Edna Gutierrez

Old Town Trolley’s La Jolla and Mission Beach Tour

Old Town Trolley Tour Guide Rick

The very knowledgeable Old Town Trolley Tour guide Rick made sure everyone aboard enjoyed the tour.

From relaxed surfer towns like Ocean Beach to the family friendly beaches of Mission Bay and the luxurious shores of La Jolla, San Diego has the perfect seaside destination for everyone. Each of San Diego’s beach towns has a different personality that reflects the city’s diversity. When friends and family visit from out-of-town and ask me what beaches I recommend, it is always hard to pick just one since I think they should explore all of them to really get a feel for the city. When I heard that Old Town Trolley Tours offers a San Diego beach tour where visitors could explore San Diego’s most beautiful beaches in one day, I knew I had to try it. This would give me an opportunity to be a tourist in my own city and experience it so I could recommend it to friends and family.

I headed to Old Town, the headquarters of The Old Town Trolley’s La Jolla-Mission Beach tour. The first tour departs at 10:15 AM and then every hour after that. The tour is 24 miles, 90-110 minutes long and allows guests to hop off and on at four different stops:

San Diego’s Old Town

Old Town Whaley House -Courtesy SanDiego.org

The historic Whaley House was San Diego’s first commercial theater and one of only two Certified Haunted Houses in the State of California.

The birthplace of California and where the tour departs. Also, a great place to explore, eat Mexican food and visit historic buildings like the Whaley House Museum, the number one most haunted house in the United States according to Travel Channel’s America’s Most Haunted.

[Tweet “See some of San Diego’s most popular beach spots in one day with @sandiegotour!”]

Mt. Soledad

Mt. Soledad

Mount Soledad overlooks La Jolla and offers magnificent 360 degree view of San Diego.

The Mount Soledad Veteran’s Memorial offers a breathtaking 360 degree view of San Diego. I have never visited this spot before and was blown away by the views of La Jolla, downtown San Diego and even Tijuana. Make sure to bring your camera!

La Jolla


The La Jolla Coves is a great spot for sightseeing, kayaking, snorkeling and seal watching.

The tour drops you off right by the boutiques and shops and at walking distance from the La Jolla Shores, the Children’s Pool Beach and the beautiful coves where you can get a glimpse of seals sunbathing and of people kayaking and snorkeling.

Mission Beach

The Giant Dipper at Belmont Park

The Giant Dipper at Belmont Park in Mission Beach was built-in 1925 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The tour stops just by Belmont Park, where you can ride the Giant Dipper, one of the first wooden roller coasters, or if you are a scaredy cat like me, instead you can stop by the Sweet Shoppe & Beach Treats for a monster cone; a huge cone with an option of up to three ice cream scoops (make sure to order extra napkins).

> Discover even more Sightseeing Opportunities in San Diego

Besides the opportunity to visit all these great spots, Rick, our very knowledgeable Old Town Trolley Tour guide, provided lots of interesting facts about all these locations and played some cool beach songs. I loved the fact that I learned a little bit more about my city, visited four different places in one day and I didn’t have to worry about parking or traffic. I think this is a great option for all those visitors who love the ocean and would like to explore San Diego’s beaches. I will definitely recommend it to my friends and family.

Robert Arends

Aloha – 5 Fun Tiki Finds Throughout San Diego!

Mr. Bali Hai tiki at Bali Hai Restaurant, Shelter Island

Aloha from San Diego! 😉

Yep, some really cool Hawaiian and South Seas influences, architecture and tikis (my favorite!) can be found throughout San Diego, particularly Shelter Island on San Diego Bay, Point Loma, Mission Valley and Mission Bay.

Why, you ask?

Well, after WWII, American soldiers and sailors returned home from the South Pacific with stories, souvenirs, music and more from these tropical islands, to the delight of the American public who romanticized exotic island cultures. A bit later (in 1959) Hawaii became a state, further fueling the popularity of all things Polynesian.

Being a big Navy town on the Pacific, San Diego was a prime spot to celebrate and recreate tiki culture. Sadly, by the 1980s, Polynesian influences around town began to disappear as contemporary tastes and design took hold. But, lucky for us, fun tiki finds remain if you know where to look.

Following are my top 5:

1. Bali Hai Restaurant

Mr. Bali Hai tiki at Bali Hai Restaurant, Shelter Island

Mr. Bali Hai tiki at Bali Hai Restaurant, Shelter Island

Bali Hai Restaurant, opened in 1954 on Shelter Island, is a local “tiki temple” of sorts with hand-carved tiki sculptures – including Mr. Bali Hai, shown here, and the “Goof on the Roof” – and genuine Polynesian artifacts filling every nook and cranny. You can even take home your very own souvenir tiki mug!

Where: 2230 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about the Bali Hai Restaurant

2. Crowne Plaza Hotel

Tiki Oasis art at Crown Plaza Hotel, Mission Valley

Tiki Oasis art at Crown Plaza Hotel, Mission Valley

Also opened in 1954, the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Mission Valley (formerly Hanalei Hotel) is a slice of paradise on the San Diego River. It has retained much of its Hawaiian-themed luster from yesteryear; tikis and Polynesian art can be found in the lobby, restaurant and around the tropical pool area. It’s also the site of the big annual Tiki Oasis convention, the “biggest Tiki Weekender on the planet.” I’ll be there!

