Postcards from Home
Locals know where to go to taste la dolce vita in San Diego: Little Italy. Just blocks from the downtown waterfront, the lively neighborhood offers the perfect hometown escape. Porto Vista, on Columbia Street in the heart of Little Italy, boasts “vibrant 1960s Mediterranean chic” accommodations at affordable rates. Rent a scooter from the hotel’s own Vespa boutique, Porto Vespa, for a breezy city tour, Italiano style. (Rental rates start at $69.99 per day, with models ranging from the Vespa LX50 to the Piaggio MP3 250.) Stroll the Mercado, the bustling Saturday-morning farmers’ market; browse the boutiques lining Fir Street, and peruse area shops selling hard-to-find Italian imports; stop to watch the Italian elders involved in a boisterous contest of bocce ball. Buy handmade pasta at one of the Italian grocerias—or just eat it at Buon Appetito, on India. Pull up a chair on the sidewalk patio fronting Pappalecco (State Street) and indulge in a frothy cappuccino and the best gelato in town. Plan to visit April 24-25, when San Diego’s largest urban arts festival, Mission Federal ArtWalk, takes over Little Italy with street booths and stages showcasing local artists, live music, food vendors and an area of art and entertainment just for kids.
Go to littleitalysd.com for a printable walking map of Little Italy. Also check out the calendar of events for upcoming highlights such as Kettner Nights (May 14) and the Sicilian Festival (May 23).
Bridge to Romance
Driving over the Coronado Bridge, the downtown skyline retreating in the rear-view mirror, you can’t help but be seduced by an island state of mind. On Coronado, the pace slows—in apparent unison with the sailboats bobbing gently off its sun-glinted shores—and the setting for romance is the stuff of storybooks. Skip the hordes of tourists at the Hotel del Coronado (okay, go there for a sunset cocktail if you must) and reserve a cozy suite at the 1906 Lodge at Coronado Beach, a lovingly restored inn tucked a block off Orange Avenue, the main thoroughfare (1906lodge.com). Each of the luxurious suites is themed in tribute
to an aspect of Coronado history. Check in to the North Island suite, one of the lodge’s more spacious sets of rooms, with a fireplace at the foot of the bed, huge soaking tub for two, sitting room and porch with sunset views. Start the day with a house-made scone or French toast on the outside patio facing
the reflecting pool. Rent bicycles at Holland’s on Orange Avenue, and cruise the coastal stretches of Ocean Boulevard, Glorietta Bay or the Silver Strand. Park it at Wine Styles for a food-and-drink refuel. If romance is on the agenda, a gondola tour of the Coronado Cays is a must. For dinner, cozy up in a dimly lit booth at the Brigantine or a table for two at French bistro Chez Loma. Miss that downtown skyline a bit? The tableside views from Peohe’s won’t disappoint, either.
Go online to 1906lodge.com/blog for owner Sue Gillingham’s current specials and calendar of activities on Coronado. Her Spring Break Special (March 27–April 30) includes a free third night when you book two nights. Or stay in her most romantic suite, the Tea Garden, and receive a $50 gift card for dinner at Coronado’s Bistro D’Asia.
The Other La Jolla
There’s so much more to this coastal enclave than the fancy hotels, boutiques and eateries dotting glitzy Prospect Avenue. Get to know La Jolla’s bohemian side with a tightfisted tour of its funky neighborhoods and cultural hot spots. Start the day with a latte at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, a popular locals’ hangout that serves up the best organic (and socially responsible) java in town. After window shopping in Bird Rock—you may have to allow one splurge at Capricorn, a great boutique for men and women—head to Calumet Park and watch surfers at Rock Pile (from La Jolla Boulevard, turn west onto Midway Street, then go two blocks to Calumet Avenue and turn left). There’s no shortage of arts and culture sites and activities, with offerings from the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (admission is free on the third Thursday of each month, 5-7 p.m.), the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library (check lecture, exhibit and concert schedules at ljathenaeum.org) and Salk Institute (free guided architectural tours are offered weekdays at noon). If your visit falls on a Sunday, don’t miss the La Jolla Farmers’ Market, one of the better open-air markets in town.
If you’re looking for a cheap hotel in La Jolla—and we mean no frills—the La Jolla Beach Travelodge on La Jolla Boulevard is a three-minute walk from Windansea Beach, and makes a convenient place to rest your head between explorations of La Jolla’s casual side.
Luxury on the Ranch
We can think of a much better way to spend the money you would’ve dished out for that round-trip ticket to Maui. Three words: Rancho Santa Fe. Taste the lifestyle of our wealthiest denizens for a glorious day—or two—at Rancho Valencia. The luxury resort will send a chauffeured Mercedes-Benz to pick up you and your mate at home and whisk you to The Spa at Rancho Valencia, where you’ll be escorted to the Spa Couples Suite for the signature Tip to Toe treatment—a 60-minute massage, exfoliating foot scrub and aromatic scalp treatment. After, indulge in a champagne lunch served outside by the soaking pool. The three-hour package runs $795 (tax and gratuities included). If you want to make it an overnight visit, the Benz will shuttle you home the next morning. Tennis buffs will want to take advantage of the 18 courts—Rancho Valencia was named the #1 Tennis Resort in the U.S. by Tennis Magazine. Or just explore the resort’s 40 acres of verdant grounds and canyon trails. You can cover even more ground on a bicycle; the resort will furnish guests with a bike, helmet, water bottle and bike-trail map. Pedal past horse ranches, the Rancho Santa Fe reservoir, country estates or into the village. Reward yourself with a slice of fresh-from-the-oven pie at Thyme at the Ranch before riding back to the resort.
Rancho Valencia offers specials and events throughout the year. Check ranchovalencia.com/
packages to learn about upcoming wine dinners, events and seasonal room packages.
Forget hauling a carload of antsy kids up to Anaheim. We’ve got one of the country’s more popular theme parks in our own backyard. Legoland, spanning 128 acres of coastal Carlsbad, has some 50 rides, shows and attractions, including Miniland USA and the new 4-D Clutch Powers show (legoland.com). Make the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa your home base for the weekend (sheratoncarlsbad.com). Guests have access to a private entrance to the park (no lines!) and get discounts on admission—just ask about current specials and packages when you call to book your reservation. (The hotel continually partners with Legoland to bring Sheraton guests special events, including breakfast with costumed Legoland characters, planned for the summer months.) The complimentary hotel shuttle zips you to nearby beaches, the village of Carlsbad, Carlsbad Premium Outlets, K1 Speed for go-kart racing (a highlight for kids and parents alike) and The Crossings at Carlsbad’s public golf course. Mom can steal away to the resort’s Ocean Pearl Spa for a massage and pedicure while the kids hang at the oasis-style pool. And if your family has the energy of the Griswolds, you can squeeze in visits to SeaWorld, Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo—all within a 45-minute drive from Carlsbad.
The Sheraton’s Carlsbad Suite is ideal for families, with its low-fuss yet sophisticated décor and roomy layout. Two more reasons to bunk up: The resort screens family movies poolside on summer evenings, with intermission courtesy of Legoland’s nightly fireworks display.