All the leaves are brown
And the sky is grey
I’ve been for a walk
On a winter’s day
I’d be safe and warm
If I was in L.A.
California dreamin’
On such a winter’s day

The Mamas and The Papas

Having traveled through California at a younger age, then again when I was 21, I wasn’t sure what to expect this time around. Since I’m more present and attuned to my energy now, what would California have in store for me at the ripe old age of 39.

What’s your first thought of California? Was it the beaches, the mountains, and the colorful sunsets? Or did the city of Los Angeles or Hollywood pop into your mind? Personally when I think of California, I think of Los Angeles, movies, and money. Many think of New Jersey as the “armpit” of America, but little do they know, just a few hours south lies a polished and shiny jewel. A lesson in why you should never assume!

The reality of the situation was, that I was losing time on my cross country road trip. I hastily sped through Arizona in two days, because I wanted to spend at least a week on the California coast line. Starting in San Diego, I’d make my way north to San Francisco and begin my track back east.

Underneath dark skies I made my way through winding and windy roads along interstate 8, into the coastal city of San Diego. Warm air and sunshine greeted me in the morning with the thought, finally, filling up my mind.

With the mountains rising in the east, the ocean crashing to the west, and the city plopped somewhere in between, the city of San Diego has a little bit of it all.

What to Do:

What excites you, strolling through city streets, relaxing beach time, or hiking on mountain trails? Either way San Diego doesn’t disappoint.

Balboa Park is a cultural center for nature and arts. For instance, you can find yourself immersed in the beauty of numerous botanical gardens, shop away at the spanish village art center, or for you history geeks, spend some time at the natural history museum.

For the beach bums, the stretch between Mission and Pacific Beach is a dream come true. Park at either end and spend your day soaking in the sun, swimming in the pacific, and riding one the many scooters that line the ocean walk.

For my hiking friends, you have a plethora of options. The two that stood out to me were the Cuyamaca Peak Trail and the Cowles Mountain Trail. Cuyamaca Peak is the second highest in San Diego, however, they had just received a heavy snowfall prior to my arrival and I just couldn’t psych myself up enough to ascend upward 6,512 feet. I chose the lower elevation of CMT, and wasn’t disappointed. Not only will you get a decent view of the city skyline, but the ocean and mountains as well. Get there early and try to hike up the eastern side of the mountain, which apparently is less crowded. For more info you can click here: Cowles Mountain Hike.

Where to Eat:

Tacoholics, you won’t be disappointed. For example, Oscars Mexican Seafood, located in Pacific beach, is home to an amazing surf and turf taco. Skirt steak and shrimp, served with cabbage, onion, tomato, cilantro, avocado and cheese. In the North Park vacintiy of San Diego resides, City Tacos. The Birria de Res, from Guadalajara, Mexcio, is a traditional beef stew taco, with pickeled habanero & onions, finished with fresh cilantro. If you’re lucky enough to stroll through on a Tuesday evening, you’l be treated to Taco Tuesday, where any Taco is $3. For the health concious individual, Tocaya Organica located in the Gaslamp Quarter, offers street style tacos with a variety of mindful options. To sum up, tacos run wild through the streets of San Diego.

Where to Drink:

Pick your poison here. You can spend a night bar-hopping in the Gaslamp Quarter, in addition to enjoying a few craft beers at one of the many breweries that call San Diego its home. One of my favorite spots, Belching Beaver Brewery, also located in the North Park section, is home to a delicious Peanut Butter Stout.

If you prefer to enjoy some cocktails down near the beach, both Mission and Pacific beach have various places to choose from. It would be here I was introduced to the Cali’ Creamin. A vanilla cream ale, brewed with Madagascar Vanilla Bean, to give it its cream soda flavor. It was love at first sip.

Belching Beaver Brewery, North Park, San Diego

In conclusion, my first time wandering through San Diego did not disappoint. If you’re into tacos, breweries, beaches, mountains and roaming city streets, sightseeing San Diego should be at the top of your travel list. In fact, just as I was about to turn east out of San Francisco, the winds caught my sail and sent me back south for just a few more days.

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