A March 2005 trip
to San Diego by SFPhotocraft
Quote: San Diego is one of those great American cities that combine a healthy tourist trade with a vibrant business economy. Each trip holds new surprises!
I fall in love with San Diego each and every time I visit and miss the time 25 years ago when I lived here. The city has a laid-back feel to it, but don't be fooled. It can compete with any American city for great food, good shopping, or spas.
We only had 2 short days on this trip, but we did all our favorite things; we ate great Mexican food and spent a full day at the San Diego Zoo. The new adventure on this trip was Legoland, just north of San Diego in Carlsbad. It was a fun day of exploring and marveling at all the Lego recreations of American towns.
The weather was a bit too chilly this trip to do a lot of beach exploring, but, in the past, I have loved the miles of great San Diego beaches.
This Loews resort
sits on its own 15-acre private peninsula and has some serious panoramic views of San Diego across the bay. The hotel sits across the highway from a state beach and is a short walk to the beach. Just in front of the front door is an 80-slip private marina. Luxury is spelled out all over the hotel from the moment a valet jumps out to help you with your luggage and car to the moment you walk in the front lobby and marvel at the beautiful and stately grand staircase.
The complex is huge. The rooms are located in five buildings all wrapping around the three sprawling pools. We were happy with our room, as it had a wonderful pool view, and it was easy for me to sit and read a book while still watching the kids swim. Each room has a distinct beach-house feel to it, full of yellows, light blues, and whites.
The hotel was great with kids. On check-in, they were each given a treasure map that required them to explore the resort. There were questions like,"how many stairs does the grand staircase have" or "how many video games are in the arcade." Once all the correct answers are found, you turn your map into the Marketplace for a free ice cream. This was spring break, and the hotel was full of kids. The had an extensive kids' program with things happening every day.
The spa looked great! My favorite item was that they will come and draw a bubble bath in your room and give it a theme--anything from a recovery bath complete with a bowl of hot chicken soup to the romance package with champagne and strawberries.
The hotel was a little further out than I would have liked. We were really here to explore San Diego, and the drive in was a bit of a schlep each time we came or went. Although the guard gate is great for security, it also adds to the time getting in and out.
This property may not have been right for us on this trip, as we really wanted to do city-exploring. However, as a self-contained resort, it's top-drawer. It's the kind of place you should really check in to and not leave. There was so much going on, and the setting was perfect; we actually felt guilty about going into San Diego! I would love to return here and just stay at the pool, order room service, and do the spa. This is a resort that can stand on its own.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 18, 2005
Loews Coronado Bay Resort
4000 Coronado Bay Road
Coronado, California 92118
Making great Mexican dishes with the best tortillas in town was a winning formula. The rest is history; the popularity grew and soon everyone in San Diego considered El India some of the best Mexican food in town.
It isn't fancy and it's not much to look at, but who cares, as the food here is top-notch. Lines form out the door at almost any time of the day. During the busy lunch hour, you can expect a wait up to 20 minutes long to get up to a cashier. This is a favorite with locals, and more and more tourists are finding this little gem hidden on India Street.
The menu is pretty basic, with enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and quesadillas. A sign boldly states that this is NOT fast food, and each order is made by hand as it is ordered, so orders can take up to 20 minutes to make.
Once you take your first bite, none of the lines or the wait will matter to you. This is GREAT down-home Mexican cooking. Don't forget to pick up a bag of their delicious chips to take home.
When driving to El Indio, I was bragging to my son Patrick that this will be the BEST burrito he has ever eaten. His eyes just rolled at my enthusiasm and his look said, "Whatever you say, pop." He took his first big bite of his burrito, his eyes light up, and he proclaimed, "You are right. This is the best burrito ever!" I had the chili relleno burrito, and it was a delicious choice.
I don't know the secret here, maybe it's the fresh tortillas flying off the machine just behind the counter, or maybe it's some special family recipes. I don't know, but it's not my imagination. The food here really is better!
