advertisement

I've just returned from vacationing in San Diego -- nobody warned me about the infamous "June Gloom" weather, but apart from this month (when everything is a little gray) the sun shines for 300 days a year there. Fortunately you only have to drive a few miles inland to escape bad weather and temperatures rise the further east your drive. The nearby desert areas can be over 100 degrees and sunny when the shoreline is only in the 60's. This was my first trip here and I must admit I was impressed by the overall beauty of the city, its attractions, and its proximity to a variety of visit-worthy destinations.

Southwest Airlines Vacations (tel. 800/243-8372; www.swavacations.com) has a number of special vacation packages that include round-trip airfare to San Diego, two-nights accommodation (staying either at the Best Western Seven Seas Lodge or The Dana on Mission Bay) and an entry ticket to SeaWorld. Prices start at $219 per person from Phoenix, $364 from Boise, $374 from Chicago or Providence and $394 from Omaha. Taxes are additional and these deals are valid for departures on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday from now until June 28, July 4 to August 30 and from September 5 to October 25, 2005. Taxes are additional

America West (tel. 800/2FLY-AWA; www.americawest.com) has some super low fares to San Diego this summer with prices starting as low as $98 for a mid-week round-trip flight from Phoenix. Taxes are additional.

Jet Blue (800/JET-BLUE; www.jetblue.com) is one of the only airlines with direct flights to San Diego from New York with three flights daily. Fares start at approximately $144 each way plus taxes for midweek departures. Their Super Fly web fares also include special $119 one-way flights to San Diego from Washington DC or $159 from Buffalo, Burlington, Rochester or Syracuse. Seven-day advance purchase is required for these midweek fares and taxes are additional.

CheapAir (tel. 800/243-2724; www.cheapair.com) has discounted round-trip flights from New York to San Diego starting from $182. This deal is valid until May 2, 2006 for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday departures and returns. Advance purchase of 14-days required and these flights may not be direct.

United's (tel. 800/864-8331; www.united.com) "Destination Summer" fare sale includes cheap round-trip flights to San Diego, like the $222 fare from New York, or $264 from Chicago including taxes. These prices are valid for off-peak travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from now through August 31, 2005. A ten-day advance purchase and a one night minimum stay is required. Certain blackout dates apply.

Planning a quick getaway? Site 59 (www.site59.com) has last minute packages to San Diego including round-trip airfare, taxes and accommodation. For $409 per person, you can enjoy return airfare from New York to San Diego this weekend or next, plus three nights accommodation at the Holiday Inn Rancho Bernardo. Upgrade to a studio suite at the four-star San Diego Rancho Bernardo Area Staybridge Suites for an additional $78 or for an extra $99, stay at La Jolla Beach at the Radisson Hotel. Similar packages start at $402 for three-nights accommodation and airfare from Chicago and $590 per person out of Miami. All packages are priced per person based on dual occupancy for weekend trips to be taken within the next two-week period.

When you get to San Diego, why not take a bike or kayak tour with San Diego Bike and Kayak Tours (tel. 858/437-1224; www.sandiegobikeandkayaktours.com). Their two-hour "Coastal Leisure Ride" is $32 per person and takes you along Dead Man's Bluff, the Cave Store, La Jolla Cove, Clam's Cave and the sea lions at Children's Pool. See the outdoor exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art, ride through the quaint back streets of La Jolla and Bird Rock. The "La Jolla Freefall Bike Tour" is three-hours and costs $40 per person. It begins with van transport to Mt. Soledad, riding past the War Memorial and cross, then descending into Pacific Beach, stopping at Crystal Pier, the Pacific Beach Boardwalk, Mission Beach and Bay, the back streets of La Jolla, the Windnsea Surf spot, the harbor seals and seal lions of La Jolla Cove, Clam's Cave, and Dead Man's Bluff. The La Jolla Freefall bike tour includes use of a 21-speed Gary Fisher bicycle, helmet, lesson, water, snack bar, tour guide and transportation to Mt.Soledad. The two-hour "Kayak Tour of the Seven Caves" includes viewing of the harbor seals, sea lions and the orange Garibaldi swimming below, kayaking through the kelp forest and ecological reserve. During breeding season (June until October), the tour paddles over to the shallow waters near the Marine Room to view leopard sharks. This tour costs $45 for a single kayak and $70 for a double and includes kayak, paddle, life vest, paddle instruction, lesson, backrest and tour guide. Or take a Kayak/Snorkel combination tour for $20 more and snorkels, masks and fins are included.

La Jolla is only one of the many famous beach areas that you should definitely add to your itinerary. The walk along the coves is breathtaking and you will be drawn in by the scent of the Pacific ocean, the color of the wild flowers and the abundance of wildlife in the area including various marine birds, the resident seals and the largest squirrels I have ever laid eyes on. Mission Beach, Pacific Beach (or as the locals call them MB and PB) and Coronado are a few of the main beaches that provide white sandy expanses, gentle surf and an abundance of things to see and do. Don't miss the visually spectacular historic Hotel del Coronado (tel. 800/HOTEL-DEL; www.hoteldel.com) that dominates the Coronado shores and if you can, savor their weekend brunches.

If you are in the city on a Saturday take an inexpensive guided tour through the historic Gaslamp Quarter. This 16-block area features a lively atmosphere, stunning Victorian architecture and more than 60 restaurants for lunch or dinner post tour. Gaslamp Quarter Walking Tours (tel. 619/233-4692) are $8 for adults or $6 for seniors and students and they will give you a finer appreciation of the history of this downtown San Diego district.

The city's pride in its Latino heritage and its history in the formation of California is on proud display in Old Town, a combination between a slightly kitchy yet appealing touristy area and a mecca for the best Mexican restaurants this side of the border. The district also has historical museums, classical churches, parks and import shops to keep you busy. Many visitors find San Diego's close proximity to the Mexican border and Tijuana (only a 40-minute drive) appealing but you should be aware that if you are renting a car, rental companies expressly state that no over the border jaunts are allowed!

No visit to the city is complete without a visit to the San Diego Zoo (tel. 619/234-3153; www.sandiegozoo.org). More of an extreme sport than a leisurely day with our furry friends, two adults can expect to fork out $42 to see the animals for an afternoon. As much as the zoo is magnificent facility wise, I personally found that constant barrage of huge double-decker tour buses with loud voiceovers roaming the park very annoying and detracting from the overall experience. If you purchase your tickets online by June 30, 2005, save $6 on the price of their Best Value package which includes Zoo admission, with unlimited use of the Guided Bus Tour, Express Bus, and Skyfari Aerial Tram. Tickets purchased online must be printed at home and cannot be purchased at the park itself. They are valid for one time entrance until July 4, 2005 only. The cost is $25.99 for adults (usually $32) but there is no discount for children's tickets, which are the regular price of $19.75. If you want more animals, try a San Diego 3-for-1 Pass offering unlimited admission to the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, and SeaWorld for up to five days. Adult Pass prices are $98.75 and children's are $74.95.

San Diego was named one of the top 50 golf destinations in the world by Golf Digest and it's not difficult to see why, with the immediate area boasting 92 championship courses, No matter what your ability, or your budget, you're destined to find a golf course that suits you to a tee here. Prices start from $49 for a midweek round at Balboa Park Golf course with great views overlooking the city of San Diego with the Pacific Ocean in the background. You can check out the various courses, fees and make bookings at San Diego Golf (tel. 866/271-1167; www.sandiegogolf.com)

For more tourism information, visit www.frommers.com/destinations/sandiego, www.sandiego.org and www.signonsandiego.com.