I’ve had to run around southern California a lot recently and I’ve been trying to do so at the best travel times as possible- to decrease stress levels, of course. But yesterday I had to run down to San Diego (around 120 or so miles from my place) and had to be there at a specific time… which meant that if I didn’t do it right, I’d hit traffic and go nuts.
However, NerdLush pal Charity was up for playing carpool buddy and adventuring down south. This meant being able to leave towards the end of the rush hour and fly through via the carpool lane. Yay! It also meant that we had two choices- either return to LA as soon as my business was concluded (thus getting home before the rush started) or hang around in SD til after dinner.
We choose option two and thus discovered a wonderful way to visit San Diego without spending much money.
When I was a kid I would spend a week or two in SD every year visiting a friends family. As an adult, you find out how darn expensive that week really was. It’s like $60 to go to SeaWorld! And the zoo isn’t much better. There’s the beaches, obviously, but El Nino (back in the 90’s) brought up a lot of rocks onto the shore and its not the same as it was when I was a kid. And walking around those small towns north of the city main sound like a good idea, but they are pretty expensive and just the thought costs $20.
But Charity, as you may remember, is one of my nerd buddies and we enjoy a lot of similar things. Our choice for how to spend the afternoon? Balboa Park, wandering the museums. Balboa park is on the same hills as the zoo, but holds a collection of amazing museums that would take a solid week to wander through thoroughly. Parking is free, and there is a lovely tram to get you from parking to the museums, but expect to do a lot of walking.
Here’s where our idea came in… We arrived around 2:30pm. The museums close at 5 on Thursdays. And each museum (save the two or three that are free) was going to cost about $20- normally not an issue, but we were limited on time)(I believe in supporting the Arts, so museum fees are part of that). So we opted to go to the gift shops. Museum gift shops aim to remind you of exhibits seen and entice you to buy some similar piece. There were some very silly things (like the childs astronaut suit I wanted to buy for Oz) and some very beautiful pieces (like recreations of art pieces), but no matter which shop you went to you were able to get an idea of what the museum was exhibiting without the cost.
Not perfect, but fun.
For the record, we each bought one magnet. Total. And we made it to six museum shops before they closed. Probably would’ve been able to do more but we kept getting distracted by the beauty of Balboa Park and the architecture of the museums. But we saw so many lovely things throughout our wanderings!
This leads us to about 5pm and believe me, I had no desire to hop on the 5 to head back to LA. Which means food- we opted for Mexican and decided to continue with the culture entertainment of the day and headed to Old Town. Like cities with some history , Old Town San Diego is a bit of mix- there’s the state park piece wherein a representation of life in the old San Diego is available for tourists, and then there’s the slightly more modern piece wherein food and knick knacks are plentiful. We found more free parking and set off to wander the park and find some of that tasty food.
The general store was quite entertaining with it’s selections of spices and candies. We picked up a chocolate sea salt caramel each and fawned over some of the other goodies. Further down, we found Fiesta de Reyes, which we aren’t 100% sure if that was the restaurant or the courtyard, but either way it was a lovely stroll through interesting shops. We were enticed to by cones of nuts- our choice being a mix of nuts, lightly sweetened. Several stores sold retablos, in my world these are handmade “diorammas” from Peru generally depicting festivals or religious ceremonies. These were sadly mass market and thus not as good as the pieces in my family- but still nice to see. We chose to eat at the restaurant in the center of the courtyard- very delicious margaritas, and tasty quesadillas and tacos; I would definitely recommend it. Wasn’t badly priced, though the drinks could’ve been slightly cheaper. And lordy we were full after.
All in all, I think we spent a total of $25 each on our day in San Diego. We had a very cultured day- with museums and history, and tasty food.
One thing I want to make sure to point is this- you don’t have to spend money to have an adventure.
See the Facebook gallery for the rest of the photos…