San Diego - 1 full day

Nov 25th, 2006, 05:30 PM
  #1  
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San Diego - 1 full day

Hi guys. We're flying to San Diego, arriving Friday night 10pm and leaving for Borrego Springs Sunday a.m. One full day, and we've never seen San Diego before. Our top priority: the Zoo. So can anyone suggest:

Accommodations? Should we stay in Hillcrest/uptown area or around the Gaslamp Quarter?

Anything else? What can or should we see/do in our very limited time outside the zoo?
woodstockguy is offline  
Nov 25th, 2006, 06:02 PM
  #2  
DAX
 
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The zoo is connected to the Balboa Park which has great spanish architecture, in fact the narrow bridge to the west is modeled after a bridge in Toledo, Spain. The are a few museums inside the park so it's more than just a nice comfortable park to stroll. There is a couple restaurants in the park but neither are that great, I would go to the Gaslamp quarter for dinner and hotel. Further south is the convention center and if you walk west from there you'll find Seaport Village (shops & restaurants in a village setting) and the port just north of it you may see a docked warship that you can tour for free.

Way north: San Diego old town is a good place to go for lunch to see how San Diego was established in the early days. The restaurants & shops tend to be very festive & colorful. If you like a beach town scene, head to Mission beach all the way up to Pacific beach. La Jolla Cove beach has a nice green grassy park. Upscale stores & restaurants just a block inland.

It would help if we know what you normally enjoy doing in a city and also your budget/service level for hotel & restaurants.
DAX is offline  
Nov 25th, 2006, 06:12 PM
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I loved San Diego and was lucky enough to spend five nights there last January.

We stayed at the Marriot in Gaslamp area, very nice! I loved that area, lots of shops, restaurants within walking distance. The area is clean and feels very safe at night. I loved it. I am anxious to go back. We didn't get to the zoo.

It was very easy to find your way around from the airport and surprisingly the airport is close to the Gaslamp Quarter. (compared to other cities).

The Marriot had a rooftop bar that had great views. We drove twice over to the Cordonado area, and it didn't take too long. You must see the Del Cordanado hotel! It was not that long of a drive over the bridge to that area.

Don't forget to try a fish taco!



beachkomer is offline  
Nov 25th, 2006, 06:17 PM
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Thanks for the early responses. What we enjoy most in an American city on short time budgets is to get a flavor of the city. Architecture is a plus. Neighborhoods are a plus. Shopping is uninteresting. Museums are not the biggest enticement on short time budgets unless extraordinary.

How much time will we have, realistically, after the zoo?
woodstockguy is offline  
Nov 25th, 2006, 07:13 PM
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Will you have a car or rely upon our limited public transpo?

The zoo is large and Balboa Park is very nice. Some people could spend all day at the zoo - it's huge but a few hours is enough for us but we can always return. Get there early before it gets hot, wear good walking shoes. They open at 9.
If you like nature then you might find some of the flora at the park interesting.

If you have a car you can buzz over to one of the beaches and spend the afternoon and evening- watch the sunset if your into that.

The Gaslamp Quarter is lively and fun and close to the water. I think there is still a ferry that runs to Coronado. It's a quick trip by ferry.

There are lots of places to eat in Hillcrest but doesn't seem like it would be that interesting for a visitor.

DAX is right about there not being much to eat in the park that is all that great.
L84SKY is offline  
Nov 25th, 2006, 07:25 PM
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San Diego is a great city!
The zoo is fabulous! You could spend close to a full day there. Be sure to buy the value package- it includes a guided bus ride around the zoo and a skyride. The bus ride gives you an idea about how the zoo is set up. It is well worth it! Balboa Park is worth a stop if the weather is nice. IT is fun just to walk around.
In the Gaslamp Quarter, The Strip Club is worth a stop for dinner (you grill your own steaks).
La Jolla was also very nice. I would love to spend more time walking around there!

Here is a link to my San Diego trip report:
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...1&tid=34863987
Kerry392 is offline  
Nov 25th, 2006, 09:53 PM
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You have to budget your time when you go to the zoo; it's one of the greatest zoos n the world so you can easily spend all day being fascinated by one animal to the next. It's hilly and multilevel so it has an attractive setting. I would say 3 hours is reasonable if you budget your time carefully, then exit into Balboa Park for a 2 hour stroll to appreciate the lay out and architecture leisurely, you can bring a picnic lunch as it won't occupy you as intensely as the zoo.

