SoCal Adventure: Day Four, Bus Tour of San Diego

I lived in San Diego for four years when I studied at the University of California, San Diego, eventually earning a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science with a minor in Philosophy. Yeah, it all started then, my mix of tech and theory, and I have to say that I really enjoyed living in San Diego during the first great boom of development in the area. It’s a city that’s unrecognizably bigger, with so much growth and entire cities that simply didn’t exist when I was there. I’ve written previously about going back on campus after a (cough, cough) year break between graduation and my return [see: College Road Trip: UCSD]

Still, ya can live somewhere for years and never do that tourist thing. It’s just like the number of people in Manhattan who have never actually been to the top of the Empire State Building. For me, that translated into my basic horizons in San Diego not extending much at all beyond the campus boundaries.

This time, with some help from Old Town Trolley Tours, I wanted to take a bus tour of the city with the kids, both to give them a sense of the varied areas and so I could actually look out and enjoy, rather than worry about traffic and wrong turns. What’s nice about the OT3 tours is that you can jump off and on again at any of the over dozen stops that they make throughout the city.

We started in Old Town, a quaint area of San Diego that gives a glimpse of what life there would have been like in the late 1800s. Dirty, dusty, and full of people in very colorful clothes. Oh, and tons of parking. 🙂

With beautiful synchronicity, you can see what was on the back of the trolley we took:


This is in the “you can’t make this stuff up” category. And, oddly, my comments about “Ha! Just have kids!” didn’t meet with strong approval from my minions. Go figure.

So we got on the trolley bus and it was full of tourists. Us included. And it looked just about as you’d expect:


The tour is quite extensive, taking 2 hours if you go start-to-finish.

We needed lunch, so we hopped off at the Gas Lamp district, just a few blocks from the Convention Center (where Comic-Con had just happened a week earlier!) and found a terrific Mexican place called La Puerta. It looked like a typical dark downtown eatery, but the food reminded me how San Diego Mexican food is so, so much better than even the best we have in Colorado. I miss really good Mexican food.


After that we popped by Ghiradelli for dessert (always amazing!) then jumped back on the trolley for the ride over the Coronado Bridge and onto Coronado Island. It’s a beautiful place with a colorful history, particularly of the lovely Hotel Del Coronado, which is still the largest all-wooden hotel in the world. This is where the driver / guide made the ride more interesting, peppering us with facts and history, pointing out original houses (including the “Mini Coronado” house), just the kind of info I like to know about an area.

It offers beautiful views of downtown San Diego too, as you can see:


The white building in the foreground? It’s the original toll booth for people wanting to visit Coronado Island back in the early 1900s. My, how the view has changed since then…

The kids particular liked the drive over the bridge, and by that point we were sitting in the middle of the back section where there were no windows, just a huge open space. Quite exciting, and I took advantage of the view to take this panoramic shot of south San Diego harbor and the Navy Amphibious Base off Silver Strand Beach:


Tip: click on the image to scroll around a bit!

After an enjoyable bus tour that included a drive around Balboa Park, we finally got back to the car and jumped in for our drive north to Anaheim and Disneyland. Just in time for rush hour traffic. Took way longer than it should have, but I am also out of training driving through heavy traffic so it probably felt more fatiguing than otherwise. Still, we got to our next port of call, the always fun Howard Johnson Anaheim hotel, our gateway to Disneyland and an additional few days of adventure…

Disclaimer: Old Town Trolley Tours supplied us with two tickets to the bus tour. Since I decided not to leave two of the kids stuck in the car for the afternoon 🙂 I paid for the other two tickets. Money well spent.

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