You gotta love a hike with a treat at the end. And, this one is quite delicious! Potato Chip Rock is your reward for climbing to the summit of MT. WOODSON…known to the natives as “The Mountain of Moonlight Rocks” as the boulders seem to glow after the sun sets. The chip is a huge “sliver” of all that remains of a massive boulder and makes for one outstanding photo op. (Really frightening to imagine the fate of any person unlucky enough to be on there when it decides to be done.) The trailhead for this moderate heartbeat-inducing hike is at Lake Poway Park on (the appropriately named) Lake Poway Road in (you guessed it) Poway. Depending upon when you go, you’ll either be bobbing and weaving amongst fellow (amateur to mid-level) hikers or reveling in the solitude on the trail. Either way you’ll definitely be marveling at the Disney-esque granite boulders everywhere you look. Did you just love climbing rocks as a kid…or, didn’t and wish you had? Well, this is totally the place to do it. Allow time for a photo shoot line at the chip and to find a secluded spot to plop and soak up the views. Can you see Mexico? For a map, the reserve website and more, click HERE.
Mere minutes after exiting one of San Diego’s busy interstates, you’ll hit the end of one of San Diego’s major thoroughfares and be face-to-face with mountains. The FORTUNA MOUNTAINS. From here, you can embark on a six-mile cardio adventure across a bridge, through desert terrain, and up aforementioned mountain. Are you a follow-the-rules/ask-no-questions kinda person? Then, take the advice of at least one local hiking website and go counter to the clock following the ‘South’ signs. Are you a bit of a renegade who might prefer a less slippery ascent? Then, take mine and go ‘North’. Your reward for a bit of huffing and puffing up 1,700+ feet is a sweeping view and a treasure trove of notes left by previous hikers inside a couple of World War II-esque metal boxes. Like this one…
“My name is Patrick. In reaching the top, I have decided to go back down. I need to lose 30 pounds so I can run up the hill like that dude who flew by. Damn those ultra fit people. OK, that’s all. Oh, and I need a girlfriend.”
Permission granted to plop down and snoop…and, write your own, of course! It’s an insult to nature to rush beauty, so after you’re done with the notes, sit back and savor the view. And, all you rebels…save a snack to eat at the picnic table under the oak tree near the end of the hike. (Sorry, followers…you already passed it on the way up.) For a map, the park website and more, click HERE.
You can get to the Tierrasanta Staging Area of Mission Trails Regional Park from both Interstate 15 and Route 52. From Interstate 15, exit at Clairemont Mesa Boulevard and head east until you can’t drive anymore (almost 3 miles). From Route 52, exit at Santo Road and head south to Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, turning left and stopping when you hit the parking lot (about 1.5 miles). The trail head is on the east side of the parking lot.
My borderline obsession with both love and sniffing out the unique flared up again last year prompting me to purchase an infinitesimal piece of the internet and have my say. DATE OXYGEN was designed (by yours truly) to encourage local and visiting couples to veer off-the-beaten path and explore San Diego together. You see…it’s my passionate belief that you not only bond more with a place when you patronize its small local businesses, but your relationship gets a huge boost as well.
Having lived in “America’s Finest City” since 1985, there were already a bunch of “fresh” date ideas floating aimlessly in my (overactive) brain. Now, as a self-purported “DATE GURU”, I seek ‘em out, figure out ways to make ‘em extra special, and write ‘em up with all the necessary details to relieve daters of all the work. At the time of this post, there were 40 “fresh dates” ready to be taken – from romantic rendezvous to spicy trysts, active expeditions and relaxing outings, a few formal affairs and more. My (amazing) web designer broke a serious sweat to find an affordable way to allow daters to search the date-a-base by location, duration, cost, vibe, and more. Each date write-up includes a map, all instructions and directions, plus a minimum of two romantic and practical tips. And, you gotta love technology! Dates can be emailed to your smarty phone so all the details are at your fingertips before, during and after your date.