Where: 2270 Hotel Circle N, San Diego, CA 92108
> Find out more about the Crowne Plaza Hotel

3. Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites

A little bit of Hawaii at Humphrey's Half Moon Inn, Shelter Island

A little bit of Hawaii at Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn, Shelter Island

Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites (built-in 1959) on Shelter Island is a landmark Tiki Modern resort with a soaring lobby roof that extends out like a giant Polynesian fishing canoe complete with a lantern used to attract fish. This is as real as it gets!

Where: 2303 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites

4.  Trader Mort’s Liquor Store

Playful tiki at Trader Mort's Liquor Store, Point Loma

Playful tiki at Trader Mort’s Liquor Store, Point Loma

Nearby Trader Mort’s Liquor Store in Point Loma (originally named the Hooch Hut – love it!) is famous for its tiki hut design and tongue-wagging tiki god out front.

Where: 2904 Shelter Island Dr, San DiegoCA 92106
> Find out more about Trader Mort’s Liquor Store

5. The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay

Tiki at The Dana hotel on Mission Bay

Tiki at The Dana hotel on Mission Bay

Amongst the lush gardens at The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay there’s a mighty tiki warrior sculpture greeting guests; one of my fav tiki finds!

Where: 1710 W Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109
> Find out more about The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay

Get into the Tiki Spirit with a Guided Tour

You can also get into the “spirit of aloha” in San Diego by taking a two-hour Surf and Tiki Tour of 20 local tiki statues and other hidden spots you won’t find in guidebooks.

Your tiki-inspired escape to paradise awaits… in San Diego! 🙂


How to Spend 3 Days Exploring San Diego History and Heritage

Many travelers think of the East Coast as the home of U.S. history, but there’s plenty for history buffs to discover in San Diego, too! If you’re traveling with an eye to the past, try this three-day itinerary for stepping back in time to explore San Diego’s vibrant heritage.

Day 1: California’s Birthplace

Did you know that the first European explorer to discover California touched down in San Diego? The Cabrillo National Monument marks the site where explorer Juan Rodrguez Cabrillo first set foot in the state. A visit to the site is rewarded with panoramic views of the city, ocean and mountains.

A trip to the Cabrillo National Monument is worth it for the views alone.

A trip to the Cabrillo National Monument is worth it for the views alone.

From California’s birthplace, head to the first permanent settlement on the West Coast, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. This historic site is often referred to as San Diego’s first “downtown.” The park’s past comes alive every Wednesday and Saturday with Living History activities, including blacksmith demonstrations, quilting, soap making and other period-specific crafts.

Other Can’t-Miss Old Town experiences:

Day 2: The History of Downtown San Diego

Explore San Diego’s early days by heading to the historic Gaslamp Quarter, featuring 16 blocks of Victorian-era buildings. Make a stop at the William Heath Davis Historic House Museum, the Gaslamp Quarter’s oldest surviving structure. Built in 1850, the house is now home to the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation, where you can learn all about the district’s past.

gaslamp museum at the william heath davis house san diego

The William Heath Davis House welcomes guests, both normal and paranormal (legend says it’s haunted!).

If the seedier parts of downtown’s past intrigue you, sign up for the Brothels, Bites & Booze walking tour, or pop into a speakeasy like Prohibition or Noble Experiment that pays homage to San Diego’s “stingaree” days.

Day 3: San Diego’s Maritime Heritage

Being a city on the bay, the military and maritime industries have played a big role in San Diego’s history. Begin your exploration of maritime life at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, one of the world’s finest collections of historic ships, including the famous Star of India – the world’s oldest active tall ship.

maritime museum of san diego

The Star of India is one of the ships featured at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

After seeing the tall ships, head next door and step aboard the USS Midway, the longest-serving aircraft carrier in U.S. Navy history, is now home to a floating museum. See how hundreds of men lived below the decks, jump in a flight simulator or get up close to military aircraft aboard the ship’s flight deck.

USS Midway Museum

The USS Midway is an aircraft carrier turned museum.

Close out your day of maritime exploration with a trip to NTC at Liberty Station, a former Naval Training Center that is now a flagship civic, arts, and culture district. The “The Life of a Naval Training Center Recruit” and Point Loma Legacy exhibits offer one last learning opportunity before you relax with a beer at the nearby Stone Brewing Co. World Bistro & Gardens.

With so much history to explore in San Diego, you may need more than 3 days! But no matter what you choose to see while in town, there’s something for everyone to love in San Diego.

Robert Arends

San Diego’s East County is Music to Our Ears!

Taylor Guitar Factory in San Diego's East County

See music in the making on a tour of Taylor Guitars’ factory floor

Bet you didn’t know that three of the world’s most renowned musical instrument companies are headquartered in San Diego’s picturesque East County – in the cities of El Cajon and Spring Valley and small town of Mount Laguna.

Join me for a fine tuned tour of East County to discover where world-class guitars, banjos and harps are made:

Taylor Guitar Company

Rockin'! Taylor Guitars Factory Tour

Rockin’! Taylor Guitars Factory Tour in El Cajon

Our first stop is Taylor Guitar Company in El Cajon, a world-famous designer of top-line acoustic and electric guitars celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Taylor Guitars are played by some of the top musicians in rock and country music, including Neil Young and San Diego’s very own Jason Mraz. Visitors can take a free guided tour of the Taylor factory Monday through Friday at 1:00 PM.

Did you know: Taylor made 130,000 guitars in 2013!

