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  1. #1
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    San Diego or Catalina

    We're spending a few days in San Diego late Feb. We could also spend
    a couple days of that time on Catalina island. We don't have any special
    plans, we're just getting away from winter. If you've been there, we'd love
    to hear about it.
    We are as gods, we might as well get good at it.
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    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Catalina depends a lot on what you like.

    I've hiked it once and the island away from Avalon is a different world.

    Also if you head up the main road inland there is a rather impressive botanical garden at the end.

    On the backside of the Island near Avalon there are some impressive seacliffs. Also near the beefalos (a cattle/ buffalo cross) are impressive, especially if you have never seen them or any buffalo.

    There are glass bottomed boats, as a diver I was not all that impressed, but if you do not dive they are worth asking about. Visibility can change a lot, if the water is clear it they would be a lot more impressive than if it is limited visibility.
    Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.

  3. #3
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by late View Post
    We're spending a few days in San Diego late Feb. We could also spend
    a couple days of that time on Catalina island. We don't have any special
    plans, we're just getting away from winter. If you've been there, we'd love
    to hear about it.
    Live in San Diego and go to Catalina from time to time... The two are night and day different except for the general Southern California feel and weather.

    San Diego is a large city without the LA feeling... there is plenty to see here, but bear in mind that there are freeways and traffic, and getting from place to place will involve driving.

    Catalina is a small island with small population centers... Avalon, the west end (Isthmus) and Hamilton Cove. Avalon is the main city and it is more of a village... the water front is lined with small shops, bars and restaurants and beach area... This is the slow time of year, so some places may actually be closed. The water temp is in the upper '50s, so in spite of the unseasonable air temps we have had for the last couple of weeks, you are not likely to see people playing on the beach. Avalon is for lovers... yeah I know that is their slogan, but when I have been there without my wife, I feel lonely... the place just caters to couples holding hands and walking about. However if you dive, the water off Casino point is not to be missed... 40-100 foot visibility depending on the weather (I used to take dive classes in the winter out to Catalina to finish, it was so nice).

    Diving is dominated by the kelp and the fact that the area is a preserve... so lots to see. You can rent gear at the Green Pier and get fills right at the Casino from an air truck there.

    If you don't dive there are glass bottom boat tours that are nice... and inland buffalo tours.

    Cars are not allowed there except for official use... (police, taxi and shipping). People use golf carts or bikes. There are lots of hotels there... and reservations are a must. You can fly, or boat to get there... There is no connection to San Diego unless you charter a private plane. You have to go out of Newport Beach, San Pedro, or Long Beach to get to Catalina.

    I highly recommend spending time on their website catalina.com

    The west end is the less populated northwest end of the island... more suited to camping or boating in... There is one hotel there, and two restaurants... all low key.

    Now more about San Diego... well it is a big city... but you can divide it into sub groups... Coronado Island (which really isn't an island... ) low key location of the historic Hotel Del Coronado. (google it). Then you have the beach areas, Mission and Pacific and Ocean Beach... each with their own flavor (OB is stuck in the '60s). North County with both a beach flair along 101 and the inland areas including exclusive Rancho Santa Fe. Then there is La Jolla and Del Mar... all hoity toity with their upper crust village feelings and good food and shops. You have the central area with Hillcrest, North Park and South Park... with Balboa Park (the famous zoo) and somewhat bikable communities and older traditional bungalow homes. There is downtown and the Big Bay, along with Old town and Little Italy. There is also Chula Vista and Mexico to the south.

    I have lived in this area for over 35 years and I still find new places to visit and of course the area is constantly changing. I can't recommend any area over another without knowing your tastes and desires. We have everything from Legoland to the Zoo to Seaworld to the USS Midway to standup paddleboards on the bay to deep sea fishing... it is all available here.

