Read an Excerpt
Frommer's San Diego 2004
By David Swanson
John Wiley & Sons
Copyright © 2003
All right reserved.
The Best of San Diego
Best known for its benign climate and fabulous beaches, San Diego is one big
outdoor playground. With 70 miles of sandy coastline-plus pretty, sheltered
Mission Bay-you can choose from swimming, snorkeling, windsurfing, kayaking,
bicycling, skating, and tons of other fun in or near the water. The city is also
home to top-notch attractions, including three world-famous animal parks and
splendid Balboa Park, a cultural and recreational jewel that's one of the finest
urban parks in the country. And of course San Diego also reflects its Spanish-Mexican
heritage in every corner-in fact, bustling Tijuana is just across the
border, 40 minutes away.
Once dismissed as a slow-growth, politically conservative navy town, San
Diego has been expanding steadily during the past 2 decades, and now boasts an
almost Los Angeles-like diversity of neighborhoods and residents. Approximately
1.3 million people live here, making it the seventh-largest city in the
United States. At this writing, the city's biotech/tourism/telecom-based economy
fires on all burners, and San Diego also boasts one of the fastest-rising
housing markets in the country;fortunately, a heightened sensitivity to historical
preservation means formerly seedy downtown areas and architecturally rich
suburbs are being carefully restored. These often charming districts lure yuppies
to invest in the future of these neighborhoods, and also help to update the face
of San Diego's dining, shopping, and entertainment.
So pack a laid-back attitude along with your sandals and swimsuit, and welcome
to California's grown-up beach town.
1 Frommer's Favorite San Diego Experiences
Driving Over the Bridge to
Coronado: The first time or the
fiftieth, there's always an adrenaline
rush as you follow this engineering
marvel's dramatic curves and catch
a glimpse of the panoramic view to
either side. Driving west, you can
easily pick out the distinctive Hotel
Del in the distance long before you
reach the "island." See "Orientation"
in chapter 4 for more about
the city's neighborhoods.
Riding on the San Diego Trolley
to Mexico: The trip from downtown
costs a mere $2.50, takes
only 40 minutes, and the clean,
quick, bright red trolleys are fun
in their own right. See "Getting
Around" in chapter 4.
Taking the Ferry to Coronado:
The 15-minute ride gets you out
into San Diego Harbor and provides
some of the best views of the
city. The ferry runs every hour
from the Broadway Pier, so you can
tour Coronado on foot, by bike, or
by trolley, and return whenever you
please. See "Getting Around" in
Escaping to Torrey Pines State
Reserve: This state park is set aside
for the rarest pine tree in North
America. But the bluff-side reserve
has short trails that immerse hikers
into a delicate and beautiful
coastal environment that is rapidly
disappearing. See p. 160.
Drinking Coffee at Sidewalk
Cafe: San Diego offers a plethora of
places beyond the ubiquitous Starbucks
to enjoy lattes, espressos, and
cappuccinos, many of them have
outdoor seating areas. Some of my
favorites include Peet's, 350 University
Ave., Hillcrest (619/
296-5995), Gargoyle Gallery and
Cafe, 1845 India St., Little Italy
(619/234-1344), the Pannikin,
7467 Girard Ave., La Jolla
(858/454-5453), and the various
branches of Living Room
Coffeehouse (p. 114).
Watching the Sun Set Over the
Ocean: It's a free and memorable
experience. Excellent sunset-watching
spots include the Mission Beach
and Pacific Beach boardwalks, as
well as the beach in Coronado in
front of the Hotel del Coronado. At
La Jolla's Windansea Beach, wandering
down to the water at dusk,
wineglass in hand, is a nightly
neighborhood event. See "San
Diego's Beaches" in chapter 7.
Watching the Seals at the Children's
Pool: This tiny La Jolla cove
was originally named for the toddlers
who could safely frolic
behind a man-made seawall. These
days, the sand is mostly off-limits
to humans, who congregate along
the seawall railing or onshore to
admire the protected pinnipeds
that sun themselves on the beach
or on semisubmerged rocks. You
can get surprisingly close, and it's a
truly mesmerizing sight. See "San
Diego's Beaches" in chapter 7.
Renting Bikes, Skates, or Kayaks
in Mission Bay: Landscaped
shores, calm waters, paved paths,
and friendly neighbors make Mission
Bay an aquatic playground
like no other. Explore on land or
water, depending on your energy
level, then grab a bite at funky
Mission Cafe. See "Outdoor Pursuits"
in chapter 7.
