Quite by accident, I created an entire blog post just an hour ago while messaging a couchsurfing friend from Belfast who told me he would be spending part of February in San Diego, my hometown. So instead of telling you about the last few days–they didn’t involve much exploring and were for the most part un-blogworthy–here’s the entire transcript of my letter to Mark. If you’re planning on hitting up San Diego sometime this lifetime, keep this handy. And if you’re from America’s Finest City, by all means point out the hundreds of other awesome things people can do here.
Rule #1 about SD is that if you don’t have access to a car, find a friend who does. Otherwise you will literally spend an hour going from one part of the city to another–which is fine so long as you devote the whole of your day wherever you are, otherwise you will be in transit all day.
1. Go to the San Diego Zoo. You will see lots of crazy animals (including Pandas) and you will learn so much about the various ecosystems that they come from. It’s in Balboa Park, which has a ton of other affordable, awesome museums as well. DO NOT go to SeaWorld. It is much more expensive ($84 vs $44 for a ticket) than the Zoo, and yeah seeing whales is cool, but not justified by the price. Want to see dolphins? Go to Pacific Beach and walk on Crystal Pier, they come pretty close to shore.
2. You are in the Mecca of Mexican food (with a local twist, of course). Eat it–and you will never be able to eat a burrito anywhere else again. There are hundreds of good Mexican places. Don Carlos Taco Shop in La Jolla. The pretty-in-pink Lucha Libre Taco Shop near the airport (maybe your first stop after the flight?). As a general tip–perhaps more important than going to any specific place–$6 is the MAXIMUM you should be paying for a meal. But you should be paying $5 or even less. Try Carne Asada Fries once, preferably while drunk. Best decision you will ever make. If you are in La Jolla, ask for Rigoberto’s — the one next to 7-11, people will know — and they are open 24/7. You will see some strange characters if you go there anytime past midnight, guaranteed.
3. There are TONS of craft breweries in San Diego, and you should be ashamed of yourself if you don’t try a few. Stone Brewery is San Diego’s best. Their Smoked Porter will take you to Heaven. Other breweries worth checking out include Ballast Point, Alesmith, and Karl Strauss. But there are more than 50 of them, and by no means are there only a handful of good ones, so dive in.
4. My favorite places to see the sunset over the Pacific: Crystal Pier @ PB. Sunset Cliffs, south of Mission Bay, get their name for a reason.
5. Don’t go to Tijuana–not because you are in danger of being mugged or kidnapped, but because the wait to return to the USA is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS LONG. Don’t be smart about this and think that maybe you can cross quickly, on foot or otherwise, if it’s like 3 AM. I PROMISE you can’t–you will be waiting at least two hours, if not more. It’s not that there’s nothing in Tijuana worth suffering this wait for, but unless you’re with someone who knows where to go you will just end up in some touristy disco or bar that you could have found on the American side of the border, minus the long miserable wait. Also, our border patrol sucks, regardless of the color of your skin or your religious beliefs.
6. DO go to In-n-Out at least once, either in San Diego or anywhere in California (they’re all over the place). It is a cult, they have a secret menu, and they are legendary for both their outstanding quality burgers and fries (not to mention affordability) as they are for their exceptional customer service. You will be treated very, very nicely.
7. DO remember to take pictures of all the awesome things you do and places you visit in San Diego, because even though so far I have loved everywhere I’ve been to in Europe, home is home.
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