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Questions on our trip to San Diego and Santa Monica in August

Questions on our trip to San Diego and Santa Monica in August

Jun 23rd, 2006, 11:13 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 953
Questions on our trip to San Diego and Santa Monica in August

We will be going to San Diego and Santa Monica for our 25th in August. Yahoo!!!! Back in October I booked our hotels, then we changed our minds, decided on Ireland with friends, then one of our friends recently got sick, so we decided to postpone Ireland and go to So Cali as first planned!! Whew, good thing I never cancelled our Cali reservations!!!

Anyway, I got great information from this forum a while ago so thought I'd ask a few more questions. We will be at Pacific Terrace in SD for 3 nights then 2 nights in SM at the Le Merigot. I'm not thrilled with that choice, but I got the best rate at LM. Also, we're flying into SD and flying out of LA.

Questions: What is a good ocean tour? We'd like to see the coast from the sea. Also, what about land tours, no more than 2 hours long?

Should we drive to Coronado Beach or take the ferry?

Also, any funky new restaurants people have tried lately in either SD or SM?

I'm assuming it will take 2-3 hours to drive up the coast on a Saturday. Is that right? Should we stop at any town along the way?

Where is the best place to watch sunsets?

I have lots of other questions but this is good for starters. We have never been to southern CA, so are quite excited. Thanks so much!!!
Jayneann is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2006, 12:19 PM
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I'm not sure what you mean by "drive up the coast." If you mean you're going to take the "scenic" route, then I think 2 hours is a bit optimistic to cover the 122 miles between the two cities. If you do 65 mph on Interstate 5 with no stops to look at anything, then you could probably get to Santa Monica in two hours on a Saturday if traffic is light.

The drive to Coronado Beach across that bridge is an easy one and a beautiful one.
budget4me is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2006, 01:02 PM
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First: The drive from SD to SM. You can't do "scenic" the entire way. You can drive out of SD on I-5 and then hop Coast Highway through La Jolla; you will then need to rejoin I-5 to get out of San Diego County (portions do hug the coast, so it can be a nice drive). When you cross the Orange County line, you can hop off the freeway in San Clemente to grab Coast Highway again (from here on in people will often call it "PCH", especially people from LA County). You will have a relatively scenic drive on this (with minimalls and an occasional power plant) until the LA County line; at that point it becomes just another urban street (and drives through some ugly neighborhoods) pretty much until Santa Monica. Here's a detour:

-- Once you cross the LA County line into Long Beach, take a right turn off of PCH onto Westminster (CONFUSING STREET NAMING: If you go left, it's called Second Street). At that corner you'll find a Mobil gas station and an In-'n'-Out burger stand (HEAVEN ON A BUN). At the second light, turn left on Studebaker. Take a right onto the overachieving 22-605-405 freeway onramp (sounds odd, but there are signs) and CAREFULLY follow the signs to I-405 N (toward Los Angeles-- or is it Santa Monica? Can't recall).

-- Take the 405 up to the I-10 interchange. Take the 10 West (toward Santa Monica).

-- Take the Lincoln Blvd. exit. Take a right onto Lincoln, then a left onto Colorado. Follow Colorado all the way to Ocean Ave. (the Santa Monica Pier is at the end of Colorado), then make a left. Le Mérigot will be on your right after three ridiculously closely-spaced traffic lights.

Hip dining in Santa Monica? Whist at the Viceroy is on its third or fourth chef and may have hit the "good" one. Get their tasting menu. Capo is just down the street from Le Mérigot and is a great Italian joint; bring lots of money. Chinois on Main is still going, even if its star cachet is a bit dimmed. Joe's in Venice is 10 minutes away and still serving up Cal-Continental well. Ma-Kai on Ocean has a cool Happy Hour and a young scene, but the food sucks rocks. Boa Steakhouse up the street has a bit of a scene as well-- and the food's better. Going inland, Jiraffe is great, actually. If you can stand the noise level, Border Grill serves tasty but inauthentic Mexican food (although people are saying it's going downhill since the Two Hot Tamales have opened Cuidad in downtown LA). Michael's on Third is one of the places where Cal Cuisine was invented in the 1970s, and it's still superb. The Lobster, at the base of the Pier, has wonderful views, but I've never really had a great meal there (then again, I don't eat lobster). Ocean Ave. Seafood, up the street, is far better in my opinion (nothing cutting-edge or "stylish"-- no foams or bizarre candy-based emulsions--, just good seafood).

Sunsets? I'm simple. When I'm home in Long Beach, I just go to a beach and enjoy the sun setting over the ocean. In San Diego, the classic thing to do is to hit George's at the Cove in La Jolla, grab a patio seat or a window seat, and kick back with a fine glass of wine. In Santa Monica, go for drinks at the Lobster and do the same; then go up the street to Ocean Ave. Seafood for dinner.
rjw_lgb_ca is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2006, 01:51 PM
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Hi-Stop in Laguna Beach; have a burger on the deck at the Hotel Laguna-very pretty spot; directly on the Ocean. Laguna is fun, too.
jbass is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2006, 07:45 PM
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Thanks for the response and the tip about driving over the bridge!

