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The Best and Worst of San Diego


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Let’s talk about you first. Those who cast ballots in our annual readers’ poll are in need of new sports idols. Your pick for favorite San Diego athlete is former Chargers linebacker Junior Seau. He was traded to Miami in April. Runner-up: Mr. Padre Tony Gwynn, who now coaches for San Diego State University. The athlete with the highest number of votes who actually still plays on a local team: Chargers running back LaDanian Tomlinson.

More on you: You’re conflicted. Many of you think KUSI’s Kimberly Hunt is the best news anchor. More of you think she is the worst. And the majority of you picked her as the best-looking woman in town.

A little about the editors’ picks: We offer, as usual, an eclectic batch of goods and services, people and places, from the best haunted restaurant to the best campground restroom. We found the best hospital cafeteria, and offer a few ideas about the worst things that could happen when Petco Park opens next year.

For a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows—and to hear about the city’s best roller coaster—read on.

Best Street Fair Venue

Eclectic Normal Heights is home to two boffo, long-running annual fairs—the Adams Avenue Street Fair (September 27-28) and the Adams Avenue Roots Festival, held in April. The former is SoCal’s largest free-music event; the latter celebrates American music from banjos to jazz to zydeco. Plenty of color and characters at both.

Best Corny Fun Tour

This inspires so many bad puns that you may die groaning. Operated by Old Town Trolley Tours, the Ghosts and Gravestones roundup is, as they say, frightseeing at its best. Visitors tour the Whaley House, Villa Montezuma, Old Town Cemetery and other haunts, and the guides are a hoot. A spirited adventure for all. 619-298-8687.

Best Movie Complex

Problematic parking aside, a big round of applause goes to the Pacific Gaslamp All Stadium 15. Good seats and sound, pleasant staff and a very clean atmosphere, in the heart of nightlife central. It’s nice to take in a flick away from a shopping center. 701 Fifth Avenue, 619-232-0400.

Best Movie Concession Stand

Fresh popcorn and real butter seal the deal for Landmark’s Hillcrest Cinemas, where art films and independents reign. There’s also espresso and gourmet coffees. Italian sodas and some fun ice cream treats, too. 3965 Fifth Avenue, 619-299-2100.

Best Roller Coaster

The Giant Dipper in Belmont Park has been a San Diego institution since it first opened on July 4, 1925, as The Earthquake. The 2,600-foot-long coaster was built by sugar magnate John D. Spreckels at a cost of $150,000. It was fully restored in the late 1980s and has been designated a National Landmark. Mission Beach, 858-488-1549.

Best Tidepools

Ocean Beach, just south of the pier. At low tide, the tidepools here are teeming with life, from schools of tiny fish to sea stars, sea slugs, sea anemones and armies of sea snails and hermit crabs. Runners-up: the west end of La Jolla Cove and the rocky coast of Point Loma downhill from Cabrillo National Monument (rangers frequently offer tidepools walks; for info, call 619-557-5450).

Best Rest Stop

Aliso Creek rest area (west), southbound Interstate 5, 2 miles south of Las Pulgas Road, has all the amenities you’d want, from restrooms to vending machines to spacious picnic grounds. But the real delight here is a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean from many of the elevated mounds and walkways, particularly compelling at sunset.

Best Barbershop

Jasper, Joe and Sam run a no-foo-foo, man’s-man establishment at the Westgate Hotel, 1055 Second Avenue. Jasper has been barbering for 45 years locally, Sam for 42, and Joe is a 40-year hairmeister. A cut sets you back $15. Book a chair at The Barber Shop Monday-Friday, 619-234-1951.

Worst Thing Padres Could Do at New Petco Park #1

After home runs, instead of announcer Jerry Coleman shouting, “Oh, doctor!” he’ll now yell, “Oh, veterinarian!”

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