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7 hours in San Diego

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Greetings San Diegoans! I'm from Washington and I'm here to help (ok, I'm just a tourist).

I'll be in your fair city tomorrow for about 7 hours (well, maybe a little less). I'll be arriving at SAN at 2:30 (scheduled) and need to be back there at 9. I was wondering if you all had any suggestions on places I should stop by to eat. Cheap (we're talking under $10 to eat) and good is always nice.

I've noticed other thread with similar "Where should I eat?" questions, so to make things more difficult, I won't have a car and will be taking public transportation.

So, any thoughts on where I need to go (and hopefully tips on how to get there)? I had planned on spending my time at a beach (Mission? is there something better for a 20-something?) and heading over to catch an hour or so of the Padres game, so things near those would be even better!

Thanks for your help!

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    1. re: Ewilensky

      Nope. I thought about renting one for the day, but I don't know my way around the city and I don't know central parking areas, so I decided against it.

      Thanks for catching that - I'll clarify my OP.

      1. re: nbs2

        Airport is close to downtown and by the bay. Beaches/ocean west, ballpark east. Public transportation is expensive and unreliable, taxis are expensive.

        Assume you would also be carrying luggage-San Diego airport is not a hub. Ballgame starts at 7 and you will have to check back in...Technically ballpark is 3 miles from airport...again, no direct public transport on Harbor Drive...but a beautiful walk...

        Cheap is taco shops, Little Italy coffee/gelato shops and some kebab places downtown. (Taco shops are everywhere)...

        This is a cool challenge. Let me think...

        1. re: Cathy

          No, no luggage. I'm making a milage run to ensure my status, and instead on getting off the plane just to turn around I figured I'd enjoy all that San Diego has to offer - especially the weather. I'm planning on not taking anything with me - no carry ons, no checked.

          Walking back from the ballpark sounds like the perfect thing to do.

          1. re: nbs2

            Very cool. There are a series of 30 "Urban Trees"- a public art project along the water on your way. I know some of the artists. So many people miss them and this is the 5th year...You'll see more of San Diego than some San Diegans.

            You can go to the "Park in the Park" for the ballgame and only pay $5 to get in- sort of an open area in the Center Field-just to see the ballgame and not spend a bunch on entering.

            Yes. Very cool. People think I am crazy to drive 5 hours to Vegas to meet my brother for lunch and then drive home the same day... I love what you are doing.

    2. There is a rapid transit shuttle from the airport into downtown that will drop you off at the Santa Fe Depot, or very close to it. IIRC you can pick up the shuttle outside terminal 1 (Southwest, Alaska, United). If you're coming in at terminal 2, don't worry, the airport is small, it's a short walk. There is also a visitors information booth in the baggage claim areas where you can get better directions to the bus.

      Once into downtown you can get around very, very easily using the trolley system. There is a ticket you can buy for unlimited rides within the downtown/Gaslamp area. It's pretty clearly marked on the trolley ticket dispensers and I think it only costs a dollar or two. The Santa Fe Depot where the shuttle bus will drop you off is only a couple of blocks from the bay, it's less than a 5 minutes walk even if you get all the red lights down to the bay ;-). There are a couple of maritime related museums such as the Midway aircraft carrier or the Star of India, but probably not a must see for a 20-something. From the embarcadero you can walk down to Seaport Village if you're into shopping. Most of the restaurants are forgettable, but most of them have pretty good views and wouldn't be a bad place for a drink.

      You can search this board for information on Gaslamp (or Gaslight as out of towners seem to want to call it) and get a wealth of recommendations for places to try. The Gaslamp is well within walking distance to Petco Park, though why anyone would want to check out a Padre game this year is beyond me (they basically stink). Until John Moores divorce is final they're not going to do much. It's tough being community property. However, Petco itself is worth a visit, it's a very nice stadium, unfortunately the food isn't so hot and it's expensive to boot. But I digress...there are tons of places in the Gaslamp for a 20-something to hang and mingle.

      Little Italy is also well within reach from both the airport and downtown. Take the trolley 2 stop north and get off at the Little Italy/County Center stop, walk up a couple blocks to the street that runs parallel to the trolley and you're there. Not much to do in the way of tourist stuff, but there are gobs of places to sit, eat, drink and otherwise enjoy yourself.

      The airport is just over the hill from Ocean Beach, which I'm sure is reachable by rapid transit. Here's the link to the transit system, there is a trip planning function on the site, you can just plug in where you are and where you want to go and it'll give you the best route and the cost. http://www.sdcommute.com/

      Enjoy your visit.

      6 Replies
        1. re: DiningDiva

          Thanks for all that info! You just did in a few minutes what about 6 hours of searching hadn't done.

