Just got back from San Diego (Sun - Fri trip). We stayed at the Days Inn Hotel Circle. We rented a car from Alamo. Usually, a trip has its distinct ups and downs; but this trip went well the whole way, except for the scare at the airport in Wichita. Being the overly-careful guy that I am, I requested an ID check at the door before leaving the house for the airport. I checked my wallet to make sure my driver's license was still there. My kid produced her license. My wife scoffed at me and grumpily said it was in her purse. My wife gets annoyed with all this check and re-check stuff that I do at times, so I didn't press her for her license. Sooooo (and I think you know where we're going with this) we get to the airline counter, and guess what, my wife can't find her license. We just about fainted. She just about dumped the contents of her purse on the counter, and she couldn't find it. Unbelievably, they let her through with her library card (who the hell has a library card, and why does THAT work as an ID?). We lucked out, but we were shaken, and we were also wondering if someone down the line would stop us. No one did (again, unbelievably), so we made it. But, we weren't going to take chances on the way back. We had someone get into our house and safe and send my wife's passport overnight to the hotel. Since coming home, we've torn the house apart looking for the driver's license, and can't find it. Guess what we're doing on Monday?
The Days Inn is an okay place to stay, but I would recommend a room on the third floor, which is where we stayed. The amount of "thumping" noises from car doors and room doors slamming is amazing; and then there are vibrations that one can feel as people walk around the place. If we had been on the first or second floor it would have been worse. Strangely, we did not get any noise from people talking or a television. After two days of staying there, I put earplugs in for sleeping purposes (it worked). The room itself is nice enough. We had a little kitchenette set-up in the room, and the refrigerator, in particular, came in handy as we shopped some for breakfast items (orange juice, milk, donuts, yogurt). There's a coffeemaker. So, we saved some dough by eating breakfast in the room. Free USA Today papers are available in the office. We're glad we stayed at the Days Inn, but I could see where a bad stay is possible due to the noise factor. The hotel circle area, by the way, is convenient to the highway (Rte 8) that passes right by. It is also convenient to Rte 163 that goes south into Balboa Park. Rte 163 is a must drive, and we travelled on it quite frequently. Very hilly, winding, and scenic. Lots of foliage.
During our stay, we made two trips each to Coronado and LaJolla. We liked the ritzy atmosphere, and we walked along the beach and stopped in the shops. Of course, we stopped into the Hotel Del Coronado. For such a famous hotel, I was surprised how freely one could walk around as a visitor. We enjoyed wandering the grounds, sitting on a bench and watching the ocean, and generally soaking up the atmosphere. It struck me that there really isn't a compelling reason to actually stay there since you can eat and drink there and wander the grounds at will. The pool is nothing special, although the tennis court area is first rate. The beach in front of the hotel is public. I took note of the parking rates at the hotel ($5/hr for visitors; $18/day for hotel guests). We circumvented all parking charges at both Coronado and LaJolla by simply parking on a street several blocks away from the main action. As a matter of fact, we only coughed up a total of $8 for parking for the whole trip, and that was at the Gaslamp Quarter. LaJolla, by the way, has a completely different beach atmosphere than Coronado. Coronado has a typical "deep, flat" beach area while LaJolla has something of a rocky cliff atmosphere with pockets of small beaches here and there. We thought LaJolla was a bit more interesting.
Specific attractions that we saw:
1. San Diego Zoo -- I noticed before we went that the zoo gets mixed reviews; so, I was skeptical going in. The basic adult entry fee is $21, but we (luckily) went with the deluxe entry (used the $5 off coupon that we got through the San Diego Visitor's Bureau to reduce the fee from $32 to $27 apiece). Deluxe entry allows for unlimited use of guided bus tours, express bus transit, and the skytram. Believe me, motorized transport through the park is very helpful, unless one is a trained athlete. The park is VERY hilly. I mean STEEP hilly. Up and down, up and down, up and down. This is not a place for the weak of heart. The highlight of the zoo is not the animals, in our opinion. It's the atmosphere. It's like being in a jungle. The foliage is beautiful. The people who don't like the zoo probably got worn out walking up and down and were disappointed when they could not view some of the animals who were "hiding." In other words, there is lots of walking with the potential for not seeing as many animals as one would like. Hence, the beauty of the bus rides. We stayed on the buses quite a bit to just enjoy the atmosphere. If we saw some animals, fine; if not, no big deal. We did do our share of walking, as well. Although we didn't see absolutely every animal that we would have liked, we saw enough to be satisfied. There are plenty of restrooms and drinking fountains in the zoo. The concessions cost, as usual. We tanked up before we went, so we didn't "waste" money on over-priced hot dogs and the like. The zoo is in Balboa Park, and parking is free.
2. U.S.S Midway aircraft carrier -- $15 adult entry. This, also, is not for the out-of-shape. There is much squeezing through tight quarters and going up and down narrow, steep ladders within the ship. It was very interesting, and we recommend it.
3. Birch Aquarium at Scripps Oceanographic Institute just north of LaJolla -- $10 adult entry. Lots of interesting fish to look at. My favorite was the orange octopus. The aquarium is located high above the ocean, and the view is spectacular.
4. Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park -- this was the surprise of the trip. $5 for adult entry. If you have any interest at all in this type of hobby, GO! Wow! We were all fascinated by the elaborate displays. The museum is operated by four different "clubs" that have built five huge, separate displays. The work that went into this must be mind-boggling. One fellow who operates trains there told us that his club's particular display was started in 1982, and they're still putting finishing touches on it.
5. Gaslamp Quarter -- lots of restaurants, bars and shops. Good for roaming around at night. We parked at Park-It-On-Market, a parking garage right on the edge of the quarter. Reasonable rates, except when there's a baseball game at nearby Petco Park. There's a very nice grocery store (Ralph's) at G St. and First (I think). It has an underground garage that is easily accessed from Market St. (again, I think). We ate lunch there one day by feeding off their deli area. Eating out in San Diego, by the way, is expensive. We cut costs to some degree by eating at chain restaurants (P.F. Chang's, Mimi's, Hard Rock Cafe, Gordon Biersch). We got ripped at Cold Stone Creamery in LaJolla for over $14 for three single dip ice cream waffle cones. It was good, but come on....over $4 for an ice cream cone? Three separate times we tried to get into the Cheesecake Factory at Fashion Valley Mall, which is near the Days Inn, but the wait was so long, we bailed out each time. We bought some cheesecake to take back to our room ($7 a slice -- but it was good). Fashion Valley is worth a look. It's an upscale mall that is outdoorsy (you have to go outside to get to the next store). The great weather allows that. Nieman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom's and the like are there.
The weather was almost perfect -- just cool enough to wear a sweater. It never rained. Gas prices were $2.50/gal. Good trip. Glad we went. Take out a loan, though, before you go.