Where: 1980 Gillespie Way, El Cajon, CA 92020
> Find out more about the Taylor Guitar Company Factory

Deering – The Great American Banjo Company

Taylor Swift playing a Deering Banjo

Taylor Swift playing a Deering Banjo

Nearby Spring Valley is home to Deering – The Great American Banjo Company, played by contemporary musicians like Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Mumford & Sons and even Steve Martin (who’s collaborating with Edie Brickell BTW on the world-premiere musical “Bright Star” at  The Old Globe theater in Balboa Park). Deering is the largest banjo manufacturer in the U.S., producing 10,000 of the sweet twanged musical instruments last year. Visitors can take a free Deering factory tour Tuesday through Friday at 1:00 PM. Call/email in advance to schedule a tour date: 1.800.845.7791, carolinabridges@deeringbanjos.com.

Did you know: Deering produces more than 80 banjo models, including their basic Goodtime banjo that sells for $499.

Where: 3733 Kenora Dr., Spring Valley, CA 91977
> Find out more about Deering – The Great American Banjo Company

Janet, Greg and Jamie Deering, founders of Deering Banjo Company

Janet, Greg and Jamie Deering, owners of Deering Banjo Company

(American Profile magazine recently featured Deering in their March issue.)

Robinson’s Harp Shop

Tucked away, high atop East County’s Mount Laguna – popular for hiking, camping and frolicking in the snow during the winter – is a world-renowned music marvel most San Diegans don’t know about: Robinson’s Harp Shop. Since 1967 this harp string manufacturer, housed in a cabin near the town’s general store, has been sending custom-made strings to loyal customers around the world. There aren’t any visitor tours, as it’s a low-profile, five-person operation that makes the most of its time to produce 150,000 handmade harp strings per year. But Laguna is lovely to visit any time of year…Check out my camping blog, featuring Laguna’s pristine alpine wilderness.

Did you know: Robinson’s is one of only four such harp shops in the U.S., and three of those are related to each other!

> Find out more about Robinson’s Harp Shop

See you in East County where wonders like these never cease!

Brent Bernasconi

San Diego Brewery Tour – 3 Beer Stops with Brew Hop

Toasting the Groom - Societe Brewing Co.

You know the drill: boy falls in love with girl, boy asks girl to marry him, girl says yes(!), boy asks best friend to plan his bachelor party, best friend decides to book a guys weekend including: a bungalow at The Lafayette, Cards Against Humanity and a brewery tour.

There are plenty of good reasons to book a brewery tour when visiting San Diego: a designated driver, behind the scenes access to the brewery, a knowledgeable tour guide who will select beers based on individual tastes, and of course, plenty of beer samples to be enjoyed with friends. Even Greg Koch of Stone Brewing Co. knows the value of a great brewery tour:

Setting Up The Brewery Tour

I called up Summer at Brew Hop to set up the bachelor party brewery tour. With more than 80 breweries throughout the county, it can be hard to narrow it down to just 3 stops. Thankfully, Summer spent a good amount of time with me working out the perfect schedule. I really wanted to make Societe Brewing a stop along with Ballast Point Scripps Ranch/Old Grove since the groom’s brother lived in that area. We finally decided on a route that optimized our time and included 3 great San Diego breweries: Societe, Ballast Point and Helm’s.

3 Amazing Beer Stops

Want to make the groom (and the groomsmen) feel like a VIP? Just have Summer pull up in the luxurious Brew Hop Escalade with a cold beer waiting for him inside. The six of us loaded ourselves into the SUV, took heed of the safety and decorum speech (you are on the tour to have fun, not be a drunken jerk) and headed off to our first stop.

Societe Brewing Co.

Toasting the Groom - Societe Brewing Co.

Toasting the groom while enjoying amazing beer from Societe Brewing Co.

It did not take long for Societe to become one of San Diego’s most popular breweries. It’s head brewers Travis Smith and Doug Constantiner spend most of their time focusing on perfecting their good ol’ fashioned house beers. You won’t find any crazy concoctions here, just delicious and flavorful classic brews.

We pulled up to one of the tables and Summer brought forth plenty of samples based on individual tastes ranging from IPAs, to ales to stouts. After a few tasters, we had the chance to go behind the scenes to tour the brewery and learn about the brewing process while still enjoying their amazing brews.

Brewery Tour with Summer of Brew Hop

Getting the lowdown on Societe’s brewery with Summer from Brew Hop

The big question when leaving Societe is are you on #TeamApprentice or #TeamPupil?

Where: 8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92111
> Find out more about Societe Brewing Co.

Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits – Scripps Ranch/Old Grove

Two Thumbs Up - Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits - Old Grove

We give Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits Two Thumbs Up

Ballast Point is a San Diego beer institution. If you have never had a Sculpin IPA, you need to rush out and find one. You can thank me later!

Summer knew that since our party comprised of all local boys and the we had had our fair share of Ballast Point beers, she selected some of the more interesting brews included a few spicy/chili-infused beers. One of the aspects that makes San Diego beers so interesting is the experimentation that brewers are willing to try with spices and even peanut butter (check out Karl Strauss’ Beer Week special release).

Since the place was packed we were unable to take a tour of the brewery but that was just fine since we still had plenty of samples to try before moving onto the last stop.

If you are also into craft spirits, Ballast Point offers daily tastings at the Old Grove location.

Where: 10051 Old Grove Rd, San Diego, CA 92131
> Find out more about Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits

Helm’s Brewing Co.

In Helm's Brewing Freezer with Brew Hop

Our last stop was Helm’s Brewing and we took a few minutes to check out the freezer…since it was so hot outside!

