San Diego is not the easiest place for the first time visitor to get their head around but stick with it, it’s so worth it! In fact I’d go as far as to say its now my favourite American city. Known as the ‘City of Villages’, it feels completely different to the urban sprawl of Los Angeles. Built on 200 canyons and hills with the San Diego river running east to west creating a valley dividing north from south, there are lots of smaller communities (52 in total), each with its own identity. This is what makes it so appealing, once you’ve accepted its fragmented, you can really savour the unique appeal of each area.
We were staying at Paradise Point, an island resort on Mission Beach. So there we were with the downtown city skyline in the distance and yet in a beachside condo – an unusual but very nice combination. We sat out on our deck as the sun watching a paddle boarder take her dog for a ‘cruise’ and the local rowing club practising their strokes, and began to appreciate the charms of a coastal California lifestyle
But no time for sitting and staring, San Diego has masses to see and do and we were on a mission. We kicked things off with Seaworld, within walking distance of Paradise Point. We then did a quick flip around San Diego zoo (I have to admit on an open top bus, the place is enormous!). Both of course, are massively popular attractions and obvious ones to add to any family tick list. Less obvious, and an incredibly pleasant surprise, are the numerous attractions of Balbao Park – home to no less than 15 museums, 8 gardens, numerous performance art venues and the world famous San Diego Zoo you will need at least a full day to even make a dent in all the attractions here.
Even if you are not particularly interested in the different venues, its just a lovely place to take a stroll and admire the elaborate architecture and beautifully landscaped gardens.
More history and cultural interest can be found at the city’s original settlement, and the birthplace of California, Old Town, now a fascinating living museum.
For nights out, the Gaslamp Quarter is the place to be. Covering an impressive 16 blocks, this historic area has been transformed into the city’s entertainment zone and is packed with bars, clubs and restaurants. With so much choice, local knowledge is handy – we asked the barman at the Tipsy Crow pub (great for craft beers incidentally) for his advice on the best Mexican – he pointed us toward the Blind Burro (7th and J Street) and we had the best time – top food, great value and really fun atmosphere.
Next morning I had the most amazing massage at the Paradise Point Spa c/o the very lovely Kayleigh who, it turned out, was also full of foodie tips – which led us to Isola in Little Italy for lunch. Honestly, visiting San Diego’s eclectic communities is like taking a mini global tour!
Our final foodie adventure was a real blowout – Sunday brunch at The Hotel del Coronado. This is a hotel with history having played host over the years to numerous presidents and film stars – and famously was used as the location for the film Some Like it Hot in 1958. Brunch (at an eye watering $85 a pop) takes place in the Crown Room, with its magnificent Oregon Sugar Pine domed wooden ceiling. Its a gargantuan, gluttonous, eat as much as you like affair washed down with unlimited Mimosas or Bloody Marys. No normal human could possibly sample everything laid out before us – from full cooked breakfasts to Sunday roasts to seafood to salads to cold cuts to cheeses and dozens of desserts. Some people, however, appeared to be giving it a jolly good go!
After so much food, a long walk was essential and luckily the hotel sits directly on one of Coronado Island’s fabulous silver sand beaches – voted by Dr Beach in 2012 as the best in the USA. And with that, our all too brief visit to San Diego came to end – definitely one to return to for a longer stay next time.