By Kevin Wilkerson, San Diego Blogger
With spectacular weather and instant coastal access, there is a mind-boggling amount of activities to see and do in and around San Diego.
Primarily, this is an outdoor paradise. Walking, running, rollerblading, boating, kayaking, biking and surfing are favorite pastimes of locals. A few excellent running, walking and rollerblading areas are the Strand in Pacific Beach/Mission Beach (okay, they call it the Boardwalk here but I challenge you to find any boards), Balboa Park and a waterfront path in Coronado (take the first exit off the bridge). Top surf spots are in PB and, for experts, the peak at Windansea Beach in LaJolla by the houses just south of the park (locals can be quite protective). There is jetskiing and other water activities, primarily in and around Mission Bay and there are also close to 100 golf courses in the area, including famous Torrey Pines, home of the annual Farmer’s Insurance Open and U.S. Opens, the most famous of which was when Tiger Woods won in a playoff on a broken leg.
San Diego is a huge sailing community, not just for weekenders but professionals. The 1988 and 1994 America’s Cups were held here and many top competitions have been conducted since; in September of 2024, for example, a major international race is taking place here.
This is a much better sports participation town than it is a sports watching city. MLB’s San Diego Padres rarely make the playoffs and just don’t inspire the same kind of die-hard loyalty as, say, the Red Sox (hey,the sun will be out tomorrow regardless of a win or a loss!). The 2004 opening of Petco Park has made the vibrant Gaslamp area even more vibrant. Single game tickets start at $17.
I love Balboa Park. Located less than 10 minutes east of downtown (accessible by city buses, primarily #2, 3 & 7; $2.50 each way or $6 all day and this includes the trolley) it’s one of the most beautiful places in the city. The buildings are magnificent – Spanish-style masterpieces that seem to be standing at attention against that brilliant blue sky. Most are museums (the Visitor’s Center sells a Passport which covers all the museums for a week) and there is also a trio of tiny playhouses and an outdoor pipe organ with free concerts every Sunday at 2 p.m.. For food, there are sandwich shops, a Japanese Tea Garden next to the organ serving rice dishes with a great patio and The Prado for finer dining and cocktails. If you brought your pup, there’s a dog lawn. It’s not difficult to spend an entire afternoon in Balboa Park with or without visiting the museums.
We all know about the world-famous San Diego Zoo (the cost of San Diego Zoo tickets are $74 and $62 for children 2-11), which was put on the map in the ’70s when animal expert Joan Embry made regular appearances on the Tonite Show with Johnny Carson. It is part of Balboa Park.
On the other side of downtown, across the bridge that spans the bay, is the quiet, upscale community of Coronado. Part military and part Beverly Hills, Coronado Island is a peninsula (well, it was originally an island) that is home to the Hotel Del Coronado. This all-wood structure, known locally simply as “Hotel Del” or “the Del,” is a step back in time. Its gorgeous grounds have hosted celebrities, politicians and hundreds of wedding parties but anyone is welcome to stroll around, pose for pictures or peer into the exclusive shops in the mini-mall. Hey, is that Marlyn Monroe at the pool? More affordable shopping and eating in Coronado can be found all along Orange Ave. But the peninsula’s most spectacular spots are its wide beach and the ferry landing at 1st and Orange for the best view of downtown San Diego.
That massive land mass poking into the Pacific that seems to practically wrap itself around Coronado and the airport is Point Loma. A huge cliff, at its peak it provides a bird’s eye view of the city and Lindbergh Field. There is a lighthouse and information center with a small but good museum recounting the founding of San Diego by Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo in 1542 ($20 per vehicle) and take a sweatshirt or jacket because it gets windy and chilly). Known as the Cabrillo National Monument and Cabrillo National Park, it has a road down to the beach and tidepools as well as a walking path to the sea. It’s hard to believe, but just a few miles down the road from this high perch the landscape is completely flat at Ocean Beach.
Naturally, San Diego’s location to the ocean means there is some serious sportfishing in these waters. Boats are at H&M Landing, Fisherman’s Landing and Seaforth Landing, all in the Point Loma area.
Day fishers can catch red snapper and such, but serious anglers head out to sea for gamefish. Tuna, dorado and yellowtail are hunted down about 8-9 hours from shore on overnight sleep-aboards; boats leave at 9 p.m., and return the next night around 7. They go 50-80 miles out, traditionally into Mexican waters but not a hardfast rule, for fishing from daybreak until early afternoon.
If fishing for compliments is more your thing, Tiki Time Tours next to H&M Landing gives colorful two-hour tours of the bay on a floating tiki bar.
In fact, San Diego is king city of guided tours. There are several tour orperaters, among them the hop-on/hop-off San Diego Trolley Tours and Another Side Tours which does e-bike, Segway and driving tours along the bay, in the Gaslamp and Balboa Park, to Coronado and around La Jolla.
San Diego is less than a half-hour from the Baja, Mexican border and there is plenty of fun there for a day or night. Tijuana has tons of bars, restaurants and stores lining Avenida Revolucion and has a reputation for rowdiness, especially among the college-age crowd. It’s also a god place to get unbelievable deals on clothes, boots, furniture, pottery, etc. Rosarito – where much of Titanic was filmed – and Ensenada are just down the coast.