Going to San Diego in December....is there anything downtown?

Hey, I am headed to San Diego this December and plan on staying downtown. I have planned to rent a car, but do not know if I will need it. Is there a lot to do in downtown San Diego (shopping, movies, ect…)?

I have not been to San Diego in about 5 years, and did not stay downtown when I was there. I have plans to go to the zoo, but no other plans are set.

Any suggestions? Places to see/places to avoid?



My favorite city! If you like to eat or go night clubbing, the downtown area is just right. There is a section called the “Gaslamp Area,” which is host to many clubs and fine restaurants.

Croces, which includes a restaurant and a couple of bars with live entertainment, are owned by Jim Croce’s widow. I’ve been to the Top Hat a few times for entertainment and eaten at the restaurant once. The food was great and I’ve been meaning to go back.

The Blue Point Costal Cuisine is another that I’ve eaten at that was great.

Close by, at what’s called the Embarcadero area, there’s the Fish Market and Anthony’s Fish Grotto/Star of the Sea. I make it a point to eat at the Fish Market’s oyster bar whenever I’m in the area. The Star of the Sea is Anthony’s upscale restaurant. I have been there but not the grotto. The Star was good, but higher priced.

In fact, expect to pay about $20+ for meals in most of the better restaurants. I know that with a date, I don’t seem to get by with anything less than a $100 tab when I eat out. That includes drinks with the meal. Though we usually shoot for “fine dining” when we go out, I can spend $50 alone at the Fish Market’s oyster bar just on lunch!

The zoo’s situated in Balboa Park, where there are museums and such to explore. Favorites of mine are the Automotive Museum, the Japanese Gardens and catching an Imax movie at the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center. If I lived in San Diego, I’d hang out at Balboa Park a lot.

From the Embarcadero area, you can take a ferry over to Coronado Island, there is another upscale restaurant, Peoe’s, that had good food. You can rent bikes and skates at the ferry landing to explore Coronado, which boasts the Coronado Hotel. A famous place that was featured in the movie, “Some Like It Hot.”

A short drive north of San Diego on the freeway, you’ll find La Jolla. Interesting shorline there, along with many restaurants and botiques.

There’s also Cabrillo National Monument, which hosts a lighthouse and tide pools. To get there, you travel through Navy property and a Veterans’ cemetary.

Old Town is another stop for history and good Mexican food. And “Little Italy” if you are hungry for Italian.

A lot of the area, such as Old Town, can be reached by trolley. I usually buy a “Daytripper” pass, which is $4 for one day. You can buy multi-day passes too. This pass also allows for transfer to busses to get to areas the trolley doesn’t cover. As parking can cost $5 or more, I find the trolley reasonable and convienent to get around the downtown area. I usually stay at “Motel Circle” and catch the trolley for downtown and Old Town trips.

If your budget allows, you might want to go on a biplane ride through Barnstorming Adventures. The price is the same for two passengers or one, but if you’re alone, they’ll let you fly the plane! That was pretty cool. They’re situated in Carlsbad, which also hosts Legoland, but what I’ve seen from pictures, Legoland would only be of interest to small kids.

There is also Seaworld, but admission is something like $45.

I’ve also taken the Old Town Trolley Tour, which isn’t the same as the trolley I mentioned above. This is an open, bus-like trolley that takes you around to various points of interest. You can get off at any stop to explore, then resume your tour later. A varaition of that, which I found cool was the “Seal” tour, which uses an amphibious vehicle and actually drives into the bay at certain points of the tour, boating you along the shoreline.

The trouble with San Diego is that it has so much to offer it’s sometimes hard making choices. I think the best bet would to pick up some of those “Dining San Diego,” “San Diego This Week” and “Visitor Pocket Guides” that are sometimes displayed at the front desk of the hotels, then just play it by ear. Also, the Thursday editions of the San Diego Tribune, their local paper, features a pull out section called, “Night and Day,” which lists upcoming entertainment and has ads for many restaurants. Clinking on their name will take you to their web page, where you can learn more about restaurants and activities in the area.

Hope you have a great time there!


For shopping, there are various boutiques in the Gaslamp area and a mall called “Horton Plaza.” For upscale shopping, take the trolley to “Fashion Valley,” which is my favorite mall for people watching. A little further east from there is the Mission Valley mall, aslo accessable by trolley.

I also should have mentioned that if you like plays, there is a ticket booth in front of Horton Plaza that offers discount tickets for the day’s performance at selected theatres. I think it’s called “Arts Tix” and is located at the southwest corner of Horton Plaza.

All of this info is really good. San Diego is a fun place.

Also consider the zoo, easily the best I’ve ever seen. A border run for shopping can be fun also. You can get to San Ysidro by trolley and walk across a pedestrian bridge into Tijuana.

I was in San Diego a few years ago and loved it, but I stayed over by the Fashion Mall. This time my conference will be held downtown, and was wondering if I could get by without renting a car…but it sounds like I may need one!

I appreciate all of the information that you have given, and hope to hear more!

You’ll need a car much less downtown than you did staying out in Mission Valley. The trolley or buses go just about everywhere mentioned, except Balboa Park, and I’d be surprised if there isn’t some sort of shuttle that will take you to the Zoo.

I agree with cher3. Looking at all the stuff International Playboy dug up, you could really do without a car EXCEPT if you planned to go to La Jolla or the Cabrillo Monument. All other locations are close enough that you could walk, take the trolley, or cheaply get there by cab. If you wanted to explore anything else farther away, I pretty much don’t think you could get away with no car. But if your budget didn’t permit it, there would still be enough to see close by that you wouldn’t feel shorted.

Don’t forget Seaport Village, which will probably be a stone’s throw from your actual conference (assuming maybe that it’s at the convention center).

Ask whether your hotel has courtesy transportation. This should be good for getting to and from the airport at least.

I’ve had good experiences with San Diego cabs. For areas the trolley doesn’t serve, they’ll do just fine, and for less than the cost of the rental car if you only need a couple of trips per day.

I was just down there recently for the first time. I loved the mall downtown. Very open and airy.
If you get bored, check to see if there is a convention going on. When I was there, the conference center had a great big ESRI conference. I went in and looked at lots of displays and listened to a speaker (I was bored). I also got free coffee and water, which was good because I had no money.

Or you could always try and sweet talk a Doper into buying you lunch.

Standard disclaimer: I am a tightwad. :stuck_out_tongue:

Hopefully, Vivalostwages will do a vanity search and fill in some more ideas. She lives there.