Friday, September 16, 2011

San Diego in a Day

By: Jeremy Bryant

I was recently invited to San Diego to experience the city and visit with the Executive Director of San Diego Pride, Dwayne Crenshaw. I must say, San Diego is a city of different flavors and topography. I arrived in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, just off the 163 freeway, around 11am to have lunch at Urban Mo’s (formerly Hamburger Mary’s). Urban Mo's offers a cheery atmosphere with different music each night of the week. The crowd here is all about fun and is a mix of men and women in their 20s and 30s. After eating and having a few drinks, we took off for a stroll around the Hillcrest neighborhood. Filled with funky and fabulous shops, restaurants, bars, and just about everything else a queer could need, the community of Hillcrest comes alive with people walking the streets, riding bikes, and just having a gay old time. I strongly encourage any visitor to get out and walk the town, meet the people and stop in the shops to look around. You won’t be disappointed.

After walking and shopping all over Hillcrest, I was off on a tour of the city. We started by heading downtown to view the many historic buildings that comprise the Gaslamp Quarter. The Quarter is home to many events and festivals, including Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp, Street Scene Music Festival, Taste of Gaslamp and ShamROCK, a St. Patrick's Day event. PETCO Park, home of the San Diego Padres is located one block away in downtown San Diego's East Village. From downtown we then headed over to the Marina. The Marina houses mid-rise and high-rise hotels, apartments, condominiums, medical offices and retail shops. Seaport Village and the San Diego Convention Center are located in this neighborhood. Seaport Village is also a perfect spot to grab a relaxing meal from a number of fine restaurants and food stands, including the Harbor House Restaurant. From the Marina you can enjoy views of Coronado across the bay. A must see is the Star of India, a historic, tall-mast iron ship which dates back to 1863. This national historic landmark is the world's oldest ship still seaworthy, and makes a sea journey at least once a year.

From the Marina, we were off to see Old Town San Diego. Old Town is the oldest settled area in San Diego and is the site of the first European settlement in present-day California. Old Town is truly a great tourist spot to experience the culture of old San Diego. I recommend stopping at Presidio Park, a beautify spot to soak in the views. Old town San Diego has hotels, art galleries, specialty shops, restaurants, amazing architecture and so much more to experience.

After driving through Old Town, I headed to Balboa Park. Balboa Park is filled with open space areas, natural vegetation, gardens and walking paths. The park contains a variety of cultural attractions including many museums, several theaters, and the world famous San Diego Zoo. A great place to spend the day, relax and enjoy the outdoors, Balboa Park is a big attraction for the city of San Diego. Balboa Park is also where the San Diego Pride Festival takes place every July. This 2 day event attracts over 200,000 people from all over the world and is considered to be the largest civic event in the city of San Diego. Definitely a must attend event for any LGBT traveler.

I concluded my evening in San Diego with enjoying dinner in La Jolla at an amazing restaurant, Georges at the Cove. Georges over looks the Ocean and boasts the region’s best rooftop dining, try the Ocean Terrace upstairs. Upon finishing dinner, I headed down to the cove. Casa Beach, otherwise known as Children’s Pool Beach is a small sandy beach located at 850 Coast Boulevard, at the end of Jenner Street, in La Jolla. A sea wall built was built and protects the beach from waves, making it a favorite spot for divers and swimmers. The sea wall was built in order to create a Children's Pool, a place where children could play and swim protected from the waves. Interestingly over the years, the beach has become home to seals that enjoy the calm beach protected by the sea wall. I encourage everyone to go and check it out. It’s a site you have to see.

Sadly my day in San Diego was coming to an end. I had seen so many sites this impressively laid back city has to offer. I would recommend anyone looking to experience a sunny, beautiful, friendly destination to visit San Diego. There’s way too much to see in one day, so definitely plan for a weekend or if you can spare a week, you won’t be disappointed. As I drove home to Los Angeles up the 5 Freeway, images of my day in San Diego filled my mind. I’ll definitely be returning to San Diego, but with more time to spend for new adventures. A big thank you to Dwayne Crenshaw and the city of San Diego for showing me a fabulous time and a day I’ll never forget.

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