San Diego is a wonderful town to visit. Plantings are lush, the ocean is close and you can be in the mountains within a few hours. There’s a lot to see in and around town. For a short weekend getaway, stay in the historic Gaslamp Quarter, save money on a rental car and explore the town on foot or by taxi, bus or even trolley.
Old Town Trolley Tours: It may sound hokey, but a trolley tour is a great way to see a city and get a historic (and current) picture of the area. Trolleys run every half-hour and; tours start at 9am. Stop E and Stop F are convenient to Gaslamp Quarter and Downtown hotels. The step-on, step-off adventure goes to many of the places you’ll want to see in town.
Stop B, San Diego Harbor, it’s definitely worth a visit (see below). Or, you can catch the Coronado Ferry (it runs every hour starting at 9am) to the island across the bay. Once in Coronado, pick up the trolley (it runs every half-hour at all stops) at Stop H near the ferry landing. If you love Victorian era hotels, get off at Stop I and check out the historic beachfront Hotel Del Coronado. It’s a beauty! If you get off to an early morning start, have a relaxing breakfast in their Sheerwater Restaurant, overlooking the ocean. Plan lunch here if you arrive later in the day, or just tour the Del’s public areas and the grounds. While there, take a leisurely walk on the beach.
Stop J is in Balboa Park, home to many of San Diego’s museums, the famed San Diego Zoo and other attractions. Take in a museum or two or one of the many gardens in the park. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time, walk the El Prado pedestrian walkway. The stunning Spanish-Renaissance buildings are all that remains of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. They are one of our favorite things about San Diego.
Stop A (the official beginning of the tour) is in San Diego’s Old Town. The city was first settlesd by Spaniards in 1821. If you want to get a feel for the history of this first settlement, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park has original and reconstructed buildings museums, shops and restaurants. It has a bit of a touristy feel that will not appeal to everyone.
San Diego Harbor is a bustling place and a great place to add to your itinerary. Visit to one of the harbor’s museums, take a boat trip or even walk along the water. There’s a lot going on here.
The Maritime Museum has a wonderful collection of historic boats including: two steam vessels, three-tall ships and two submarines. December through April you can arrange for a whale-watching trip.
Tour the USS Midway Museum aboard the retired aircraft carrier. The boat, commissioned after World War II, was active in the Vietnam war and Operation Desert Storm.
There are boat tours that explore San Diego Harbor. The North Harbor Tour passes the boats docked at the Maritime Museum out towards Cabrillo National Monument. You may even catch a few Harbor Seals. It’s the more scenic of the tow tours. The South Harbor Tour goes passed the USS Midway, a lot of Navy ships docked in the harbor and under the Coronado Bay Bridge. This is a great option for people interested in the US Navy and the different boats that make up their fleet. Each tour lasts an hour.
The Coronado Ferry (see above) is a great way to get to this island community first developed at the close of the 19thCentury. If you go and want a charming boat ride, The Gondola Company brings a little bit of Venice to the bay.
Seaport Village offers 74 shops and restaurants on the Bay.
Because this is a quick weekend getaway, consider going without a car. A survey of Gaslamp Quarter and Downtown hotels to see if they offered complimentary shuttle service surprisingly only yielded two options: the Sè San Diego and the Andaz San Diego. Both hotels will drive guests to places in a few-mile radius of the hotel in an SUV at no charge. The Sè also offers airport transport for a fee. Airport shuttles are inexpensive or take a cab or treat yourself to a town car. When you figure in rental costs, gas and parking fees, forgoing a rental may be cost-effective. Many sites are in walking-distance to Gaslamp Quarter and Downtown hotels. If you want to get farther afield, a car may work better for you.
However you choose to explore San Diego, enjoy America’s Finest City and all it has to offer.
If you have favorite things to do in San Diego you’d like to share, especially within walking distance to the Gaslamp or Downtown areas, we’d love to know about them.
Note: We were guests of the Sè San Diego for a night. We also had a delightful lunch (as guests of the hotel) with the Del Coronado’s historian Christine Donovan on a past trip to San Diego. We we were guests of San Diego’s Old Town Trolley Tours, Flagship Cruises and Events (formerly San Diego Harbor Excursions) and the museums in Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo.. The generous hospitality we received has not has not influenced this post in any way.