    Just for grins, I'll drop this link to the Big Bay on you, and let you swim in their info http://www.thebigbay.com/

    The only downside I offer is that that late Feb/March tend to be the one time of the year when it might rain... I say might as the area is generally dry, with less than 16 inches of rain a year normally... but if it rains, well, that is the time of year when it happens... and the area doesn't take rain well... people drive lousy in the rain, and run off is not done well... as we just don't plan for rain. May and June can be quite overcast with what we call May Gray and June Gloom... usually no rain, but just gloomy skies along the waterfront... to the east in the mountains and further in the desert, the weather can be quite beautiful.

    Don't tell anyone, but the best time to visit is September... tourists go home to get the kids back in school, the air temps are great and the water is a balmy 72-76 degrees. Fire season tends to hit in October with the dry santanna winds.

    Well, hope this helps a bit.

  4. #4
    The cat says Merry Xmas Pamestique's Avatar
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    I have been to Catalina Island many times to hike, run and mountain bike... if that appeals to you than by all means do Catalina. Its a very small place and a day or two is plenty of time to explore. Personally I hate the boat ride out there... I usually arrive very sick...

    Now San Diego is God's country... the city proper is beautiful with lots to do and if you are looking for recreation, then just head east or north for some of the most beautiful scenic country ever. I love the whole Julian/Laguna Mountain area. If you have only a few days, stay around San Diego and do some scenic driving... and get out to hike or ride...
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    San Diego. Sea stratus or fog is pretty prevalent in Catalina at that time of year. Lots to do and see in SD.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Nachoman's Avatar
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    OP, I see you're from Maine.
    Probably pretty similar to a Boston versus Nantucket comparison.
    .
    .

    Two wheels good. Four wheels bad.

  7. #7
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pamestique View Post
    I have been to Catalina Island many times to hike, run and mountain bike... if that appeals to you than by all means do Catalina. Its a very small place and a day or two is plenty of time to explore. Personally I hate the boat ride out there... I usually arrive very sick...

    Now San Diego is God's country... the city proper is beautiful with lots to do and if you are looking for recreation, then just head east or north for some of the most beautiful scenic country ever. I love the whole Julian/Laguna Mountain area. If you have only a few days, stay around San Diego and do some scenic driving... and get out to hike or ride...
    Couple of years ago I was on a boat at the Isthmus and rented a bike... it was a serviceable mountain bike... rode that thing all the way around to Parsons Cove on the far north side of the island... on dirt roads all the way. I only encountered one other vehicle, a service van slowly making it's way back from one of the various summer camps in that area of the island... otherwise I had the entire dirt road and all the area to myself... it was great... just smooth enough road to really get going, but up and down enough to be a good challenge. I just flew by the campsites along the water front... then got up to Parsons and found just one tent in the area, otherwise it was "my beach."

    The views were great, the temps moderate and overall it was a dirty but fun way to take in the northern part of the island. I also rode out to Cat Harbor. Good way to see the whole area.

    BTW just to help late understand Avalon... you can easily walk to all the corners of the village in one day... from the main wharf to lovers cove to the chimes tower to the botanical garden at the end of the road... it will be a long day, but it can be done. On the other hand, you can spend a 1/2 day just touring the Casino building and the various displays there. FYI, there is no gambling there, it is an old meeting building with a real nice dance floor and great views upstairs... wonderful place to take in 4th of July, which Avalon does with a great home town golf cart parade.

    But then again, it takes a good full day to take in the entire San Diego Zoo... especially if one takes in all the garden displays such as Palm Canyon and the Bromeliad garden and nearby seal show. here is a link to help... http://www.sandiegozoo.org/zoo/index.php

  8. #8
    genec genec's Avatar
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    BTW in the early '80s I was a pedicab driver in San Diego... gave lots of tours of Balboa Park and the downtown waterfront.

    No1_pedicab_driver_web_qual.jpg

    By the late '80s I was a dive instructor in the area, and regularly ran trips out to Catalina.

