Is San Diego worth a visit?

(71 Posts)
rubyrubyruby Wed 06-Feb-13 16:41:06

...or not?

Ragwort Wed 06-Feb-13 16:43:21

We spent a few days there a long time ago (15 years I think grin), it was lovely and relaxing, excellent zoo, don't think I'd want to spend more than a couple of days there though, are you visiting other places in the US or just San Diego?

CMOTDibbler Wed 06-Feb-13 16:48:46

I love it there - lots to see in the city, an actual downtown you can walk around, great base for going further to see things. And a nice climate.
Just check the convention centre calendar before you book though, as if theres something big on there (the convention centre is huuuuggggge) the hotels will be expensive, and the restaurants rammed.

I've been 3 or 4 times, and really enjoyed it each time

Startail Wed 06-Feb-13 16:50:05

I loved the two days I spent there long ago and want to go back and have a proper look round.

juneau Wed 06-Feb-13 16:51:15

It's really nice and the beaches round there are lovely too. SoCal has a lovely climate.

Startail Wed 06-Feb-13 16:59:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

rubyrubyruby Wed 06-Feb-13 17:26:15

Thanks all

Yes ragwort. We are also visiting New York, San Fran and Las Vegas. We have 9 'spare' nights travelling from SF to LV and I'm wondering whether to go further down to San Diego or spend more time north of Los Angeles.

Ragwort Wed 06-Feb-13 17:33:39

Can you get up to Yosemite National Park - that is the most fabulous place in the world (IMHO) if you like the 'outdoors'. You will need to reserve accommodation well in advance.

Otherwise, yes, I would really recommend San Diego. smile.

Sounds a wonderful trip envy

grotbagz Wed 06-Feb-13 17:40:42

i loved san diego, lived in orange county and la and much preferred san diego!

Are you driving down pch? it goes right down that way if you're going to s.d. anyway - have you thought about making a stop in oc en route if you are doing it that way, would break up the journey too?

Chopstheduck Wed 06-Feb-13 17:43:57

dh wants to go for the beaches and says it is beautiful. We've booked 2 or 3 nights there, though I'm hoping to do a day trip over the border to Tijuana.

rubyrubyruby Wed 06-Feb-13 18:01:30

I'm not sure about Yosemite tbh blush everyone says it's a must but it sounds really busy and a nightmare for accommodation!

Sounds like we should do San Diego though - and possibly call in at OC en route.

BitOutOfPractice Wed 06-Feb-13 18:06:18

No no no! Yosemite is AMAZING. You must go!!

Having said that, San Diego is really lovely. Relazxed. Great beaches. Amazing Mexican food.

The old town bit (I want to say it's the Gas Lamp area butI may be wrong) is really lovely. Bars. live music etc.

Basically, you won't go far wrong anywhere in California. It's all great!

rubyrubyruby Wed 06-Feb-13 18:11:57


What time of year are you thinking of visiting there?.

The Gaslamp Quarter is livelier in the evenings but I would not call it rowdy at all.

I liked it there very much on our last visit. There's a lot to see and do there for a few days; San Diego Zoo, the museums near this zoo, the Midway aircraft carrier and Sea World are all well worth visiting.

Tijuana however is a real dump of a place and is actually worth avoiding. If you do however decide to visit, you can get on the Red Line train from San Diego and travel south to the US border area.

jen127 Wed 06-Feb-13 18:19:11

I would give Tijuana a miss. You won't be able to take your hire car and will have to leave it at the border.
There are children begging everywhere.
I stayed in San Diego for a year there is lots to do.
Balboa park, the zoo, the wild animal park, the Midway ship, sea world, Coronado Island, the beaches, La Jolla and the gas lamp area and there are outlets if that's your thing.
You can also visit the bar from top gun and play the piano......
It is a top city with fab restaurants and bars wine

BitOutOfPractice Wed 06-Feb-13 18:21:27

Gaslamp Quarter! I was right!!!

isn't an old gimmer after all!

