Seems like a few times a year everyone in Arizona migrates to San Diego. The veterans of this migration visit their favorite places over and over.
Since most of the folk in Arizona are recent transplants, some (amazingly) from places north and east of here, they frequently ask for tips when making a first visit to The Golden State.
First off, California is too big to generalize about, so I tell them to plan multiple trips and break it down by regions. Its sort of like when I lived in Alaska and people said they were coming for a visit. I'd try to explain that it takes many trips to scratch the surface of Alaska. California is much the same. There is the San Diego Trip. There is the LA/Southern California trip. There is the Big Sur, San Francisco, and Wine Country trip. There is the North Coast, Redwoods, and Mendocino trip. Finally, there is the Sierras, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, and Death Valley trip.
While a couple of adjoining regions can easily be combined on a single visit, its best not to push it. Just spread it out and try to vary the seasons in which you visit. Winter in Yosemite defies words.
Installment One: San Diego - The Zonie's Favorite
OK I'm a freak, I actually like the drive to San Diego via Yuma. When I make that drive I can stop in Yuma and eat at La Fonda (superb tortilla's and tamale's). Lets face it, life is always better after a plate of good Mexican food.
As you approach San Diego's far east county you come to all of the boulders. It is total Fred Flintstone. I love it.
Now once they get to San Diego most folks immerse themselves in "San Diego the Amusement Park" (the Zoo, Sea World, etc.).
OK, do that stuff, but work the trip a little and try some of the following:
If its summer, plan a trip to Humphrey's Half Moon Inn on Shelter Island for one of its evening concerts. The Inn is nothing to write home about; pretty gardens and fifties polynesian kitsch. The architecture is totally "Gidget Goes Hawaiian", but the concerts at Humphrey's little waterfront theater are nothing short of amazing (see for yourself - go look at their website and be amazed). Year in and year out Humphrey's schedules concerts that you would never believe could be booked into such a tiny little outdoor venue. I think the performers must view Humphrey's as a cool summer getaway themselves.
On your way to Humphrey's stop at Point Loma Seafoods. It closes early, has limited seating, and it only takes cash. You'll have to be able to read the lines and you will not be rewarded for being timid. Just wade in, make your way up front, order, and enjoy the freshest fish in San Diego. It will be fried and it will also be the best bargain for fresh seafood you will find in San Diego.
The architect in me has to be emphatic here: Go To Balboa Park! This is Old California at its best. Old California is better than New California. The buildings are left over from a worlds fair lifetimes ago. Take a picnic. Smell the eucalyptus groves. Go to one of its obscure little museums (I like the old car museum). The World Famous (WF) San Diego Zoo is located here. While I like zoo's I can't take the Panda thing. This zoo is over-the-top.
A side note, as you get closer to LA you will be confronted with more and more WF (World Famous). Seemingly everything in LA is WF. But I digress.
On the way to Balboa Park stop for breakfast at Hob Nob Hill. No restaurant in San Diego serves more movers and shakers in an average day. Get a bowl of their amazing Cream of Wheat. Feel your arteries slap shut. Must be a brick of butter in each bowl.
Go to Scripps Aquarium, it is small and the researchers are right there. Getting there allows you to experience San Diego's Torrey Pines and the University area. So pretty.
Last thing, if you must, go ahead and make the trip to Coronado. Have a drink at "The Del". This is where many old Republicans choose to go to die.
So, if the above are my Do's, here's my Don'ts.
Avoid Mission Beach. Its scuzzy. Exception: The Tower 23 Hotel.
Avoid Mission Bay. It is simply a dredging operation gone bad.
At all costs try to avoid the hype of La Jolla (La Hoy-a). Romney's house is here and it sort of just breeds yuppie scum.
Avoid the hotel ghetto called "Hotel Circle".
Despite what it may think of itself San Diego is clearly not America's Finest City, but it is arguably one of California's Southernmost treasures, go enjoy it.
Roadboys Travels © 2008