This was my first time visiting both the state of California and the Pacific Ocean. I honestly never had any great desire to go to San Diego but I have a good friend from high school, Emily, who is living there now. I often thought about the trip I wanted to take to California and it included the Red Wood National Forest, Napa Valley, San Francisco and Monterey (for the world class whale watching). I didn’t want to go to south of there but after visiting San Diego, I’m so happy my friend moved there so I could experience it! So in this post I will lay out some of the things we saw, places we went, recommendations and what I didn’t like. Here we go 🙂
I flew into San Diego on Tuesday morning and was surprised how small that side of the airport was. Emily picked me up and the very first thing she did was warn me about the traffic and drivers….more on that later. We went downtown and struggled to find parking but finally got a spot (for a $20 fee) and went to the Café 222. Café 222 is a very popular breakfast joint in East Village and I see why! It doesn’t feel touristy at all (thankfully) and had a great variety of food on a manageable sized menu. I got the pumpkin waffle (…yes pumpkin in June, I’m so basic) and it was delicious!
Next we went walking down towards the Gaslamp district of downtown but since we were coming back there in a few days we didn’t stay long.
We saw Kansis City BBQ where the ‘Sleazy Bar Scene” in Top Gun was filmed and went into some shops across the street. One was an awesome local goods place easily named Simply Local with everything from clothes to jewelry to home décor to food items. I really think W Harbor Dr has everything. After that we walked over to the USS Midway Air Craft Carrier museum. USS Midway is an actual Naval aircraft carrier turned museum and has tons of things to see. You can go down into the engine rooms, brig, seamen quarters, main floor, flight deck (equip with tons of planes and helicopters) and up to the captains and air control rooms. Admission includes a self-guided tour with audio and can take up to 3 hours. There is a little café type restaurant there so no worries if you start getting hungry. And water fountains so buy that $3 bottle of water but then refill it as many times as you like. Admission is a bit steep at $20 in my opinion but active military get in free, retired military for $10 and students with ID for $15. Definitely worth the trip!
Right next to the USS Midway is the Kissing Sailor statue. Although it is swarming with tourists, go ahead and try to remake the pose 😛
On our way home we picked up yummy cupcakes from Frost Me Gourmet Cupcakes (who won Food Network’s Cupcake Wars)! They offer gluten free too if you think you need that.
The next day, we went to the Birch Aquarium (at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Deigo). Parking is free and admission prices were very reasonable. Before you go in, there is an awesome whale fountain that is definitely photo worthy. They had an awesome exhibit on seahorses and a huge Kelp Forest tank. Definitely makes you feel small. There’s lots of stuff for kids too but of course Emily and I were equally fascinated with the energy exhibits and tide pools (designed to entertain children lol). There’s also a pretty great view.
After the aquarium, I was dying to hang on the real beach. I was reading about different beaches in the area and stumbled upon the Children’s Pool in La Jolla. It was originally an area designated for children to swim safely way back in the 1930’s because of the big seawall built to break waves. However, this also created the ideal area for another visitor…tons of harbor seals and sea lions! These days, swimming there is highly discouraged because the seals hang there on a daily basis. You can get so close to these guys from the beach (which of course is roped off for safety) and from up on the sea wall. Watching them was truly an experience. Definitely one of the best things I did in SD.
*ANOTHER PHOTO DUMP!*
Thursday was a chill day since we were already planning on Downtown SD that evening. We went around to some of the shopping malls to find shoes for the event. Unfortunately we ended up losing much of the afternoon after witnessing a car accident and stopping to help….and then sticking around because the poor girl responsible was really freaked out and asked us to. Good citizen deed of the week. Hokay. We were originally planning on taking the Cruiser or Coaster train from Oceanside where Emily lives down to SD but we missed that opportunity and had to drive….I will complain about that later. Emily was dying to take me to The Shout House and I quickly figured out why she was so impatient. This place was awesome! We originally planned on bar hopping but couldn’t bring ourselves to leave after we got there! If you’ve never been to a dueling piano bar, you must go here. Make sure you order the Mac and Blue Balls for a snack and tip the pianists when you request songs. Definitely request the song “Lucille” and follow along with the ‘You bitch, you slut, you whore’ lol. *Disclaimer- don’t be a prude or a wimp here. There is language and there is a chance you will have to go on stage* Super fun!
The next day we went surfing! Emily and her brother use a great woman named Heather for lessons but unfortunately she was having back problems. I was nervous about who was going to give us the surfing lesson for the day. But I couldn’t be more thrilled with our instructor. His name is Jucimar (I hope to god I’m spelling that right). He was so incredibly helpful, patient and just a naturally nice guy! He explained in very good detail what to expect and what to do and I popped up on my third wave. The lesson also included surfboard and wetsuit rental. I can say without a doubt that surfing is the most incredible thing I could have done in SD. I honestly didn’t think I would ever miss the ocean after I moved to Colorado but this has reignited my love for it. If you find yourself in the San Diego/Oceanside area, it would be a sin not to contact Heather and/or Juicmar. Here is Heather’s website under construction (Emily is about to start building her a new one!): http://www.learntosurfwithheather.com/
My last day in SD was luckily a long one. My plane didn’t leave until 830pm so I still had time to explore. Emily took me to the main part of Oceanside. We saw the house where Charlie lived in the movie Top Gun (seriously, SD is obsessed with it). It’s fenced off but still very cool to see. I hope it sticks around and never gets demolished. Next we walked on the pier and near the water where we saw Jucimar again! After Oceanside we drove across the way to Carlsbad and walked around there. Lots of cool shops but my favorite thing in Carlsbad was this little section where a trailer named Choice Superfood Bar and Juice sits. The trailer itself was really cool selling juices, smoothies and even quinoa sushi. Around the trailer is the best faux turf I have ever seen and awesome picnic tables around trees. On the far wall (which makes this area impossible to miss) is an incredible painting of a robot “watering” these hanging succulent gardens made from pallets. Just so much to take in all at once!
Restaurant suggestions: we did not eat out much because Emily is on a budget and a diet but we definitely recommend Café 222, The Local Taphouse in Oceanside, Ruby’s diner (not because the food is anything special from any other diner food but because it’s an experience) and Choice Superfood in Carlsbad. I plan to do a lot more eating out during my next visit.
BIGGEST TIP EVER!
There are 1.3 million people living in this city….and most of them are terrible drivers. I recommend ALWAYS leaving way, way early before you try to go anywhere. I also recommend taking the Coaster to avoid the interstate traffic (which pretty much is jammed 24 hours a day)