Robert Arends

Affordable Mission Valley – Where to Play and Stay!

View From Cowles Mountain

I’m on a “mission” (pun intended 😉 ) to find the most affordable sights, bites and places to stay in Mission Valley and share them with you for when you visit San Diego.

Find out how to win a stay in San Diego when you finish reading this post!

Mission San Diego de Alcala

Did You Know - Mission San Diego Alcala is one of four missions in San Diego County

Mission San Diego de Alcala in Mission Valley

Mission San Diego de Alcala, the first in a chain of 21 Alta California missions, is our first stop. For only $3 you can visit a small museum brimming with artifacts from the mission’s early years. It’s pretty cool and surreal being able to step back into time to the 1770s – especially with so much modern development in the valley now. Also be sure to check out the quaint chapel, padre’s quarters and stroll through the beautiful gardens, including a cool archeological dig!

Where: 10818 San Diego Mission Rd., San Diego, CA 92108
> Find out more about the Mission San Diego de Alcala

Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park

Just down the road is Mission Trails Regional Park, one of the nation’s largest urban natural parks covering over 6,005 acres and featuring 42 miles of scenic trails for hiking, mountain biking, birding and rock climbing. Best of all: it’s Free – everything! – including free guided nature walks every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 AM. Stop by the Visitor Center to get the lay of the land.

View From Cowles Mountain

A fantastic view from the top of Cowles Mountain

My favorite spots are the historic Old Mission Dam on the San Diego River and Cowles Mountain where you’ll be rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views of all of San Diego from its 1,592 foot peak!

The San Diego River

San Diego River flowing through Mission Vallley

San Diego River flowing through Mission Valley

Running through Mission Valley is the picturesque San Diego River. It’s sometimes hard to find through all the condos and shopping centers, but it’s there. Pedestrian/bicycling paths can be found along the Mission Valley Greenway between Texas Street and Hazard Center. There’s also urban kayaking, for the more adventuresome!

Mission Valley Eats

If you’ve worked up an appetite, at Mission Valley Center the popular new Broken Yolk Café is perfect for breakfast or brunch (recommend the eggs benedict and hash browns). Nearby Pho’ Cali serves up some of the tastiest Vietnamese beef noodle soups. And for dinner, local favorite Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza is yummy, as is Oki Ton Japanese Bistro, one of the best sushi bars in town!

Tiki Oasis in the Heart of San Diego

Tiki Oasis art at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Mission Valley

Tiki Oasis art at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Mission Valley

If you’re looking for a place to rest your head at night, look no further than Hotel Circle North and South dotted with numerous affordable motels, hotels and resorts. My personal fav is the tiki oasis known as Crowne Plaza Hotel (formerly the Hanalei).

Back in the day it was much more tiki-fied, but remnants remain and it’s a hoot to spot Polynesian artifacts in the lobby and pool areas. The Crowne Plaza, BTW, is the site of 14th annual Tiki Oasis festival on August 14-17. I’ll be there! 🙂

Getting Around

Tip: To see all of Mission Valley in one fell swoop, catch a ride on the San Diego Trolley’s scenic Green Line which hugs the San Diego River. It only costs $2.50 ($5 for a day pass), with convenient stops at Mission Valley Center and Mission San Diego.

See you in Mission Valley – in the middle of it all!

Mission Possible: Stay and Play in San Diego Sweepstakes

Mission Possible: Stay and Play in San Diego Sweepstakes

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to stay and play in the heart of San Diego.

Enter for the chance to complete this mission with two nights at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley, two tickets to a San Diego Padres game, meals at DEN restaurant, and two San Diego Trolley passes.

Just steps from the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley’s central location, the Rio Vista Trolley Station makes it a breeze to visit some of the best of San Diego offerings including Petco Park, Old Town, Gaslamp Quarter and the Embarcadero.

The entry page will self destruct on Monday, 9 June 2014, at 10:00 AM.

> Enter Now

Martin

Hikes with a View – Get Outdoors and See San Diego

Hiking trough La Jolla's Torrey Pines State Park

San Diego’s diverse terrain offers plenty of wonderful and challenging hiking trails. These trails listed below offer something event better, rewarding hikes with a view.

Cowles Mountain

360 Panorama of Cowles Mountain

360 Panorama of Cowles Mountain. Via Wikipedia

There is no place in the San Diego city limits with a better 360-degree view. Where else can you, on a clear, sunny day, see the Cuyamaca Mountains to the east, Tijuana to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, including the outline of San Clemente Island and Catalina Island? You feel like you can reach out and touch Downtown, Point Loma and the Coronado Islands. It’s that spectacular!

