Every major city has its detractors. Name a city, any city, and someone will have a complaint about it.
New York? Too many people
New Orleans? Too much humidity
Los Angeles? Too many cars
Seattle? Too much rain
Philadelphia? Too many Philadelphians
The point is, no matter what city you name, there will always be someone who will vow never to return there.
Except San Diego.
Everyone loves San Diego.
It is the one place you’ll never hear anyone trash. Indeed, the single criticism we’ve ever heard about San Diego is that it’s an expensive place to live, but that’s more emblematic of the city’s popularity than anything.
I mean, how can you NOT love it?
With coastal views like this:
Beach side boardwalks like this:
City parks like this:
And sunset views like this:
What’s not to love?
Hell, even the city’s regular sidewalks can be photo-worthy:
We figured we’d love it for all the reasons everyone else does, but we found plenty of other reasons to be happy during our one month visit. We spent most of our time surrounded by friends – old and new, we appreciated the diversity of cultures, foods, and activities available throughout the city, and we took advantage of our proximity to other places we wanted to visit.
Our time in San Diego will be the subject of several upcoming posts since there’s a LOT to talk about. And, truth be told, we may have kept busier than usual because, apparently, we pissed God off and he decided to plant a family with 4 kids in the campsite next to ours for the entire month.
For. A. Month.
One of the kids realized he could spend all day ringing the little bells on the family’s bicycles. All. Day. “Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding……..” Another has only one volume option on her control panel: “LOUD.” She spent all day yelling “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!!!!!!!!” If whining were an Olympic sport, she’d be the Usain Bolt of the wailing world. If we actually wanted to defeat ISIS, all we’d need to do is park this family’s RV next to ISIS HQ and, I promise, within 24 hours, they would all say “to hell with this” and just go home. No holy war is worth this amount of racket. You’re welcome, U.S. Government. I just ended the war on terror.
It was like being parked next to a live action Public Service Announcement about the benefits of birth control.
And the crazy thing is (by the way, I know none of this has anything to do with San Diego…. I’m just venting) the mom was completely zen all the time. Her kids could be hanging upside down naked from the power lines while playing the trumpet and would she care? Nope!! Did. Not. Care. While the rest of us were in our RVs mainlining gin and slamming our heads into our kitchen counters in a feeble attempt to end our own suffering, she’s all….
Now imagine her holding a cocktail in her right hand while scrolling through her Instagram feed with her left hand.
It was truly remarkable.
Alright… now that I’ve got that off my chest, and, more importantly, now that we are no longer parked next to her and her merry band of tiny terrorists, let’s discuss some of our favorite stops on the San Diego tourist circuit.
Cabrillo National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument is a “must see” place when visiting the area and we thought it was well worth a visit. In fact, we went twice. The park, which is located on the Point Loma Peninsula, honors several unrelated people, events, and time periods, while, at the same time, offering panoramic views of the Pacific, the coastline, and Mexico.
The Monument is named for Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Spanish explorer who became the first European to explore the west coast of the United States back in 1510. The monument includes a prominent statue of Cabrillo as well as an interpretive center dedicated to explaining the explorer’s mission and findings during his travels.
I would tell you more about all of that but we visited during spring break which meant there were a ton of people there and it was pretty difficult to read the displays. If you’re interested in learning more, here’s NPS’s page about him.
Also located at the park, but completely unrelated to Cabrillo is the Old Point Loma Lighthouse.
Because San Diego has always been such a crucial port, and because of the rocky coastline that surrounds the area, the lighthouse, set atop a 400 foot cliff, played an important part in the city’s history. The light operated between 1855 and 1891, when it was replaced by a new lighthouse at a lower elevation (to avoid being obscured by fog).
In addition to being incredibly picturesque, the lighthouse offers some interesting educational exhibits about the history of lighthouses, the different types of lighthouses, and the keepers of this particular light.
The Cabrillo National Monument also preserves several artillery batteries left over from World War II.
The Point Loma Peninsula was particularly strategic to the United States as it was the last line of defense from a feared Japanese assault on the west coast.
The exhibits detailing the lives and work of the young men stationed there during war time are well worth a read.
Finally, the park overlooks the New Point Loma Lighthouse buildings which house Coast Guard officers and their families.
In addition to being an absolutely drool-worthy place to call home, most of you will, undoubtedly, recognize that this is where Maverick and Viper had their pivotal conversation which, basically, prevented World War III. Thanks Mav!
Sunset Cliffs, a park located just north of Cabrillo National Monument, is so pretty, it’s ridiculous. The cliffs are as enormous as they are dramatic.
The park is under heavy construction at the moment but you can still take in the incredible views from the overlooks…
and, with a bit of effort, you can get down to the beaches where you’ll be joined by some of the fearless surfers who take to the waters in the area.
