Food, Travel, Design and the occassional wordiness

San Diego June 2, 2015

Let me start by saying that this is by no means an all inclusive report on San Diego. There’s so much that we’ve left on the plate for next time, that it definitely warrants another visit. San Diego left me feeling satisfied and happy, but still interested- like after a decent meal at a good restaurant, where a ton of things on the menu remain unexplored and deliciously interesting.

 IMG_6669Balboa Park came recommended highly by San Diego residents, our hosts and SD-born-recently-transplanted friends. It is paradise for kids and dogs, with wide open acres to run through. Flower lovers will love walking through the compact but breezy rose garden as well as botanical building. How badly I feel to have missed the Japanese Friendship Garden. There are a ton of museums including air and space, natural history, hands-on Science Museum as well as various art genres for those rainy/ too hot days when indoor fun sounds so appealing.

Spanish Village for artsAs art lovers and locovores, we loved strolling through the Spanish Village, each nook bedazzled by galleries of handmade art. The collections were eclectic and diverse, often times you’d encounter the artists and crafters themselves working on a new piece. Stand by and take it all in and then stroll away to buy your unique souvenirs. I should have spent a whole day there, but the couple hours we did spend there were wholesome and so entertaining.

IMG_6429Smack in the middle of Balboa Park sits San Diego Zoo which we kept a whole separate day to visit. It’s not huge but the hilly terrain makes walking up and down the exhibits not as much fun. While I do like zoos I have to say that SD zoo wasn’t the best I had seen. Sure the koalas and the giant pandas were fun to see, overall the animals kind of looked sad. Under the same management is the San Diego Zoo Safari Park which was a 100 times better though. It is about 40 minutes north of downtown San Diego. IMG_6480
The animal encounters were a lot more fun there. The birds and water birds walk right up to you, you can see a cheetah go 0 to 60 in under 3 minutes, you can take a variety of safari tours through the terrain and watch a number of shows like the Frequent Flyers which is an immensely enjoyable bird show. Overall if I only give 3/5 to the Zoo inside Balboa Park, I would venture to give a 4.5//5 to the Zoo Safari. It is totally worth the drive. Why not a pure 5/5 you ask? The price is hefty! By far the most expensive zoo I’ve been to. The pass gets you the African Tram and anything beyond that is $50-$600 extra…per person, which could add up very quickly.

Already doing the drive up north, stop by at LegoLand, which we didn’t get a chance to this time but plan on hitting up next time around. If you are in the area between March and May, check to see if Carlsbad Flower Fields are open to visitors. This place apparently comes alive with spring blooms and is a joy for nature lovers, families, couples and solo explorers alike.
IMG_6511Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are nice beach areas pretty close to SD downtown as well as SeaWorld. Or do as we did and hop on the magnificent Coronado bridge to Coronado Island. Enjoy the view of SD skyline from one side of the island and on the other, enjoy the deep blue Pacific lap at your feet. Coming from Boston, this easy access to the beach without dragging through slow snailing one-lane traffic or fighting for parking and paying $30 for a couple horus feels like heaven!
Point Loma is another popular destination to get decent skyline views…that said I don’t think the San Diego skyline is much to speak of. It’s not exactly an architectural wonder…just some tall boxy skyscrapers huddled together. But then nothing measures up to Chicago. Ever.
From Mt. SoledadA little bit further north, La Jolla and Delmar sit pretty like posh princesses serving up fancy restaurants, shopping and some nice Pacific views. I hear you can watch bio-luminescence some nights right from the turnouts where the road meets the ocean. Mount Soledad on La Jolla Cove is a nice place to pull in and enjoy the views as the ocean meets the sprawled city of San Diego, palm trees lining the beaches on one side and the tiny little glittering patch of downtown on the other.
We decided to pass on SeaWorld for this trip. But with all the animal care controversies there, do you think it’s a good idea to go there or should we boycott?
IMG_6506Proposed daily itineraries:
1: Balboa Park hikes in the am -Little Italy lunch -drive up to Mount Soledad- dinner in La Jolla
2: Safari park (all day)
3: Balboa Park rose garden/ Spanish village/ Botanical building/ Japanese Garden in the am- Hillcrest lunch- Point Loma- Hillcrest dinner
4: La Jolla cove (Mount Soledad sunrise)- Torrey Point State park in the am= lunch in Delmar- Coronado beach pm and dinner
5: Zoo (all day) with lunch and dinner
IMG_35826: Legoland (if with kids) & Carlsbad flower fields (seasonal)
7. Balboa park museums with lunch and dinner in Little Italy/ Hillcrest
8. Pacific Beach & neighborhood + Mission Beach & neighborhood
9. SeaWorld
  • IMG_6490Buy the 2-visit pass if going both to the Zoo and Safari Park http://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/tickets
  • Short on time? Choose the safari over the zoo. Choose Coronado over Point Loma.
  • On a budget?