EnjoyResponsibly Wed 06-Feb-13 18:31:13

Give Tijuana a wide berth. Awful.

Sandiego nice for a couple of days. We stayed in a motel where the rooms went out over the sea on a pier. Fab!

Santa Monica's nicer than LA.

If you can factor it in I recommend driving over Big Sur on the PCH. That will knock your socks off.

mummytime Wed 06-Feb-13 18:31:58

I did Tijuana but it was a while ago and I have heard things have got dodgier. You park your car at the border and walk across. It was like a squalid trip to Calais in the Booze cruise era. We had trouble finding somewhere that looked comfortable to eat. To walk back you just follow huge this way to the USA signs.

I liked San Diego, good climate, nice beach and seemed less touristy and busy.

But your trip sounds very very busy.

EnjoyResponsibly Wed 06-Feb-13 18:32:49


Very charming.

EnjoyResponsibly Wed 06-Feb-13 18:35:52

Mummytime did you see "zebra" you could have your photo taken with?

Actually donkeys painted black and white.


rubyrubyruby Wed 06-Feb-13 18:57:09

It sounds like a lot and busy mummytime but we are away for 19 nights so hopefully lots of time to relax too smile

grotbagz Wed 06-Feb-13 19:08:07

I agree Santa Monica is a definite too, not far out either!

You'll love pch - it's an amazing drive!

rubyrubyruby Wed 06-Feb-13 19:21:31

Thanks for the link enjoyresponsibly

mummytime Wed 06-Feb-13 19:26:35

From half a day in Mexico, I would say the treatment of Animals was a bit shocking! Very different to San Diego Zoo!

RedNats5 Thu 07-Feb-13 07:36:17

We ummed and ahhed on San Diego for ages. There sounds so much to do but in the end we just can't fit it all in to our itinerary. I will do a day trip to sea world when we are at Huntington Beach Orange County though.

RedNats5 Thu 07-Feb-13 07:39:17

And in answer to your question I would say worth a visit (though kit been just what I've heard) but depends how that will affect your itinerary. The extra driving time for us from pismo beach area to san Diego then back up to LA just made it too much for us.

Ill save San Diego area hopefully for another time!

rubyrubyruby Thu 07-Feb-13 08:38:31

I bet you're doing Yosemite RedNats. grin

Will consider SD but don't want to be 'citied out'. We are not doing LA though.

shesariver Thu 07-Feb-13 11:40:00

We to are doing something similar to rednats, couldnt fit San Diego (driving from San Francisco to Laguna Beach) in but plan to drive there for a day trip when we are staying at Laguna Beach.

RedNats5 Thu 07-Feb-13 13:15:42

That's so similar to us shesariver.
Ruby yes we're doing Yosemite, everyone says its unmissable but that all depends on what you are after of course.

I've just posted my itinerary to share

AntsMarching Thu 07-Feb-13 13:39:56

I'd give Tiajuana a miss. If you like wine, slightly north of LA is the Santa Ynez Valley. Excellent wineries. Plus you can drive up the 101 and have the ocean on one side of you. Beautiful drive.

lljkk Thu 07-Feb-13 16:44:13

We have 9 'spare' nights travelling from SF to LV

If it were me I would try to go the places like Kings Canyon, Joshua Tree National Monument, Grand Canyon, Death Valley (weather permitting). If you want to see something truly different from cities everywhere and the UK.

But you sound like an urban person so I wonder if you wouldn't prefer SD as described and a lot of LA.

Best way to see TJ is to get a few streets away from Avenida de la Revolucion. You suddenly find local street markets selling fresh food (like taquitos) and cafes and the department stores that Tijuanans frequent. Watch the locals to understand how the pedestrian lights work! Keep your wits around you, though. Also, on Avenida del a Revolucion don't walk into a shop unless you fully intend to buy something before you leave because they are stupidly high pressure.

rubyrubyruby Thu 07-Feb-13 17:10:47

Thanks. I'm not sure I am an urban person really! I live in the country.