          I didn't realize how direct the route from SAN to downtown is, 10 minutes means a lot more time to enjoy the city. The Gaslamp sounds interesting - I'll search the boards, but would it qualify under my goal of cheap eats? Seaport was suggested to me by a friend that used to live in SD, but if shopping is the primary attraction, I think I'll pass. I don't know if you have been, but how does Little Italy compare with Baltimore's? If you haven't, Boston/NYC being a 10/10, what would you give SD's?

          The aircraft carrier sounds really cool, and the five minute walk isn't a problem at all. It just means that I'll have to bring a carry-on on my flights. Gotta get pictures. As for the Padres, yeah, they stink, but I love to watch baseball. I've been to a game before and really enjoyed it. Besides, they're playing the Giants and I'd like to watch Lincecum pitch before he blows out his arm. I am planning on getting the cheapest ticket I can find, and with this matchup, I might be able to score home plate for $5. The one place I was sure I would go was In-N-Out, but I just noticed that Sports Arena Blvd (I think that's the closest) is by Old Town, not by the stadium. Now I'm a little sadder.

          As for Ocean Beach, would you say that is the best beach for me to go to? The trip planner is saying that it isn't public transport accessible.

          EDIT: the trip planner is useless. I ended up finding a blog that directed me to the proper buses.

          1. re: nbs2

            The Midway museum is really cool and I highly suggest you check it out.

            It'd probably be a pain and a waste of your time trying to make it to In-N-Out unless you had a car or wanted to spend quite a bit on a Taxi. Actually, the Mission Valley In-N-Out is probably the easiest to get to on public transportation if you take the trolley.

            My cheap food suggestion near the airport is Blue Water Grill. Great fresh fish sandwiches, tacos, and plates.

            1. re: nbs2

              The trolley actually goes all the way to Old Town where there is a transit hub.Probably no more than a 10-12 minute trolley ride. The trolley connects with the bus system in Old Town so quite a few bus lines make a connecting stop there. You might be able to get to In-and-Out going this route, though I don't know which bus you'd take from there Sports Arena Blvd. is a large street and has bus service.

              Ocean Beach is an old hippie/biker beach from the 60s where everyone stayed and became (more or less) respectable and entrepreneurial. Newport Ave is the main drag down OB and it ends at the beach and a pretty cool pier. It's the longest pier on the West Coast. You can walk all the way to the end (1 mile RT), watch the surfers and locals. Tattoo shops, bead shops, pubs, junk shops, bars, hole-in-the-wall restaurants line Newport Ave. I like OB better than some of the other beaches around town because it's pretty laid back and it doesn't matter who you are, what you look like or what you do. You can get a pretty decent burger at Hodad's or some pretty decent fish tacos (widely debated on this board) at South Beach Bar & Grill (both of which have been featured on FTVs Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives). Decent wine bar The Vine on Bacon and Niagra, very beachy and laid back vibe, fairly decent selection of wines and surprisingly decent food. Reasonable, but not cheap.

              There are cheap options in the Gaslamp, but there are more in Little Italy and OB. Little Italy probably doesn't compare to any Italian enclave on the East Coast. In SD is was a redevelopment project that grew and yuppified. Second Ewilensky's recco for Pappalecco (at State and Cedar), love their coffee, gelato and salad. It's out of the most touristy part of Little Italy, so a little less frentic.

              1. re: DiningDiva

                A lot to consider, but I have my day down to two options (although I need to factor in the Carrier): either Mission/Pacific Beach or Ocean Beach.

                I can spend 2 hours at M/PB or 3 hours at OB. Both of those options will give me plenty of time to hang out in the Gaslamp area for a little while and get to the park by 7. They will also let me gauge walking time from the Park back to Gaslamp to catch the 992 to SAN.

                From your description and a few others, OB will be cheaper - more tourist-happy = more $$. The Sports Arena In-N-Out looks like it is just a couple minute walk from Old Towne. I do wish there was one in SAN or Gaslamp - that would make some awesome flight food. I'd take fish tacos, but I can't see them holding up for the few hours.

                Once I get the beach choice figured out, that should make food planning easier. I'll have to check out the SBB&G debates, as that might make a very nice light lunch. If not, I'll just tool around the area snacking at different places or go to Hodads. If I find a cart, that'd be even better. I'm guessing enough people go to M/PB that there should be more than a couple threads discussng them. Either a burger or Gaslamp for dinner (Cafe Chloe seems to be popular with CH users). Some snacks at the park, pick up something that travels well on the way back (gotta make it through that redeye), and I should be set.

                And in case anybody wonders into this thread and wants to know the way to the beaches from SAN on public transit:
                M/PB - 992 to the blue line trolley to the 8 (or 9). OB - take the 923 straight there. The difference is that on weekends, the 8/9 runs all the time while the 923 runs hourly.

