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Stay Classy San Diego!
So, over the last twelve years, since I started working at my current job while in college, I’ve had the opportunity to travel fairly regularly. Sometimes I get a less than desirable destination, say like Winnipeg in January for cold weather testing. Most of the time though I get to go to a pretty decent town (Winnipeg is very nice btw, just too cold for me in the winter). My favorite locales are San Diego and Seattle, but I haven’t been to Seattle nearly enough to have a list of recommendations.
This list is what I like to do when I’m in town and it’s mainly written from my East Coast sheltered perspective. There are probably tons of native San Diegans that will take issue with this list, but that’s OK.
1. Where to Stay
This one is pretty easy. If you enjoy the night life and culture only an urban environment can offer, then stay in the Gaslamp section of downtown. If you’d rather be outside of downtown but still want a San Diego experience then consider Old Town or Mission Valley. Old Town has a nostalgic feel, a few hotels and a good number of classic restaurants. Mission Valley is close to Sea World and the Fashion Valley Mall.
2. Where and What to Eat
Maybe it’s just me, but when I get to the southwest, I generally eat Mexican three times a day. I literally turn into a pinto bean. You just can’t beat the Mexican in San Diego. So with that in mind, I recommend the following places:
El Indio Restaurant
El Indio is a classic Mexican joint near the airport that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Is it the best in the city? I don’t know, but it’s some of the best Mexican I’ve had. One of the cool features of this place is the tortilla machine they have in the kitchen. This tortilla machine gun throws out fresh tortillas nearly continuously. In addition to eat in or take out, they offer fresh tortillas to go as well as tortilla chips. They were also featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
The mark of excellence…
Chorizo and eggs at El Indio…
Another place worth checking out is Kansas City Barbeque. Not so much for the food or the ambiance, but simply the experience. For those of you born before 1980, this bar is where certain scenes from Top Gun were filmed. Remember the jukebox and the Righteous Brother scene at the end? Yeah, that’s here. It’s definitely not what you think it will be if you’ve only seen it on the movie. Just sayin…
You’ve lost that lovin feelin…
Other places I like to stop in when I’m in Ron Burgundy’s neighborhood are In-N-Out Burger, El Torito, Fred’s Mexican, Colima’s, Chloe Cafe. There are really too many to mention. In-N-Out is not really specific to San Diego, but it is a real California experience.
3. What to Do?
Other than the obvious entertainment options like the beach, Sea World and Tijuana, there are a few places that I think are worth a visit.
Cabrillo National Monument
As soon as you get your rental car, head over to this scenic overlook. The lighthouse goes back to the 19th century and features a museum and that’s enjoyable, but the real draw is the ridiculous view of San Diego. I don’t think this is where Ron Burgundy first courted Veronica Corningstone, but it’s still a treasure regardless.
The San Diego Zoo
Awesome zoo, but try to get there early or late. If you get there around lunch, I swear, every animal in this place is asleep. They must have a really good union or something.
Here are some of the animals that slept through our last visit.
No, don’t get up Lion, you’ve had a long day of laying around and licking yourself for four hours after getting fed a big pile of meat without having to even wander five feet for it. We only paid $30 to be here, but don’t worry about us, you need a nap.
Here’s a lazy Panda.
Here’s a dead beat Polar Bear.
Here’s the bear that nearly killed Ron.
Take a Drive
There’s quite a lot to see outside the city. If you’re up for a drive, I strongly recommend Mt Laguna and Borrego Springs. Mt Laguna is due East of San Diego by maybe 30-45 minutes. The peak is 6000 ft and is reachable by car fairly easily. It’s all paved so no off roading is necessary. Along the way up, there are a few places for pictures. The views are breathtaking.
Here is a shot on the way up.
and near the summit…
This small town is even further East than Mt Laguna and consequently is in the desert. The roads from Mt Laguna to Borrego Springs are a lot of fun and are very deserted road type stuff. Very cool. After sitting in your air conditioned car for 45 minutes or so and you get to Borrego Springs, the first thing you notice is the heat. In July and August, it can be around 115 F. It really hits you. Definitely a unique experience, especially if you’re from the East Coast and you’ve never experienced this kind of heat. Borrego Springs has a little museum on the edge of town that’s a great place to stop into. They do have AC there. If you get into the museum, you can ask about the passability of a certain scenic overlook about five miles due East. The overlook can be a little treacherous in the summer when the creek bed is mostly soft sand, but if there’s been a recent rain, it hardens up a bit. We took an SUV when we went. Don’t attempt it without 4WD.
The road to Borrego Springs. Like something out of Knight Rider.
At the museum, you’re basically in the desert.
The creek bed to the overlook.
The view. BOOM.
So that’s how I do San Diego. How do you do San Diego? Oh and thanks for stopping by, but mainly stay classy.