Our final stop on the brewery tour took us to one of San Diego’s newer breweries, Helm’s Brewing Co. There I discovered the amazing Hop the RIPA, a red India Pale Ale, and the seasonal Samuin Harvest, a spiced beer that tasted like autumn (trust me on this one).

Since we were with Brew Hop, one of the owners stopped by to say hello and spent some time chatting with us about the brewery and the business behind running one. It was fascinating to learn what it took to go from home brewing in a garage to a fully armed and operational brewery.

Where: 5640 Kearny Mesa Rd. Suite C/N, San Diego, CA, 92111
> Find out more about Helm’s Brewing Co.

As we headed back to the bungalow in North Park, we enjoyed our slight giddiness by trying to decide the best beer of the day. Of course, we could not choose a winner since we each have different tastes. For one friend it was “The Butcher” at Societe, for another it was Ballast Point Black Marlin with Chipotle, for me it was Hop the RIPA.

However, that’s the beauty of a brewery tour, everyone will find a beer they enjoy all while having a great time. So what are you waiting for? Book your brewery tour today and explore San Diego’s Craft Beer!

> Check out all my photos from the brewery tour with Brew Hop

Brew Hop Information

Phone: 858.361.8457
Email: info@brewhop.com
Cost: $75-$169 per person as of April 2014
> Find out more about Brew Hop

Other brewery tour companies include Brewery Tours of San Diego and San Diego Beer and Wine Tours.

> Read about my Beer Train Tour with SD Beer and Wine Tours.

To top things off, a contest winner took the brewery tour right before ours! Make sure you follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to never miss another chance to win a San Diego prize package.

Robert Arends

Resort to Fun with Outdoor Activities in Coronado this Spring!

Coronado Beach
Coronado Beach

Spring over to Coronado Beach, the #1 beach in America

Spring is just around the corner (March 20) and with the weather warming up, now is a perfect time to plan your Spring Break and discover the great outdoors of Coronado Island!

With miles of beaches and coastline on the sparkling Pacific and San Diego Bay, there are countless options for fun in the water including surfing, sailing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding and more.  On land, the “Crown City” has just as much to offer: bicycling, inline skating, golf, tennis… and the list goes on.

Here are my top picks of things to do at Coronado’s big four fab resorts and hotels where outdoor activities abound:

The Gondola Company near Loews Coronado Bay Resort

The Gondola Company near Loews Coronado Bay Resort

Loews Coronado Bay Resort was made for play and enjoys the best of both watery worlds, situated on a peninsula on San Diego Bay just steps from Silver Strand State Beach and the ocean. Fun ways to soak in the sun include swimming in three pools (including one for adults only), surfing, sailing, kayaking, bicycling, rollerblading, cool interactive nature tours of the Silver Strand (a pristine preserve of rare plants, animals and birds) and tours of the resort’s herb garden.

Did you know: Just down the road from Loews, The Gondola Company offers enchanting cruises on authentic Venetian gondolas!

Flamingos, finches and ducks - oh my! - at the Coronado Island Marriott

Flamingos, finches and ducks – oh my! – at the Coronado Island Marriott

I recently stayed at Coronado Island Marriott Resort where surprising outdoor finds made for quite a memorable visit, especially the aviary of finches, a flock of pink flamingos and families of ducks wading in ponds; photo opps galore! There’s also bicycling along beautiful bay-side paths, tennis and swimming/sunbathing in three pools. The resort even has its own private pier where you can take a water taxi across the bay to downtown San Diego.

Kayak Under the Coronado Bridge

Coronado Kayak Tour

Did you know: At the nearby Coronado Ferry Landing, the new Coronado Kayak Tour is San Diego’s only urban kayaking adventure, and glides under the iconic blue arch of the Coronado Bridge!

The landmark Hotel del Coronado is a grand playground to explore with recreational options that take full advantage of its location on the #1 beach in America.  There’s yoga on the beach, beach volleyball and beach rentals including boogie boards, surfboards and beach cruisers from PeDels (gotta love the name!). At night, s’mores on the beach is a sweet way to end the day.

Did you know: The Del’s tide break of giant boulders is a great spot to explore tidepools teeming with marine life.

Fore! at Coronado Golf Course

Fore! at Coronado Golf Course

The charming Glorietta Bay Inn is in a prime location overlooking Glorietta Bay, home to the Coronado Boathouse where sailboat, speedboat, water ski, jet ski, paddleboat and kayak rentals are available. The Inn is also just down the street from the Coronado Tennis Center (8 courts) and scenic Coronado Golf Course. Golfers will love Glorietta Bay Inn’s new Golf Play & Stay package which includes one round of golf and a golf cart.

Did you know: On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Coronado Touring offers fascinating historic walking tours of downtown Coronado, departing from the Glorietta Bay Inn.

Happy Spring (almost)…See you in Coronado!

Guest Blogger

A Day of La Bella Vita in San Diego’s Little Italy

La Pensione Hotel in Little Italy

Little Italy is San Diego’s charismatic slice of Italy’s modern style and old-world sensibility. Most importantly, it’s a place that holds a special place in the hearts of most San Diegans.

Just ask any local and they’ll sigh and say how much they love to love Little Italy.

Little wonder. Hours spent in Little Italy are the closest you can get to the nonchalant la bella vita that Italians are masters in.

Walk past a circle of old men conversing in rapid Italian, stroll past mom’n’pop shops while nibbling a cup of gelato, sip your espresso at an outdoor café, duck into an Italian wine bar lit up by candlelight, or simply eat your way silly through the seemingly endless options of Italian and fusion restaurants.