I would drop Hillcrest, it's really not that interesting of a neigborhood. I personally prefer Mission/Pacific beach areas as beachy neighborhoods with narrow beach houses and good local people/bikini watching on the crowded & lively boardwalk/bikepath. You can rent rollerblades. We used to go to Mission beach even late at night when it's totally empty just to listen to the ocean wave hitting the sand.

Coronado island has a nice long beach as well but I hardly went there when I lived in San Diego. If I remember correctly it has a ferry and that docks in a shopping area. The Hotel del Coronado is of course the jewel attraction of the island. Most people drive across the huge hyperbolic tall Coronado bridge to get to the island.

Downtown San Diego is fine but nothing really unique/memorable. You can hop on the modern San Diego tram to see old town for a bit of old San Diego and Mexican flavor. It has plenty of interesting historical sites scaterred with tourist souvenir shops, restaurants & a few galleries or you can hike the old town residential area to the Mission Junipero Serra on the hilltop. The same tram can also take you to the Mexican border to see Tijuana.
The Point Loma lighthouse & Cabrillo center (for best view of the San Diego Bay) make another popular tourist destination but you need a car. If you drive down to the bottom of the hill below Point Loma, there is an off limit rocky beach area where you'll find little tidewater pools filled with anemone, tiny crabs & some fish trapped by the low tide. At certain time of the year there are lots of colorful saltwater slugs with deep or glowing red purple yellow green etc. I think this is the reason why they put an off limit sign so that tourists won't trample the area.
DAX is offline  
Nov 25th, 2006, 11:05 PM
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You can take the bus tour round the Zoo, then go back to see anything that you want to see up close and personal. The Zoo is actually IN Balboa Park. There is an excellent restaurant in Balboa Park called The Prado Restaurant. It's in an old building called the Prado. The food is very good and there are great appetizers in the bar.

http://cohnrestaurants.com/cohn/pradobalboa/index.html

Old Town is quite interesting, but as you only have one day and you'd like to walk round a neighborhood, I suggest you go to La Jolla. San Diego is very spread out and you're really not going to get a true feeling for the city in one day, or even two.

La Jolla is lovely, with a gorgeous coastline and non-tract homes. There are also many very good restaurants.

I'd also suggest that you stay in La Jolla so that you could minimize the amount of driving around you'd have to do. I'm assuming you're driving to Borrego Springs, because there's really no other way to get there other than by bus. You can easily drive to the Zoo from La Jolla and there's a huge parking lot so no difficulty parking.

After your morning at the Zoo, stroll through the park to the Prado Restaurant for lunch, then head up to La Jolla for the afternoon and dinner.

The "tram" to which Dax refers is the San Diego Trolley.

The lighthouse is in the Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma and is a great place to visit. The views are outstanding. You would have to drive there, but it's an interesting drive through several neighborhoods, along Rosecrans Street where the Naval Training Center used to be and especially part of Point Loma.

If you can be more specific about the type of accommodation you're looking for,and a price range, then we could give you better suggestions.

Also, when are you coming to San Diego?
Barbara is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 02:42 AM
  #9  
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As usual, you are all providing lots of great suggestions. We will have a car in San Diego, and I figure we will arrive early at the zoo and leave by 1, maybe 2 pm at the latest. Should we hop in the car and drive to Coronado Island and then La Jolla for a quick look?

We're flexible on accommodations. In November we visited Scottsdale for a couple of nights and chose between $400 per night Biltmore for its architecture/history and $89 per night Holiday Inn Express for location next to Old Town. Biltmore was our first choice but sold out. Holiday Inn Express was probably better in the end, a half mile walk from Old Town so we could go out, drink and walk back. The Biltmore would have you captive unless you drive to dinner.

