San Diego Getaway: Balboa Park & Coronado

DAY 1 – Welcome

Welcome to San Diego! If you have a camera, some sunscreen, and an appetite for activity, you’re ready for your vacation.

Arrive via Amtrak or one of the many commercial airlines servicing San Diego’s Lindbergh Field Airport (SAN) and hail a cab. Go to your Victorian Bed & Breakfast, Keating House at 2331 2nd Avenue on Banker’s Hill in downtown San Diego. Arrive at Keating House at your previously arranged time. There is no set check-in time, instead you make a check-in appointment and one of the innkeepers greets you and handles your check in. Check-out time is noon. Keating House is an authentic Victorian manor so each guest room is uniquely decorated. Each room is painted as it was in 1888, so you can enjoy rich Victorian colors. Eight rooms and one suite are available. Currently, room rates start at $115 (before tax) and include breakfast. To read about and view photos of each room, visit:

For your first evening in San Diego, walk or taxi to the Gaslamp Quarter for dinner. Restaurants are plentiful, (I lost count at 75), and range from informal to gourmet fine dining. Whether you want pizza by the slice or a prime Porterhouse steak, the Gaslamp Quarter will send you home well-fed and happy. If given the option, try to get a table by the window or in an outdoor cafe so you can people watch.

DAY 2 – Art Museums

Start your morning with homemade breakfast at your B & B then set out to explore nearby Balboa Park, America’s largest urban cultural park. This classic park was created as part of the California Pacific International Exposition of 1935-36. The Park boasts museums, restaurants, trails, gardens, the San Diego Zoo, and a wealth of cultural attractions. To read a list of special events taking place at Balboa Park, visit:

Keating House is about four blocks from Balboa Park so no driving is necessary. If you are traveling with someone whose mobility is impaired, Keating House has guest rooms on the first floor and a free tram drives within Balboa Park so you can save your energy for walking in the museums. To view a route map for the tram, visit:

Consider buying a Passport to Balboa Park ($30) or a Best of Balboa Park Passport ($55). The standard Passport covers one adult admission to 13 of the Park’s attractions and is valid for up to seven days. The Best of Passport offers that too, plus admission to the San Diego Zoo for one day. Passports can be purchased at one of the participating Balboa Park museums or online at:

For your first day there, start with the San Diego Museum of Art. Admission is included as part of the Passport, otherwise it is $10 per adult. The museum’s fine art collection has been growing steadily since the 1920s and it is all yours to appreciate. Having spent your morning appreciating fine art, take a break to enjoy lunch at Water’s Cafe. The Cafe is located in the outdoor Sculpture Court and Garden. The menu offers a wide selection and they boast that no menu item is priced higher than $10. To view their menu, visit: After lunch, stroll next-door to the Timken Museum of Art. Admission is free to enjoy the amazing works of classic European painters.

Enjoy dinner at Prado within the Park, by the hospitality building. Their menu is carefully considered and offered at city prices, main courses range from $15 to $22. When making reservations, ask for an outdoor table. The weather is almost always perfect in San Diego, so why not enjoy it. Also, if you want to beat the rush and catch your evening film, reserve your table for 5-5:30pm. For more information on Prado and to view its menu, visit:

Wind down your day by enjoying a film at the Museum of Photographic Arts. Documentary and classic films are shown and admission is $10. Though this museum is included on the Passport, a film showing is considered a special event and, therefore, an additional entrance fee. It is worth the money if there is a 7pm double-feature of two films you’d never find at the local video rental store. To read MoPA’s current films, visit:

DAY 3 – San Diego Zoo

Get a good start with breakfast at your B & B, then walk to Balboa Park for your day at the world-famous San Diego Zoo. With so much wildlife to observe, you will not be short of things to see at the Zoo. To view upcoming events and seasonal hours, visit:

After all that walking, you’ll be ready to eat like a bear so Lunch at Albert’s or one of the other restaurants or cafes within the Zoo. Albert’s is named for the Zoo’s Silverback Gorilla and is the only Zoo restaurant to serve beer and wine. For a complete list of dining options, visit:

