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San Diego - City with Sol

Posted: March 30, 2011 - 7:20am

San Diego

A city with sol

By Courtney Nelson

San Diego is my birthplace. With such beautiful weather, the city has adopted the motto “City of Sol.” It’s also home to over 3 million and is the eighth largest city in the United States.

San Diego proper and North County are all accessible from the main artery the Interstate 5 freeway and the beaches can be accessed from Highway 101. Some of my family still lives nearby in Cardiff, so I asked my cousin and her daughter to share favorite local hot spots for all ages.

Susie Nancarrow, 47, San
Diego picks in North County

• For families traveling with babies and toddlers, Susie recommends LEGOLAND in Carlsbad.

• Powerhouse Park in nearby Del Mar offers a full playground on the water and is within walking distance to a great indoor and outdoor dining and shopping area at the Del Mar Plaza.

• Susie thinks families, especially with elementary age kids and tweens, will enjoy low tide at Swamis Beach in North County, Encinitas. It’s also a huge surfing spot and Swamis is just west of Interstate 5.

• Hiking at Torrey Pines State Beach offers trails down to the shore.

• Walk around downtown Encinitas and visit two cool stores, Flashbacks and Home.

• Water parks are in Vista and San Diego.

• Families with teens might visit San Diego State University and California State University San Marcos if they are looking for colleges.

• VG’s Donuts at Cardiff by the Sea is worth a visit, and Good Morning is a funky store in the same shopping center.

• Active families with teens should visit Yoga Tropics, a hot yoga studio in Encinitas, or Haute Yoga in Solana Beach. There are also surfing schools in the area; Susie recommends Kahuna Bob’s in Encinitas.

• Families, teens and couples should enjoy La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas, an old theater built in the 1920s that features small movies and a funky environment.

• There’s a flea market in downtown Encinitas on Saturdays and Sundays and there are great restaurants all along Highway 101 in Encinitas.

• Susie shared a local secret, a gourmet “snack shack” called Bull Taco, located in the San Elijo Campground in Cardiff by the Sea offering great food, a casual environment, reasonable prices and proximity to the ocean.

• Couples on date night should visit The Belly Up, a great music venue on Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach. Cedros Avenue also has great boutiques on one long block. Other notable shopping areas are the Del Mar Plaza in Del Mar, Carlsbad Outlets and downtown Carlsbad.

Hannah Nancarrow, 22, local recommendations

• Hannah, a student at San Diego State, says she loves the Self Realization Fellowship Meditation Gardens because they’re so beautiful and calm. “Koi ponds and flora for days,” and a wandering path leads to a breathtaking ocean overlook.

• Pacific Beach is a young, fun beach community with tons of bars and restaurants. Hannah thinks Crystal Pier and the small breakfast place right next to it, Kono’s, are the hottest spots. She says Kono’s is “inexpensive and has amazing omelets and oceanfront seating.”

• The Cardiff Kook is a statue in Cardiff, formally named “the magic carpet ride,” and it’s been the target of practical jokes and costumes almost daily becoming a local symbol of surf culture.

• “I love Mission Bay,” says Hannah. Bike, skate, roller blade or walk the path that traces the coast of the bay. It’s usually un-crowded and it goes for miles with views of sailboats and the ocean. The bay has no big waves so it’s “perfect for kids because it has a big park and play structures along the beach.”

• Hannah also recommends The Black, a famous smoke shop “that smells like hemp and patchouli from 200 yards away,” she says. The shop features “amazing tapestries, handmade greeting cards and candles by local artists, plus funky jewelry. It’s walking distance to the local pier and an assortment of bars.”

Courtney Nelson’s picks

I need to add the following more mainstream attractions:

• The San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park are legendary and great for kids. You can also get lost in nearby Balboa Park for days, as well as the San Diego’s Museum of Natural History.

• Old Town, located in downtown San Diego, is great for feeling like you have stepped into Mexico. You can also drive an hour south on Interstate 5 and visit Tijuana, if you dare. Prepare for a long wait getting back across the border.

• The Hotel del Coronado on Coronado Island is another fancy spot across the bridge out of downtown San Diego. The room rates are really steep; consider getting an inexpensive room nearby and then strolling the hotel grounds with an umbrella drink and an attitude.

• La Jolla is another must-see in my opinion, but this is where I was born so I am a little biased. I spent most of childhood summers swimming and snorkeling in the La Jolla cove, a small sand beach protected by a low crescent-shaped cliff. If you are a strong ocean swimmer you can swim out to the buoys that are placed at a quarter mile and half-mile distances. Kelp beds will get thick there and brushing kelp leaves might spook swimmers afraid of sharks. The last great white shark attack off the San Diego coast happened in April 2008.

• My advice is to find a place to stay that’s within walking distance to the beach so you don’t have to drive as much. When you do drive, allow time to find parking and fight traffic along the coast. Most importantly, enjoy the sun.

• Courtney Nelson is a frequent traveler with small children and can be reached at nelsonfamily@acsalaska.net.

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