San Diego is said to be the most desirable vacation location in all of California, and it’s easy to see why. The perfect weather, sandy beaches, rollicking fun for the kids and headliner entertainment is the perfect mix for vacation success. For your fun-filled vacation any time of the year, temperatures are mild, rainfall is minimal and the dress code is clean, casual and comfortable.
Transportation by auto, airlines or Amtrak train will make connections to the local transit systems: The Breeze, an extensive bus system, The Coaster, a commuter train that connects to San Diego Airport and along the coast to Carlsbad or the Metrolink, high speed light rail commuter from Oceanside to Los Angeles.
While in the San Diego area, you might consider a visit to the neighboring village of Carlsbad. It’s a few minutes drive on Highway 5, and offers great shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. Here are 15 things to see and do while you are in San Diego and Carlsbad:
To get started, check in at www.sandiego.org for coupons, a list of special events and visitor information.
1. Then you might want to check out the best ever sightseeing transportation on Old Town Trolley Tours, (www.trolleytours.com), which will provide an impressive overview of the variety of places to go and sights to see. Hop on and off all day and get a narrated tour through San Diego and across to Coronado. There’s no better way to see the big picture.
2. Ocean-view lodging accommodations offer the perfect setting for walks or picnics on the beach or a sail-away with Guided Nature Cruise to Coronado Islands by San Diego Harbor Excursion (www,flagshipsd.com). Rates: Adults $50 and $40 for kids 4 to 12.
3. Combine sightseeing with a Hornblower cruise (www.hornblower.com) brunch or dinner event, which often include live music or fireworks.
4. In the San Diego Harbor Embarcadero, many points of interest can be viewed in a 15 minute walk: Maritime Museum of historic ship collections, Aircraft Carrier USS Midway, Seaport Village, and Coronado Ferry Landing, waterfront park and a fishing pier.
5. The US Naval Air Station is housed on Coronado North Island. More details at www.thebigbay.com.
6. If exploring is your passion, or you delight in historical haunts, there are 43 venues to satisfy your curiosity listed on www.sandiegomuseumcouncil.org From oceanic hidden treasures to the reaches of outer space, art, science and gardening exhibits are provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, committed to increasing awareness of the region’s cultural diversity. Admission rates vary, but many are free. For example: Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is free as well as Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum at Miramar.
7. Balboa Park, just minutes from downtown, is home to the San Diego Zoo, lush gardens, performing arts, cultural exhibitions and the vintage Automotive Museum. Every Sunday at 2 p.m., a free concert at Spreckles Organ Pavilion showcases one of the world’s largest outdoor musical instruments, a 50-ton organ with 4,518 pipes. Parking is provided in the spacious Inspiration Point lot with a free tram service to the heart of the park, the visitors center and other stops throughout the park. Audio devices are available for walking tours and there are ten food venues in the park.
8. A trip over to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on the eastern outskirts of San Diego is where you will see the most exotic Asian and African animals. You can ride the African Tram Carousel, Caravan Safari, a Rolling (Segway) Safari or Flightline (Soaring) Safari. Reach out and feed the animals, and be sure to look for discounts on day passes at kiosks displaying attraction brochures or on line at www.sandiegozoo.org.
9. In Old Town San Diego, within the plaza of unique shops, open air vendors and eateries, is Casa de Reyes, where incredible giant margaritas and homemade tortillas are served by staff dressed in authentic Mexican attire and accompanied by strolling Mariachis. You can choose from outdoor patio dining amid bubbling fountains and flourishing native plants, or cozy indoor seating for lunch or dinner.
10. The Gaslamp Quarter, a 16-block area in the downtown sector, was founded by Alonzo Horton in 1867, for whom the plaza is named. Comprised mostly of shops and restaurants, an account of its colorful legends comes to life with a docent narration during a $10 walking tour guided by the Gaslamp Historical Foundation. Informative and spiced with ribald candor of the past in the days of Wyatt Earp and the sequestered brothel in the ornate Louis Bank of Commerce. Go to: www.gaslampquarter.org/tours.
11. An adventure to Coronado Island (actually a peninsula and tethered to San Diego via a 2.2 mile free bridge) is a “Walker’s Paradise.” Flat and a little more than a mile across, you can view the island’s most charming features up close. A reasonable alternative is rental of bikes, an electric cart, beach cruiser or 4-passenger surrey to traverse the Naval Air Station island, replete with character from the early days of founding the heritage architectural marvel, the Del Coronado Hotel.
12. A visit toThe Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad, the non-profit, world- renowned repository of gem information, display of precious gems, leading education and research center, offers guided tours and a look into student classrooms. This world class multilevel showcase of “A girl’s best friend” in every color of the rainbow is a one of a kind fascination. See more at www.gia.edu.
13. The Museum of Making Music, in picturesque coastal Carlsbad, is a fun, educational and interactive musical venture for the entire family. Not only are there detailed exhibits of 450 different vintage musical instruments, and their uses, along with samples of the most memorable tunes shaping our collective musical experience. In a room dedicated to hands-on use, you will find many favorite instruments to try out. Admission: $3 to $5 Details at: www.museumofmakingmusic.org.
14. Next door in Carlsbad, Legoland Waterpark and Sealife Aquarium offers more than 60 rides, shows and attractions for the entire family, including the intriguing specialties such as the lost tombs in Land of Adventure, Pirate Shores and Castle Hill. Information at: www.LegoLand.com
15. Nostalgia of the Old West can be relived on a visit to the Leo Carillo Ranch Historic Park in Carlsbad. Once part of a 2,500-acre working Rancho and home of the 1950’s TV actor of Cisco Kid fame, Carillo played the starring role of sidekick, Poncho, with his horse, Conquistador. Now a 27- acre park with meticulously preserved and restored Hacienda, Cantina, pool, barn, stable, gardens and more, visitors have an opportunity to reminisce into the historic western past on a free, self-guided tour or a 90-minute guided tour on weekends. Visit: www.leocarilloranch.org.
Karen Balch is a retired nurse, avid traveler and freelance writer. She lives in San Ramon and writes regularly for allnewsnoblues.com.
Last Updated (Tuesday, 17 April 2012 03:26)