    For a very short while there was actually a ferry boat from Oceanside to Catalina... but it was short lived. You can still charter planes out of Montgomery Field to Catalina.
    http://www.affordableaircharter.com/

  9. #9
    Trek 500 Kid Zinger's Avatar
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    The Aerospace museum in Balboa Park is a good visit. If you've got kids the San Diego Zoo (also in Balboa Park) and the San Diego Wild Animal Park (north of town in Escondido) are good visits. And there's Seaworld in Mission Bay San Diego.

    Great and relatively fast trolley system runs almost all over the place in San Diego, to Tijuana (right up to the gate....closer than you'll get driving and parking this side of the border) and elsewhere for pocket change.

    Great winter weather there and I dearly miss the winter biking down in San Diego ever since I moved.
    Last edited by Zinger; 01-02-14 at 05:49 PM.
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    Getting away on Catalina for me is renting a Kayak and staying in the primitive boat-in campsites. You need to make reservations for the Kayak and campsites and you can rent camping gear if you don’t bring it. It’s about a 1 hour boat trip or 15 minute helicopter ride to the island from San Pedro for me.

    I always get a massage at Sea Spa before leaving Avalon……which you should do for your wife regardless of how you see the island!!!

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    Just stay in the San Diego area and enjoy what it has to offer. Since you'll be there in late Feb, I'd sugget maybe a l-o-n-g daytrip out to Anza Borrego State Park - really interesting area of the desert east of the metro San Diego area. The LAguan Monutains are also along the way to Anza Borrego, makig it a nice drive in the early morning/late afternoon

    Catalina - If you were in L.A. I'd say go there for a day trip. The boat ride over is pretty nice, and the small town of Avalon (and the backcountry around it) is pretty neat for sightseeing.
    Are we having fun yet?

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    Still learning oddjob2's Avatar
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    You could add Palm Desert and Springs easily
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    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the replies. Since the water will be kinda cold, I think we will spend a day driving
    out to the desert. We've been to the zoo, we are thinking about doing the African Safari.
    Really looking forward to all the good Mexican restaurants, the ones here are not nearly as good.
    We're going to do the Foodie tour

    We have the plane tickets, but haven't booked a hotel yet, hoping to find a place with a heated outdoor
    pool. Could use suggestions there.
    We are as gods, we might as well get good at it.
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    Pending budget, The Marriott Marquis and Marina has a nice pool complex. I prefer the Gaslamp Marriott but it has no pool. At least not that I remember.

  15. #15
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by late View Post
    Thanks for all the replies. Since the water will be kinda cold, I think we will spend a day driving
    out to the desert. We've been to the zoo, we are thinking about doing the African Safari.
    Really looking forward to all the good Mexican restaurants, the ones here are not nearly as good.
    We're going to do the Foodie tour

    We have the plane tickets, but haven't booked a hotel yet, hoping to find a place with a heated outdoor
    pool. Could use suggestions there.
    Speaking of foodie tour... have you tried El Agave at Old Town and San Diego Ave in Old Town... rather upscale ($$$) Mexican food and tequila bar. http://www.elagave.com/ Nice sit down place with an outstanding seasonal menu.

    For the other end of the price spectrum, try Ranas Mexico City Cuisine http://www.ranasrestaurant.com/ Very tasty, tiny grocery mall location... very casual, but good.

    Also in the eastern part of the county... a restaurant that keeps moving, yet is always packed, is Carnitas Uruapan. http://carnitasuruapansd.com/ call ahead to see if they've moved again. Carnitas, family style...

    And of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention El Indio on India street at Washington. http://www.el-indio.com/

    And don't forget fish tacos... Made famous in Ensenada and served all over town at either Rubios or Fins. Also available at the Catamaran Motel on Mission Bay... a nice place to just hang out at happy hour.

    Oh and please do not go to any Tio Leos... do your tongue a favor and stay well clear of this "melted cheese covered with crappy sauce" chain. Any of the local 'bertos http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2...ttling-bertos/ will "out flavor" a Tio Leos any day. (they must have cheap booze... they have managed to stay open for a long time... but the food just sucks)
    Last edited by genec; 01-04-14 at 12:56 PM. Reason: tio leos comments

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    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Thanks, a few years ago, right after we retired; we flew into San Diego and drove up the coast
    to San Fran. We only spent a day in San Diego, and have been wanting to go back. Since it's
    subzero here right now, you can imagine why.

