We had a two-day layover in San Diego on our way to Hawaii and although we were tired we tried our best to fill the days with a mini-adventure. We were staying at the Four Points by Sheraton, which was near the airport for convenience and close to little Italy.
San Diego | Itinerary
What to See and Do
- Balboa Park
- Japanese Garden
- Speed Boat Adventure Tour
What to Eat
- Burger Lounge
- Extraordinary Desserts
- Mitch’s Seafood
The last time we visited San Diego, I was blown away by this place so I definitely wanted to visit this place again and do a couple more of the exhibits within the park.
We last visited in winter and decided this exhibit would be mostly dead but this time it was in the middle of spring so it was a must do. One of the sights we want to visit is the Japan’s cherry blossoms festival, so we were excited to see them in bloom at the Japanese Garden. Even more wonderful was the light wind that made it rain cherry blossoms.
The garden isn’t as large as I would have expected for the size of Balboa Park and you end up walking up and down the side of the hill. There is an upper (free) and lower (paid) exhibit but for our visit the lower exhibit was closed. This is a great place to take it slow, enjoy the flowing river and waterfall on the lower level and enjoy the architecture of the area. I would advise bringing a lunch or even a blanket to really relax.
The Arboretum is an imposing structure. From a distance it is hard to tell what the building is composed of. As you approach you realize that the roof is made from aged wood with spacing between the wood slats to allow light and rain in. There happen to be a festival going on during our visit so the area was filled with food trucks.
We picked up some quick eats from Yo Yo Bento and headed to the Arboretum. This is a very refreshing place to visit with a great assortment of plants. The exhibit is free and very peaceful. The area is filled with different pleasant aromas and having plenty of time we decided to sit on a bench and rest with our lunch.
In an effort to make sure we had room for dessert, we went to Extraordinary Desserts first. We had been to the location near Balboa Park before but this was our first time visiting the location near little Italy. The first confusing thing about this location is that you can wait to be seated, go through a line and fill out a card before you get to your table with your dessert order or enter a second line which is only for to-go orders (although it seemed like both can take orders to go). This is not explained at the entrance so you are left with people scrambling around going from line to line as people check to see if both sides have the safe offerings. Staff was a bit rude/disinterested/apathetic and it took a while for a server to come over and get our pre-filled orders. The desserts were great as expected but I am starting to think the best way to experience this place is to get it to go and go enjoy it somewhere else. The only benefit to eating-in is that they warm the desserts that should be served warm. Overall, I would say we prefer the location near Balboa Park as they seemed to have a larger selection and a single line makes more sense.
The last time we were in San Diego, we ran into this place and thought it was a damn good burger. Eager to see if this place is consistently good we walked to the restaurant and ordered a pair of Husky Burgers. Grass fed beef, bacon, avocado, and organic cheese on a heavenly bun with a side of crispy onion rings. To our joy, the burgers were just as good, we ended up eating here twice and would hands down recommend it if you have never visited one of the Burger Lounge locations.
The Uber ride back to our hotel was a bit interested as the Uber driver decided to share (unsolicited) that he spent the last night with some previous clients drinking, doing cocaine, and passing out at their place. He was so open and proud, I could only sit there quietly as he entertained himself with his previous night.
Speed Boats Adventure Tour
This was by far the highlight activity of the trip. We had done something similar in the Bahamas but these boats were faster and the choppy water led to some exciting moments. You get your own boat (up to two people) but go out with a group and a tour lead. The boats had engines ranging from 30-50 horsepower and were roomy. The tour takes you around the harbor and you get to see many sites/landmarks: Coronado bridge, cruise ships, USS Midway, Maritime Museum, submarines, seals. On top of that you, you get to put the throttle down between the sites.
The ride will be as fast as you want it to be and I wasn’t it expecting it to be so fast. We got so much air in the boat and I swear at some points the boat had to be completely out of the water, just flying through the air. We took a lot of small jumps but I couldn’t safely keep the throttle down the entire time, as the large jumps were really rough. It was really fun to fly through the air but damn were those bumps on the way down rough. Lucy was gripping the passenger bar the entire time and I don’t blame her. The only constraint is that you stay within radio range and sight of the tour guide. The tour guide was amazing as well, giving us great information along the tour. This activity was a blast and I highly recommend you give it a shot (You can go at your own pace). Preferably go early in the day as the later in the day the more wind and the chances of choppy conditions increase.
After the speeds boats we had quite an appetite and headed down to a local spot, Mitch’s Seafood. The line can get really long but the food is descent. It wasn’t knock-your-socks-off good but a decent meal. The seafood is caught locally so everything is fresh and the tartar sauce was particularly good. The clam chowder was average but full of clams. The calamari was a bit bland but crispy. The crab cakes and fish tacos were really good. I probably wouldn’t go back now that I have tried it and if your not willing to try it, there is another restaurant that is good close by (along with a micro-brewery). Not much around the area so we headed back for the day.
Seemed like it was going to be a good day but Alaskan airlines was completely unhelpful on this morning. They have a rule that you have to check in your luggage 40 minutes before the flight. We went to the kiosk and did that with five minutes to spare but when we went to hand the bag over to the luggage personal all hell broke loose. They said that we were late and that we would never make the flight and they called a manager over to release our seats and wouldn’t take our luggage. They were having some security delays, which made the lines long, but we were TSA pre-check which is usually quick. The TSA pre-check line was long which made Lucy worry. I asked them why are they releasing our seats when we have an hour to get through security and they were refusing to take our luggage.
Finally they took it and told us that it probably wouldn’t get there until the next day (which seemed weird since they had more flights that day). They even made it seem as though they cancelled our reservation and our boarding passes wouldn’t work through security and we might as well book another flight. This was horrible treatment and they were not helpful at all, just rude and wrong. We made it through security in 30 minutes and made our flight with no problem (I was even selected for additional screening by the TSA). They added extra burden to our travel, as we had no clue if our luggage was on our flight or still in San Diego. This left a bad taste in our mouth after a relatively great visit to San Diego.
Happy Travels !