A Busy Day in San Diego

By staff August 1, 2008



 Petco Park and pandas are among the draws of this lovely city.


By Charlie Huisking


My first-time visit to San Diego lasted only about 24 hours, a criminally short time for a beautifully situated city with so many diverse attractions. But we crowded a lot into our schedule.


The once-moribound downtown area is now bursting with vitality, particularly in the 16-block-long Gaslamp Historic District. Victorian buildings and warehouses have been converted into hip home-furnishing and clothing stores, night clubs and restaurants. You want sushi bars, seafood grilles, Italian bistros, Thai , Korean and Mexican restaurants? They’re all here.


I stayed at the Omni Hotel, a high-rise that overlooks the 42,000-seat Petco Park, the new home of the San Diego Padres baseball team. Being a big baseball fan, I was sad to see the Padres were on the road. But I did tour the stadium, and was impressed that one of its most popular features is Park at the Park. For $5, you can bring a picnic basket and sprawl on a grassy hill overlooking the outfield. The views are better than from the outfield seats in many stadiums where the seats are much more expensive.



The pandas were the prime attraction at the San Diego Zoo.


We couldn’t leave San Diego without a visit to the world-renowned zoo, home to 4,000 animals in habitats that try to replicate their natural environments. Like most of the zoo’s visitors, I was most enchanted by the pandas, so much so that an employee had to gently urge me to move along so that others could shoot pictures of the adorable bears.



A coastal view of Laguna Beach.


We then headed about an hour north to the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, a stunningly located cliffside resort just south of Laguna Beach. To get to the beach 200 feet below, you can hop on a golf cart or walk the steep, lushly landscaped paths. But I spent my days sitting atop the cliff in an Adirondack chair, reading, snoozing and watching dozens of wetsuit-clad surfers who looked like bobbing harbor seals from that vantage point.




The view from the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel.


Every public space in the hotel, from the restaurant to the fitness center, has a dramatic floor-to-ceiling window view of the Pacific. The Ritz’s only drawbacks are its massive size and its popularity. Five weddings were held at various spots on the property during our weekend stay. If you’re looking for a quieter environment, I’d recommend the Montage, an even pricier resort just up the coast. I did some lobby-sitting in the Montage, just as a reader’s service, and found the ambiance more pleasant, though the views weren’t as spectacular.



The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel has a commanding clifftop view.

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