    Really looking forward to spending some time there, and we'll definitely try some of those restaurants.
    We are as gods, we might as well get good at it.
    Stewart Brand

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    Still learning oddjob2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by late View Post
    Thanks for all the replies. Since the water will be kinda cold, I think we will spend a day driving
    out to the desert. We've been to the zoo, we are thinking about doing the African Safari.
    Really looking forward to all the good Mexican restaurants, the ones here are not nearly as good.
    We're going to do the Foodie tour

    We have the plane tickets, but haven't booked a hotel yet, hoping to find a place with a heated outdoor
    pool. Could use suggestions there.
    Hotel in SD or Palm Desert? Value or deluxe?
    Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. Albert Einstein
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  18. #18
    Trek 500 Kid Zinger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by late View Post
    We have the plane tickets, but haven't booked a hotel yet, hoping to find a place with a heated outdoor pool. Could use suggestions there.
    Well in a different life I used to run the Las Flores downtown on 4th street and the Arlington on 8th & G and I would recommend you stay as far away from those two places as possible

    Haven't been in SD much lately but the downtown Gaslamp district actually has some decent nightclubs nowadays. It has been quite refurbished since Pete Wilson was mayor. Quite a different scene than in the mid '70s but it's still downtown to some degree. A few eateries there as well.

    Post number 15 seems to have the good restaurants. I don't eat much at restaurants with tablecloths and candles unless I'm trying to impress girls I can't afford to keep. I used to like Chuys down in Logan Heights but I don't believe it's there anymore. Seems to have relocated in more upscale Solana Beach.
    "I never lost a race because my bike was too heavy".......George Mount

  19. #19
    Senior Member Garfield Cat's Avatar
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    Is there a boat that takes you from San Diego to Catalina?

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    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garfield Cat View Post
    Is there a boat that takes you from San Diego to Catalina?
    No.

    For a brief period of about 2 years a company set up a ferry boat run from Oceanside to Catalina, but it ultimately failed... due in part to the trip being rough due to the prevailing seas... passengers didn't like the trip and it got a bad reputation... then in a stunning moment of bad luck, one boat had a transmission failure, which really made for bad press when passengers were stranded for many hours in a rough sea.

    The only boats go from Newport Beach (once a day) or Long Beach or San Pedro... there may also be one out of Marina del Rey, but I have never gone that route.

    You can fly from San Diego, but it is a charter flight and somewhat expensive.

  21. #21
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zinger View Post
    Well in a different life I used to run the Las Flores downtown on 4th street and the Arlington on 8th & G and I would recommend you stay as far away from those two places as possible

    Haven't been in SD much lately but the downtown Gaslamp district actually has some decent nightclubs nowadays. It has been quite refurbished since Pete Wilson was mayor. Quite a different scene than in the mid '70s but it's still downtown to some degree. A few eateries there as well.

    Post number 15 seems to have the good restaurants. I don't eat much at restaurants with tablecloths and candles unless I'm trying to impress girls I can't afford to keep. I used to like Chuys down in Logan Heights but I don't believe it's there anymore. Seems to have relocated in more upscale Solana Beach.
    The whole downtown scene is vastly changed since the ball park went in... It tends to be a very lively street scene with lots of people and lots of dining... Stay south of Broadway and west of about 8th for the best of that scene... although going north along Ketner to India IS recommended as you go into Little Italy at about Beech street. So many restaurants and so little time...

    Going east from downtown beyond 10th street can be rather uh, "a mixed experience..." there are a few nice places hidden here and there, but over all, the "street folk" tend to dominate and somewhat diminish the quality of the scene. Funny thing is that some 40 years ago when I was a young sailor in town... we were well advised to avoid going south of Broadway... Today I recommend it... especially along 4th, 5th, and 6th ave.