                1. re: nbs2

                  There are almost no freestanding food carts in San Diego. Department of Environmental Health and State health codes are pretty restrictive on them. I can't recall any in OB, unless they've opened in the past few weeks. In OB, on Newport Ave. 1 block West from Sunset Cliffs is Azucar Bakery. Cuban bakery with decent panini-style sandwiches and a killer mojito cookie. Very portable and a great option for taking down to the pier. They do some Cuban-style empanadas and pappas rellenos, which would be pretty good plane food, but I'm not sure you'd want to haul them around town for several hours.

                  Nico's does broasted chicken and potatoes as well as the ubiquitous SD rolled tacos and guac. There is a cafe on the OB pier, the food can be hit or miss. I've had breakfast there which is perfectly fine, but have not eaten non-breakfast foods there.

                  Cafe Chloe is a great choice, though it doesn't really fall into your cheap-eats category.

                  BTW, dining options to-go at Lindbergh Field are pretty weak. In Little Italy you could get good sandwiches to-go at Mona Lisa, maybe at Pete's Meat (though those are usually hot), and possibly at Filipi's. Those all might hold up to being lugged around pending your return flight. The Gaslamp is crammed with restaurants, a lot of them would probably be willing to package something to go for you. So if you see a menu you like, ask them if you can get it to go for a flight, be willing to be you could find something that way.

                  For cheap eats in all the areas you're considering check out the Tin Fork reviews here - http://www.sdreader.com

          2. I was going to suggest a sandwich from Pt. Loma seafood (close to the airport) and taking it to go to Cabrillo Monument for the awesome view (still one of my favorite views after 20+ years) of San Diego County but not sure how this can be done without a car.

            Little Italy might be a nice alternative, and on the trolley line if the ballgame is on tap... Just tried Pappalecoo which was pretty nice. Sitting on one of the tables outside I almost forgot I was in San Diego, of course, for someone coming to San Diego as a tourist, this might defeat the purpose...

            http://entertainment.signonsandiego.c...

            1. A few weeks ago a friend who is, like me, a long, long-time San Diegan, suggested lunch and we had one of the best touristy afternoons ever. It's very attainable from the airport, thought I suggest you save a bit of time and take a taxi or shuttle in from the airport.

              We first went to Tacos Fiesta in Little Italy. It's a tiny little place - in fact, you can't go in and order from a window out to the curb. They have wonderful al pastor and we each got a burrito. (less than $5 each)

              From there, we took a 3min drive (maybe 8 min on foot) down to the Fish Market parking lot (Harbor/G?) and sat across from the Midway Aircraft Museum (a decommissioned aircraft carrier that sits in the harbor) and across from the 'kissing sailor' statue. We had a lovely picnic and enjoyed 'our' harbor. We both agreed, San Diego is a great place for a picnic!

              Have a nice, if brief, visit!

              1. our transit systems blows big time and would hate to see you spend most of your 7 hours on it..
                If you can take the rapid transit from the airport to downtown SD which is only 5 minutes away..do that..
                Catch a water taxi from downtown SD over to Coronado for a cheap water ride and check out Coronado and then come back and hang in Gaslamp..maybe have some fish tacos at TinFish next to Petco Park..the $5 park pass at Petco Park is an awesome deal and allows you into the park but no seat but since the Padres suck this year, I doubt anyone will bother you and plenty of seats...it is a great park..playing the SF Giants and a free giveaway cooler.
                Have a great time!

                www.gaslamp.org
                www.sdhe.com
                www.thetinfish.net

                1. I just wanted to follow up and thank all of you for the suggestions you gave me as well as sheepishly apologize for not following any of them.

                  I got bumped off of my flight, and ended up with a 2 hour turnaround in SD. I thought about going into the city anyway, but I would have had about 45 minutes by the trolley station before I would have had to rush and catch my flight back. I have, however, bookmarked this thread and plan to return to SD to actually enjoy the city and food.

                  Again, I'm sorry you guys put in the work for a trip that didn't even happen, but I appreciated it and promise to check out the places that you guys mentioned. SD is too paradisical to not go back.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: nbs2

                    Bummer. I was thinking about you.

                    Was the food on the plane and in the airport any good?

                    1. re: Cathy

                      The food was pretty good. Well as good as CPK can be. I should point out that CPK is my second least favorite pizza chain (behind UNO). I did enjoy my several Odwallas.

                      Man, I just realized I had the most generic, plain, food I've had in a while (smoothie, pizza, 2xOdwalla, scone, several of the Delta Biscoffs) - ugh.

                      My sister-in-law is coming into town this weekend - we'll go out enough that I'll make up for it then.