El Indio is a large, somewhat plain building. In the old days, the only seating was a few tables outside across the street. In sunny weather, these tables were always full, but even in rainy, cold weather, you would find brave souls munching on their burritos. Recently, El Indio has opened an indoor seating area next to the counter.
Don't expect great service. The girls behind the register move the line along, and there isn't a lot of chatter or smiles. Don't expect a cozy environment; the tables are pretty basic here and the food is wrapped and served on paper plates. However, none of the fixings, service, or ambience matter here, because the food is the focus - and they have that down pat!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 14, 2005
3695 India St
San Diego, California 92103
+1 619 299 0333
Restaurant | "Boathouse 1887"
On a warm San Diego night, the prime seating area is outdoors on the wrap-around porch. You are actually sitting over the water. However, this night was pretty chilly, and most people preferred to eat indoors. We were still given a great window seat, and even at night it was fun to watch all the activity on the busy marina. It took us only a minute to fall in love with our waitress. She was young and full of energy. The word "perky" came to mind. She was great with the kids. She also knew the menu and had some suggestions for us.
The menu here boosts both steaks and seafood, but the steaks clearly dominate the menu. I felt the menu could use a few more fish items to balance the menu, especially since we were on the water!
We started with an order of calamari, and we all dug into the appetizer, so it was quickly gone. I had a pepper-crusted steak. It was good; the cut of meat was top quality. However, for my taste, I felt the pepper coating was a little overwhelming and strong. I would have liked the same cut of meat without so much pepper taking over the taste. I also had a side of mushrooms. The side dish was huge and enough for the whole table, but the problem was that I am the only mushroom eater at the table, so a lot of the plate went back. The kids shared a steak, and again, the quality was first class. The dessert tray was sinful and delicious, with a lot of choices.
Our meal for one adult and two kids (sharing one adult meal) was $130. It was a little steep in price. I enjoyed our meal here. The history and building really take over the meal. We had top-notch service, and the food all was good quality. I did not feel the food was as creative as it could have been. However, if you want great views and great service in a historic building, this is your spot. Even if your budget does not call for dinner here, stop by and check out this very historical and scenic part of Coranado Island.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 15, 2005
Coronado Boathouse 1887
1701 Strand Way
Coronado, California 92118
Attraction | "San Diego Zoo"
Before I start, I have to tell you I have a love-hate relationship with zoos. I personally would rather see any animal roaming free in their own environment than be confined in any type of enclosure. Having said that, I know what an important role zoos have played in the study of animals, breeding endangered animals and protecting animals who are near extinction. I see how my kids learn and love seeing the animals. As long as the areas are not confining and are open, I will tolerate a zoo for these reasons. The San Diego Zoo is easy to tolerate, as they take extreme care of their animals and do everything possible to maintain a stress-free, natural environment.
The zoo is located in Balboa Park. The admission price is $21 for adults and $14 per child. They offer a transportation package for $32 for adults and $20 for kids. This is the best deal, as it includes your admission and you have unlimited transportation within the zoo. You can take the tour bus or the express bus, or ride the Aerial Tram to your heart's content. Because the park is so big and has so many steep hills, it's nice to have the option to jump on any one of these transportation methods as you desire. The day we visited, the Aeriel Tram was closed due to high winds. Before buying the package, I suggest you make sure all the transportation options are up and running!
We started out by taking the bus tour. This is a double-decker bus with the top open. This was spring break and the lines were long; the wait was about 20 minutes. Once on, this is a super way to get your first glimpse of the zoo and get an overview of what you want to head back to on foot. Because the bus is open, you get a clear and bird’s eye view of a lot of the animals. The tour guides are great and have a lot of interesting facts. The tour takes 30 minutes and is the best way to start out your visit.
We then headed back on foot. We did it all! There are lots of steep hills, so I suggest you wear comfortable shoes. Our family enjoyed the pandas, all the primates, and the reptiles the best.
This is a beautiful zoo. The landscaping is lush and tropical. It's clean and very well maintained. The employees have a love of this place, and you can tell there is a real pride here. The San Diego Zoo is worth a visit, and you most likely will want to give it a full day.
