Stunning San Diego


“I thought San Diego must be Heaven on earth…It seemed to me the best spot for building a city I ever saw.”

Alonzo Horton, builder of New Town,
site of current downtown San Diego, 1877
After visiting San Francisco in the summer of 2015, I thought that it would always be my favorite US city. That was until I went to San Diego which is now giving San Fran a very good run for it’s money.
Two full days in San Diego was enough to convince me that it must have been my home in a past life. There was just something special about the city that I still can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it was the laid back atmosphere, brilliant fellow travelers in our hostel and of course my love of San Diego Zoo.
The hostel we stayed in, the ITH Adventure Hostel, was conveniently located in San Diego’s Little Italy, which is in Downtown and within walking distance of a variety of local attractions and San Diego Bay’s Waterfront Boardwalk. The Hostel’s facilitates includes outdoor gardens, sun decks and cozy courtyards which are perfect for meeting and relaxing with other travelers. The unique design and vibrant colors of the historic Victorian building creates a social, friendly, fun and comfortable experience.
There are several room options depending on how you are traveling, including private rooms, female only rooms and dorm style rooms. The hostel’s quieter and premium accommodation option at the Adventure Hostel is in their annexed building the Eco Farm House. The Farm House is designed to be a quiet and clean place of rest where guests can enjoy peace and serenity. Because of this, there is no alcohol or smoking allowed in this property. The house has an organic garden, dedicated hammock deck designed for relaxing as well as an outdoor shower.
I’d highly recommend this hostel, due to it’s brilliant location and being  one of the nicest hostels I’ve stayed in. The design was really funky and the people staying there were amazingly social – the nights out organised by the hostel were fantastic.

San Diego Zoo

For years now, it has been a dream of mine to visit the famous San Diego Zoo and I still can’t quiet believe that I’ve been there. A full day is really needed to explore the zoo properly, even with some of the areas being closed in order for the enclosures to become better homes for the animals.  It is a little on the expensive side at $52 but it does include a guided bus tour, Kangaroo Express Bus, Skyfari aerial tram, and all regularly scheduled shows. The Skyfari aerial tram was a great way to see the zoo after spending the day exploring it from the ground. It felt something straight out of Jurassic Park with the views we got. We decided not to try the bus tour or express bus, preferring to explore the grounds ourselves, but it is a great option for the slightly worn out traveler.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things I saw in the zoo were the “Animal Ambassadors“. Cheetahs selected to be trained as Zoo and Safari Park ambassadors are paired with a domestic dog. Dogs are naturally comfortable with people, even those they don’t know. Cheetahs are quite a bit more cautious and wary of new situations; having a dog buddy to show them that everything is okay—and even fun—helps the cat feel comfortable and relaxed. The dog’s body language communicates that there’s nothing to fear, which relaxes and calms the cheetah’s flight tendencies. A puppy buddy is introduced to the cheetah when the cheetah is still a cub and naturally playful. By spending time together, they get to know each other and become buddies. You may be lucky enough to see a buddy pair walking around Zoo grounds or playing in the Animal Ambassador Area, like we did.

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USS Midway

When you visit the USS Midway Museum, you enter a floating city at sea and walk in the footsteps of 225,000 Midway sailors who served with the US armed forces. The USS Midway Museum is an unforgettable adventure for people with an interest in planes, . Guests can spend the day exploring more than 60 exhibits with a collection of 29 restored aircraft. A self guided audio tour, narrated by Midway sailors, is included in your entrance fee of $20 and really brings the carrier’s history to life. Those who dare, you can “take to the sky” aboard one of two flight simulators. However, this does come at an extra cost of $6 or $16, depending on which of the simulators you do.

Hostel Activities

Of course, no stay in a hostel would be complete without taking part in at least one of the hostel run activities. The ITH Adventure Hostel’s activities included day trips to Tijuana (don’t forget your passport if you do this trip, as you do cross the border in to Mexico – duh!), BBQ’s, themed parties, game nights, beach and hiking trips and of course pub crawls in the Gaslamp Quarter.

Due to our short stay, we only had the chance to take part in the pub crawl, where we got to meet some amazing fellow travelers and have a lot of fun. Highlights of the pub crawl included the Coyote Ugly Bar, the Commons Bar,  and finishing off with some food in Brian’s 24.

Speed Boat Adventures

If you would love the chance to drive your own speed boat, while getting a tour, of sorts, around San Diego Bay, why not give Speed Boat Adventures a try. As a tour, it isn’t the most informative of things to do and so it would still be worth trying a bus or walking tour, however for some adventurous fun and some unique views of San Diego, it is well worth the $59 cost. The boats are relatively safe, however our radios only seemed to work one way, so it seems most boats are unable to radio the guide with any issues or questions. The boats are very easy to easy to drive, you steer the wheel just like a car and have a throttle with 3 positions (forward, neutral and reverse). You can cruise as slow or as fast as you like, however I’d recommend going as fast as you can to get the most enjoyment from the trip. However, watch out for the waves caused by the wakes of bigger boats in he harbor, you don’t want to do what we did and bury the bow of the boat and end up absolutely soaking ourselves!

I would have loved to have had a little more time to explore San Diego and it’s definitely a place I hope to visit again in the future. The city, the locals, the visitors and the laid back, sunny atmosphere made it a place I felt right at home in. Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, as did I, but part of my heart was also left in San Diego, hopefully to be collected one day…

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