In Little Italy, you can act as if there are no deadlines to meet, no schedule to abide by. Little Italy is the cosmopolitan side of San Diego’s famed easy-going lifestyle.

What makes this neighborhood even better? It’s literally steps from the glistening waters of San Diego Bay, for even more strolling and sweet living.

What’s my dream day exploring Little Italy and San Diego Bay?

Read on:

Rise and Shine, Italian-style

Caffe Italia - San Diego Food Finds

Start off the morning in Little Italy with some caffeine from Caffe Italia. Photo courtesy of San Diego Food Finds

Do as the Italians do and make a beeline from your bed to the neighborhood café to get your morning cappuccino. Locals start off their morning at Caffé Italia, directly underneath the blazing ‘Little Italy’ sign that arches over the neighborhood. Here you’ll find an espresso bar with a robust collection of coffee, cappuccino, espresso, as well as paninis, salads, and desserts. One side of their intimate café space is full of windows, which tempts you to lose hours just people-watching. Trust me, I’ve done it before. One tip: For now, they only accept cash, so be prepared.

Set Sail

Whalewatching from The America Yacht, San Diego

Explore the waters of San Diego aboard the America from Next Level Sailing

Next, get into the water. While the closest beach to downtown San Diego and Little Italy is about a 15 minute drive away, no one here seems to care because the stunning San Diego Bay is just three blocks down.

Besides, there are bigger adventures to be had in the bay. One of the coolest of them are the sails or sailboat races with Next Level Sailing, San Diego’s only outfitter boasting two racing yachts used in the America’s Cup races. In other words, they do more than sails and tours. They do thrills. Right now, they’re running whale watching adventures aboard the AMERICA, a gorgeous 139-foot replica of the 1851 champion sailing vessel that inspired the America’s Cup. Just sailing with them will be enough to write home about.

Ciao Down in Little Italy

Davanti Enoteca - TheRepublika.com

Sample the rustic cuisine of the Italian countryside at Davanti Enoteca

The biggest draw of Little Italy is also its tastiest. This quaint neighborhood is packed corner to corner with restaurants serving up everything from pasta, pizza, gourmet cheese, paninis, gelato, steak, seafood…and even more pasta and pizza. Not up for Italian?

A marvelous mix of global cuisines have made its way here, too. You’ll find trendy Japanese ramen, out-of-this-world Oaxacan entrées, and modern, home-cooked New Zealand food in between wine bars and brew pubs. Choosing a restaurant is probably the biggest decision you’ll have to make when you’re in Little Italy, so here’s one recommendation. One of my personal favorites is Davanti Enoteca, where you’ll dish on rustic cuisine you’d expect to have in the Italian countryside. The interiors are just as delicious as their food. With exposed rustic brick walls, re-purposed wood, and an expansive tree-shaded patio, you’ll feel like you’re eating out of a rural cottage in Italy – albeit a lively one.

Sleep Over

La Pensione Hotel in Little Italy

Stay in the heart of Little Italy at La Pensione Hotel

If, and when, you contently fall into a food coma, sink into the sumptuous beds at Little Italy’s La Pensione Hotel. This boutique hotel is this area’s hard-to-miss icon, right in the middle of the neighborhood. Perfect for urban explorers who love being in the center of it all (which I do), this hotel is brimming with rich character and a chic, modern design.

La Pensione is a triple threat – with a lovely look, impeccable location, and near-perfect pricetag, with rates that are consistently some of the best in town. The hotel has been likened to the treasure trove of affordable European hotels dotting cosmopolitan cities like Milan, Rome and Paris. After spending a blissful night here, you’ll wake up surrounded by the bustling streets of Little Italy, with the smell of espresso and no deadline to rush up for, feeling more Italian than ever.

What’s your favorite part/thing/place in Little Italy?

Junvi OlaJunvi Ola is a well-traveled globetrekker. Her luggage wheels have tracked their way from the cobblestone streets of Ljubljana, Slovenia to the pristine mountains of Whistler, B.C and is lucky enough to make San Diego her home base. You can follower her on Twitter at @DiegoOnADime.

Brent Bernasconi

14 New and Different Things to Try in San Diego in 2014

Flagship Patriot Jet Boat Tour

Happy New Year! During your next visit, you will still be able to enjoy San Diego’s amazing weather (it’s in the 70s as I am writing this) and gorgeous beaches all while checking out these 14 things to try in 2014:

1. Explore San Diego’s Breweries

San Diego Breweries

Sample San Diego’s best beers straight from the source with a brewery visit

With over 80 breweries currently operating and 30 more in the works, it can be a challenge to visit all of them. Of course, the best way to sample San Diego’s award-winning beers is to visit the breweries themselves. If you want to visit a few and enjoy many samples, take advantage of a built-in Designated Driver on a brewery tour offered by Brew Hop, Brewery Tours of San Diego, and San Diego Beer & Wine Tours.

Since San Diego’s beers are so delicious, please remember to drink responsibly.

> Sample more of San Diego’s Craft Beer Scene

2. Discover Something New at a Museum Exhibition

Real Pirates at the San Diego Natural History Museum

There are chests full of golden knowledge to be found at new exhibitions like Real Pirates at theNAT

In 2014, museums throughout San Diego will be hosting new and exciting exhibitions. Just a few include Real Pirates at theNATGUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center,  Tattoos & Scrimshaw, the Art of the Sailor at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, and BEERology: Craft, Culture, and Civilization at the San Diego Museum of Man.

