Corvette Diner,  a kitschy 50's themed restaurant.  Half the fun here is the sassy service of the waitstaff decked in poodle skirts and beehives.  Food is fries, burgers, shakes--all the stuff you might expect to see.

Thank you for reading this post!  Now for some more pictures!
 Last fall at the top of Cowles Mountain

 Ready to leave the San Diego Harbor

 Right next door is the USS Midway

 Last year on the beach at Torrey Pines State Reserve

Bar on Board!!

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