So if you live in – or are fortunate enough to be visiting – the San Diego area, stop by (just click on the logo below) and pick up a fresh date idea. Whether you’re going on a first date, you’re in the throes of a passionate new romance, or you’re half of a seasoned couple keeping that flame burning hot, never forget - ”Love is a verb…you gotta go do it! ”
Who doesn’t love towering majestic oak trees? And, meadows! Meadows are just downright heavenly. The 3,200-acre Hollenbeck Canyon Wildlife Area is also home to mountains, coastal sage scrub, wild flowers (in the spring), bird song (all year round), a small seasonal creek (when it rains), horseback riders (most days), and a permanent canyon, of course. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a hawk…exceptionally lucky, an eagle. This is a fabulous place for a picnic under the shade of one of those royal oaks. And, don’t miss the stellar views from atop one of the mountains. There is a small dirt parking lot with a map of the reserve…or, you can pick up a map online. And, bring Fido…and, a DATE…and, soak it all up. For a map, the park website and more, click HERE.
Had some fun with my iPhone at Coronado’s annual flower show. Held every April in the center of Coronado’s Village at Spreckels Park, it’s the largest tented flower show in the nation. Entrants compete for the best individual flowers, bonsai trees, flower arrangements, table settings, and more. The place is packed with happy grandmas. (Grandpa is up the street at the annual car show.)
This year San Diego will host its 6th Annual International Beer Festival at the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar. While it’s quite impressive that it’s one of the largest beer festivals in the country – showcasing 300+ beers from nearly 140 breweries (dispersed among 15 countries and 10 states), I’m a bit disgruntled that no budding entrepreneur has come up with a way to deep fry beer. After all, this year’s deep-fried offerings include “Deep-Fried Tang”, so why not some crunchy craft beer?
For about the price of four cups of beer purchased outside the Festival, you can buy yourself unlimited tastings of all 300+ beers entered in the competition (during scheduled session times), plus a souvenir cup to take home and refill as desired. In addition to 36 local San Diego breweries, there are entrants from Hawaii, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Austria, England, and Papua New Guinea…to name just a few on the very long list. It’s the fair…expect some crowds. If you don’t like to mix with the common folk, you can chill (and munch) out in the Brewers Lounge with a VIP ticket at nearly double the price. Word is it’s worth it.
Mayor Jerry Sanders has been wooing craft breweries to San Diego over the past two years…going so far as to offer city “micro loans”, christen June 2012 “Craft Beer Month”, and personally attending the recent Craft Beer Conference in Mission Valley. At a Beerfest during a recent Padres game, he enlightened baseball fans as to the openings of six new breweries in the past year…and, the two more expected in late-2012. What a change from just a decade and a half ago, when Coors Light was San Diego’s brew of choice. According to The Beer Connoisseur Online, today San Diego is most definitely well-known for its brewing innovation and is home to some of the most revered craft beer brewers in the nation. The Karl Strauss Brewing Company is the trailblazing grandpa of the bunch, opening its downtown San Diego doors in early 1989. Over the next several years came Callahans, Pizza Port, Hops! Bistro and Brewery, Pacific Beach Brewhouse, Cerveceria La Cruda and Baja Brewing Company. One of the benefits of choosing San Diego to open a craft brewery was the lack of an established beer culture, which created an atmosphere extremely conducive to creativity and innovation that is still present today.
You can taste the creative and innovative results at the upcoming festival…then, chase your tastings with some Baconshrooms (deep-fried bacon-wrapped mushrooms), Porky Poppers (bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers), Deep-Fried Cereal, Deep-Fried Peanut Butter & Jelly, or Deep-Fried Chili.
- Friday, June 22, 2012 - 12:00PM-4:00PM and 5:00-9:00PM
- Saturday, June 23, 2012 – 11:00AM-3:00PM and 4:00-8:00PM
- Sunday, June 24, 2012 – 1:00PM-5:00PM (emphasis on San Diego beers)
Location: Chevrolet Del Mar Arena
Prices: $48.00 per session, which includes fair admission ($35.00 per session if you already have a Fair ticket and FREE if you’re not doing any tasting)
Price includes a souvenir cup and wristband that buys you unlimited 1 oz beer samples of all beers entered in the festival competition. Must be 21+ years old (duh).
For Serious Beer Aficionados: The VIP Experience includes access into the exclusive Brewers Lounge, a 6-oz souvenir glass, five craft beer stations with food pairings (unlimited grazing for the first two hours of each session), and the gift of 30 minutes early admission.
