I’m back today with Part 2 of my San Diego Travel Guide (did you miss Part 1?). Usually when we go on family vacation, we pack in as much as possible and try to hit every big tourist location. This trip, however, we decided to switch it up a bit and relax. Even so, we managed to pack in a ton of awesome activities that I want to share with all of you!
What to Do
Visit the USS Midway Museum. Most of the pictures in this post were taken on or around the USS Midway, the longest-serving naval aircraft carrier of the 20th century. While named after the Battle of Midway of World War II, the ship was actually “dedicated” or “commissioned” or whatever the word is *one week* after the war ended. Can you believe that? Missed it by just one week. Obviously though, the ship was still used outside of the war and involved in some important missions. I realize a museum like this isn’t for everyone, but I found the history really interesting. It also wasn’t like a regular museum where you had to read a lot—there’s not an overwhelming amount of information. You actually just get to experience all of it by being aboard the ship! There were personal walking tour devices to listen to, but we chose just to explore on our own. A fair warning though, if you have claustrophobia or have trouble walking up/down steep stairs, this museum isn’t for you.
There was so much to explore on board the ship and I loved being able to touch and play with things as if I was an actual sailor. I recommend buying tickets beforehand online so you can skip the line, and the security guards at the front will have to check your bags/purses.
Right outside the museum is a massive statue of a sailor dipping and kissing his sweetheart. It’s so cute! You can see it in the eleventh photo of this post if you look closely. Anyway, the boardwalk/marina right outside of the museum is also a fun place to explore and people watch. There are quite a few little shops and restaurants, so I recommend walking along the greenbelt if you’re interested in that. Plus, the views of the water are so pretty, especially at sunset!
Explore Cabrillo National Monument. You do have to pay to enter this park (I think $15), but the pass lasts for about a week. The drive up to the park is fun, and once you enter, the views are incredible! There’s ocean as far as the eye can see. We started by driving down to the lower part of the park, on the side of the ridge, to check out the tidepools. Unfortunately, the tide was high, so we didn’t see any good pools or sea creatures. We still enjoyed it though because the waves crashed down and sprayed our faces with a cool mist. I find the noises and smells of the ocean so peaceful, and I could watch waves crashing for days! We also went on a hike of sorts to check out the cool shrubbery and plants higher up on the ridge.
After hanging out by the water, we drove up to the visitor’s center. The view from this side also did not disappoint, but it showcased more of the city of San Diego and the marinas rather than just straight ocean. Here you could check out the actual monument of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo (20th picture from the top), a conquistador who was the first European to set foot on what we now know as the California coast. We went inside the Point Loma Light House (I recommend walking up the very narrow spiral stairs if you can!) and stood around trying to spot whales (unsuccessfully, I might add). Perhaps our favorite part was meeting a conquistador—a volunteer outside the lighthouse came over to us and started to inform us what it was like for people of different status in the 1500s. His costume was awesome, but his story telling was even better!—definitely a funny guy.
So what’s my one “insider tip” and biggest mistake about Cabrillo National Monument? Pack a sack lunch! It was such a beautiful day and we could’ve stayed for hours just chatting and watching the ocean…except for one little nagging thing: the grumbling in our bellies. We talked about coming back the next day with a picnic, but we never got around to it.
Spend time relaxing on the beach. As I mentioned in Wednesday’s post, we took advantage of our hotel’s beach umbrellas and chairs to spend a relaxing afternoon on the sand of Pacific Beach. We brought a soccer ball, books, sunglasses, and sunscreen, and we were set for the afternoon! We considered taking surfing lessons but ultimately decided to watch all the surfers instead. 😉 Although, I would’ve loved to try surfing. None of us actually swam—it was a tad chilly for that—but the water was plenty warm enough to chase after the waves and allow them to crash over your feet and lower legs. We also went on a lovely, leisurely walk along the beach the next day. There’s so much to see: surfers, kite surfers, boogie boarders, and just goofy college students, hehe.
Drive to La Jolla and spot some seals. While staying in Pacific Beach, we drove out to La Jolla for an afternoon. The drive there was so scenic, and gorgeous houses lined the roads. Once there, we milled about for a while and got lunch. The main attraction? The seals and sea lions that relaxed on this one rock. What a life! I could get used to basking in the sun and snuggling all day. 🙂 La Jolla is definitely known as the more expensive, fancier part of town, so there were lots of shops to explore. However, we only ended up window shopping from the car (shocker, I know).
