I’ve always rode the Coaster to and from San Diego or to other coastal towns. If you’re quick, snatch a window seat and sit back and take in the ocean views as you travel parallel with the coast. I’ve seen an actual dolphin from a window seat on the coaster. A round trip ticket from Oceanside to the Sante Fe station (San Diego depot) is a cheap $11 and parking is free.
Public transportation is really the way to go. If you like a six lane jam packed commute, interstate I-5 is all you. With a population of uh 33 MILLION this would be the most fun experience if you love road rage!!! Southern Californians may seem so zen, but behind a wheel they may hurt you. If you like to be happy, or if you’re really just a sane person, I wouldn’t go there, or even glance at the backed up traffic for that matter. Yuck.
If you really want to embody the definition of “tourist,” hop on a bike taxi. If you can’t find them, they will find you. There’s a high supply and demand for these little carriages that they could basically make up a city on their own. They’re a fantastic means of transportation for a tour in San Diego, and it even comes with a fresh breeze, no extra fee included.
The price of these rides depends on how far you desire to go (makes sense). If you are in the harbor, I recommend passing through the lively restaurants, dive bars, Balboa theaters, cocktail lounges and a cafe where a scene in Top Gun was filmed in the gas light district, otherwise known as the Gaslamp Quarter. The price typically averages from $10-$15 per person and is up for bartering if you’re a good negotiator. Walking or renting a bike is also a great way to explore the city and burn off those extra calories from the delicious food you’ll inevitably be consuming.
If you do have to leave San Diego from the train station, first off I’m sorry you have to go, but catch bus 992. It’s a direct shot to the airport and only $2.25. Make sure you have the exact amount of change, I learned that the hard way. (Btw this airport is wild. There’s only one runway and when a plane is landing you’ll find yourself holding your breath because it appears as though the planes are barely missing the tip tops of the buildings)!!
The weather is pretty predictable, warm and sunny. That’s if you visit during the winter months. It’s cool in the morning, warms up by early afternoon, and cools off again when the sun goes down, averaging around 70 degrees throughout the day. You can tell who the snowbirds are because they always wear shorts no matter the conditions, screaming the name tourist. You can tell who the locals are because they’ll be bundled up and ready for an ice age.
I was sitting in a comfortable temperature in a light pair of jeans and t-shirt with a cardigan. Basically if you open any weather app you’ll know how to dress, and if you’re visiting California you know you’ll want sandals and a good pair of tennis shoes to walk. Don’t forget sunglasses, the sun can be seriously blinding.
I consider myself a foodie, but when I travel, this is taken to a whole other level I never even knew could be reached. Due to the fact southern California borders Mexico, the area is notorious for its flavorful authentic Mexican cuisine. However, that means there are a lot of options, and I want to make sure you and your taste buds experience the best!
With that being said, Garcia’s in downtown Carlsbad has tasty and authentic Mexican grub. The decor is bright and colorful so your eyes will never get bored. The food, also bright and colorful, comes out fresh and hot. As soon as you are seated you are greeted with a spicy helping of salsa and a basket of warm chips. During lunch hours, the food isn’t expensive. The entrees run a little more pricey between $17- $20, but sides such as tacos, burritos or lunch specials run between $8 – $10 and will leave you with a food baby.
Fish and chips, fish tacos, or anything seafoodish is another solid option. My favorite fish and chips is located on the walking trail/bike path along the coast called, Harbor Fish Cafe. Order your hot plate of food and stroll down to the beach for dinner and a view. The fish is battered to perfection and not extremely greasy, so you obtain the perfect balance of salty and savory. I recommend sharing a plate of fish and chips as it can be a bit too much for one sitting, but I won’t judge if you go all in.
After food, you might need to clear your palette with a pint of beer. San Diego county is filling up with breweries. There’s like three located on each street corner, so don’t be mad if you can’t catch them all. My grandpa’s favorite is Stone Brewing, located in Escondido. This brewery showcases an American menu with a typical California vibe, fun for an 85 year old, and still cool for a 23 year old. When walking near the main drag you’ll come across others such as Breakwater Brewing Co., Northern Pine Brewing, Midnight Jack Brewing and Surfside Tap Room.
On Thursday nights a high energy street fair goes on throughout the blocks of Oceanside. You can devour anything from lobster rolls, to bbq ribs, to Thai food and more. If you go with a group, you can taste it all and split. I’d make this a top priority if you are there at the right time.
Activities & Attractions
A boat cruise in San Diego harbor is always a go to for my family and I. The two hour northbound and southbound tour is fairly affordable costing only $30, and $25 if you are with sweet elderly people in which they’ll cut you a deal.
The north bound tour sails you through helicopter bases, Sea Lions hanging out on docks and doing what they do best; nothing. Submarines, a floating science lab, a drone boat, and if you’re lucky, a blue whale may also be viewed on this tour.
The south bound tour is also very impressive. Giving you an attractive view of the skyline and the 2.1 mile Coronado bridge, all you have to do is sit back and listen. This tour is informative and relaxing, especially if you order that bloody mary 😉 If only all my history classes could’ve been like this.
In the distance you capture a view of Mexico, so close it’s tempting to say you’ve been there. Gracefully sitting in the harbor are several navy ships either being built or worked on. It’s a very surreal experience. In fact, one tour I caught a glimpse navy seals training in the harbor.
On the other side of the ships is Coronado island. A special hotel is there (search Google for name) where the classic Marilyn Monroe photo was taken with the dress thing and wind, *gasps.* Something ties into the yellow brick road and the Wizard of Oz in the same hotel, but I can only remember so much! I do remember the cost to live on this island, the minimum amount for a house is $1.4 million, happy saving 🙂
Also peacefully resting in the harbor is USS Midway Aircraft Carrier. This maritime museum at Navy Pier is a must see attraction. Not only does the museum provide you with an immense amount of history, the volunteers are veterans who are thrilled to share their stories. Some of whom have actually fought, worked and lived on the carrier. The engine/boiler/control room is my favorite. You truly must tour this museum, especially if you love history like me.
Southern California is more than surfers, plastic surgeons, convertibles and vegans, and not everyone starts their day with salutations on the beach. It’s filled with an assortment of people and places which will have you entertained for weeks. It can be lively with breweries, clubs and nightlife, or it can be laid back with bike rides, museums and lovely restaurants. Really, the choice is up to you, and you can certainly enjoy both! I hope you get the opportunity to partake in the ultimate southern Californian experience, in whatever way that’s defined by you!