> Discover more new exhibitions at museums throughout San Diego

3. Tull Family Tiger Trail at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Tull Family Tiger Trail Rendition - San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Rendition of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s upcoming Tull Family Tiger Trail

A forested habitat providing a new home for the Safari Park’s Sumatran tigers, a critically endangered species, Tiger Trail offers up-close views of the fascinating felines and highlights conservation efforts for the species. The five-acre exhibit includes three separate yards with rocks for climbing, ponds for swimming, deadwood trees to use as scratching posts and long grasses for catnaps.

Where: 15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd, Escondido, CA 92027
When: Opening Memorial Day Weekend 2014
Cost: Included with admission
> Visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

4. LEGO® Legends of Chima Water Park

LEGOLAND California's Legend of Chima Water Park

Based on the popular LEGO set “Legends of Chima,” the new three-acre addition to LEGOLAND Water Park will feature an interactive wave pool designed for families with young children; an iconic 30-foot tall floating “Mount Cavora;” Cragger’s Swamp is a hands-on water play area featuring water slides, water cannons and jets, and a slide through the head of a massive crocodile; Eglor’s Build-A-Boat gives young guests the opportunity to build their own boat and learn how to change the currents, build and dodge obstacles and race against their friends; and a dining area called Wolves’ Cantina.

Where: One LEGOLAND Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Opening Summer 2014
Cost: Included with water park admission
> Visit LEGOLAND California Resort

5. SeaWorld’s 50th Anniversary

SeaWorld San Diego's 50th Anniversary

A Sea of Surprises awaits at SeaWorld San Diego! SeaWorld will celebrate their 50th year (and they look so young) with the Surprise Squad handing out prizes to random guests, new roaming entertainment including a bubble lab and even more meet-and-greets with some of the animal-ambassadors throughout the park.

Where: 500 SeaWorld Dr, San Diego, CA 92109
When: Starts in March 2014
Cost: Included with admission
> Visit SeaWorld San Diego

6. Explore the Pan-Asian Foods of San Diego

There’s much more to San Diego’s dining scene than fish tacos and California burritos. San Diego is also home to amazing restaurants highlighting foods and dishes from across Asia:

  • Korean/Pan-Asian – The new Zion Market in Clairemont Mesa started out as a Korean market but is now a foodies dream with a pan-asian supermarket and food court (there’s even a French bakery just for fun).
  • Vietnamese – Taste delicious Vietnamese dishes at over 10 restaurants in San Diego’s Little Saigon, a six-block stretch along El Cajon Boulevard from Highland to Euclid.
  • Filipino – Head a few miles south to Little Manila on Plaza Boulevard in National City for amazing Filipino restaurants like Manila Sunset, Tita’s Kitchenette and Goldilocks Bakeshop.
  • Indian – From exotic spices to delicious curries, Little India on Black Mountain Road is a spice lovers dream.

Darn it, now I am hungry! 🙂

7. Lakeside Rodeo turns 50

Lakeside Rodeo in San Diego's East County

Three days of Bareback bronco rides, calf roping and other traditional rodeo competitions at the Lakeside Rodeo

Break out the boots and put on your favorite cowboy hat for the Lakeside Rodeo’s 50th Anniversary! Since 1964, the El Capitan Stadium Association has brought top rodeo talent and entertainment to San Diego’s East County to put on a world-class rodeo all while raising funds for the local schools.

Where: 12584 Mapleview St., Lakeside, CA 92040
When: April 25-27, 2014
Cost: $5-$250
> Find out more about the Lakeside Rodeo

8. Taumata Racer® at Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark

Taumata Racer at Aquatica, SeaWorld's Waterpark

Are you brave enough to slide down Aquatica’s newest water slide, Taumata Racer?

Are you ready?! Taumata Racer, the new slide at Aquatica, will zoom riders down a 375-foot slide, around a 180-degree swooping turn, and in and out of tunnels before racing them across the finish line. This head-first mat-racer water slide is a unique blend of competitive racing and high-speed thrills, featuring six side-by-side lanes. After that adrenaline rush, you might want to spend a few minutes in the lazy river and calm down!

Where: 2052 Entertainment Circle, Chula Vista, CA 91911
When: Summer 2014
Cost: Included with admission
> Visit Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark

9. The Need for Speed on San Diego Bay

Flagship Patriot Jet Boat Tour

Speed across San Diego Bay aboard a jet powered boat like Flagship’s Patriot

Fulfill that need for speed with massive 1,400 HP engines propelling you over San Diego Bay at very high speeds! A ride aboard Flagship’s Patriot will take your breath away with amazing views of San Diego and 360-degree hairpin turns. Or, hop aboard Speed Boat Adventure’s Sea Rocket for a thrilling tour, blaring music and a ton of fun. A word of warning to thrill chasers – Watch out, you will get wet!

10. Jetpacks

Flying over Mission Bay with Jetpack America

Taking off over the waters of Mission Bay with Jetpack America

Live on the edge and soar up to 30 feet above Mission Bay with a water-powered jetpack from Jetpack America! Within minutes, you can learn all the basics of jetpack flight, such as take-off, landing, elevation control, turning and hovering. I took a flight a few months ago and it was amazing!

Where: 1010 Santa Clara Place, San Diego, CA 92109
Cost: $159-$549
> Find out more about Jetpack America

11. Bike San Diego

Girls Biking on Mission Beach

From the Beach to the Mountains, San Diego offers plenty of ways to explore on two wheels

Whether on a beach cruiser or a 24-speed, San Diego’s year-round beautiful weather makes it an amazing city for a bike ride. Explore the city with paths along San Diego Bay, Mission Bay and Ocean Beach. Up for a challenge, try the 24 mile Bayshore Bikeway.