Wander around Geisel Library. Also while in La Jolla, we drove over to the UCSD library, named after Dr. Seuss (thus explaining my picture with the Cat in the Hat seen below). I have mixed feelings about the library…I think we entered the campus from the back, so we saw the library from behind, first. The whole point of visiting the library was to see the unique architecture of the building itself, and the photos of it online are always so pretty. However, for whatever reason (maybe the lighting, maybe because we saw it from the back, maybe because it appeared dirty?), the library seemed a little lackluster. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we went and the architecture was impressive, but I didn’t get as excited about it as I thought. I really do think the main issue was viewing it from behind because that took away the element of initial surprise and wonder.
Inside the library, a small display showcased some of Dr. Seuss’s original work and sketches—how cool! From the top floor, you can see a different building with a house perched precariously on the corner. What an odd thing, right? So I just assumed it had to do with Dr. Seuss, the king of odd creations. However, it turned out that the house is called The Falling Star and was created as part of a school project (it’s perched on the engineering building). When you enter the house, the exact angle and design of the room gives you vertigo. We really wanted to walk to the building and go inside, but unfortunately it was closed that day!
Go boating. We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to view San Diego from a boat in the San Diego Bay. I’m not sure if they have boat tours (probably?) but we just happened to know someone with a boat of his own, rather than doing it through a company. I decided to mention it anyway in case you do get the chance to explore the city by water—we got to see all sorts of naval ships, including the USS Midway, and we even saw a submarine at its dock. It was such a fun and unique experience!
Rent bikes and ride around Coronado Island. As I mentioned on Wednesday, we borrowed our hotel’s bikes when on Coronado Island and explored the downtown on the greenbelt. Shops, restaurants, and hotels border the island, so we never got bored while riding. We also did a quick walkthrough of the famous Hotel del Coronado. Fun fact: if you ride on the greenbelt by the hotel, you’ll notice large mounds on the beach and probably not think anything of them. However, from the sky, the mounds spell “Coronado Beach”!
Walk through Balboa Park. Another big tourist destination, we only briefly walked through the park right before it closed for the night. There were plenty of museums that sounded interesting, but most of them were already closing by the time we got there; plus, they were pretty expensive. Nonetheless, seeing the lit up amphitheater and pretty architecture satisfied our desire to see this popular spot.
Shop and eat in the Gaslamp District. Remember that amazing sounding ice cream sundae from Wednesday’s post? That was from the Ghirardelli Shop in the Gaslamp District. If not for the food, you should visit this cool part of town for the unique and old architecture. There were so many interesting buildings! We actually didn’t shop that much—shocker, I know—but I did take notice of the Goorin Brothers Hat Shop. It was such an old fashioned store with the prettiest hats (plus, it was the building with my favorite architecture). We had a great time just aimlessly wandering the streets of this area.
What to Pack
I had a really difficult time packing for this trip. I’ve never been on a warm weather vacation during the winter, so that was my first struggle. Also, I wasn’t sure if it’d be warm enough for swimming or not—I didn’t think it would be, so I didn’t even think to bring flip flops for the beach. Mistake number one. And like with any place near the water, the weather changed a lot throughout each day, from sunny and hot to windy and overcast. So here are my recommendations for what to pack, no matter what you think the weather will be: flip flops, swimsuit, sunscreen, a light to medium weight jacket, a sweatshirt for layering during the chilly afternoons, a sun hat, sunglasses, comfortable walking shoes/athletic shoes, a combination of pants/jeans/and even a pair or two of shorts, and lots of short sleeve blouses/tees. I didn’t bring sunscreen, shorts, a sweatshirt, or flip flops and regretted all of that. One day I was way too hot, and the next I was way too cold! Haha, now I’ve learned—basically just pack a little bit of each article of clothing in order to prepare for all possible scenarios. (But you can leave the winter coats and boots at home.)
Fashion I Saw
Because the weather changes so much throughout the day, I saw a huge variety of fashion—from pants and trench coats to booty shorts and tank tops. I definitely didn’t think it was that warm, but clearly some people did. As expected, there was a lot of beachy clothing like kimonos and floral/palm prints, as well as board shorts. But the most seen fashion? Athleisure. I saw tons of yoga pants, sport tank tops, lightweight jackets, and tennis shoes.
Whew, that was a long post. If you made it this far, thanks so much for reading! This concludes my San Diego Travel Guide. If you’re traveling there soon, or have been there before, let me know if these activities sound interesting! I had such a great time on this trip and would definitely go back—probably in the summer. 🙂
Miles of smiles,