To cap off an active day at the Zoo, have a casual dinner at Hob Nob Hill. The restaurant is located at 2271 1st Avenue, about two blocks from Keating House. Hob Nob Hill has been in its present location under the same management since 1946. They are all about quality without leaving your wallet too empty. Some might say it is a place where you can count on getting the most bang for your buck. The restaurant is open from 7am to 9pm every day of the week. Daily specials are available for lunch and for dinner, but standard menu items, like their tuna melt, are available for either meal. Dinners include soup or salad and your choice of potato, vegetable, or bread. For the perfect start to a refreshing summer meal, start your feast with their Gazpacho soup and finish with a delicious slice of pie. To see the menu and specials (and download a coupon), visit:

DAY 4 – Old Town & Local History

After breakfast at your B & B, walk to Balboa Park. By now, it is becoming familiar and it’s the perfect time for you to learn about San Diego’s history and rich culture. Your first stop is the Museum of San Diego History. Admission is included in your Passport. This museum houses a vast collection of historical documentation, photographs, and cultural artifacts. You will leave having connected with San Diego’s past. Exhibits bring perspective into how it has grown to become one of the largest cities in the United States. To view the current exhibits at this museum, visit:

Before, leaving the Park, stop in to the San Diego Model Railroad Museum. If you are a railroad admirer, you will love this place. If you have not interest in trains, you can breeze through, getting the gist of its importance to western expansion.

Depart Balboa Park around 1pm and taxi or drive five miles north to the Old Town neighborhood. Mexican cafes and cantinas are plentiful in this section of San Diego. If the timing is right, you will have missed the lunch rush. You can select one at random and know that if it has managed to stay in business with such healthy competition, it must be worth trying. The price seems to be right too! Food Network has mentioned one restaurant in particular as being a good value. Old Town Mexican Cafe hosts a fiesta every single Friday, but evidently good times and good food are there every night of the week. To learn more about the Cafe, visit:

Spend your afternoon browsing the shops of Old Town. This may be a nice place to look for a souvenir or two. Next to gifts from a museum gift shop, non-touristy goodies overshadow more generic purchases.

Taxi back to Keating House for a quick nap or to write some postcards, then walk to Hob Nob Hill for dinner. Two nights in a row makes you a regular customer. Since specials are changed daily, you can try something completely different or stick with a favorite.

DAY 5 – Space, Sports & Science

Sleep a little later today, you deserve it. Once you’ve refueled with breakfast at your B & B, walk over to Balboa Park. This morning, explore a different section of the Park. Begin your tour at the San Diego Aerospace Museum. Admission is included with a Passport, otherwise it is $9 per adult. It has a mind-boggling number of retired aircrafts and uniquely insightful exhibits on air exploration. Spend the rest of your morning roaming the San Diego Automotive Museum and San Diego Hall of Champions, just steps from each other and in the same cul-de-sac as the Aerospace Museum.

When you are ready for lunch, consider Time Out Cafe in the Hall of Champions. As a deli, prices are reasonable and outdoor benches are available. You can even get beer and wine there. Another suggestion is to proceed to your afternoon destination, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, and eat lunch at Galileo Cafe. Sandwiches, salads, and pizza dominate the family-friendly menu.

Spend your afternoon in the cool IMAX theatre enjoying a show. It is a good plan to purchase your tickets earlier in the day or before you eat lunch to make sure you have a seat for the show. Matinees are usually shown around 1pm, but schedules may change, so check online at: After your IMAX film, explore the Science Center all afternoon.

Wander to the Gaslamp District again and have dinner in one of the neighborhood’s many restaurants. Then taxi back to your B & B for a good night’s rest.

