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48 hours in san diego/baja - what's your dream itinerary?

my husband and i are headed to san diego to see family this weekend and decided to stay a couple days and possibly include tijuana or ensenada. we are coming from los angeles so we can get pretty much any type of cuisine and are very adventurous eaters - anything from taco trucks to tasting menus with wine pairings, and of course we love good beer. its also our first time away from our baby so of course your hotel and spa recommendations are greatly appreciated as well.

we'd like to stay somewhere downtown and are only driving to mexico for the day.

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  1. Current waits to cross north at the border tend to be fairly long. . .Up to 5 hours on some days. You may be better off crosing south on foot and then using cabs to get around Tijuana. If you really want to drive and go further south, coming back through Tecate on a Monday mid to late morning would avoid the worst of long lines going north

    1. In TJ, definitely recommend Mision 19 (a must), followed by their sister restaurant, Caesar's, El Mazateno (tacos), and La Querencia.

      1. Cebecheria Erizo in Tijuana

        For a life changing, eye opening experience with sea food go here:

        http://www.streetgourmetla.com/2010/0...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Gypsy Jan

          Absolutely! I actually like Erizo better than Mision 19. They are totally different, tho'.

        2. Border crossing, estimated time for vehicles and pedestrians. Call 619-690-8999. Updated every hour. You can get a good idea of the wait times and when its optimal to cross. I like to go to Puerto Nuevo and stuff myself with LOB. #1's is the first place on the left.

          14 Replies
          1. re: ian langdon

            There is also a new app: "best time to cross the border"!

            1. re: foodiechick

              I initially thought you were joking until I quickly checked for such an app and see that you were serious.

              1. re: polldeldiablo

                Absolutely serious and truly helpful for anyone going to Baja without a SENTRI card, especially in a car

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  Hey DD, got a question pertaining to driving in Tijuana. I've gone a number of times to Tijuana for day trips but only via walking, I see a lot of places I'd love to try that's too far to walk to. Having no experience driving in Tijuana, is it worth it to drive there/safe driving there in a non-luxury car. I've almost never felt unsafe walking in Tijuana but I have no idea if it gets better or worse the farther in I get.

                  Also does speaking very little Spanish have more problems farther in?

                  1. re: polldeldiablo

                    I don't like driving in Tijuana much either so I take cabs. For most of the frequently mentioned foodie destinations the cab is either $5 or $8. El Mazateño is consdierably more and if that's the destination, I think I'd be more inclined to cross at Otay.

                    A lot of cab drivers understand a good chunk of English even if they don't speak it, and every once in a while you'll run into one that's been repartriated and speaks great English. If you're concerned about communicating with your cab driver, just write down the address(es) of where you want to go and show it to the driver. Chances are pretty good they'll know where it is. Since they changed the southbound pedestrian crossing, getting to the cabs can be a bit of a hike.

                    There is a lot of English spoken in Tijuana. I wouldn't get to stressed out over minimal Spanish. Everyone eventually gets the drift one way or another.

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      Thanks, pedestrian crossing thing must be within past 365 days or so. Is there a day of the week/time of day preferable for shorter lines back to U.S.? I still have nightmares from when I was in Tijuana while the construction tunnel thing collapsed.

                      1. re: polldeldiablo

                        If you go during the week and come back 7:30PM or later (following dinner) you should get back across the border in 20 minutes or less...the later you return, the quicker you get across...I would avoid the weekends unless you plan on coming back after 9PM.

                        Mision 19 or Caesar's is a must. if you go to Mision 19, go to their website and print out the directions for the taxi driver--it is in the general vicinity of the Hotel Lucerna.

                        1. re: El Chevere

                          Ah that makes a lot of sense as far as coming back later.

                          Yeah, mision 19 was the one I've been wanting to try since I joined CH. I'll look into Caesar's also thanks.

                          1. re: polldeldiablo

                            Mision 19 and Caesar's are the same owners....the one thing you will NOT get at Mision 19 is the famed caesar salad that was invented at Caesar's. Both have great wines that are ridiculously affordable (i.e. as low as $25/bottle for a good wine). Caesar's is more mainstream and more conveniently located (right on Revolucion at 4ta Avenida) whereas Mision 19 is more of a dining experience....I have a couple of very good friends from Baja who have told me if I love Mision 19, there are a couple of other places in Guadalupe Valley that are even better--Corazon de Tierra and La Contra....if you go to Mision 19 be sure to check out the building it is located in--very nice coffee shop, great wine store, and small art gallery on the same level.

                            1. re: El Chevere

                              The ever enterprising Chef Javier has also opened Via Mercado in in the Via Corporativo building. Same floor, just around the corner from Mision 19. Haven't been yet (but dying to get there). Here's a review by someone who has...with photos

                              http://www.lifeandfoodblog.com/?p=4822

                    2. re: polldeldiablo

                      Driving in Tijuana is fairly easy...if you channel your inner bullfighter. Mr. FoodieC learned the tricks at an early age when he attended school in Monterrey. ;D

                    3. re: DiningDiva

                      If I could just find that card....it was around here somewhere....

                      1. re: Fake Name

                        Speaking from recent experience...a passport card works just like a SENTRI when on foot ;-)

                        Lost was found, thank fully.

              2. In Baja, I'd suggest Adobe Guadalupe Winery for a tasting - IMO the best wines in Baja. You can also ride horses throught the vineyards and olive groves on the property. Fairly close is the well known restaurant Laja, unfortunately I didn't get to eat there but it enjoys an excellent reputation.
                In San Diego there are countless opportunities to taste great beers. For bars, my favorites are Toronado and Blind Lady Ale House, for a brewery I prefer Alpine overall, and there is a very good barbecue restaurant attached. The 30th Street area offers unmatched bar hopping that can be done on foot, by the number 2 bus or with short cab rides.

                1. Border report from today.

                  We crossed north from Baja at about 12:00 pm at Otay Mesa, using the Ready Lane.

                  One hour and five minutes in line, counting the fifteen minutes we spent chatting with the ICE agent at the booth who was curious about our service dog and wanted to know about hubby's experiences growing up in Hawaii.

                  I am sure the other people waiting behind us were becoming very impatient, but you can't shut down a government official if he wants to talk.

                  Cabs are easy to find in TJ and all you have to do is ask, "Do you speak English?" Many Tijuanenses are embarrassed to admit that they are not fluent, but if you give them a chance with a friendly smile, they will expand a bit and try out their language skills with you.

                  1. Two additional places not mentioned (either that or I missed it) in Ensenada (Guadalupe Valley) include Corazon de Tierra and La Contra.