Diego offers visitors a wide range of attractions and
activities, and the moderate climate means few rainy
days. Even better, San Diego's mass transit system is
so easy to use that there's no need to drive your vehicle
or hassle with parking. Native San Diegan Jaimie Hall
Bruzenak tells you how to enjoy the city by bus, train
San Diego is a visitor's dream. You can see
many of its major attractions without driving your own vehicle.
You don't even have to pay to stay at a hotel in town. You
can stay on the outskirts of San Diego and easily get to
much that the city has to offer by public transportation.
San Diego Trolley lines whisk you in from La Mesa or El
Cajon to the east or from National City or Chula Vista to
the south. Or you can stay in one of the northern beach
towns and ride Amtrak or the Coaster commuter train into
the city. Once you're downtown, the area's famous bays and
beaches, the harbor, Balboa Park, northern beach towns and
even Mexico are a short ride - or even only a walk - away.
Along the bay
San Diego has a beautiful waterfront and bay. Taking the
trolley downtown to the Santa Fe Depot (Blue and Red lines)
or to American Plaza station (Orange line) will put you
within two blocks of the Embarcadero. As you walk along
Harbor Drive, you'll see ships from the Naval Air Station
North Island in the bay. Highlights are the Maritime
Museum, with its seven historic ships, and the USS
Midway Museum at Navy Pier, where you can board and
explore a decommissioned aircraft carrier. You'll also find
harbor cruises and excursions leaving from the Embarcadero.
Anthony's Fish Grotto on the bay is an excellent choice
for lunch. Seaport Village, a shopping center, is a short
walk or pedicab ride south from there.
For a more active day, load your bikes on the
trolley and bike along the waterfront on the San Diego side.
Or take the San Diego Bay Ferry at the Broadway pier to
Coronado for walking or biking. On the ferry, enjoy the
San Diego skyline and the naval ships, then, if you don't
have your own, rent bicycles at the Coronado Ferry Landing
and bike along the bay. The bike path continues south nine
miles along the Silver Strand to Imperial Beach. Tunnels
permit access to the ocean side. A donut shop is located
at 7th Street and Palm in Imperial Beach, if you need sustenance!
Returning, come through town by the famous
Hotel del Coronado and down Orange Avenue, the main street
back to Ferry Landing. The Metropolitan Transit System (MTS)
Bus 904 at the landing will take you down Orange or to the
Hotel del Coronado as well.
in San Diego. San
Diego's Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) includes
trolley, bus and Coaster service. Use the trip
planner to get detailed information on routes
and times for weekdays and weekends.
Bicycles. You can take your bicycle on the MTS trolley,
bus and Coaster. Download
the brochure beforehand. The number of bikes
per bus or car is limited. Don't forget bike
San Diego Trolley. Three lines converge in downtown San Diego:
Orange, Green and Blue. An all-day $5 regional
day pass is the best deal, and transfers to
most bus lines are included. On Saturdays and
Sundays, two children 12 and under may ride
free with any paying passenger 18 or older.
Check the Web
site for other discounts and special fares.
the trolley you can take buses to Balboa Park
and the San Diego Zoo. From downtown, take Bus
Coaster. The Coaster runs Monday through Saturday between
the Santa Fe Depot in San Diego and the transit
center in Oceanside, with stops in several beach
towns. A round-trip ticket costs a maximum of
$12, and there are discounts for seniors, children
and trolley riders. The Coaster does not run
Amtrak. Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner runs from the Santa
Fe Depot in San Diego north to San Luis Obispo,
with stops in Old Town, Solana Beach, Oceanside,
San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano. Adult
fare is $15 one-way to San Juan Capistrano.
San Diego Bay
Ferry. The ferry to Coronado departs from
the Broadway Pier on the hour, every hour from
9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and departs the Coronado
Ferry Landing on the half-hour until 10:30 p.m.
in San Diego Guide" for the disabled
can be purchased online, and free copies are
available in some locations.
Bike rentals in
Coronado. The most convenient is Bikes
and Beyond in the Ferry Landing Shops at
the ferry landing in Coronado; (619) 435-7180.
San Juan Capistrano and the northern beach
Amtrak and the Coaster serve towns along the coast north
of San Diego. The tracks follow right along the ocean at
some points. Amtrak continues north of Oceanside through
Camp Pendleton, the only undeveloped section of coast between
San Diego and Los Angeles. Each town has some appeal. Check
the schedule to plan your trip.
