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Archaeological Paths

San Diego: Scintillating San Diego

Jul 1, 2005
2005 / June-July 2005

If your passion is to hang ten or hang glide on the weekend, you’ll be right at home in San Diego, where locals’ commitment to hard work and excellence is exceeded only by their zest for the outdoors.

But despite their laid-back reputation — San Diego boasts a workforce of accomplished professionals including academics, biomedical researchers, real estate developers and visionary entrepreneurs — San Diegans strike a healthy balance between fun in the sun and getting the job done.

World-renowned institutions including the University of California at San Diego, the Salk Institute and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography have made an unquestionable mark on this southern California city. The UCSD campus and a bevy of office parks line San Diego’s North Torrey Pines Road. Biotechnology manufacturing is the city’s largest industry, and biomedical research has been big since Jonas Salk, who developed the first polio vaccine, founded the Salk Institute here in 1960.

San Diego is the West Coast’s oldest port — early 17th century Spanish explorers named the area and subsequently colonized it, establishing California’s first Spanish mission — so it’s no wonder the military is the region’s second largest employer. Tourism weighs in as San Diego’s third largest industry.

The city’s entertainment hub, the Gaslamp Quarter, boasts 90 historic structures within a 16-block radius and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Gaslamp Quarter traces its history to Alonzo Horton — frequently referred to as “the Father of San Diego” — who in 1867 bought 1,000 acres of land for about 27 cents an acre. A shrewd real estate developer, Horton gave away land to build up the market, then began selling desirable lots for a significant profit.

The downtown financial corridor, around Fifth Avenue, has experienced a welcome transformation in recent years. Despite 70 miles of sandy beaches nearby and balmy weather year-round, downtown San Diego in the 1960s suffered the same urban blight that afflicted many American cities. “Seven years ago, just a few blocks from the convention center, East Village was an urban blight, an urban wasteland,” said Joanne DiBona of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The ongoing turnaround is due in part to the fact that every year since 2001, the city has green-lighted more than 100 redevelopment projects. Echoing the success of Horton Plaza — San Diego’s open-air, five-level shopping and entertainment center that began as a downtown redevelopment project, and has been hailed locally and nationally as an overwhelming success since its opening in August 1985 — the city’s new baseball stadium, Petco Park, has spawned $1.6 billion in improvements in a 26-block area now known as the East Village Ballpark District.



Located in the East Village Ballpark District adjacent to the historic Gaslamp Quarter, Hotel Solamar is unquestionably well-situated. A playful ambience prevails in the 235 guestrooms — beds backed by oversized woven abaca headboards, polka-dot throws, aqua glass tiles in the bathrooms. Most appreciated are the veranda chairs and windows that open to let in the fresh air. All rooms include a dual-line phone with data port, oversized desk with ergonomic swivel chair, flat-screen television with a DVD/CD player and free high-speed Internet service. There’s also a rooftop pool lined with private cabanas and palm trees. $$
435 Sixth St. at J Street
tel 877 230 0300, 619 531 8740
fax 619 531 8742


This icon of San Diego’s halcyon days reclaimed its former grandeur after a recent $55 million restoration. To make the most of your stay at the Del, avoid guestrooms in the adjacent tower and settle into an oceanfront cottage or one of the 32 oceanfront junior suites with large windows and balconies.With its cupolas, red turrets and elegant Palm Court, this 1888 seaside hotel has hosted everyone from Victorian dandies to vintage Hollywood stars. Marilyn Monroe partied here during the filming of Some Like It Hot. $$$
1500 Orange Ave.
tel 800 HOTEL DEL, 619 435 6611
fax 619 522 8262