Thanks for such detailed directions and I love the sunset ideas! You gave me great info back in October too!!!! I really appreciate it!

We'll have to check out Laguna Beach! I love to dine while overlooking the ocean. Thanks!!

Anyone else have suggestions???
Jayneann is offline  
Jun 24th, 2006, 08:30 AM
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I second the idea for Georges at the Cove. The terrace is on the third floor (main restaurant is on the second). Reservations are a must.

Spend the evening walking around La Jolla Cove. You walk along the bluff and it is gorgeous as the sun is setting.

I personally don't care for the beaches on Coronado. Many people do though. I just find them a bit isolated. I love Torrey Pines State Park Beach just north of La Jolla or La Jolla Shores which is a very popular family beach.

Places to check out:
- Balboa Park (gardens, museums, zoo)
- Gaslamp Quarter (downtown restaurants and nightlife)
- La Jolla (upscale shops & restaurants and views to die for)
- Cabrillo Monument (view overlooking all of SD Bay and Coronado)
- Hotel Del Coronado (great Sunday brunch but $$$)
- Del Mar Horseraces (always fun)
- Torrey Pines State Park (awesome 1/2 day of hiking)

saps is offline  
Jun 24th, 2006, 08:41 AM
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I live in area of your San Diego hotel, new restaurant in area is called Jordan's at Tower 23 hotel walkable from your place. Very upscale, and hip. Fishery restaurant in the area has great selections, especially at lunch -not on the beach but on Cass St.
The Coronado bridge is a must so do drive...maybe even rent bikes once you get there and follow the coast.
Sorry, don't know which of the tour boats is best for a look at the coast...why not rent kayaks and check it out on your own? Driving up the coast: check out Laguna Beach (scenery) and Newport Beach (artsy fun).
globecircler is offline  
Jun 24th, 2006, 09:35 AM
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I recommend a visiting a Mission while you are there and you go right by San Juan Capistrano on the way to SM. It's right off the 5. So beautiful, peaceful and historical.

Jun 24th, 2006, 12:07 PM
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Saps and Globecircler,
Thanks for the great information about SD and the surrounding areas! How long does it take to get to George's from the Pacific Terrace? I'm going to make reservations, but am trying to figure out if we should go Thurs night or Fri night! Gosh, so much to do with so little time!!!!

Thanks for the link on the mission. Looks like a great place to check out!
Jayneann is offline  
Jun 24th, 2006, 02:09 PM
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rjw-Great driving directions. I am going to keep your list of Santa Monica restaurants. Was just there for one night on Thursday for business. Never know what restaurants are best. BTW, next time I am up there we should have a little Fodor's GTG. Will probably be in a couple of weeks.

Jayneann-Another great place in Santa Monica to have a drink and see the view is Toppers. It's a restaurant on the 18th Floor of the Radison Huntley Hotel. Great place to see the sunset, you just want to get there early to get a good window seat. From Pacific Terrace to George's could take you a half an hour. Getting out of Pacific Beach can take a while and getting into La Jolla can also be slow. I think I would go on Thursday night, a little less crowded and a little less traffic, maybe!!
paula1470 is offline  
Jun 24th, 2006, 10:32 PM
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Regarding that coast tour: If you are interested in nature, you could take a tour to one of the Channel Islands one day. Boats leave from Ventura Harbour (and Oxnard Harbour), so a drive up the coast from Santa Monica would be required.
A trip to Anacapa takes about half a day, features views of the coast as you depart and return and gives interesting insights into the fauna and flora on the island which is quite unique. Sometimes you even encounter dolphins on the boat cruise.
Island Packers is one of the companies that do these tours.
I found it fun when I did it - and their guide was really informative and nice.

hsv is offline  
Jun 25th, 2006, 08:28 AM
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Paula 1470,
Thanks for the reply back! I just tried to make a reservation for Aug 10, Thurs, but Opentable isn't taking reservations that far away. Maybe I'll call. Also, thanks for the suggestion about Toppers. I'll check it out!!

Thanks for the website!!! The tours look great so hopefully we can find the time to do it. I'm definitely going to print out all of this information and bring it with me!!!
Jayneann is offline  
Jun 25th, 2006, 10:21 AM
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I think Topper's is CLOSED now for renovations. Better call and double check first.
emd is offline  
Jun 25th, 2006, 10:25 AM
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One Pico at Shutters is a great place for dinner ($$$) and sunset. You can walk outside right in front of the htoel on the oceanfront walkway, then go in and listen to paino in the lobby bar and have a drink there, then go in to dinner. I took a 30 yr old work colleague there for his birthday in April. Out of all the SM restaurants, that is where he wanted to go. I've been there many times and it is always wonderful.
emd is offline  
Jun 25th, 2006, 11:18 AM
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I was also going to suggest a tour to the Channel Islands; I did that years ago and it was fun. I'm pretty sure we used Island Packers, too.

