Driving south on the 5 Freeway from La Jolla you can detour to the west or east to reach two favorite spots for visitors to San Diego. Going east you will reach the world famous San Diego Zoo which is located in Balboa Park. Balboa Park contains 15 museums and 8 gardens. In the park you could spend your day biking and your night gazing at the stars. There also is a carousel dating back to 1910 and a miniature railroad that adults and children both enjoy. When I go to Balboa Park it is usually to see the animals.
The San Diego Zoo covers 100 acres and has more than 4,000 animals. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes when visiting and bring plenty of water. I prefer to walk the park, hills and all, but there are also buses to take you around. One is a guided tour and the other is an express bus. You can also take the one way sky tram to move from one side of the park to the other. None of these modes of transportation will take you to the Treehouse Café which is a hike up a massive hill with many exhibits to see along the way. They serve pasta and other Italian favorites which makes my kids happy! What is so wonderful about this zoo is that the animals live in natural habitants instead of cages. My favorite attractions include visiting the giant pandas and the bears in the Asian Passage portion of the zoo.
Seaworld is another attraction that many come to see in San Diego. I enjoy watching the Shamu Rocks show. Shamu is a killer whale that for me is the center of the park, and to miss this show is to miss the best thing at Seaworld. In addition there are four other shows for your viewing pleasure. For an additional fee you can participate in a dolphin interaction program where you have the opportunity to swim with the dolphins. Another option for those who do not want to go in the water is to sign up for a dolphin encounter where you can feed and train a dolphin. There are an additional three options for closer interaction with the animals available too. Over the years they have added a number of mild thrill rides to the park and there now totals five options. Lastly there are 5 exhibits to check out. One year we had an annual pass to Seaworld and were lucky to visit a few times in that period.
Downtown San Diego is a nice place to visit. Over the years they have really cleaned it up and made it quite nice. Since building Petco Park where the San Diego Padres baseball team plays at the edge of downtown their downtown has become world class. Horton Plaza, an outdoor mall, is a good spot to park your car free for a few hours and from there you can travel by foot to explore the neighborhood. There are many restaurants and bars in downtowns’ Gas Lamp District. They have a Hard Rock Café and a Croce’s Restaurant, singing legend Jim Croce’s place, in this district along with options for everyone.
A personal favorite spot of Max’s is Coronado Island which is located just south of downtown. You can reach here easily by car crossing the Coronado Bridge or by ferry from downtown San Diego. Taking the ferry you will need to catch a bus to the other side of the island which houses the world famous Hotel Del Coronado and the majoirty of shops and restaurants on the island. This hotel is something special dating back to 1888 and is the premier beach front resort of San Diego. I have not stayed here as it is quite expensive, but visiting for the day you can tour the arcade, eat lunch and enjoy laying out and swimming at the beautiful beach. In the winter they have an ice skating rink up and at the bakery you can have a yummy hot chocolate. On the other part of the island is a Naval Base. I always enjoy seeing the big ships as I descend on the island from the bridge.
There are so many other things to do and explore in San Diego. You can see and tour the historic and tall ships maintained by the San Diego Maritime Museum or you can visit their small community of Little Italy for an authentic Italian meal. Driving north of San Diego you can visit the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park in Escondido or Legoland in Carlsbad. To wrap up I’ll say I truly enjoy escaping to the relaxed beach feel of San Diego any weekend that my schedule allows.
Mexico is about a 30 minute drive south from downtown, but I don’t recommend taking your car across the border unless you plan to drive at least an hour or so to the beach. I personally have not crossed the border in at least twelve or thirteen years, but you can park your car at one of many parking lots and walk across to shops, restaurants or bars. You can refer to my blog on Day 19, I’ll take a beer over a girly drink any day for a little information about night life in Tijuana, Mexico. These days I prefer to stop at the outlet shops in the town of San Ysidro on the U.S. side of the border. Actually upon further thought I would not recommend crossing the border to Mexico right now as the country has faced some serious issues with drug trafficking and kidnapping the past 5 years or so. Border towns are not the safest, but hopefully in a few years Tijuana will be safer again.