Lured by the promise of a cheap vacation in exchange for two hours of my time…..
Hilton has been trying to convince me to buy a time share for years. (And I have been trying to convince myself to finish this blog post for months. New Year’s Resolution #258 – write more timely blog posts). Their latest attempt included a good deal on a stay by the Pacific Ocean, so I decided to give up two hours of my time in exchange for a mini vacay.
I love San Diego. I have daydreams about moving there until I remember that I’d never afford the real estate and that I have California traffic…traffic be damned! There’s a beach to get to and sea glass to hunt for!
Our first night was just north of San Diego in Carlsbad. Carlsbad is kind of a family summer-by-the-sea kind of location. Legoland is here. A giant outlet mall is here. Lots of timeshares are here. Maybe not the best location if you’re looking for some quiet solo time or a romantic couples weekend, but there are also a few choice beach spots and some great restaurants up and down the coast.
Now, if you are a little ocean crab like me, you should know that the Pacific is not really known for being a warm body of water – it’s especially not warm in December. (Yeah, December. I’m working on that new resolution). Cold water or not, it’s so nice to walk along the ocean and enjoy it. Plenty of Californians agree with me and while we didn’t see too many swimmers, we did run into lots of surfers and beachcombers – both two-
and four-legged. The California coast is full of public beaches. Literally. Drive the coast and pull over whenever and wherever the mood strikes. Most of the beaches have paid parking so be prepared with cash or credit to pay the moderate fees. (PS: sea glass found!)
Before you make your way out of Carlsbad, stop in and eat at the Green Dragon Tavern & Museum. This place had phenomenal New England food (yep, you heard that right! Lobster rolls….yummy!) and an incredible private collection of Revolutionary War documents and artifacts. The owner of this private collection built The Green Dragon (a replica of the original in Boston) specifically to share these museum quality artifacts and history with the local community. Pretty amazing.
You can cruise easily from Carlsbad a bit further north to the community of Oceanside, where we visited the historic Oceanside Pier and, big surprise, found another great
restaurant. The Oceanside Pier is a (rebuilt) wooden pier. It is one of the longest piers in the state of California and the current pier is the sixth pier to stand it its spot. Enjoy a long walk (off a long pier) and enjoy the breeze of the water. It’s a great place to watch surfers, fish if you’d like, and meet some new friends.
While here, I’d highly recommend Rockin’ Baja Oceanside Harbor where I devoured some delicious seafood tacos and received some sage advice in the ladies room. If you happen to be in Oceanside around the holidays (yeah, yeah, timely posts….), there are Christmas light tours in the marina where people get festive and decorate their boats. There are also plenty of other boat tours, kayaks to rent, and so on….
Now, when you’re ready to head south to San Diego, you can make yourself crazy trying to figure out what to do. San Diego was suffering from some pretty major forest fires in December 2017 so we opted to keep our distance from them. First stop was the Old Point Loma Lighthouse (National Monument alert!). The old lighthouse has been turned into a
museum and on a clear (not smokey) day, some pretty amazing views of the city of San Diego. Definitely worth a stop in my opinion. There is a short uphill trailhead to the lighthouse itself, but most walkers won’t have a problem making the short trek.
Anytime you’re in San Diego, I will recommend that you drive out to at least have a drink at the Hotel Del Coronado (it recently became a Hilton property and it will be crowded but the views and the historic property are so worth your time). They have a spicy margarita here that is SPICY – you’ve been warned. The Hotel Del (if you’re in the know, you drop the Coronado) is on Coronado Island which is a short drive over a bridge from San Diego. In 1888, the Del became the first seaside resort on the west coast and it’s gorgeous (currently hoarding Hilton points in hopes of a girls weekend next December…)
The rest of our time in San Diego was spent aboard some boats. There are many, many boats in San Diego (including some yachts that normal folks like you and me can’t afford). Some of the most incredible ships have been made into museums. Whether or not you are a military history buff, please take time to visit The USS Midway. The Midway is the longest serving Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th Century. It’s humongous – a floating city and there is something for everyone here. We were excited to learn that a WWII vet would be aboard the day we were there – talk about living history.
If you’re into ships with an even older history, San Diego’s got those too at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. This on-the-water museum allows museum goers to walk aboard a variety of ships and submarines, including The Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship. I decided this is haunted boat as well….how? Well, sometimes you just get a feeling……
My last suggestion to you, if you’re not staying at the Hotel Del, stay at a hotel close to the Gaslamp District in San Diego. My choice was the Hilton Bayfront, but there are plenty of choices in all price ranges. (The Bayfront’s pastry chef and staff built a life-sized gingerbread house for the holidays – complete with actual nutrition information.) The historic Gaslamp District has been revamped and now is a great place to spend an evening checking out the shops, bars and restaurants. You can still see the old gas lamps on the streets. Save up your pennies while you’re there and enjoy a delicious steak dinner at Lou & Mickey’s.
There’s never a bad time to go to San Diego…..