With its mild year round weather, miles of sandy beaches, and major attractions, San Diego is known worldwide as one of America’s best tourist destinations. This laid back city is two hours drive south from Los Angeles and just 30 minutes north of the Mexican border and is regarded as “Modern California at its best”.
Since my last visit 12 years earlier, San Diego has undergone a major revitalisation and is now one of the most exciting city centres in the US in fact it gets hipper and more sophisticated every year.
The rapidly evolving city abounds with hip hotels, boutique stores and trendy eateries but still retains links to the past with plenty of well preserved 19th century Victorian buildings – thus keeping its charm.
San Diego specializes in variety, from mountains to desert, parklands to lush vineyards, there is something to suit everyone. It has everything a family could want in a holiday: beautiful beaches, tons of attractions (including the world-famous San Diego Zoo and Legoland), luxurious resorts, quaint neighbourhoods, miles of museums and great food.
With more than 93 golf courses in every conceivable setting it is no wonder that the city is considered one of the best golf destinations in the world. Weatherbill.com awarded San Diego top billing for having more perfect days for golf than anywhere else in the US.
Once the sun sets, both locals and visitors head to the historic Gaslamp Quarter – this once-seedy red-light district has been reinvented as the centre of downtown entertainment with restaurants, bars and boutiques filling more than 16 blocks.
The district’s grand, historic buildings have been restored to their original character, and while the original visitors of the 1880’s such as Wyatt Earp (who once ran three gambling halls here) may not recognise the quarter today now the wild west saloons and bordellos have gone,though four newly installed gaslamps glow and enhance the historical feel of the neighbourhood.
One of the highlights to my recent trip was crossing the arching Coronado Island Bay Bridge to Coronado Island. Though not technically an island – a peninsula – this affluent beach community is home to the famous Hotel Del Coronado or “The Del” as it is known by locals.
The now Historic National Landmark was opened in 1888 and was the largest resort hotel in the world. Eleven US Presidents have visited The Del, Charles Lindbergh was honoured here in 1927 after his successful trans-Atlantic flight, Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino have both been guests but perhaps the most famous visitor was the Prince of Wales in 1920.
Many have speculated that he met Wallis Simpson who was a Coronado resident; here in the Crown Room when he was being honoured with a grand banquet, contradictory evidence in both Edward and Wallis’s memoirs may show that they met later, but the romance of a love story remains.
The Del’s brunch in the Crown Room is an institution and a firm favourite with both guests and locals. A mouth watering array of seasonal delicious offerings all served under the four magnificent crown chandeliers designed by L. Frank Baum who wrote the Wizard of Oz while staying at the hotel.
A walk along the magnificent stretch of beach to people watch is a must after brunch, as the beach is rumoured to have been used as the famous Baywatch beach, those with more energy can don red swimming costumes and run in slow motion along the powdery fine sand! San Diego has traditionally been used as an ideal ending to a Californian self drive tour but with the wealth of activities the city offers, I found it a wonderful holiday destination worthy of a much longer stay