One of California’s finest seaside resorts, set in San Diego’s most undeveloped and scenic area, the Lodge evokes the golden era of California architecture. The Torrey pine art-glass porte-cochère entryway is faithful to the Arts and Crafts movement. The 175-room lodge also pays homage to the woodcrafter’s art, with 100-year-old timber rafters, mahogany hallways and a Brazilian cherry reception desk. Guestrooms feature king-size Stickley beds, art-glass shades, marble sinks and balconies overlooking the golf course and Torrey Pines mesa. Golfers are delighted that the lodge has 20 tee-off slots daily (reserve at least a month in advance) at the Torrey Pines Golf Course. Other amenities include a spa, fine-dining restaurant, outdoor pool, whirlpool, forest and beach trails and a 5-mile-long swimming beach. $$$-$$$$
11480 North Torrey Pines Road
La Jolla
tel 800 656 0087, 858 453 4420
fax 858 550 3991


Located in the heart of the biotech and telecom business community 17 miles north of San Diego International Airport (SAN), this 284-room hotel offers business travelers a home office in a resort setting. There are 17 meeting rooms and a business center. Guest suites include additional rooms that function well for small meetings. All rooms have pillow-top mattresses, in-room coffee service and a desk with an ergonomic chair. There’s an outdoor pool, whirlpool and health club, plus views of scenic canyons and Torrey Pines woodlands. $$-$$$
11966 El Camino Real
tel 800 228 9290, 858 523 1700


San Diego is a beach town with sophisticated entertainment. City Ballet performs at Spreckels Theatre (121 Broadway, tel 858 272 8663, http://www.cityballet.org). San Diego Symphony at Copley Symphony Hall (750 B St., tel 619 235 0804, sandiegosymphony.com) and at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido (340 N. Escondido Blvd., tel 800 988 4253). San Diego Opera presents at Civic Theatre (Third Avenue and B Street, tel 619 533 7000, http://www.sdopera.com). La Jolla Playhouse offers performances May to November at the Jacobs Center’s Weiss Theatre, on the University of California at San Diego campus (2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla, tel 858 550 1010, http://www.lajollaplayhouse.com). Music fans and clubbers hang out in the Gaslamp Quarter at the Waterfront Bar (2044 Kettner Blvd., tel 619 232 9656, waterfrontbarandgrill.com). The first bar to open after Prohibition ended in 1933, it was once on the waterfront when the bay came up this far. Capitalizing on the current popularity of rooftop nightspots, the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter (660 K St., tel 619 696 0234, http://www.marriott.com) has cocktails and a view into the ballpark from its rooftop bar. The hip House of Blues (1055 Fifth Ave., tel 619 299 BLUE, http://www.ticketmaster.com), cofounded by Blues Brother and actor Dan Aykroyd, rocks the former Woolworth’s building. The latest Euro-garage rock bands as well as big names in blues perform at this 31,000-square-foot live-music club.


Except for a few rainy weeks in winter, this coastal city enjoys summertime year-round. Chief among San Diego’s attractions are SeaWorld (500 SeaWorld Drive, tel 800 380 3203, http://www.seaworld.com) and the San Diego Zoo (2920 Zoo Drive, tel 619 231 1515, http://www.sandiegozoo.org). The 100-acre zoo has natural habitats for more than 4,000 creatures, from Indonesian orangutans to polar bears; take the 40-minute bus tour for an overview. Call the hotline (tel 888 697 2632) for viewing hours for the giant pandas and their cub. The city’s cultural wealth resides in Balboa Park (http://www.balboapark.org), created in 1868. Nearly a dozen museums, originally constructed for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition, are scattered among the park’s extensive gardens and playgrounds. Don’t miss the San Diego Museum of Art (1450 El Prado, tel 619 232 7931, http://www.sdmart.org) and its stunning collection of Spanish baroque paintings. This summer’s blockbuster exhibit is “St. Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes,” the largest collection of objects from the Vatican ever to tour North America. The San Diego Aerospace Museum (2001 Pan American Plaza, tel 619 234 8291, http://www.aerospacemuseum.org) focuses on local aviation history, including Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, which was built in San Diego.

