Like many others, husband Rob and I have a favorite getaway within a day’s drive. San Diego’s lush sub-tropical ambiance and family-friendly cultural treasures are worth the 350-mile drive from our Arizona home. Whether your dream vacation is culture, touring, beaches, theme parks, shopping, fine dining or pro sports, San Diego delivers. With an average temperature of 71 degrees, climate extremes elude this sophisticated city.
On our April trip we were guests of the beautiful Town and Country Resort & Convention Center in Mission Bay (Hotel Circle North). Before exploring the lush grounds with palm groves, rose gardens, fountains and pools, we boarded an on-site Old Town Sightseeing Trolley. Drivers are local history and folklore experts, and tours provide an interesting orientation. Recorded music and sound effects add to the fun during the 11 area, two hour, 25-mile San Diego-Coronado Island circuit. The view from the 250-foot San Diego-Coronado Bridge is breathtaking.
At the Maritime Museum of San Diego stop, we left the trolley for a relaxing Hornblower harbor cruise. The dual-deck boat had comfortable indoor/outdoor seating and a snack bar. Live narration provided an overview of points of interest including the airport and military sites. Hint: Take a sweater or jacket if you choose an outdoor deck.
Our favorite attraction is beautiful 1,200-acre Balboa Park, home to 15 museums, performing arts groups and the famous San Diego Zoo. America’s largest urban cultural park is a flower lovers’ paradise: brilliant displays of seasonal flowers, eight award-winning gardens, a unique lath botanical building, rare exotic plant species, palm groves, fountains and a Japanese garden.
The park’s stunning architecture is the legacy of the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition. Families can park free and ride free shuttles to major buildings. We focused on four sites. With myriad tropical trees, plants and blooming flowers, the Botanical Building is a feast for the senses. Fragrant flower scents drift over colorful displays of roses, cymbidiums, calla lilies and anthuriums.
At San Diego Air & Space Museum we saw fascinating historical planes, including a Spirit of St. Louis replica. The spiffy galleries include aircraft from World Wars I and II, the 1920s and ’30s, modern jets, as well as space-age exhibits. After a relaxing stroll through the Japanese Friendship Garden, we viewed black-and-white prints at the Photographic Arts Museum.
At Fleet Science Center, we watched the “Tornado” IMAX film and had lunch in the patio cafe. Throughout our two-day visit, we noticed smiles on visitors’ faces.
On each San Diego visit we enjoy fresh seafood at Anthony’s Fish Grotto on San Diego Bay. Their signature coleslaw with house pineapple dressing is the best we’ve tasted. While enjoying our to-die-for lobster tail/shrimp (Pat) and shrimp/salmon/crab (Rob) dinners, we watched the sun sink into the Pacific.
If you want a taste of Mexico without venturing into Tijuana, visit San Diego’s Old Town, site of the first Spanish settlement on the U.S. West Coast. A plethora of shops, restaurants, cantinas and historic buildings provide an Americanized version of Mexico.
On our last night the Town and Country Resort shuttle dropped us at the Catholic church in Old Town. After church, we walked across the street for a delicious Mexican dinner at the sprawling Café Coyote known for its lively atmosphere and award-winning cuisine.
For those who feel challenged by the maze of fast-paced freeways, light rail and other forms of public transportation are available from many hotels. Town and Country Resort guests can take the Red Line light rail (station behind the complex) to downtown. Pedicabs operate along the waterfront on Harbor Drive.
The North County Coaster line, a sleek and modern train system, train links downtown San Diego with coastal cities as far north as Oceanside. Much of the 35-mile route provides scenic ocean views. Coaster riders can transfer to light rail or buses in downtown San Diego.
I’m putting the Coaster on my bucket list for a future San Diego trip.
If you go:
San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau 619-236-1212
Anthony’s Fish Grotto 619-232-5103
Balboa Park 619-239-0512
Café Coyote 619-291-4695
Hornblower Cruises & Events 619-686-8715
Old Town Trolley Tours of San Diego 619-298-8687
Town and Country Resort & Convention Center 619-291-7131. Relax in the gorgeous tropical grounds. The upscale Fashion Valley Shopping Center is within walking distance.
CruisinGal Pat Woods lives and writes in Arizona.