My missed travel opportunities in San Diego

Historic streetcar

Now that I’m back from my second trip to San Diego I thought I’d list out some of the opportunities I had but completely missed. Or to put a positive spin on it this is what I’m saving for next time.

  • Museum of Man and the California Tower at Balboa Park. I had a couple chances but blew ’em both. It’s best to book this one in advance, especially if you want to climb the tower. There’s no elevator in the tower and you need a timed ticket to climb the stairs. The tower ticket includes admission to the museum.
  • Little Italy food tour. Walking through Little Italy on my own was a letdown. The neighborhood is uncomfortably crowded in the evening and largely caters to tourists. I’m sure there are great places to eat but I didn’t know where to go — definitely would have gotten a better impression with a guided food tour.
  • UC San Diego campus. This college campus has some interesting spots to visit according to online sources such as Atlas Obscura, but it’s also quite far from downtown San Diego. I actually crossed this off my list long before the plane landed. Oh and don’t be fooled — despite the name the “UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley” goes nowhere near the campus (but it does take you to Mexico’s border.)
  • Giant Dipper at Belmont Park. On the same topic of places to visit that are a little far from downtown, Belmont Park is an old theme park with a big wooden roller coaster. Not the biggest park by any means, but I’d ride the Giant Dipper if I were in the neighborhood. Unfortunately I wasn’t.
  • Ghost tours. I had a ghost tour of the Gaslamp planned, but it was cancelled by the tour operator at the last second. Too bad. There’s also a night tour of the Whaley House in Old Town that looked promising. Don’t believe in ghosts? Not sure I do either, but it’s the only tourism-friendly way local guides tend to discuss a neighborhood’s dark past.
  • Take a sunset cruise. Like any waterfront city there’s plenty to see and do on a boat in San Diego. I mentioned this one in the last post too, but personally my ideal sunset cruise would be on a small sailboat with a glass of wine — and my phone to take photos, obviously.
  • Ride on the historic streetcars. San Diego’s historic streetcars run in a convenient loop downtown. Though to my eyes they don’t quite look like historic streetcars. Why? Their original trolley poles have been replaced with Z-shaped pantographs — see the above photo. Had no excuse to miss this one as they stopped half a block from my Airbnb as well as the waterfront near the USS Midway Museum.
  • Brewery tours. San Diego is the indie beer brewery capital of the world, no matter what anyone from Portland tries to claim. Many brewers are too small to offer a real “tour” because you can see it all in less than a minute. But there are many guided tours that take you from one brewery to the next and include beer samples. I walked past so many breweries downtown I could have easily made up my own “tour” with little effort.
  • Learning to speak Spanish. I’ve saved the biggest for last. Tijuana’s about the same size as San Diego, has just as much going on, and it’s right across the border. Many of the locals speak little to no English so if you hope to visit you either need to speak Spanish well or stick with someone who does. Keep in mind language is only the first hurdle; Mexico has its own cultural quirks that often seem confusing or even hostile to foreigners.