There are two ways to attack Cowles (pronounced like kohl’s) Mountain, and know this: at just over three miles roundtrip (1.5 uphill for a 950-foot elevation gain), it is a workout. The staging and parking area off Navajo Road and Golfcrest Drive gets the most traffic and can be a parade of all sizes, shapes and forms on weekends. But the fire road off Cowles Mountain Boulevard and Boulder Lake is the best way to go if you want a more secluded hike. Rather than the sharp switchbacks on the south side (Golfcrest) the fire road offers a steady, winding climb to the top. At 1,593 feet, it’s the highest point in the city and the rising jewel of the Mission Trails Regional Park.

Warning: Always be aware that rattlers could be on the trail, especially the lesser-used fire road, at any point.

For more information on Cowles Mountain, check the Mission Trails Regional Park website, www.mtrp.org.

Shelter Island Shoreline Park

Shelter Island Shoreline Park

Enjoy views of the bay along Shelter Island Shoreline Park

For a more relaxing hike that at times will flood the senses with Naval warships, sailboats, fishing boats and craft of every kind, try a walk along Shelter Island. The pier, launch ramp and promenade combine to create the mile-long Shelter Island Shoreline Park. It spans the length of the bay along Shelter Island and is a great place to relax, hike or even ride a bike.

Park near the Shelter Island Pier and start there with a walk out onto the pier. There’s good fishing there, too, if that’s a diversion you choose to do. From the pier, you can see the incredible San Diego skyline to the east. This walk is good any time of day or night. At Christmas time you can time it for the Parade of Lights, when the local sport fishing captains decorate their boats with holiday lights and sail along the Island.

As you walk east of the pier, stop along the launch ramp area to see boats of all sizes launching or coming back from fishing or boating trips. The Outboard Boating Club is there at the launch ramp. If someone is outside, ask them about that club’s storied history of power boating and commodores.

Los Peñasquitos Canyon

Los Peñasquitos Canyon Waterfall

Explore San Diego’s inland areas with a hike to Los Peñasquitos Canyon’s tranquil waterfall.

Head inland to hike one of the city’s more interesting and scenic canyons, the Los Peñasquitos Canyon hike. It’s about six miles roundtrip to the waterfall and is both family- and dog-friendly. This trail is frequented by mountain bikers, too, so beware of that. You have the option of staying on the main trail or taking a one-track side trail that eventually will hook up to the main trail. Los Peñasquitos Canyon is well worth the trip if you want to really get a look at an undeveloped canyon in the heart of the city.

Park at the junction of Mercy and Black Mountain Road, where parking is $3, or park in the back of Canyonside Community Park for free.

The Beach Trail at Torrey Pines State Park Reserve

Hiking trough La Jolla's Torrey Pines State Park

Enjoy ocean views on a hike through Torrey Pines

The Beach Trail at Torrey Pines State Park Reserve is an incredible hike that starts in the parking lot of the Torrey Pines Golf Course and then weaves along the old highway (built-in 1910 and paved in 1915) that once connected San Diego to Los Angeles. You can also park in the reserve at the top for a fee, but the best way it to get a spot in the golf course parking lot and go north to the old road. You’ll see signs identifying all the trails. There are several options, but the Beach Trail will take you down to the water’s edge for some great beach hikes north (including the area’s nude beach, Black’s) and south. Along the way there are views from Red Butte, Razor Point and Yucca Point. Check them out and look out into the Pacific for breaching, spouting or porpoising whales or surfing dolphins.

Other Great San Diego Hikes with a View

The Calm Waters of Lake Murray

Enjoy a leisurely hike next to the calm waters of Lake Murray

Lake Murray and Lake Miramar both have trails that rim their shorelines offering great lake views and good workouts.

Lake Miramar’s trail (really a perimeter road that is used by cars, bikes, rollerbladers and families with strollers, so beware) goes all the way around the lake, crossing the reservoir for a 5-mile hike. Miramar is in the Scripps Ranch area of the city. It’s off Scripps Ranch Drive (92131)

Lake Murray’s trail ends at the dam, so you have to double back for the 5-mile trek. Murray is at the base of Cowles Mountain in the La Mesa/San Carlos area. It can be accessed off Lake Murray Boulevard (5549 Kiowa Drive, La Mesa, CA, 91942).

There’s good parking at both lakes, especially during the week. On weekends, it’s pretty crowded, so get there early.