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The Best and Worst of San Diego


(page 7 of 11)

Best Gag Shop

Brad Burt’s Magic Shop has been a standing joke for 15 years. Brad Burt’s offers a wide assortment of gags and magic tricks, from $2 tubes of fake blood and disappearing ink to pricier gadgets for the serious magician, such as a head-chopper ($450) and a “haunted briefcase” ($1,200) that lets the magician “read” anything written on a notepad that’s been locked inside the case. 4204 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa, 858-571-4749.

Best Cheap Car Wash

Some kid wrote “Wash me!” on your car’s back window? The dirt on your car has dirt on it? North Park Car Wash offers a basic wash for just $8.99, including sealer wax. For $12.99, they throw in air freshener and tire dressing. Way cheap. 3401 University Avenue, 619-280-5484.

Best Campground Restroom

Anza-Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, Borrego Springs. Forget the open-air potties scattered throughout the campground; head straight for the modern complex in the center, with roomy private restrooms and showers, clean, well-lit and well-ventilated. The trailhead to the Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail, a 3-mile loop to a natural oasis complete with palm groves and waterfalls, is less than a quarter-mile away.

Best Merry-Go-Round

It’s just past the entrance to the San Diego Zoo parking lot. This vintage carousel, built in 1910 by the Herschell-Spillman Company of New York, was originally part of Tent City on Coronado. It’s been a Balboa Park fixture since 1922. All but two pairs of the brightly colored, exotic animals are originals, hand-carved by European craftsman. The colorful mural around the top is original as well. Rides are $1.25.

Best-Preserved Military Installations

Batteries, spotlights and storage bunkers from World War II are still standing at the tip of the Point Loma peninsula, erected even before Pearl Harbor when military strategists feared San Diego would be a likely target should the Japanese launch an attack on the West Coast. Battery Point Loma, which held four guns, sits on the hillside just below the whale overlook; other installations are visible from the Bayside Trail.

Best Bank Branch

For our money, it’s the Washington Mutual Park West location at Sixth Avenue and Laurel Street. Incredibly cheerful tellers, short lines and a security entrance and exit we figure is designed to thwart would-be bad guys. The branch will move to the ground floor of the under-construction luxury Park Laurel condos, but we’re banking on the ambience remaining the same.

Best Shoe Repair

Chito’s in North Park has been serving the well-heeled set for 15 years, and the prices still seem like 1988. Personable shop owner Chris Martinez replaces a basic pair of women’s heels for $3.50; a top-notch shoe shine is only $3. 2911 University Avenue, 619-298-2506.

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