We are travelling with teens who want to see the cities (DH travel to the US a lot) hence, NY, SF & LV but I want some variation in between so the holiday is split. I will look into your reconmendations lljkk

rubyrubyruby Thu 07-Feb-13 17:11:43

btw - we are not planning to do LA or TJ.

stealthsquiggle Thu 07-Feb-13 17:16:15

Just been (for work) and I have to say Coronado Island looked lovely out of the window of conference rooms at the Hotel del - my one brief escape was to meet a MNer on the way to the airport and she and her chosen bakery were both lovely.

lljkk Thu 07-Feb-13 17:50:45

Coronado has a nice beach & spectacular bridge but dull otherwise. Proud to be stuck in the 1950s. Especially for teens. The teens probably would love the USS Midway parked up in SD Bay, it's just incredible.

Didn't realise you had teens with you. The way mine are going I can't imagine them being much interested in national parks & great outdoors in their middle teen years. Or the long drives needed to reach them. They'd want to ogle & soak up the atmosphere at Mission Beach or Venice Beach, instead. And shop and shop, of course. hmm YMMV. There are several half-decent outdoor walks in San Diego: Point Loma, Mount Soledad, Balboa park, Presidio Park, Torrey Pines. So half-way house between urban & city.

Sorry I don't know LA so well. But I suggest places like Big Sur, Big Basin State park, Monterey, Hearst Castle and Carmel are worth consideration, too.

rubyrubyruby Thu 07-Feb-13 18:36:27

My plan (atm) is SF to Monterey, Big Sur, Cambria, Hearst Castle, Pismo Beach, Solvang, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Joshua Tree and Las Vegas.

stealthsquiggle Thu 07-Feb-13 18:41:15

The beach is very lovely though, lljkk, and the scenery is further improved by Navy seal trainees grin - probably not, though, for teens. I agree it would be very staid and sensible for them.

lljkk Fri 08-Feb-13 07:50:11

(Flash to memories of watching jarheads going for a swim in the ocean while still wearing their sneakers confused grin).
Midwesterners are weird.

fresh Sun 10-Feb-13 21:25:41

ruby we did something similar a couple of years ago, although we started in vegas, drove to Yosemite via Sequoia, stayed in SF and then went down the coast ending up in SD. Have to say by the time we got to SD we were exhausted so didn't get the best from it. I'd love to go back and soak it up some more though, it looked as if there was much more to see and do. Trouble is, once you're in the US it's so tempting to cram more in...

rubyrubyruby Sun 10-Feb-13 22:51:22

Thanks fresh. So if you had to choose, would you opt for the Yosemite (inland) bit or the pch bit?

rubyrubyruby Mon 11-Feb-13 08:27:18

I've just worked out that I could do Yosemite instead if San Diegio.


fresh Mon 11-Feb-13 08:42:16

Aargh tough one. PCH was the raisond'etre for the whole trip but it was foggy during most of the drive. Yosemite was outstanding but crowded in August (we stayed at Tenaya Lodge btw which I'd recommend). If you push me I'd still do both, but would just do sf to santa Barbara on PCH, and slower than we did it so I could include Hearst castle.

californiaburrito Mon 11-Feb-13 10:05:35

ruby I love Yosemite, and it will be very busy in August but if you are willing to see the things that aren't as popular the crowds aren't so bad and it's still wonderful.

Although, having said that, I am from San Diego and it could be quite a good place for your kids depending on what their interests are. San Diego is very suburban and not quite a city in the same way as SF or NY and it might be good for a bit break in your trip.

Can I ask how long you are planning to take to drive down PCH?

And if you do decide on SD feel free to ask me anything!

RedNats5 Mon 11-Feb-13 10:36:13

You may well have already said this I just haven't spotted it but how is your itinerary looking at the mo. how many nights have you got planned I each place. Ideally yes I would do both, possibly at the expense of LA but it just didnt work for us so had to compromise.

rubyrubyruby Mon 11-Feb-13 10:45:30

oooo thanks californiaburrito
i have only sorted flights and accommodation in NY (4nights) SF (3 nights) and LV (3 nights) so far.