I checked the Coronado. While it looks great, something smaller scale, whether cheaper or not, maybe be better for our brief visit.
woodstockguy is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 07:34 AM
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If time is limited, I would pick La Jolla in the north over Coronado in the south. It's upscale and has a lot to offer but it is around a 25-30 minute drive to the Zoo without traffic. I'm sure people will recommend Hotel del Coronado which is a nice hotel but I'd feel isolated from the rest of San Diego. If you choose to stay in La Jolla, I recommend Hotel Valencia for its architecture, view and strategic location. I'm not big on Hotel Parisi which has a Rodeo Drive wanna be feeling on the same Prospect Drive. Prospect Drive is where all the restaurants and art galleries are. Valencia has a special architecture and view even thoigh it is within the Prospect commerce area. I also like the craftsman style Lodge at Torrey Pines or Hilton at Torrey Pines(used to be a Sheraton Grande resort) which are a bit removed from the commercial areas. Stay within the Golden Triangle for convenience. The Hyatt Regency in La Jolla is on the other side of the freeway far from the beaches in La Jolla so it's not good. I have to say that staying in La Jolla is far from Balboa Park & Zoo(30 minute drive, but much longer during rush hour). freeway traffic is terrible as people live in the northern & eastern suburbs. Usually I stay at the Hyatt Manchester or Marriott convention center (both have ocean views) if I want to hang out down at Balboa Park Zoo. There are tons of other hotels downtown but not waterfront. Old town is just northeast of the airport in the middle between downtown & La Jolla but the hotels are not as good especially in the "Hotel Circle" area along FWY 8.

I suppose Mission Beach is more for locals not as popular for tourists from far away, however it is true San Diego. Another gentrified beach community besides La Jolla is Del Mar just north of it. It has a couple great hotels, one that stands out is L'Auberge but I've never stayed there as it is too far north. Good luck with your planning.
DAX is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 11:52 AM
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Again, I agree with DAX. La Jolla is a much better choice than Coronado. Coronado is nice but for a nice package La Jolla has it all. Beautiful beaches, nice city center and lots of great places to eat.
Barbara's idea to stay in La Jolla is a good one too.
DAX, I don't know how long it's been since you've lived in San Diego but downtown has really changed in the last few years. It's not the slum it used to be.
L84SKY is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 12:11 PM
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When it comes to driving times, you have to keep in mind that San Diego is the seventh largest city in the country, not just a little tourist destination. We have a vibrant economy and are a center for the biotech industry. All this means that there is a lot of traffic, but not yet to LA's nightmare heights. Mostly, the freeway traffic runs very smoothly...and fast.But during the afternoon rush hour especially, I-5 can be clogged in both directions, but worse going north, from the I-805/I-5 merge on, about 3pm-6:30pm. I-15 is worse going north, from Poway Road on, during those hours. As a tourist, it should be easy for you to avoid being on either one at rush hour, but if you are you just have to go with the flow!

There is a lot to see here You have to decide how rushed you want to be and how much time you want to spend driving around.
Barbara is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 01:16 PM
  #13  
TahitiTams
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Hey woodstockguy..
Everyone has given you great ideas and I have to agree with Barbara on staying in LJ..you are only here for such a short time that staying at one of the prettiest places in SD and probably the world is a good start and I love La V but it is expensive but deals could be had, depending on time of year..there is the Grande Colonial too..
I agree with DAX about Hotel Parisi and Hillcrest..
I would eat at George's at the Cove and for the SD Zoo..it is huge and considered the best in the world and it is usually an all day event..Balboa Park is gorgeous and that is where the zoo is located and I love the Prado Restaurant which is a 5 minute walk from the zoo..
Where are you staying in Borrego Springs?
We love to stay at La Casa del Zorro and the food and ambience is gorgeous..Have fun and let us know what you have chosen!
www.lavalencia.com
www.thegrandecolonial.com
www.georgesatthecove.com
 
Nov 26th, 2006, 01:50 PM
  #14  
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Great stuff, everyone's response. I have to re-read it again and check out some more. But it seems La Jolla would be the right choice.

What is the Golden Triangle

La Valencia looks great, though a bit pricey considering we will be there for only a limited time. Grande Colonial looks a bit more suitable, though we remain flexible as we learn more of the area.

