San Diego is just a ticket away
San Diego is a port city, a college town and a military base all wrapped in one. Its unique location is a popular tourist destination and great staycation spot for Orange County college students travelling on a budget.
The Gaslamp Quarter is a historic landmark and the missions that span across San Diego are representative of where the first Spanish missionaries arrived in California.
Only two hours away by car and 1 1/2 hours by Amtrak, paradise is literally a ticket away. Some think that choosing the latter mode of transportation is much less stressful. You can recline, relax and connect to complimentary Wi-Fi as you watch the mosaic of the Southern California landscape pass before your very eyes.
Ticket prices to get from Orange County to San Diego vary depending on time of day and weekday. The median price is about $20 each way. Meaning that the tank of gas you would use to get there can remain in your car and the mileage can instead be put onto the train that is designed for long-distance travel.
The atmosphere of the Amtrak train is unlike any form of transportation, more relaxed than an airplane but cleaner than a subway train, making it the ideal form of transportation for a day trip down to San Diego.
Upon exiting San Diego train station you will be greeted by a series of motor scooters. These scooters are available to be rented through the Bird app, or any of the other scooter apps available like Lime or Razor.
Scooters are not traditionally seen as a main form of transportation but San Diego is unique because almost every street has a place for pedestrians to ride their scooters. In San Diego, they are just as accessible as cars.
Old Town San Diego and The Gaslamp Quarter are particularly easy to navigate by scooter because the city is laid out on a grid.
The Gaslamp Quarter is an older part of San Diego with one way streets and narrow alleys. Driving a car there is not an easy endeavour, especially on weekends when the streets start filling up.
Parking is also not a simple task as public lots are expensive and packed, and can cost up to $20 a day. Unless you are a champion parallel parker, you won’t be able to fit into the limited spots available on the street.
Driving and parking in San Diego compared to Orange County can be costly and time consuming, so taking the train and using scooters to move around the the Plymouth Rock of the West is both convenient and beneficial to the environment.
These eco-friendly alternatives also allow you to enjoy the coastal city in a more personal way. As you zip through the streets you will encounter countless restaurants, bars, dessert parlors and coffee shops. There is a food spot for every craving your mouth can desire.
Food and drinks
Cafe 21, a cafe in the Gaslamp District of San Diego, is an all natural restaurant that hosts live entertainment with music and dancers. Cafe 21 focuses on homemade food and drinks. They make each plate to order and cater to all the different types of dietary restrictions and food allergies found in the diverse city.
The bohemian-type decor invokes a fresh and clean vibe as onlookers walk in through the doors. A welcoming face will either show you to your table or direct you to the bar, which extends around the perimeter of the restaurant.
Cafe 21 is known for its handcrafted drinks and great happy hour deals. The happy hour food menu is $6 each plate or four plates for $21. There is everything from full vegan options to grass-fed, free-range beef and dessert featured on the happy hour menu.
All of the sangria and mimosas available are 50 percent off during happy hour, which happens from 3 to 6 p.m. every day.
Cafe 21 is not the only good restaurant in San Diego or the Gaslamp District for that matter. Main tourist attractions like the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop should be on the list of prominent places to stop by for a tasty treat.
Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, there are plenty of bars and breweries in San Diego County. Stone Brewing is based out of Escondido, a neighborhood in San Diego. Ballast Point is a beer that originated in the San Diego area. Karl Strauss, a brewery that has become so popular that they are building a location in Downtown Disney, was first brewed in San Diego. The variety of beers make the city the perfect place to “crack open a cold one.”
Things to do
The beauty of traveling is the ability to explore new places. For students who are travelling from Orange County to San Diego, it is not necessarily to expose yourself to a new culture but rather for a change of pace. With beaches to surf and museums to discover, the Gaslamp Quarter and San Diego in general represent a unique blend of tourist destination and local treasure.
San Diego has a rich mixture of history and patriotism. The city is home to a United States Naval Base where approximately 60 Navy ships reside and about 48,000 military and civilian personnel work.
Civilians have the opportunity to learn about how sailors live and work, by exploring the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier that is now a museum.
To add to the patriotism, San Diego’s culture feeds into America’s favorite pastime with Petco Park, the home field of the San Diego Padres. The stadium lies in the middle of the city surrounded by buildings, restaurants and bars.
In addition to the military history the city is also deeply rooted in Californian history. San Diego is home to the first of the 21 California missions. Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá can be visited for free or with a guided tour for $5 Monday through Friday at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Places like the Hotel Del Coronado are famous tourist attractions and a good place to spot celebrities. If you are looking for an organic lavender and seaweed body treatment spa day make sure to visit the hotel. You may find yourself sipping piña coladas and relaxing poolside with a famous celebrity.
For more of a scenic tour into Southern California coastal life you can plan a trip to go bird watching, whale watching or on a sailboat to glide along the water just off the coast.
If you’re looking for a family-friendly experience, take an adventure to the San Diego Zoo or Legoland.
Legoland is in Carlsbad, a neighborhood in San Diego. This family-friendly destination has tickets available for $23.50 per person.
San Diego is a city just like Los Angeles or New York, but the unique geographic location allows it to be its own entity. It cannot be compared to other types of big cities that come to mind when thinking about metropolitan areas.
It’s a big city, but it is easy to find beauty and peace in San Diego because it is a change of pace from the Orange County tempo we are normally used to. There is still traffic and large crowds just like anywhere else. However, San Diego is a unique, beach city with laid back vibes and a Southern California heart.