November 5, 2014


To me discovering a city is usually about walking around, taking your time and hopping on and off the metro/bus/bike. In San Diego this seems a bit less convenient although I have never the trolley downtown and have never really given the bus a chance. I'm assuming it's definitely an option, but if you have little time to discover this beautiful city and want to get a good overview I would definitely recommend the trolley tour I took my friends on this summer. I stumbled upon it by accident and booked the tickets because I didn't feel like driving downtown, parking, leaving after half an hour and doing the same thing all over again. There's much more room in these 'new' American cities, but somehow parking is still a pain in the butt. And sometimes you just have to be a complete tourist and go for it, right? So here are some stops you might want to get off at:


I'm sure there's more than one company that offers these kind of tours, but we took the Old Town Trolley, departing from... yes, Old Town. You can hop on anywhere you like along the stops, but the first trolley leaves from this particular place and the early birds have a big parking lot at their disposal. Old Town is a state protected historical park and is one of the most visited parks in California. It takes you back in time to the early days of San Diego and is home to a few original buildings from the 1820's to 1860's. It's basically as close to an 'old city center' as you can get here, plus it's a good spot for souvenir shopping and I've heard there are some pretty good Mexican restaurants!


San Diego is famous for Comic Com and beer, but its harbor is pretty famous too. A must see at this stop is the USS Midway Museum. Trust me, even if you're not at all interested in ships or jets (like me) it's pretty impressive. Although, you might want to adjust the schedule a bit because you will want to spend a few hours on this famous aircraft carrier. Apart from the Midway there are several other museums and ships to visit such as the ship from Master and Commander and the world's oldest active sailing ship: the Star of India. Or you can just take a cruise around the harbor and enjoy the views! 


Since this one is still on my to do list, I can't tell you much about it other than it looked incredibly cute. Seaport Village is a waterfront shopping and dining area and as some people on Yelp describe is "a pretty cool place for a tourist trap". 


Home to the increasingly popular Comic Com convention, the original part of the Convention Center opened in 1989 but a new part was added in 2001 for the growing numbers coming to the convention every year. It's supposed to resemble a ship on the waves (because it's near the harbor?) and they're trying to pass yet another expansion at this moment. It is just a short walk from the Gaslamp Quarter & downtown San Diego and you can walk along the waterfront.


Horton Plaza is a half block of city park that was sold to Alonzo Horton in 1895, a guy who's had some major impact on San Diego. It's been under construction for quite some time now and I don't think I've even seen it without the scaffolding yet. Behind Horton Plaza is one of the first shopping centers I went to in the US. Although most of them pretty much all look the same and have the same shops, I quite like this one. Covering several floors, with several escalators and a maze of a floor plan, you never really know where you are (unless you come here every day of course). The architecture is really colourful and a bit odd but I always stop here when I'm in the area.

What it's supposed to look like eventually (image source)


The historic Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego is the perfect spot for a happy hour or a night out. It's famous for the numerous bars and restaurants and it's the place to be for a lot of events. San Diego's baseball stadion Petco Park is just a block away.


The Coronado Bridge
Hotel Del

Technically Coronado is its own city and therefore not part of San Diego, but that's not a reason to skip it now, is it? Driving to the island (which is actually connected to land) you'll cross the Coronado bridge and get spectacular views of San Diego and the harbor. Stopping at the Coronado ferry landing you'll be able to take some amazing pictures of the San Diego skyline and to top it off you're next stop will take you to the magnificent Hotel Del. Like any other old building in the US, it's supposedly haunted! In 2012 Coronado beach was listed as the best beach in the US. Just sayin'. 


Balboa Park is San Diego's 1.200 acre or 490 ha city park. It's an urban park and you'll find several museums there (I think about ...), a few theaters (including a copy of a copy of the Old Globe), several gardens and the San Diego Zoo. On Sundays you can even enjoy free organ music at the pavilion. So if your not tired from a whole day of hopping on and off that green trolley, you can always get your exercise here. 

I've skipped a couple of minor stops but the last one (depending on where you started) before going back to Old Town, is Little Italy. Which is a great stop for having some delicious Italian dinner! 

I really enjoyed the background stories we heard on the bus (you don't get that when your husband drives you around) but no matter how you to decide to spend you time in San Diego these stops are the basic must-sees and the views will make it well worth your time. Just one tip: don't try to do it all in one day...

PS: If locals ride for free when they bring a tourist along. I call that a win-win situation.

Have you ever been to San Diego?

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