TIP: Most animals are the most active in the morning and at dusk.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 18, 2005
San Diego Zoo and Safari Park
2920 Zoo Drive
San Diego, California 92101
Legoland has not had an easy time making it here the States. It has to compete with Disneyland, Seaworld, and Knottsberry Farm, all in the same area. Legoland has a more European flavor and moves at a slower and more relaxed pace. The rides here aren't as thrilling as the ones at other parks. The roller coasters are mild, and many of the rides are slow-moving boat or jeep rides through make-believe Legolands. This is perfect for kids under the age of 10. Older kids who are little jaded by fast and thrilling theme parks may be bored.
My favorite part is the Lego reproductions of famous cities. I can spend hours looking here. The more I look, the more I see! I often marvel at the detail and chuckle at the humor that is often hidden in these Legoscapes. My most recent find was looking at the New Orleans Legoscape and noticing one of the favorite gay bars, just where it's suppose to be! There was the Bourbon Street Pub complete with rainbow flags and two guys chatting each other up out front. You know the artists must enjoy adding these little details in the hopes we visitors find them!
I love spending time here and could do away with all the rides. The gardens are perfectly maintained, and the small trees are tiny bonsai trees. You can pan for gold, have a water balloon fight, or just get wet in a dancing fountain. Kids also have the chance to build their own Lego creations throughout the park.
I am thrilled with the food outlets. They serve healthy choices, like fruit sides and lots of fresh salads. This is not your typical deep-fried amusement-park junk food served on a stick.
The cost is $45 per adult and $38 per child. Parking is extra. There are tons of coupons floating around Southern California. Fast-food restaurants, supermarkets, and the Sunday paper always seem to flood the market with discounts. I also noted they give a discount to AAA members. We did encounter long lines during spring break. Some lines took up to 2 hours. This was disappointing, as you spend most of your time waiting in line. These lines were unique to spring break and other peak times. I understand that on regular days the lines move quickly.
Legoland may not be for everyone. In order to fully enjoy it, you will need to slow your pace down and relax. Take your time and enjoy the many Lego sculptures. Be sure to take your time and don't just rush on by - stop and look! This is a great alternative to the faster-paced lifestyle here in Southern California. It forces you to take it slow and just enjoy!
1 Legoland Drive
Carlsbad, California 92008
Balboa Park is a city onto itself. You can explore here for a week and still not feel like you have scratched the surface. The park is a massive 1,200 acres and has 15 museums!
The park was the sight of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, a sort of World's Fair to celebrate the completion of The Panama Canal. The fair was build around a number of Spanish Colonial Revival Buildings. The interesting fact is none of these buildings were ever meant to be permanent. They were built out of a sort of hybrid papier-mâché and plaster. They need constant attention, but almost 100 years later, they are still standing! You will often notice scaffolding in front of many of the buildings here to mend and repair them.
Exploring the park is an adventure and takes a little planning, especially if you are on a time frame. My suggestion is to start in the Park's Information Office on the Prado. You can talk to informed hosts and pick up a multitude of brochures. They will also inform you of any special events happening in the park that day.
Of course, you can't miss the zoo. I have written about it in a separate review, but many will agree that this is the best zoo in the world. But my favorite corner NOT to miss is the House of Pacific Relations and the International Cottages. This is a UN project to promote world cultures and understanding. Each country has a small cottage where volunteers and natives give an overview of their unique culture and heritage. Because it's all volunteers, some of the cottages are not open during the week. But on Sundays the village rocks! You can often catch costumed performers in the courtyard or try unique and tasty food from that country. I never miss stopping by the Denmark cottage for their tasty danish! Also try to make it on a feast or celebration day. An example is St Patrick's Day, when you can't miss The Irish Cottage, where dancers are doing jigs and you are offered a taste of corned beef and cabbage!
These suggestions just scratch the surface. Each time I visit the park I see something new and have a new adventure. Of course, the park is free (the zoo has an admission fee) and is one of the best free things to do in Southern California. The park changes all the time, but no visitor to San Diego should miss a few minutes here!
1549 El Prado
San Diego, California 92101
(619) 239 0512