The scenic drive to La Jolla has several worthwhile stops, including the Birch Aquarium at Scripps (2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, tel 858 534 FISH, http://www.aquarium.ucsd.edu); the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (designed by Louis I. Kahn); and San Diego’s Museum of Contemporary Art (700 Prospect St., La Jolla, tel 858 454 3541, mcasd.org). Adventures along the coast include hang gliding at the Torrey Pines Glider Port (2800 Torrey Pines Drive, La Jolla, tel 858 452 9858, http://www.flytorrey.com) and hiking the 2,000-acre Torrey Pines State Reserve (Coast Highway 101, http://www.torreypine.org), one of only two preserves where the rare, spindly Torrey pine grows naturally. For a great view, hike out to Razor Point.

Racing season is full of thrills and takes place at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club (2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar, tel 858 755 1141, http://www.dmtc.com) from July 20 to Sept. 7. The mission-style clubhouse and bandstand were financed by Bing Crosby in 1937.

At Seaport Village you can board the Midway at Navy Pier (910 N. Harbor Drive, tel 619 544 9600, http://www.midway.org). The world’s largest warship when it was launched, the USS Midway was in operation from 1945 until 1992, making it the longest-serving carrier in Navy history. Baseball fans are drawn downtown to the new state-of-the-art stadium, Petco Park (100 Park Blvd., tel 877 374 2784, sandiegopadres.com).

At Home with Donna Frye

City councilor and write-in candidate for mayor
Amid turmoil surrounding a federal Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of city finances and allegations of securities fraud, San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy recently announced his decision to resign effective July 15.

Next on the horizon? City Councilor Donna Frye, a write-in candidate for mayor who garnered significant support in last November’s elections and is now campaigning for the seat Murphy is vacating, is perceived by many San Diegans as a bright light. When she was in her early 20s, Frye worked as a technical writer and studied business. At the same time, she and her husband, Skip, were running Harry’s Surf Shop in Pacific Beach. Both became concerned when their customers began complaining about ailments they said resulted from contact with sewage dumped into the ocean.

“Around 1994 I got very active because I was dealing with a lot of sick surfers, Skip being one of them,” said Frye. “I formed STOP — Surfers Tired of Pollution — distributed bumper stickers and started lobbying City Hall. I also took wastewater management classes to educate myself. I helped write a bill that set statewide standards for water quality, required weekly testing of recreational beaches, and ordered warning signs and hotlines to inform the public if their coastal waters were polluted. It passed into law in 1997.”

Frye won her first city council seat in 2000, advocating a living wage, solar power and full disclosure on city financial issues. When the council passed a plan to increase benefits for city employees that might have resulted in the underfunding of their pensions, Frye cast the only dissenting vote. That vote set her on a course to becoming a local celebrity.

During her write-in candidacy last fall, the so-called “Surfer Girl” rocked City Hall by raising money, rallying supporters and winning endorsements despite strong opposition. Frye’s tally of 162,364 votes was reduced when it was determined that 5,551 voters had not filled in their ballots correctly. Dick Murphy was declared the winner of that election and subsequently began serving his second term in office.

When Murphy submitted his resignation in April, Frye launched a new campaign. In her kickoff campaign speech for the July election, Frye outlined her plan for getting the city back into the black.

“Clearly, this very complex problem has been created over many years by many circumstances,” Frye told voters. “There is no one silver bullet or any one solution that will address all the problems. And just as there is no one solution, there is no single person who can solve the problems by herself. That is a task for all of us. I can bring people together, tone down the rhetoric and get folks to the table to work together to solve this mess.”


The busiest single-runway commercial airport in the nation, San Diego International Airport (SAN) is 10 minutes from the city center. Recently, JetBlue (http://www.jetblue) and Independence Air (http://www.flyi.com) started nonstop service to Washington, D.C., bringing the total to 18 major and commuter airlines. For terminal and airline information, call 619 231 2100 or visit http://www.san.org Car-r.ental shuttles operate at Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, and are generally waiting at either of these areas. Shuttle vans and taxis depart from the Transportation Plazas. A taxi ride downtown runs about $20, while shuttles start at $15. The San Diego Trolley (http://www.sdcommute.com) is a fun way to get around to restaurants, harbor and historic attractions, shopping, historic Old Town and the international border.



FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.


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