Strolling Through the Gaslamp
Quarter: Victorian commercial
buildings that fill a 1612-block
area will make you think you've
stepped back in time. The beautifully
restored buildings, in the
heart of downtown, house some of
the city's most popular shops,
restaurants, and nightspots. See
"Walking Tour 1: The Gaslamp
Quarter" in chapter 8.
Walking Along the Water: One of
my favorite places to stroll in the
city is along the waterfront from
the Convention Center to the
Maritime Museum, with views of
aircraft carriers, tuna seiners, and
sailboats. See "Walking Tour 2:
The Embarcadero" in chapter 8.
Listening to Free Sunday Organ
Recitals in Balboa Park: Even if
you usually don't like organ music,
you might enjoy these outdoor concerts
and the crowds they draw-San
Diegans with their parents,
their children, and their dogs. The
music, enhanced by the organist's
commentary, runs the gamut from
classical to contemporary. Concerts
start at 2pm. See "Walking Tour 4:
Balboa Park" in chapter 8.
Purchasing Just-Picked Produce
at a Farmers' Market or Farm-Fresh
Stand: Markets throughout
the area sell the bountiful harvest
of San Diego County, and organic
farms like Chino's are nationally
famous for their delicious produce.
For directions, see "Shopping A to
Z" in chapter 9.
Listening to Live Music Outdoors
at Humphrey's: An intimate,
palm-fringed venue located
on the water at Shelter Island,
Humphrey's has name acts from
mid-May to October and puts
those impersonal summer concert
"sheds" found in other cities to
shame. See "The Club & Music
Scene" in chapter 10.
Running with the Grunion:
These tiny fish spawn on San
Diego beaches between April and
June, and the locals love to be
there. To find the date of the next
run, pick up a free tide chart at a
surf shop or consult the daily
newspaper. See the "Running with
the Grunion" box on p. 227.
Floating Up, Up, and Away Over
North County: Hot-air balloons
carry passengers over the golf
courses and luxury homes north
of the city. These rides are especially
enjoyable at sunset. For
details, see "North County Beach
Towns: Spots to Surf & Sun" in
Visiting the "Lobster Village" in
Puerto Nuevo: South of the border,
a few miles south of tacky TJ,
Puerto Nuevo's time-honored
seaside restaurants serve lobster
with rice, beans, tortillas, and
freshly made salsa. It's an affordable
and deliciously filling meal. See
"Exploring Beyond Tijuana" on
2 Best Hotel Bets
Best Historic Hotel: The Hotel
del Coronado, 1500 Orange Ave.
(800/HOTEL-DEL or 619/
435-8000), positively reeks of
history. Opened in 1888, this Victorian
masterpiece had some of the
first electric lights in existence, and
legend has it that the course of
history was changed when the
Prince of Wales met Wallis Simpson
here at a ball. Meticulous
restoration has enhanced this glorious
landmark, whose early days
are well chronicled in displays
throughout the hotel. See p. 92.
Best for Business Travelers: The
Marriott San Diego Hotel &
Marina, 333 W. Harbor Dr.
(800/228-9290 or 619/234-1500),
screams "business traveler,"
with a full-service business center
offering plenty of amenities for
suits on the go, but there's still
room for a tropical pool and
harbor views. Its prime location
offers excellent access to downtown.
See p. 68.
Best for a Romantic Getaway:
You don't need to know much
about Craftsman-style architecture
to appreciate the taste and keen
craftsmanship that went into creating
The Lodge at Torrey Pines,
11480 North Torrey Pines Rd.
(858/777-6690). The lodge-the
city's only AAA Five Diamond
hotel-sits next to the Torrey
Pines Golf Course, San Diego's top
links, and you can enjoy a fireplace
in your room, sunset ocean views
from your balcony, and superb
meals at the hotel's A.R. Valentine
restaurant. See p. 88.
Best for Families: The Paradise
Point Resort & Spa, 1404 W.
Vacation Rd. (800/344-2626
or 858/274-4630), is a tropical
playground offering enough activities
to keep family members of all
ages happy. In addition to a virtual
Disneyland of on-site options, the
aquatic playground of Mission
Bay surrounds the hotel's private
peninsula. See p. 82.
Best Moderately Priced Hotel:
The Gaslamp Plaza Suites, 520 E
St. (619/232-9500), is an elegant
landmark full of creature
comforts that belie its super-friendly
rates. You'll also be smack-dab
in the heart of the trendy
Gaslamp Quarter. See p. 74.
Best Budget Hotel: In San Diego's
Little Italy, La Pensione Hotel, 606
W. Date St. (800/232-4683 or
619/236-8000), feels like a small
European hotel and offers tidy lodgings
at bargain prices. There's an
abundance of great dining in the
surrounding blocks, and you'll be
perfectly situated to explore the rest
of town by car. See p. 74.