Also, as you might have guessed, it’s a pretty spectacular place to catch a sunset.
Balboa Park is a 1200 acre park located in the middle of the city. The land that makes up the park was set aside way back in 1835, but was established as a city park in 1870. It really became famous however, in 1915 when it hosted the 1915–16 Panama–California Exposition and then again, in 1935–36 when it hosted the California Pacific International Exposition. These events led to the construction of several architecturally distinctive buildings, gardens, and public areas, that make the park so beautiful.
In addition, there are numerous museums, theaters, restaurants, and the San Diego Zoo.
We spent a couple hours there one afternoon, wandering through a number of gardens, checking out the very cool architecture, and watching some buskers perform.
It’s certainly a pretty park and worth a visit though it wasn’t our favorite experience of our time in the area. I think it’s just that San Diego offers a ton of beautiful parks that feel less touristy, and we were drawn to those over this one.
Speaking of avoiding tourist traps, if you need to eat while in the area, but want to avoid the overpriced tourist stops, check out Hachi Ramen. We had some of the best ramen we’ve ever had at this small, unassuming, lunch spot located just a few blocks from Balboa Park.
Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial
We visited the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial our very first day in the City.
We’d met up with an old friend from grad school (more on that next post), and he took us up the mountain to show us the views and give us a sense of where things were from a high point in the city.
As you can see, the views go one forever and it’s an excellent place to get acquainted with the area.
The monument itself is made up of hundreds of plaques commemorating veterans who have served their country over the years. The plaques are purchased by family members who provide a photograph and inscription to be included on the monument. There was a big First Amendment controversy (25 years worth of it) over a huge cross being part of this memorial, but in 2016, a private group bought the property which ended the argument. You can read more about that whole kerfluffle here.
In the meantime, the monument is very nicely done and, if you’ve just arrived in San Diego and are looking to get the lay of the land, this is a good place to start.
La Jolla Cove
One piece of advice we received again and again was to visit the community of La Jolla.
I have no idea why though. As you can see, it’s a total dump.
La Jolla Cove is a beachfront section of La Jolla that includes a public beach as well as an area of rocks on which hundreds of seals tend to chillax in the sun.
The city has built some walkways for visitors to observe the seals from a safe distance, but, as per the usual, some people are morons and get too close and stress the seals out.
Responsible visitors observing from a distance:
Luckily, the park rangers were not shy about giving said dumbasses an earful.
Even if you’re not familiar with this area, you’ve probably heard of Torrey Pines because it is home to a rather famous golf course. The golf course wasn’t located there by accident. It’s a stunningly beautiful piece of real estate and the state park makes it accessible to everyone.
There are a number of hikes available in the park. The most popular includes several overlooks from which to take in the gorgeous cliff-side views.
Visitors can then make their way down to the beach and follow it back to main parking area (assuming it’s low tide. At high tide, parts of the beach are inaccessible.).
There’s plenty of space to lay out on the beaches. The areas in front of the lifeguard shacks were busy, while the areas farther down the beach were pretty quiet.
I have a lot more to talk about, but this article is already getting a bit long, so I’ll save the rest for future posts. Coming up, we take trips north to Los Angeles and south to Tijuana, hang out with old friends from home, and make new RVing friends on the road. Let’s just say: there were shenanigans.
A Word About Facebook
Finally, I know there are a bunch of people who connect to these blog posts through the link I put up on our Facebook page. I will continue to put the link up there, but as time has gone by, Facebook has become more and more unreliable as a means of sharing these articles. Because I set up a public “page” for my blog rather than just using my personal account, Facebook treats my account as a business and tries to get me to pay them to publicize my posts. In other words, when I post a photo or a link, Facebook shows my post to a percentage of the people who have followed my page and then helpfully sends me offers to pay them in order to get them to show the post to everyone else. As time has gone by, I’ve noticed they seem to be showing my posts to fewer and fewer people while sending me more and more offers to pay them (they actually tell me how many people they’ve shown a post to and then offer to show it to however many more for $2.00 or $3.00 or whatever…)
I am unwilling to pay Facebook to show my posts to people because a) this website is simply a hobby for me and not a business; b) the people who have followed the page have already indicated they want to see what we post by following the page in the first place; and c) I’m pretty sure Facebook doesn’t need my money since they make plenty of money selling everyone’s data to terrible people.
Put more succinctly:
Anyway, if you are one of the people who clicks through these links and want to make sure you actually see new blog posts, you can subscribe via email instead (see sidebar). I don’t sell or share my email list with anyone, not even Cambridge Analytica! You’ll just get snarky commentary about annoying children, oblivious mothers, and idiotic tourists delivered right to your inbox without Mark Zuckerberg chasing me around like this newspaper delivery kid in Better Off Dead….
Until next time….
Where we stayed: Mission Bay RV Resort, San Diego, California