In early 2014, the City of San Diego and Deco Bikes will install the first of many bike sharing locations throughout the downtown area. Once the stations are ready, visitors and locals will be able to quickly move around the city on two wheels.

Please Note: California law requires anyone under the age of 18 to wear a helmet when on a bicycle. It is also recommended for adults to wear a helmet when riding in the city.

> Explore San Diego on Two Wheels

12. Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Wizard of OZ Week

Wizard of Oz

Coronado is gearing up for its premier Wizard of Oz week, August 1-10, 2013 being held in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the Wizard of Oz movie and 50th anniversary of Winkie Con at the Town & Country Resort. There will be Wizard of Oz walking tours of Coronado, Oz film screenings and storytelling, an exhibition of Oz memorabilia, Wizard of Oz character costume contests and more.

Did you know: Author L. Frank Baum lived in Coronado and wrote three of his famous Oz books on the island; the Hotel del Coronado was his inspiration for the Emerald City!

13. Without Walls Festival

KAMCHATKA at La Jolla Shores

Art breaks out of it’s four walls and into the most amazing settings during the Without Walls Festival

After a successful first year in 2013, the Without Walls (Wow) Festival will return in 2014 with over 20 theatre and art performances by local, national and international artists brought together by Festival founder La Jolla Playhouse and partners UC San Diego, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) and The New Children’s Museum.

When: Fall 2014
> Find out more about the Without Walls Festival

14. Del Mar Races in November?!

Del Mar Races Trumpeter

Hear the First Call Twice at Del Mar Racetrack in 2014

Up until last year, Del Mar Racetrack only held races from mid-July through early September. However, with the close of the Hollywood Park, Del Mar will have a second season this year in November. Now you have two opportunities to wear a fancy hat on opening day!

> Start Planing Your San Diego Vacation at SanDiego.org

Have something you’re looking forward to seeing and/or doing in San Diego during 2014? Let us and others know in the comments below.

Sarah Weinberg

Spout Time – Whale Watching Season Starts Again in San Diego

One of the benefits of living in San Diego is the easy access to viewing marine life. A short trip to the beach can result in dolphin-spotting on any given day. The Children’s Pool in La Jolla has the seals lounging on the beach and playing in the waves, and there are ample opportunities, ranging from free to fancy, to view the sea’s gentle giants: whales.

If you're lucky, you can spot a whale breaching the surface along the San Diego coastline.

If you’re lucky, you can spot a whale breaching the surface along the San Diego coastline.

Visitors to San Diego are fortunate enough to spot whales from land and sea. Whale watching season traditionally occurs from December through April when California gray whales journey from the chilly Alaskan seas to the warm water lagoons of Baja California. It’s a majestic sight to see the world’s largest mammals cutting through the water and making their way south, but there are also other species of whales and dolphins that are equally as stunning that can be seen year round in San Diego. Several whale watching companies have expanded their range of sea outings, and visitors now have the unique opportunity to glimpse all types of marine life year-round on cruises out of San Diego’s harbors.

In the fall and summer months, whale watching excursions also tout the opportunity to see humpback, fin and minke whales, along with frequent year-round sightings of bottlenose, pacific white-sided and common dolphins.

Depending on how much time you have, how sturdy your sea legs and how flush your budget, there’s a San Diego whale watching experience for everyone.

Take a ride with Flagship Harbor Excursions and sail the ocean blue in search of whales.

Take a ride with Flagship Harbor Excursions and sail the ocean blue in search of whales.

Land Lubbers can spot whales with binoculars (or great eyesight) from coastal high points like Cabrillo National Monument, located on the panoramic Point Loma peninsula, Torrey Pines State Reserve or from the Birch Aquarium at Scripps‘ outdoor tide-pool plaza, overlooking La Jolla’s shoreline and offering an excellent vantage point for viewing the gray whale’s epic journey.

If you want to set sail to try to get up close and personal with whales, there are a variety of options from regularly scheduled public cruises to private yachts and sailboat charters, to an authentic 25-ft. Navy SEAL Rigid Inflatable Boat for a group of 6 to a single-seat kayak tour.

Daily Whale Watching Excursions (December – April)

Hornblower Cruises and Events has new tour for blue whale watching in July and August.

Hornblower Cruises and Events has new tour for blue whale watching in July and August.

  • Next Level Sailing and the Maritime Museum of San Diego are offering a unique whale watching experience aboard the yacht America, a historic replica of the world’s first America’s Cup winner.
  • The Birch Aquarium at Scripps partner with Flagship Cruises & Events to venture out on twice-daily public cruises from San Diego Bay to locate gray whales.
  • Hornblower Cruises and Events offers 3.5-hour deluxe whale watching adventure cruises in partnership with the San Diego Natural History Museum. Hornblower just added a Blue Whale Watching tour on weekends in July and August.
  • Throughout the year, H&M Landing offers several whale-watching and marine-adventure excursions.
  • San Diego Whale Watch offers year-round whale watching excursions boarding from Seaforth Landing aboard The Privateer, a unique boat built specifically for whale watching.
  • Sail San Diego offers daily whale watching excursions aboard three sleek 40-ft. Catalina boats.
  • Captain Rod Jones’s Fun Cat Sailing Catamaran Adventures offers small group catamaran tours exploring San Diego’s beautiful ocean and bay in search of whales and other marine life.
  • San Diego Sailing Tours offer daily public whale watching tours as well as private charters from San Diego Bay to the open sea.

