Go West, Young Man
Got 24 hours to kill in San Diego? Check out what I did during my free time in SoCal while there for a conference:
Walk along the coast and see some big boats: San Diego’s coast is home to a bevy of boats, not the least of which is the USS Midway, a huge former naval aircraft carrier. Alas, I didn’t go on the boat, but that didn’t make the 971-foot-long ship any less impressive. While strolling down the promenade, ogle the fancy privately owned boats and make sure to snap a photo of the San Diego skyline.
One thing you can avoid while along the coast is Seaport Village. Definitely intended for tourists – the neighboring fudge-cupcake-ice cream stores gave it away – this kitschy little area has stores that sell jewelry made out of sea shells and other knickknack-ery that you probably don’t really need cluttering up your home. For a walking tour, my advice is to start from the Little Italy green trolley station, head toward the City-County Administration Building (which has Indy’s similarly named building beat on architecture) and head south.
Visit the Gaslamp Quarter and downtown: Home to hundreds of quirky shops as well as mom-and-pop and national chain restaurants, the Gaslamp Quarter, for my Indy friends, is like a mish-mash of downtown Indy and Mass Ave. If you can’t find something to eat here, then you’re in trouble, as restaurants dot the 16-block quarter. Nearby, there is a mall downtown but, traveler beware, like most malls in San Diego, it’s an open-air concept. Thankfully, the weather is nice most the time, but be prepared just in case Mother Nature strikes.
Like baseball? Take in a cheap game at Petco Park, home to the San Diego Padres. If you’re lucky like me, the Padres will stink and tickets will be cheap ($20 for two rows from the field?? OK!). While it’s a pretty park, it’s a little oddly laid out: It’s difficult to get from one section to another, as there’s no one continuous walkway between sections and food vendors. Imagine each section is its own island, cut off from the rest of the ballpark.
Honestly, I felt downtown San Diego/the Gaslamp Quarter was like Indy … but on the ocean and a little bigger with more
Food: I’d be remiss if I didn’t measure the food options in San Diego. First, I hope you like smoothies, because Jamba Juice locations are a dime a dozen. Second, I thoroughly enjoyed eating at Crazy Bowls & Wraps. Sure, it’s a fast food joint, but my bowl of rice, avocado, tofu and veggies was delicious. For breakfast, I relied on getting groceries from the nearby grocery store. I know, I’m truly a “foodie” …
Bonus trip: Perhaps the best part of my exploration of the San Diego area was vising Coronado Beach. An easy-ish bus ride from the hotel, Coronado is an island across the San Diego Bay from the big city. An adorable, palm tree-lined downtown has shops that do everything from renting bikes to selling stationery or chocolates. An expansive public beach right on the ocean is a huge draw (get there early and bring your own chair or blanket). Just in the short time I was there, there was a wedding, a karate class, a high school sports team and beach bums. Make sure to swing by Village Pizzeria right at the south end of the main drag of town for some pretty – alebit a little pricey – pizza.
Transportation: Like most trips, I relied heavily on public transit. The green trolley line was relatively easy to use and reliable, although the bus service was much less reliable, including one bus that was 20 minutes late picking up several riders to take them to the airport. An airport bus should, of any bus route, not be the one that shows up 20 minutes late. A bit surprised transfers aren’t allowed from the trolley to the bus, but c’est la vie.