    Between the ball park (Petco) and the convention center and the hotels in the area... there have been vast vast changes... Kansas City BBQ is still there (Top *** reference) but has changed a bit http://kcbbq.net/ since they had a fire a few years ago... they lost some of the old memorabilia... but I understand the food is still good. The Spaghetti Factory is now gone from the Gaslamp, but so many other places have opened that the choices are even better today.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Garfield Cat's Avatar
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    If I were in San Diego for a trip, and if there were no boat that takes me from S.D. to Catalina, I would skip Catalina and do it another time. There's so much else to see and do.

    What is there to see and do in Tijuana?

  23. #23
    Trek 500 Kid Zinger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    The whole downtown scene is vastly changed since the ball park went in... It tends to be a very lively street scene with lots of people and lots of dining... Stay south of Broadway and west of about 8th for the best of that scene... although going north along Ketner to India IS recommended as you go into Little Italy at about Beech street. So many restaurants and so little time...

    Going east from downtown beyond 10th street can be rather uh, "a mixed experience..." there are a few nice places hidden here and there, but over all, the "street folk" tend to dominate and somewhat diminish the quality of the scene. Funny thing is that some 40 years ago when I was a young sailor in town... we were well advised to avoid going south of Broadway... Today I recommend it... especially along 4th, 5th, and 6th ave.

    Between the ball park (Petco) and the convention center and the hotels in the area... there have been vast vast changes... Kansas City BBQ is still there (Top *** reference) but has changed a bit http://kcbbq.net/ since they had a fire a few years ago... they lost some of the old memorabilia... but I understand the food is still good. The Spaghetti Factory is now gone from the Gaslamp, but so many other places have opened that the choices are even better today.
    Yeah I should explain that was just kidding about those two particular hotels not the GasLamp scene in general.

    I haven't been there for 13 years now (short visits since '93 when I moved from there) and would like to go back someday when I could afford it. Yeah back in the '70s downtown San Diego WAS the wild animal park, lol. Even in the early to mid '80s you could still get into trouble in places if you flashed your cash sometimes but it was changing even then.......Hey downtown is a whole new world than it was in the '70s though.

    Wonder if Jim Croce's wife still has her restaurant on 5th. I'd take dates in there for breakfast back in the '80s and early '90s.
    Last edited by Zinger; 01-05-14 at 04:59 PM.
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    Senior Member Nachoman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by late View Post
    Thanks for all the replies. Since the water will be kinda cold, I think we will spend a day driving
    out to the desert. We've been to the zoo, we are thinking about doing the African Safari.
    Really looking forward to all the good Mexican restaurants, the ones here are not nearly as good.
    We're going to do the Foodie tour

    We have the plane tickets, but haven't booked a hotel yet, hoping to find a place with a heated outdoor
    pool. Could use suggestions there.
    If you're not into the typical Hyatt, Marriott, sky-rise type hotels and want a hotel with more character, you should check out the La Jolla Beach and Tennis club, which was built in the 20s or 30s, right on beach in La Jolla.

    And +1 on El Agave Mexican restaurant in old town. But be warned, this is not your typical Mexican restaurant. It does not serve chips and salsa at the table. It's a white table cloth, upper end, restaurant that serves gourmet food from the Mexico City region of Mexico.
    .
    .

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nachoman View Post
    If you're not into the typical Hyatt, Marriott, sky-rise type hotels and want a hotel with more character, you should check out the La Jolla Beach and Tennis club, which was built in the 20s or 30s, right on beach in La Jolla.

    And +1 on El Agave Mexican restaurant in old town. But be warned, this is not your typical Mexican restaurant. It does not serve chips and salsa at the table. It's a white table cloth, upper end, restaurant that serves gourmet food from the Mexico City region of Mexico.
    or for a victorian built in the late 1800's on a larger beach and either a nice fifteen minute ferry ride to downtown or a bridge...an ocean view room at the hotel del coronado

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