Intro to San Diego
We spent a few days sightseeing in the San Diego area during our stay at the Pio Pico Thousand Trails Park.
A good way to get oriented is to take the Old Town Trolley tour (approx. $30). The narrated tour makes a loop through some of the key sights in the city, and you have the opportunity to debark at any of the 8 stops and then reboard another trolley. If you just stay on the trolley, it will take about two hours, but it is worth it to get off and do some sightseeing as you make your way around town.
The earlier in the day you start your tour, the more time you will have for visiting attractions, shopping and dining. When we visited in January 2006, operating hours for the trolley began at 9 am, with the last pick-up times between 5:00 and 6:00 pm, depending on the stop.
Bear in mind that there is no way to see San Diego in one day. The tour is a good introduction and a means to preview areas that might merit a return visit when you can spend more time.
And you should have time to leave the trolley a few times to do some sightseeing. Stop by a ticket counter and get a copy of the Old Town Trolley’s Personal Day Planner – it has a summary of the sights to see at each stop and gives you an estimate of how much time you might need to spend. It’s best to do some planning before you board the trolley. Also ask about their two-day discounted ticket if you want to spread your trolley experience over two days.
The tour typically begins in Old Town, where you can spend some time browsing the shops or dining before or after your tour. But you can actually board at any of the scheduled stops along the tour route. In addition to Old Town, the stops include the Cruise Ship Terminal, the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, Seaport Village, Marriott Hotel & Marina, the Gaslamp Quarter, Coronado, the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park.
Be sure to get off in Coronado to see the beautiful beach, Hotel del Coronado, and the charming town. If you are looking for a bite to eat or places to shop, there is an assortment of shops and restaurants at the Coronado, Seaport and Gaslamp stops.
The San Diego Zoo merits a full day visit on its own. And you could spend numerous days in Balboa Park depending on your interests. This is a huge park with 13 museums, an Imax theater and lovely grounds. Leave the trolley tour to stroll around and orient yourself with what the Park has to offer for return visits. The trolley stops in front of The Prado building – the Visitor’s Center is located inside. There is a combination passport that covers admission to all of the museums over the course of 7 days, and a Zoo/Passport combo that adds a one-day deluxe San Diego Zoo admission. There is also a free Balboa Park Tram which transports visitors throughout the extensive park grounds.
While in this part of southern California, we also took a trip over to Tijuana. We drove south on interstate 5, parked in the Border Station Parking Lot ($7) in San Ysidro, and walked over to Tijuana. We poked around in the various shops along Avenida Revolucion and then walked back on Constitution.
Here we found a little place to eat that looked well-frequented by the locals, and had a sampling of some delicious little tacos of grilled beef, braised beef and roasted pork. A bit further on, we sampled the ice cream and enjoyed the aromas from various food carts and eateries along the way. The walk to return back over the border meant a bit of a line waiting to get through U.S. Customs, but it was a simple matter of showing a driver’s license. If you prefer not to walk, there are shuttles available from the Border Station Parking Lot, and there are trolleys from the San Diego area. All in all, our visit to Tijuana was a great way to spend a day.
This trip to San Diego was just an introduction. Next time around, we will make more time to see the sights of San Diego and enjoy Pio Pico Thousand Trails.