Set Sail Like Thurston Howel the 3rd

L&L City San Diego Sailing Tours courtesy Adam Feuerman Creative Cont

San Diego Sailing Tours offers two classic sailing yachts, the vintage 1967 Lei Lani and the Lora Lei, built-in California in 1991.

  • San Diego Boat Tours offers several private charter boats for you to reserve and design your own tour experience.
  • Seven Seas Adventures offers a large fleet of catamarans and monohulls for private charter from 3-hour cruises to overnight adventures at sea.
  • Adventuress Luxury Catamaran is a 60-foot yacht that can accommodate up to 48 guests, has a 75 bottle wine locker and is available exclusively for private charter.

Going Ahab Style

The six-passenger Rigid Inflatable Boat--RIB Ride--tour can get extremely close to marine life and are easily maneuverable around the whales.

The six-passenger Rigid Inflatable Boat – RIB Ride – tour can get extremely close to marine life and are easily maneuverable around the whales.

For the truly adventurous seeker of whales, take a RIB ride or try paddling out on a tour with one of La Jolla Shores kayak rental companies and get close enough to see if the giants are really that gentle up close.

  • Everyday California (formerly OEX Dive & Kayak La Jolla) offers a 2-hour whale watching kayak tour that allows guests to paddle within 40 feet of gray whales, seals and sea lions.
  • Experience a thrilling whale and dolphin watching excursion year-round aboard an authentic 25-ft. Navy SEAL Rigid Inflatable Boat (R.I.B.) with Adventure RIB Rides.
  • La Jolla Kayak provides close encounters with gray whales and other marine life including sea lions, garibaldi and leopard sharks.
  • Hike Bike Kayak offers three-hour whale watching tours through the La Jolla Ecological Reserve near La Jolla Shores.

What’s your favorite place in San Diego to spot a spout?


Top Things to Do in San Diego: Nov. 12 – 17, 2013

dr. seuss how the grinch stole christmas old globe theater san diego

Enjoy a children’s classic come to life, take a private wine tour, or shop for some vintage wares this week in San Diego.

Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas Opens at the Old Globe

dr. seuss how the grinch stole christmas old globe theater san diego

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! opens at the Old Globe Theatre this weekend.

The Old Globe Theatre kicks off its holiday season on Saturday, November 16th, with a top notch stage production of Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  In San Diego, we take our Dr. Seuss seriously – which is why this whimsical musical has been dazzling local school children and families for nearly 16 years.  Suitable for ages 5+.

Where: 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA 92101
When: Nov 16, 2013 – Dec 28, 2013
Time: Various (11:00 am matinees open to all ages)
Cost: $27-57
>Find out more about Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! at the Old Globe.

San Diego Wine Country Chauffeured Tours

San Diego winery tours

Experience San Diego’s beautiful vineyards up close on a personalized tour.

Take a six-hour guided tour of local wineries with San Diego Beer & Wine Tours, starting with pick-up and drop off right at your door (home or hotel). The guided tour includes visiting three family-owned wineries and indulging in more than 18 tastes from off the beaten path wineries. Meals include a fruit and cheese platter at the first winery and a dinner with spectacular vineyard views at the final destination.

Where: Door to door service
When:  Friday, Saturday or Sunday, November 15-17
Time: 11:00 a.m. pick up – 6:00 p.m. drop off
Cost: $154 (tour guide gratuity not included)
>Find out more about San Diego Beer & Wine Tours 

High Tide Breakfast Buffet at the Marine Room

The delectable breakfast offerings include banana chocolate brioche French toast, poached eggs Florentine and hickory smoked Pacific salmon (just to name a few items), but what makes this breakfast truly special is watching the waves of the Pacific Ocean crash up against the Marine Room’s giant picture windows.

Where: 2000 Spindrift Dr., La Jolla, CA 92037
When:  Saturday and Sunday, November 16 and 17
Time: 7:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Cost: $34 per person
>Find out more about High Tide Breakfast at the Marine Room

TNT (Thursday Night Thing) at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

MIHO Gastrotruck at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego TNT

Grab a bite from MIHO Gastrotruck at TNT at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Part cocktail party, part concert and part art exhibition, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego‘s TNT after-hours series proves that museums don’t have to be boring. Stop by the museum’s downtown location for tours, art-making activities, live music from Family Wagon, tasty cocktails, and delicious bites from MIHO Gastrotruck.

Where: 1100 & 1001 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92101
When:  Thursday, November 14
Time: 7:00 – 10:00 p.m.
Cost: Free for museum members, $8 for students, $10 for non-members
>Find out more about TNT at the Museum of Conteporary Art San Diego

Del Mar Antique Show & Sale

Del Mar Antique Show and Sale San Diego 2013

Antiques of all sorts can be found at the Del Mar Antique Show & Sale

Celebrating its 53rd year at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, this three-day event for antique lovers features everything from furniture to fine art and vintage clothing and jewelry. The weekend also features a Costume Walkabout: this year’s theme is “A Day in the Fabled Land of Bollywood.”

Where: 1100 & 1001 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92101
When:  Friday – Sunday, November 15 – 17
Time: 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Friday & Saturday), 11:00 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $8 for adults for all three days, free for children
>Find out more about the Del Mar Antique Show & Sale

More Top Things to Do in San Diego

Browse the Event Calendar

What will you be doing in San Diego this week? Let us know in the comments below.