When I went to San Diego this spring, I wanted to spend those three solo days free to explore on my own — with the selfish independence to roam where & when I wanted, to see the parts of San Diego that interested me, to eat at the restaurants that appealed to me, and to take as long as I wanted to do all of it.
Because I was free as a bird and had no one with me to shame me for being the nerd that I am, I decided to use one of my exploratory days to learn up on some of San Diego’s history & culture… and what better way than via a colorful, hop-on-hop-off, open window-ed trolley?? These kinds of tours are always a little embarrassing — to be toted around in a mode of transportation that immediately draws attention and to be so blatantly marked as a tourist is not usually ideal.
ALAS, I bought a ticket for the all-day trolley tour, with the option to jump off at any stop and explore until the next tour came back around. Plus I ended up being a huge hit — I was the youngest rider by at least 30 years on every trolley, and every old man in a bucket hat, polo shirt and dad sandals made sure to comment on my relatively youthful appearance. SCORE. Seriously… get in line, fellas.
Old Town San Diego is located northwest of downtown, close to the airport and Seaworld! I’m glad I did this tour, because I wasn’t planning on visiting Old Town San Diego (/I didn’t know it existed) and I wouldn’t have known to made the trek out there on my own. I learned a lot about California’s history while being toured around — San Diego was where the first Spanish settlers arrived in the 1700s, and where in 1846, a US Navy lieutenant first raised an American flag in California (just a few years before California officially became a US state in 1850).
The trolley dumped us smack dab in the middle of Old Town, where dozens of other tourists were milling around, wandering in and out of the preserved buildings. It was made to look just as Old Town would have been in its prime in the 1800s, with hotels, cemeteries, general stores, churches and the homes of prominent (Spanish, Mexican and American) figures in San Diego’s history.
Fun fact: also located in Old Town is the Whaley House, which claims to be the most haunted house in America. I didn’t go inside, but maybe next time? When I’m not alone?
Once I got back onto the trolley, we made our way back down to the divine Coronado Island…
We were soaring across that thing with the windows wide open, my hair blowing like one of those freaky blow-up balloon people they stick outside of car dealerships, and I was feeling on top of the world in the California sunshine. Who knew trolleys could go so fast? Plus, the bridge is 200 feet high, so it was kinda like being on a roller coaster. Adventures!
I only spent enough time on Coronado Island to wander along the beaches, have a quick lunch at the friendly McP’s Irish Pub — a restaurant owned by a Navy SEAL, crawling with tourists, with great outdoor seating and local beers on tap — and learn that it is quite a special little island. Coronado is a separate town from San Diego, with its own brewery, naval bases, beautiful beaches and proud locals… and one afternoon spent exploring alone wasn’t close to enough for me. I’ll be back.
Have you been to either Old Town San Diego or Coronado Island?