We have 9 nights from leaving SF and arriving in LV to do whatever we choose.

We have 3 teens 14-16.

rubyrubyruby Mon 11-Feb-13 10:54:25

Sorry RedNats - x-post

We have 4 nights NY, fly to SF arriving lunchtime, 3 nights SF, 9 nights still planning, ending with 3 nights in LV. Flying home from LV. We shall pick up a hire car as we leave SF and dump it when we get to LV.

californiaburrito Mon 11-Feb-13 10:56:00

What are you're kids into?

rubyrubyruby Mon 11-Feb-13 10:57:05

That sounds like a lot but my teens are all physically fit and bigger than me grin so it's like 5 adults really.

californiaburrito Mon 11-Feb-13 11:00:58

your darn it

rubyrubyruby Mon 11-Feb-13 11:02:14

We live in the country but near a city and only an hour from London.

They love cities, beaches, swimming, general sightseeing and food! They aren't fussy eaters and love eating out. They're sporty and like shopping but arent theme park park type kids.

RedNats5 Mon 11-Feb-13 11:02:19

I've never been so can't recommend anything but I think you should be able to do both?

Yosemite 2 nights
Monterey 1 night
Pismo beach or thereabouts 1 night
Santa Monica/LA 2 nights
San Diego 3 nights
I have no idea how long SD to LV is though or what's en route
Is flying SD to LV an option?

lljkk Mon 11-Feb-13 11:03:16

I was told SD hotels the most expensive in CA, budget carefully.
When is this trip planned for Ruby, because Las Vegas is not nice place to be in summer time. Most attractions over-crowded then, too. Whereas Yosemite tends to be closed a lot in winter.

rubyrubyruby Mon 11-Feb-13 11:11:42

RedNats - SD-LV is about 6 hours but we would stop off over night in Palm Springs area for a look around and dip in the pool.

lljkk - LV is a must for me (sentimental reason) its my 3rd visit and I want to take the DCs as it holds special memories for me. I know it will be hot, thats why we are not planning G Canyon trip, it's easy to escape the heat with all that aircon.

rubyrubyruby Mon 11-Feb-13 11:12:27

Sorry - July/Aug

californiaburrito Mon 11-Feb-13 11:17:37

Ok, I'm thinking......

lljkk Mon 11-Feb-13 11:23:49

Okay then, Jul-Aug keep coastal except for your sentimental excursion, for weather reasons. Your teens will probably love LV, anyway. like LV Yosemite is high enough it might seem okay temperature wise.

RatherBeOnThePiste Mon 11-Feb-13 11:32:43

DH often works in this part of the world and we have often tagged along. I love San Diego. Coronado is a lovely beach and mine loved the Midway. When they were smaller we took them to San Diego Zoo, but that is just a zoo, although they did have a cuuuute panda cub.

We took the tram to the Mexican border, takes 3 mins to walk into Mexico and about 3 hours to get back into the States. You'd have to really think whether it is worth it, having said that I'm glad we did it.

My fave city in the world is San Fran, do Bike the Bridge, it is fab, you hire bikes from the pier, cycle over the Golden Gate to Sausalito then get the ferry back past Alcatraz. Mine did it first when they were 9 and 7 and it was very ambitious. Would love to do it again with them as teens. Muir Woods is lovely too for good walks.

RedNats5 Mon 11-Feb-13 11:34:52

Do you want to do LA or not so bothered?
I would try to include Yosemite I think just for something different to cities.
You've potentially got NY,SF,LA,SD&LV

RatherBeOnThePiste Mon 11-Feb-13 11:35:49

Funnily enough we were talking about going back only last night, DH has just got back from a conference in LV.

Would yours like a trip out to Area 51 and the Little A'Le'Inn

rubyrubyruby Mon 11-Feb-13 11:48:36

Not bothered about LA tbh RedNats but plan to stay in Santa Barbara.