TahitiTams - we are going to Borrego Springs for hiking primarily and are just sutdying both El Zorro and Borrego Valley Inn.
woodstockguy is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 02:11 PM
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Hi..
Golden Triangle is 3 freeways that converge to make a triangle..it is not in the village where you want to stay..
Hotel La Jolla and Sea Lodge might also be a consideration for you..
The food is really good at Casa del Zorro..you are going to have a wonderful time hiking and hopefully you will see the coveted Big Horn Sheep..
www.hotellajolla.com
www.sealodge.com
 
Nov 26th, 2006, 04:53 PM
  #16  
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Tam, thanks for correcting me about the Golden Triangle. I had always assumed it's from Torrey Pines to Fwy 5. We used to enjoy staying at Torrey Pines because they offered "free limousine within the Golden Triangle" and we used it to go to Prospect Rd area & La Jolla Beach thus my incorrect assumption. So I stand corrected, one should try to stay west of the Golden Triangle.

L84SKY: I went to USD and remember the incredible downtown gentrification in the 80's & 90's, what a huge difference it made. Nevertheless it's still far from being unique even the last time I stayed downtown in 2004 when my wife talked me into staying at the hotel inside Horton Plaza (my most boring stay in SD). Woodstock stated that shopping is uninteresting to him, so I know he'll agree with me about downtown. I did go to Seaport Village whenever I stayed at the Hyatt Manchester/Marriott to visit a friend who bought a souvenir shop there. We jokingly referred to the waterfront strecth btw Marriott & Seaport as the mini Kaanapali(Maui). We still have enough friends living in San Diego that we normally visit once/twice a year though our friends slowly moved northward over the years.

Woodstockguy: the Gaslamp quarter is still full of shops, but it's the bars & restaurants that make it fun so you have to hit it in the evening. Prospect road in La Jolla offers the same thing with ocean views. BTW,I don't know if you actually checked, Hotel Valencia is not always that expensive, you can often stay there for $250+. Grande Colonial maybe just fine, I'm just not familiar with it.
DAX is offline  
Nov 26th, 2006, 05:08 PM
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Hey DAX..
You are so well traveled and love your post..good to see you posting on the US board!
 
Nov 26th, 2006, 07:49 PM
  #18  
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Thanks for the warm welcome Tahititam. I just discover that I can also contribute on the US board. "Well travelled" is relative, I have never been to South America or Africa.

I wished I still live in San Diego like you do. I just spend Thanksgiving week in Newport/Laguna, what a beautiful corner of California it is, but I still prefer San Diego if you ask me.
DAX is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 05:39 PM
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Hello everyone. For anyone interested, we completed our trip to SoCal and I thought I would post a report.

We arrived in San Diego late Friday, 1/12, got our car and drove to Hotel LaJolla, recommended by TahitiTams (thanks!). The accommodations were satisfactory - just one problem: the pipes froze Sunday a.m. leaving us with no hot water!! In San Diego!!

Anyway, on Saturday, our one full day in San Diego, we arrived at the zoo at opening hour and stayed until after 1 pm. Enjoyed the zoo very much, even though it was cold, damp and cloudy (at times we wondered if we really were in San Diego). By the afternoon, the sun arrived so we drove to and walked through the Gaslamp Quarter, a pleasant historical grid of several streets, stopping for a drink and to study the architecture. A street fair near the convention center kept us occupied for another half hour, then we hopped into our rental car, a convertible, to drive across to Coronado Island, thoroughly enjoying the view and ride. For dinner, we returned to La Jolla & ate well, but it got rather cold.

Sunday a.m. we walked around LaJolla and the waterfront and chanced upon an antique auto rally, which was a pleasant surprise. By late a.m., we hopped in the car and drove to Borrego Springs for a couple of days.

We loved quiet Borrego Springs, and we stayed at the Borrego Valley Inn, which we found utterly charming even though the temperature dropped to 18 degrees and froze solid the bubbling fountain outside our room. Were we really in Southern California? We hiked and hiked and savored the intense quiet of the desert.

After that, we split for Palm Springs, Yucca Valley, and Joshua Tree, eventually landing in Las Vegas for one night before returning home. But that's another story.

Again, I would like to thank everyone who answered my original question and offered their advice. My advice? Travel!! And include San Diego/Borrego Springs in your sojourns.
woodstockguy is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2007, 05:59 PM
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TahitiTams
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Hi woodstockguy!
Sorry about our freezing weather that you experienced..everything all over the county was a mess with frozen pipes and busted water mains everywhere..I hope that they compensated you all with a free breakfast or something...for the price, its a good deal for La Jolla which is so pricey!
Did you see any Big Horn Sheep when you were in Borrego?
Glad you had a wonderful time and can't wait to have you back in SD when its warmer!
 

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