Balboa Park is great for people of all ages and interests. Also San Diego is a great place to score amazing roadside eats especially mexican food (duh!) Fancying fancy food? Hash House is moderately tv-style nice and a great place to share your meal…the portions are ginormous.

  • Bringing your pooch?
San Diego seemed amazingly pet friendly! There are at least 2 dog parks in Balboa Park alone. While we had to leave my Brownie at home for the week, if you’re driving to town consider bringing Fido on your vacation.
  • Good walking shoes will go a long way in SD.
This review is for all ofyou- the first timers to San Diego, the food lovers, the solo urban explorers, the family packers, the pet carriers, the animal lovers, the beach surfers and of course, theshutterbugs. Below is the list of places I visited (and also those that we’d have liked to but couldn’t visit) along with their traveling persona, so you can choose if it’s for you:Balboa Park: Rose garden, Spanish village for the arts, museums, botanical garden [Nature lovers, museum lovers, shutterbugs, solo/ family/ couples/ dogs]
San Diego Zoo [family]
San Diego Safari Park- interactive animal experience [nature lovers, solo, family]
Sea World- theme parks and aquariums [family]
Lego land- The name says it all [family]
La Jolla-shopping, food, scenic stops [shutterbugs, urban explorers, foodies, family/ couple, locovores]
Mount Soledad- skyline view, scenic drive, trails [beach surfers, shutterbugs, solo/ family/ couples/ dogs]
Delmar- shopping, food, scenic stops [shutterbugs, urban explorers, foodies, family/ couple, locovores]
Coronado island- skyline view, scenic drive, beach [beach surfers, shutterbugs]
Point Loma- skyline view [shutterbugs, family]
Torrey Point- State Park, scenic drive [shutterbugs, nature lovers, solo/couples]
Carlsbad Flower Fields [shutterbugs, nature lovers, solo/ family/ couples]

Restaurants (with hyperlinked Yelp reviews)
Pappalecco- Coffee, sandwiches and gelato (indoor/ outdoor seating, dog/kid friendly) 5/5 *****
Elixir Cafe- Coffee and crepery (minimal outdoor seating) 3/5 ***
Lolitas Mexican- sit down and takeaway Mexican 5/5 *****
Oscar’s Mexican Seafood- takeaway tacos and other mexican seafood 3/5 ***
Panchitas- takeaway Mexican bakery 2/5 **

Bread & Cie- bakery 3/5***

Project Pie- make your own pizza 3/5***

Hash House a Go Go Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner-Brunch national chain 5/5*****

Hillcrest- Yuppy area full of restaurants of all kinds and ranges. Easy parking considering the density of people. The area felt very alive. Overall walkable and safe.
Golden Hill- Mainly residential with some scattered restaurants. Walkable but I didn’t see a lot of foot traffic. Tons of stop signs, so if you’re out of state visitors like us, pay attention, you probably don’t have these many stop signs in your town. Convenient area to go to Balboa Park/ Zoo. Also close to the airport. Great place to stay in a B&B if you can find one.
Downtown- Main office/ business area, deserted in the weekend mornings (shoulda known), high homeless population (but then “high” compared to the rest of SD not your town), did not see a lot of foot traffic
Little Italy- quaint-ish, lots of Italian and Italian/Spanish restaurants. walkable. Parts of it didn’t feel that great.

Enjoyed these photos? Here’s some more on my Flickr album

One Response to “San Diego”

  1. […] we had a great 45 minutes ride in the shuttle bus. I knew going in this was no zoo or the San Diego Safari but I left feeling a little empty and more than a little dissatisfied. I couldn’t help but […]

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