When Mark and I started our current three-month house sit in San Diego, we knew we couldn’t go on weekend trips with our camper van like other times. Frida and Elvis, the two Italian Greyhounds we are taking care of, are relatively old – 12 and 10 years respectively – and home buddies; their owner prefers them to remain nearby. In a city like San Diego, that is not a problem at all! There is so much to do and see in this area that we could spend many weekends exploring and discovering. Here is a selection of what we visited over the last six weeks.
San Diego Safari Park
We contemplated a visit to the safari park in Escondido, about 20 minutes north of the city, for my birthday (November 28), when our friend Amy (who recently graduated as a zoologist) gave us four free tickets that expired within a week. So, one Saturday, Mark and I set out to the park earlier than planned and had a fantastic time. Not as fascinating as the real thing in Africa, of course, but not a bad alternative! We were especially intrigued about the relationship between cheetahs and dogs. Every young cheetah is paired up with a dog and they become buddies for life.
San Diego Zoo
Since we had two free tickets left, we decided to use them for the Zoo (both parks are associated) on Thanksgiving Day, the date of their expiration. It was busier than expected and very hot, but this world-renowned zoo, which is heavily focused on conservation and rehabilitation efforts, delivered. The animals have a lot of room and are cared for in the most fantastic way. Our first visit here on Christmas Day 2005 impressed us, so coming back was a treat. Seeing the two baby tigers (one rescued from a Mexican smuggling operation) and the polar bears in the water was pretty special.
Cabrillo National Park
Since those animal highlights were explored early on, we decided on a picnic and visit to Cabrillo NP for my birthday. The weather wasn’t great, however, so we didn’t stay long. We had a very rare nap in the afternoon and a fantastic, affordable dinner at the sushi/tapas restaurant (interesting combination, right?) The Joint in Ocean Beach. Our planned “wine at sunset” extravaganza was postponed until the sun appeared again, the following weekend.
Coronado has a fantastic off leash dog beach. It was a joy to see Frida and Elvis run free and have fun, while also being able to just relax on our own sunny spot of sand.
Mark and I have two old bikes available to us. One easy destination with them is Harbor Island, about 20 minutes away along a bike path. The views of the city – and sailboat races – is amazing! This island is also a popular place for weddings.
A bit trickier to bike to, this island is only a 5-minute car ride. It is an enjoyable place to walk the dogs, and to watch the Holiday Parade of Lights, which we did last Sunday evening. The fantastically lit-up boats will do a repeat cruise in San Diego Bay this coming Sunday (12/17) at 5pm.
Mark and I live right across this upscale district of San Diego. There are bars, restaurants, art galleries, museums, stores (Trader Joe’s!), several green areas and a big park, which we frequent almost daily. A 5-minute walk away, it is a vibrant, fun and easy destination to take the dogs out. And, to go grocery shopping.
San Diego City
From Liberty Station, there is a bike path that goes all the way, past Harbor Island, to the city. Once at the Embarcadero, we usually walk the bikes to be part of the tourist vibe, stare at the ships from the open-air Maritime Museum, and listen to all the performers. Kitschy-looking Seaport Village is colorful and cozy; the Gaslamp Quarter is full of bars and restaurants and warrants a visit at night. Balboa Park is a destination in itself.
This cultural and natural highlight of San Diego has visitors come back again and again. Historical buildings, a variety of museums and several gardens entertain forever. People watching, relaxing on the grass and listening to street artists playing classical music add to the experience – a sunny Saturday or Sunday delight. Balboa Park is also the location of the zoo and many special events.
- Parking is free everywhere we visited, except in the city center and at the safari park (parking at this animal park is a steep $15 for cars and $20 for oversized RVs – luckily, our entrance was free; all the money goes to the care of the animals by the way).
- Taking a packed lunch on day trips makes for cheap – often free – excursions.
- The entrance fee to Cabrillo National Park is $15 per vehicle, or free when you have an annual National Park pass (which we have been using extensively).
Have you ever been to San Diego? What are your highlights? Would you like to visit? Why?