San Diego; southern cool by Leah Bradicich
The resounding opinion when touring around the city of San Diego will have you begin at the San Diego Zoo. And fair enough. This zoo is famously known for its rare breeds like giant pandas and Australian koalas, and maybe can even boast to be the best zoo in the United States. So you better go just to say you've been there. Admission is high, but the cost is worth it for a first time visit, especially since you'll be hard pressed to see the whole thing in a day.
The Zoo is located within Balboa Park a massive urban park filled with all sorts of major attractions, perfect for sight seeing. The Park itself is beautifully constructed, with amazing architecture and magnificent gardens. There are handfuls of art galleries, museums, restaurants, a mini railroad and a mini UN village, (not to forget the zoo also). Worth a meal is the Prado Restaurant which has rave reviews, but is closed on Mondays.
While you're on the historical trail, don't miss the Gaslamp Quarter (below). Sure it's got history, but it's mostly just a great place to wander around, eat and have a drink or two. The food is of a high standard in general (mostly Italian), even for casual diners, and afterwards it's easy to bar hop since the location is compact. If you don't do the bar hopping thing, you can always take a look around at the buildings and get a more historic perspective.
A cute and fun way to get from place to place is the Old Town Trolley, a kind of sight seeing tram that can take you between Balboa Park, Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village, Coronado and the Embarcadero. The drivers tell you little tidbits, though be aware a single loop ticket is around $30. If you're thinking about car rental for your trip, buying a guide book for the journey might be cheaper, and you can take your time by driving yourself.
A word of advice would be to avoid Old Town. While it's meant to be the best and most historical site in Sand Diego, there are more and more reviews of it being manufactured and chintzy, with cheap food and tacky souvenirs crowding the pathways. Go if you like tourist traps...
A fantastic hamburger can be found at Hodad's, and if you're wondering how good a hamburger can really be, just try it and you'll get the picture. Buon Appetito in Little Italy is apparently the best and most authentic Italian you can find, which says a lot, so don't pass up the opportunity if you come across it in your journeys.
Otherwise, there are plenty of places closer to the water to find a good eat and wander around. Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach and Mission Beach are the main beaches that make up the San Diego coastline, Mission Beach being a good place to walk along the boardwalk in a cool breeze and grab a bite.
And if you're a water buff, don't forget San Diego's SeaWorld, where you can see the famous killer whale, Shamu. It might be more fun for kids, but hey, it's San Diego and it's hard to forget SeaWorld.
About the Author
Leah Bradicich has travelled comprehensively through Europe, the UK, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. She works for Vroom Vroom Vroom, http://www.vroomvroomvroom.com, a travel website collating all the deals and specials from the nation's largest car rental companies, offering discounts on car rentals. Her pieces focus on the 'best of' parts of each city, offering a fail safe guide to travelling and listing interesting facts that