Thanks for the tips Pistey. I will check out that link.

DH and I have both done NY and Vegas and DH has an office in SF so we kind of know what we are doing with those. It's just the rest of it I'm researching and determined to get sorted this week. We are on half term.

RedNats5 Mon 11-Feb-13 12:35:44

Ok so could you do
Yosemite 2 nights
Monterey 1 night
Santa Barbara 2 nights
San Diego 3 nights
Palm Springs 1 night

Monterrey-Santa Barbara would be a long day tho d

rubyrubyruby Mon 11-Feb-13 12:57:42

We could. Although I'm now thinking

Yosemite 2
Carmel 2
Pismo 2
Santa Barbara 2
Palm springs 1

I would love to see San Diego but worried we are doing too many cities.

rubyrubyruby Mon 11-Feb-13 13:04:58

Finding accommodation in Yosemite is driving me mad though grin

I've seen your thread RedNats

californiaburrito Mon 11-Feb-13 13:25:42

So if you were to do San Diego you could do

Zoo or the Safari Park. The Safari Park is a bit of a drive but it might be more exciting for the kids.

A morning in Old Town and the afternoon/evening in the Gaslamp Quarter.

There's snorkeling/diving/kayaking in La Jolla

Instead of Tijuana you could look at going to Ensenanda

There will also be horse racing on, if that's your sort of thing.

And then, mainly, there's the beach. If you would want to stay at the beach I would suggest looking at La Jolla or further north. Ocean/ Mission/Pacific Beach might be a bit... mature.. for your kids.

And I can second Piste's recommendation of Bike the Bridge.

californiaburrito Mon 11-Feb-13 13:27:42

Also, have a look and here for ideas for all of CA.

lljkk Mon 11-Feb-13 14:12:04

SD Safari park is pants compared to Longleat, and you have to pay for all the extras (expensive). I should endorse it because cousin works there & they do good conservation work, but not keen. I prefer the zoo, where else can you get inches from a rattlesnake, polar bear or hippo?

Horton Plaza is a funky mall, Not that I think you want to hang out in malls, but thinking you need to entertain the teens and it would break up the wanderings around Gas Lamp and downtown.

Kayaking in Mission Bay is good, your teens would probably enjoy, good way to explore & be active, you used to be able to get very close to the penguins in the pens outside Sea World.

Belmont Park will be in full swing then, too; dinky amusement park but they'll love it.

What about Whaley House, CaliforniaBurrito, can you recommend? I've never been but it was always the talk of school when I was a kid. Classic architecture of the period, same for heritage park on edge of Old Town.

californiaburrito Mon 11-Feb-13 21:54:36

Well, if that's the case, lljkk I better get my ass to Longleat. wink I'm not dissing the zoo, but rather I probably have unrealistic views about the wants and needs of teenagers. Although, should anyone come across this thread in future I need to say something in shouty capitals-


It's just a drive around the zoo in a loud bus showing you where you can buy food. It represents an hour of your life that you will never get back. Also the zoo is awesome, but the food is crap.

I can also recommend Horton Plaza, but it you really want to tear up the mall in SD my money's on Fashion Valley. They have a Cheesecake Factory, and you can't get more American than that!

Whaley House?, you know I've never been.

ruby how's the search for Yosemite accommodation going? I always stay in the park, but I know it's not to everyone's taste/budget. It might be a long shot but I have an unneeded reservation for July 29-Aug for one of signature tent cabins in Curry Village that I might be able to transfer.

lljkk Tue 12-Feb-13 07:51:21

Last time I saw my mom was an outing at the Cheesecake factory. sad

californiaburrito Tue 12-Feb-13 09:00:05

Oh dear, sorry sad

lljkk Tue 12-Feb-13 13:41:59

S'okay, just weird that I should remember that.

rubyrubyruby Wed 13-Feb-13 11:40:07

calburrito - thanks but those dates don't fit in with us.

Thanks for the tips.

lljkk - it's strange how memories come back at you sometimes when you are least expecting them sad

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