Juan Capistrano is a fun destination. Pick up a copy
of the walking tour of the historic downtown at the information
kiosk at the train station. Mission San Juan Capistrano,
a short walk from the train depot, is one of 21 California
missions founded by Father Junípero Serra. It's best
known for the swallows that return each year on St. Joseph's
Day, Mar. 19. Enjoy the lovely grounds and discover more
about its history through interpretive signs and exhibits.
You'll find shops and restaurants all within a short walk
of the train depot along Camino Capistrano Street and across
the tracks in Los Rios Historic District. My sister, a Californian
who visits the town frequently, recommends the nearby historic El
Adobe restaurant on Camino Capistrano for excellent
Mexican food. You can also eat right at the depot.
Amtrak stops at San Clemente Pier on the ocean
if you'd like to relax at the beach. From the Carlsbad Village
Station of the Coaster, it is a 20-minute bus ride to Legoland on MTS Bus 321 (Monday through Friday only).
San Diego's Spanish heritage
A short trolley ride from downtown on the Red or Blue line
takes you to the Old Town section of San Diego, the site
of the original settlement. Old
Town San Diego State Historic Park encompasses several
blocks surrounding Plaza de las Armas; the visitor center
and interpretive center are at the northwest end. Some buildings
are maintained as museums, while others house shops. Look
to the northeast and you'll see the domed tower of the Junípero
Serra Museum in Presidio Park on top of the hill. A
short walk takes you to the mission-style building, built
in 1929 by businessman George Marston. Located on the site
of the original mission and presidio, or fort, it commemorates
San Diego's early history and was the first home of the
San Diego Historical Society. The views from the tower are
worth the hike.
Adjacent to Old Town, Heritage Park Victorian
Village showcases six restored Victorian houses and the
first synagogue in San Diego. Between the state park and
Presidio Park is my favorite Mexican restaurant, Casa Guadalajara.
Patio seating is pleasant, the food delicious and the margaritas
are excellent! The Bazaar
del Mundo, a colorful shopping area, is next door.
The Green line of the trolley will take you
east to San Diego's Mission
San Diego de Alcala. The first of Serra's missions in
California, it was built in Old Town in 1769 and later moved
six miles to the east. It's about a block walk from the
Mission San Diego stop.
South to the border
The Blue line of the trolley runs south from San Diego to
Tijuana. As you approach the border you can see the mass
of ramshackle dwellings on the Mexico side. Even from this
vantage point you can appreciate the contrast in living
conditions on the two sides of the border. From the trolley
stop you can walk across the border and take a taxi to Avenida
Revolución, the heart of Tijuana's shopping district,
then walk around the downtown. It's about a 10-minute taxi
ride. Start with the block between 3rd and 4th Streets.
Don't forget to negotiate the fare and bargain with the
shopkeepers. That's half the fun!
If you want to see a little of Mexico, I recommend
a bus tour that takes you across the border to Ensenada
or Rosarita, two coastal towns on the Baja peninsula. You
can see the beauty of its coast and a much different picture
of life in Mexico than you can in border towns. Several
companies offer day trips. Gray
Line and Five
Star Tours are two.
Before visiting, check the State Department travel advisories.
To re-enter the United States you will need a government-issued
photo ID, such as a driver's license, as proof of identity,
along with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate,
naturalization certificate or a passport. Children 18 and
under will need to present a birth certificate, naturalization
certificate or a passport to enter the U.S.
A visit to San Diego would not be complete without a visit
Park. Land was set aside for the park in 1868. The oldest
buildings are Spanish Renaissance-style buildings constructed
for the 1915 Exposition, the first of two World's Fairs
to be held in San Diego. From downtown, take MTS Bus 7.
If you have bicycles, you can load them on the bus bike
carrier. Or explore using the free
tram in the park, which leaves from the bus stop at
Park and Presidents Way. The visitors center is located
in the House of Hospitality, one of the tram stops.
Balboa Park's San
Diego Zoo is world-famous. If you decide to visit the
zoo, I recommend arriving as early as you can and taking
the guided bus tour to get an overview of the whole zoo.
Then go back and see the areas that appeal to you with the
time and energy you have remaining.
Purchasing a Passport to Balboa
Park is a good deal if you plan more than one visit.
Admission to 13 of the 15 museums is included and it is
good for seven days. A zoo admission can be added. Besides
museums, there is a lovely arboretum and an international
village. Check the events
calendar for Shakespeare performances, puppet shows,
the Starlight Theater, free Sunday concerts in the Organ
Pavilion and other offerings.
This taste of San Diego will probably leave
you wanting more. Whenever I come back for a visit, these
places are the first on my list. Taking advantage of public
transportation makes exploring San Diego an adventure -
a bit of an urban challenge that I love to share, especially
with my grandchildren.