VIP Sessions: Friday, June 22 – 4:30PM-9:00PM / Saturday, June 23 – 10:30AM-3:00PM and 3:30-8:00PM / Sunday, June 24 – 12:30PM-5:00PM (special emphasis on San Diego beers)
VIP Prices: $90.00 per session, which includes Fair admission ($80.00 per session if you already have a Fair ticket)
Where to buy tickets: Ticketmaster or the Fair Box Office
For info on where to find San Diego’s craft beers outside of the festival, click HERE. Prost!
Beaches are like people. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes…some are completely lacking in personality and some command all your attention. San Diego’s beaches are as eclectic as its residents.
Do you prefer the sound of Navy jets or barking sea lions? A bonfire or beach volleyball? A shot of wheat grass or tequila with a lime chaser? Birkenstocks or Jimmy Choos? Hard bodies or a rocky coastline? Tacos or tapas? Whatever your preference, (central) San Diego has a beach for you…
Graced with a cove that rivals the Mediterranean, La Jolla will ignite all of your senses. Rent a kayak at La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks and paddle up close to sea lions or descend the stairs to the tide pools and spy an octopus. Plop down on a faded couch of yore at the The Living Room Café and savor a latte. Descend 145 steps to the inside of Sunny Jim’s Cave. Bask in the sun while meditating to the sounds of sea birds and crashing waves on the lawn of Scripps Park or hidden on a small slice of beach carved into the rocky coastline. Bite into a juicy gourmet burger at Smashburger or a tasty carne asada burrito at Alfonso’s. If you dare to shop, prepare to exchange the contents of your wallet for a designer treasure at one of the many upscale boutiques or art galleries. And, do not pass up the opportunity to sip on a cocktail at George’s at the Cove while gazing at one spectacular view. Surfing, snorkeling, shopping, scuba diving, sipping and savoring, or just sunbathing…La Jolla is simply stunning.
The Pacific Beach Boardwalk is the temporary home to a multitude of personalities making for some top-notch people watching. You’ll cover more ground if you cruise on rented inline skates from Pacific Beach Surf Shop. Catch a real wave or one created solely for your pleasure at the Wave House in Mission Beach. Don’t miss the best ride of all…on the iconic Giant Dipper roller coaster in Belmont Park, which has generated screams since 1925. Cross the street to Mission Bay for some calmer waters that are ideal for SUP boarding or jet skiing. Back at the Pacific, beach volleyball and bonfire pits provide for plenty of frugal pleasure. The multitude of eclectic shops lining Mission Boulevard and Garnet Avenue cater to the budgets of the local populace (college students with parental credit cards in hand). If you’re here on a Tuesday, protect your wallet from even the smallest dent and gorge on tacos. I guarantee you won’t have difficulty finding a bar or pub to enjoy a pitcher of local beer and don’t miss sipping to some live music at Rock Out Karaoke. If you’re looking for the iconic Southern California beach, look no further.
If bohemian is more your vibe, Ocean Beach (locally known as “OB”) is your place. Smoke shops, clothing stores filled with all things tie dye, antique stores, new age boutiques, and tattoo parlors line the streets of this chill beach community once known as the Haight-Ashbury of San Diego. OB has been one of the city’s better surf spots since the 1960‘s, and is home to a few iconic aged surfers. Take a walk on the longest concrete pier on the West coast and spend some time exploring the nearby tide pools. If you’re hungry, grab a slice of Italian pie from Surf Rider Pizza Café, a hot Italian meatball sandwich from Poma’s Italian Deli, or a burger from Hodad’s. A Cuban dessert and a café con leche from Azucar is a must. If you own a dog, let ‘em loose at the leash free beach at the northern end of town. At the end of the day, take a walk to Sunset Cliffs and sit down…the sun will give you a show you won’t forget.