DAY 6 – Coronado

Sleep in on your last full day in San Diego. After a delicious breakfast, take a taxi to Broadway Pier to take the Regular All Day Ferry to the Coronado Ferry Landing Marketplace. For schedule information, visit: Take the shuttle from there to downtown Coronado. One-way fare is $1 per person. For route and schedule information, visit:

Arrive in downtown Coronado and wander the quaint streets. This is a perfect time to pick up any last-minute non-touristy souvenirs or to treat yourself to a new hat. For lunch, there are numerous options in the downtown area of Coronado, but today you will be dining at the famous Hotel Del Coronado’s Sheerwater Restaurant. Main courses range from $15 to $28. You can find a burger or fresh fish, it all depends what you like. An ocean view is the perfect accompaniment for your lunch, so soak up the Pacific from this historic landmark. To view Sheerwater’s menu, visit:

After lunch, wander the beach and shop in the resort’s stores. Take your time enjoying Coronado before returning to the Ferry Landing to float back across to Broadway Pier. After you have returned from your day’s adventure on Coronado, taxi back to your B & B to pack for your departure the following day. For dinner, pamper yourself with fine Mediterranean cuisine at Laurel. They offer a special early three-course dinner menu for $35 per person between 5:00 and 6:00pm daily. Otherwise, main courses range from $22 to $34.

DAY 7 – Bon Voyage

On your last morning in San Diego, make sure you have a good breakfast at your B & B and finish packing. If there is one more museum you want to see at Balboa Park or a souvenir you wish you’d bought, you still have time to get that taken care of.

Check out of Keating House a little before noon and taxi to the airport or train station to return home.

Submitted by Evin Bail – this was entry #21. No new entries are being accepted (though a new contest will begin soon). Keep coming back for the last few entries.

Filed Under: 2006 Summer vacation plan writing contest entries

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Comments (12)

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  1. Julia says:

    I loved this one. It made me want to go to San Diego now. The detail on the place to stay, the recommended restaurants, and museums is excellent. j

  2. Nancy says:

    I loved this one too! Very detailed descriptions and good information as well as web links to find out more. Very thorough. Makes me want to go to San Diego.

  3. Tyler says:

    This is the best one I’ve read yet…very thorough and exciting, with plenty of variety. This person impressed me mightily!!!!


  4. Conor says:

    This one is excellent. What I like most about it is the genuine personable feel. It is not some strangers pre-packaged formulaic travel guide but rather enables the traveller to appreciate San Diego as an informed insider.

  5. Camille says:

    San Diego is now on my must see list! This travel plan is the perfect trip guide. It has a little bit of everything and the handy websites to check it in more detail. I felt like I was already visiting there! I am excited to go in person. Thanks!

  6. Therese says:

    This is perfect for San Diego, it talks about all my favorite spots!

  7. Cate says:

    This sounds like a great trip! I can’t wait to go to San Diego now! The resources and information are great, especially for the inexperienced traveller like me.

  8. Kate says:

    This entry was very enticing. It was thoughtful and detailed, as if I was being led on a carefully planned tour that would ensure a sampling of the most memorable parts of San Diego. If I were travelling there, I would most definitely incorporate this itenerary into my plans.

  9. Skye says:

    Wow! This sounds like a dream week in San Diego. I lived in this city for almost 4 years and this travel itinerary gave me plenty of new ideas. Next time i’m in town (which will be sooner than later after reading this awesome travel plan!), i’m taking a copy with me. Thanks for your research!

  10. maureen says:

    This travel plan is perfect. The pacing of places to see and the links to them make for an easy itinerary plan for those of us who are not as well organized as Evin Bail. On my next trip to San Diego, I will definitely make use of her suggestions.

  11. stefanie says:

    This is fantastic! Since San Diego is on my list of places to visit, I will definitely be printing this out for future use. I find the web links and pricing extremely helpful and a great addition to the itinerary.

  12. Sara Murray says:

    I was just in San Diego a couple of weeks ago, and your descriptions were right on. The city is sunny, friendly, and there is so much to do, for all types of interests! The tours of the Navy Ships are excellent, and the S.D. Zoo is one of the best in the country!

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