By Kevin Wilkerson, Culture With Travel California Correspondent
Disneyland may call itself “The Happiest Place On Earth,” but San Diego is the happiest place in California.
And what’s not to be happy about in San Diego? The sun is out everyday, the temperature always seems to be 70 degrees (and there’s no humidity or bugs) and the people might be the friendliest in all the USA. At the very least, they smile more than people in any other city in the USA.
Why would they not be smiling? They live in San Diego, a place that has it all, so much so that is seems as if it’s unfair to all the other cities.
San Diego has the Gaslamp Quarter, a clean and modern almost European-style downtown area with restaurants featuring outside café seating, bars and did I mention bars? More on that in a minute.
It also has a harbor, San Diego Bay. The centerpiece of this is the massive USS Midway aircraft carrier. There’s also a gleaming downtown baseball park where people can sit on the grass beyond the outfield fence and have a picnic.
San Diego also has beaches, miles and miles of them, each with a distinctive character culture. Ocean Beach is where the 60s hippies reside, Mission Beach has a small but lively rollercoaster and is where the tourists go, Pacific Beach is where the locals party and La Jolla is where waves crash into giant cliffs. La Jolla is only about three miles from Pacific Beach but with that sudden change in scenery it seems like you’ve traveled to another country.
Behind it all is Mission Bay, a network of waterway playgrounds that can make you forget about any responsibility you might have in this world.
A little further up the coast there’s Del Mar, home of the Del Mar Race Track, once the summertime hangout of Jimmy Durante, Marlyn Monroe and other movie stars, and which boasts the nickname of “where the turf meets the surf.” This same area has Torrey Pines, home to the annual PGA Tour event with holes above cliffs the size of small mountains.
Heck, San Diego even has an island. Coronado. It’s where the famous Hotel del Coronado sits right on the beach with its derby-ish architecture (the waiting list to hold a wedding there is so long I’m certain people book it while they are still single hoping to find someone to marry by the time it becomes available).
Okay, now back to those bars in the Gaslamp. This is – without a doubt – the best nightlife in the state of California. From the dive in Top Gun bar to the “Alice In Wonderland” Vin de Syrah in which you enter through a secret door covered in ivy, to Irish bars with great live bands, to packed sports bars that become nightclubs to restaurant/cafes that transform into techno-thumping mini-clubs like something in the Greek Isles, it has everything you need within a six-block radius.
Not only that, but there’s more than meets the eye, for you may see an innocent-looking drinking bar on the ground level but go down the steps and there’s a pumping nightclub in the basement.
With all this, a few days in San Diego will leave your head spinning because you won’t know what hit you, like the wall of a huge wave. While you’re there, you’re too busy enjoying it to think about it. It’s only once you return home when things start to settle down that you’ll say “good grief, San Diego is one awesome place!”
Kevin Wilkerson lived briefly – too briefly – in the Gaslamp. He now resides in another pretty good Southern California town, Hermosa Beach, where he publishes the travel and nightlife website PubClub.com and posts blogs about beach lifestyle on SurfsideSam.com.