If you have your 2.5 kids and a wagon full of sand toys in the back of your mini van, drive over the bridge to the “island”. Coronado’s expansive beach – recently rated the #1 beach in the nation by Dr. Beach – has just the right size waves for the little ones…and, the Navy jets flying overhead will ensure you don’t fall asleep on the job. Here you won’t find a rambunctious boardwalk or a single tattoo parlor…but, you will find several patriotic barber shops, the historical (and purportedly haunted) Hotel del Coronado, and a plethora of independently owned and reasonably priced boutiques and eateries. The flat terrain is conducive to a smooth ride on a gear-less beach cruiser rented from Little Sam’s Island & Beach. If you’re a fitness fanatic, the four-mile bike path down the Silver Strand will gift you the challenge you crave. Go back to school at the Coronado Surfing Academy on the Pacific side or SUP Coronado on the bay. While visiting Ferry Landing, gorge on corn fritters smeared with honey butter and tender barbecued ribs at Lil Piggy’s BBQ or, if a burger is more to your liking, head back into town and sink your teeth into one of the county’s best at the kid-friendly Danny’s Palm Bar & Grill. For dessert, treat yourself to a gourmet cupcake from Coronado Cupcakery or a gelato comparable to Italy’s own at Nado Gelato. As sunset approaches, hoof or pedal it over to the Sun Deck at the Hotel Del Coronado, find a front row seat, and sip on a cocktail as the sun melts into the Pacific.
If you can’t find the beach for you in San Diego, I suggest you head to the mountains.
I recently met (and bonded with) the publishers of California Road Trip. Like me, this dynamic duo is passionate about seeking out (and sharing) off-the-beaten path travel experiences. Their website is an essential resource for anyone looking for a unique destination in California. This is my first of (hopefully) many articles written for them as a guest blogger…
Southern California. Italian design. Ferrari. Stainless steel. Maserati. Bang and Olufsen. Rain showerheads. Just one of these by itself is damn sexy. Put them all together, add a king-sized bed, and you have the uber sexy Keating Hotel.
The Keating is the first born hotel of Pininfarina, the Italian design firm best known for their works of automotive art: the Ferrari and the Maserati. They have successfully transformed one of the oldest buildings in San Diego’s historic Gaslamp district into a hip 35-room boutique lifestyle hotel. Today sexiness oozes out of every black and vintage brick wall, the red carpeted and polished cement floors, and each sleek steel counter.
The attention to detail at The Keating is seductive. If you listen closely, you might find yourself standing in a particular area with some intriguing acoustics. If you look carefully, you may catch a glimpse of a rearview mirror or a gear shift in places where you would not expect them. When you enter your room, the seduction is complete. With no interior walls (except around the toilet) and vaulted ceilings, you can see everything…
- A Lavazza espresso machine (with herbal tea for those who aren’t looking to buzz)
- Italian linens (by Frette) and goose down feather pillows
- Stylish Dornbracht bathroom fixtures
- A remote-controlled Bang & Olufsen entertainment system (that also works the lights)
- A handheld shower head (for the woman who just desires a rinse)
- …even luxurious towelettes in la toilette (wow)
Although there is much to see and taste throughout the Gaslamp district, it’s entirely possible to satiate all your senses without ever straying outside of The Keating compound.
The menu at the main restaurant, the MerK Bistro, was recently restyled by Executive Chef Brian Rutherford and TV Chef Gordon Ramsay from Italian fare to American “farm to table” creations. Whether its breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, you’ll be a bit stumped as to which fresh seasonal dish to choose. As I sipped on a Keating Cosmo at dinner, I believe I may have moaned. I’m certain I did when the roasted beet and burrata salad, fried calamari, and carpaccio with mustard créme hit my tongue. So I was only a tad disappointed that I had just missed Club di Vino, which meets on first Thursday of the month to bestow multiple tastings from a featured boutique winery, food pairings, and a casual enology lesson upon guests.
After listening to live jazz at Croce’s, descend underground to the swanky and passionately red Sway Lounge where you can store your wine in a private liquor locker next to the former bank vault and toast until 4 a.m.
On the weekend, be sure and sneak out before 3 a.m. to grab a slice of gourmet pizza at the New York City-style Krust Pizzeria. Might I suggest the delectable “Loaded Baker” followed by a chocolate chip cookie that rivals your mom’s? It’s now time to return immediately to your room and mess up that bed!
Oh, yes…I am speaking from absolutely exquisite experience when I urge you to grab your “other” and race to get a room at The Keating Hotel. Pronto!
The Keating Hotel
432 F Street, San Diego, CA 92101