Best Unusual Lodgings: Fulfill
the fantasies of your inner yachtsman
with the Harbor Vacations
Club, 1880 Harbor Island Dr.,
or 619/297-9484). It provides
powerboats, sailboats, and houseboats
docked in a Harbor Island
marina. You can sleep on board,
lulled by the gentle rocking of the
hull, and then have breakfast
ashore; complete the adventure
with a skippered cruise later in the
day. See p. 72.
Best Bed & Breakfast: The picture-perfect
Heritage Park Bed
& Breakfast Inn, 2470 Heritage
Park Row (800/995-2470 or
619/299-6832), has it all-an
exquisitely maintained Victorian
house, lively and gracious hosts
who delight in creating a pampering
and romantic ambience, and
an Old Town location equally
close to downtown, Hillcrest, and
Mission Bay. See p. 78.
Best Boutique Inn: Smartly
located in the center of La Jolla,
the 20-room Hotel Parisi, 1111
Prospect St. (877/4-PARISI or
858/454-1511), has the composed,
quiet feel of a Zen garden,
with feng shui-inspired suites,
modern furnishings, and subdued
color schemes. See p. 86.
Best Place to Stay on the Beach:
Although the Hotel Del operation
takes the cake, a more moderate
landing is found at La Jolla's The
Sea Lodge, 8110 Camino del Oro
(800/237-5211 or 858/459-8271),
where you can walk right
onto the wide beach and frolic amid
great waves. Lifeguards and the lack
of undertow make this a popular
choice for families. Though the
rooms are plain, the staff is all-pro.
See p. 90.
Best Hotel for Travelers with
Disabilities: While many of San
Diego's hotels make minimal concessions
codes, downtown's Manchester
Grand Hyatt San Diego, 1 Market
Place (800/233-1234 or
619/232-1234), goes the distance.
There are 23 rooms with roll-in
showers and lowered closet racks
and peepholes. Ramps are an integral
part of all the public spaces,
rather than an afterthought. The
hotel's Braille labeling is also thorough.
See p. 68.
Best Hotel Pool: The genteel pool
at La Valencia, 1132 Prospect St.
(800/451-0772 or 858/454-
0771), is oh-so-special, with its
spectacular setting overlooking
Scripps Park and the Pacific. See
3 Best Dining Bets
Best Spot for a Business Lunch:
Dakota Grill & Spirits, 901 Fifth
Ave., in the Gaslamp Quarter
(619/234-5554), has the three
most important ingredients of a
business lunch locale-great location,
appropriate atmosphere, and
excellent food-but without
prices that scream "power lunch."
See p. 104.
Best View: Many restaurants overlook
the ocean, but only from
Brockton Villa, 1235 Coast Blvd.,
La Jolla (858/454-7393), can
you see sublime La Jolla Cove.
Diners with a window seat will feel
as if they're looking out on a gigantic
picture postcard. See p. 124.
Best Value: The word "huge"
barely begins to describe the portions
at Filippi's Pizza Grotto,
1747 India St. (619/232-5095),
where a salad for one is
enough for three, and an order of
lasagna must weigh a pound.
There's a kids' menu, and Filippi's
has locations all over, including
Pacific Beach, Mission Valley, and
Escondido. See p. 106.
Best for Kids: At the Old
Spaghetti Factory, 275 Fifth Ave.,
in the Gaslamp Quarter (619/
233-4323), family dining is the
name of the game-so if your kids
are noisy, nobody will notice.
See p. 107.
Best Chinese Cuisine: Emerald
Restaurant, 3709 Convoy St.,
Kearny Mesa (858/565-6888),
is in the most unromantic of locations,
yet the culinary wizardry
that transpires in the kitchen
draws the Chinese community
citywide for Hong Kong-style
seafood, much of it plucked from
live fish tanks. See p. 129.
Best Class Act: The polished service
and elegant setting at Laurel,
505 Laurel St., next to Balboa
Park (619/239-2222), are
urbane and discriminating, like
the best New York restaurants.
But the food is prepared with
inventive flair and the Rhoneheavy
wine list soars, making Laurel
a rewarding splurge for a
special occasion. See p. 107.
Best Seafood: At Star of the Sea,
1380 N. Harbor Dr. (619/232-7408),
you'll find the city's best
package of fresh seafood, graceful
presentation, and memorable views
from the edge of San Diego Bay.
See p. 102.
Best New-American Cuisine:
Chef Deborah Scott's menu at
Indigo Grill, 1536 India St.,
Excerpted from Frommer's San Diego 2004
by David Swanson
Copyright © 2003 by David Swanson.
Excerpted by permission.
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