If you drive the coast highway, we loved this seafood shack called Malibu Seafood (in Malibu on the northbound side of the road; the sign was a giant neon? lobster). One side sold fresh seafood, the other made prepared food. The tunaburger was worth the wait! My friend from LA recommended it to us, and even made me bring one all the way back for her.
ggreen is offline  
Jun 25th, 2006, 01:32 PM
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Emd-I forgot Toppers was undergoing renovation. Thanks for correcting me. I think they will be undergoing construction all summer but call and check. On opentable it says this restaurant is unavailable. I think they are on a lower floor for now.
paula1470 is offline  
Jun 26th, 2006, 04:42 AM
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emd and ggreen,
Thanks for the feedback! The restaurants all sound so fabulous, guess we'll just have to try them all! Good thing there's lots of walking, biking, and swimming in our plans!!!!
Jayneann is offline  
Jun 26th, 2006, 07:07 AM
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In San Diego we like Nicks at the Beach, and the Green Flash. Both are good "beach" restaurants. Not so expensive, good choices. Also like World Famous. All of these are on Mission Beach.

SM, we LOVE Ocean. Great seafood, service. Drinks down the street at the Viceroy is very classy. Beware of the giant martinis there.

Another place we like for breakfast in SM is the Broadway Deli (I think that is the name), big deli counter on third down by Macys. Keep your eyes open for celebs.

Toppers is closed. Oh no. Will come back fancy and expensive, probably. That was a great place for happy hour.
Heavens is offline  
Jun 26th, 2006, 07:21 AM
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ggreen is dead on right with the Malibu Seafood suggestion--we've made it a point to go there on our last two LA trips and it will be our first stop when we're in Santa Monica this September. My favorites are the fried oysters and the mussels. YUM.

rjw always has such good suggestions for the LA area--I would definitely follow what he says (except we love The Lobster and have eaten there twice--the lobster is expensive but heavenly).

I'll be curious to see what you think about Le Merigot. My husband and I are staying there in September--I'm kind of leery after reading some of the reviews but Shutters, etc. were just too out of our pricerange. Something in me just can't pay $400+ per night for a hotel room...
Jun 26th, 2006, 08:01 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Tess, like I said, I don't eat lobster (doesn't agree with my stomach), so the draw for the Lobster for me is "drinks and a view from the Pier". If you've had good meals there, I'm delighted; they certainly do get the crowds in there, so they're doing a lot of things right. I'm an Ocean Ave. guy for multiple reasons (loyalty to the company running it-- their original Long Beach restaurant is a favorite of mine). More places:

Mélisse on Wilshire (well inland at 11th) is classical French, very highly-regarded, very pricey. La Serenata de Garibaldi is a good sit-down Mexican place on Fourth, across the street from Border Grill, more authentic (the original branch of this is in Boyle Heights, near east LA). I. Cugini is a high-end Italian on Ocean (same restaurant group as that of Ocean Ave. Seafood), with lovely food and a high pricetag. Il Fornaio della Spiaggia is a good branch of the well-known Il Fornaio chain. Ivy at the Shore is the pretty offspring of the famous celeb-heavy West Hollywood Ivy on Robertson; similar menu, similarly underachieving (not bad, just not worth the money) cuisine, with an occasional star or two. Big whoop.

To avoid: Schatzi, the Governator's eatery, is bland and pricey and has lost almost all of its opening-night luster. El Cholo on Wilshire (and it pains me to say this, since I am fond of the original near downtown LA) serves Tex-Mex that you'd find at a Taco Bell-- or a Chi-Chi's (remember those culinary atrocities?). Horrible.

Heavens' suggestion of the Broadway Deli for breakfast is a very good one (and it's good for a "star-sighting" once in a while). Another wonderful place is Jinky's, on Second just north of that mall (Santa Monica Place). For your reference: Johnny Rocket's and a little Greek place called Stop-In Café (I've been going there for 18 years for lunch) serve breakfast. And there are-- get ready-- THREE Starbucks Coffee Houses in the three pedestrian blocks of the Third Street Promenade, as well as a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Like we can't walk a block without that caffeine fix...! Oh yeah-- a Fatburger plies its evil trade of huge, juicy, condiment-laden, delicious hamburgers just south of the vast Banana Republic mothership store on Third at Wilshire. In a pinch, it's a great place to see how well Lipitor will ward off that coronary or stroke.
rjw_lgb_ca is offline  

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