Travel to San Diego – Episode 494

categories: USA Travel

Travel to San Diego, California - Amateur Traveler Episode 494

Hear about travel to San Diego as the Amateur Traveler talks to Mike from about this beautiful city in Southern California.

Mike used to live in San Diego and continues to travel regularly over the years. Mike says, “I think San Diego is one of my favorite big cities in the U.S. For starters, the weather is simply fantastic year round. There are so many activities that you won’t even begin to scratch the surface during a week long trip. Of course there are the famous attractions like SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, Seaport Village and Legoland, but there are a lot of other lesser known sites and attractions such as the Wild Animal Safari Park or Birch Aquarium. ”

For a week long stay Mike recommends staying in 3 different locations to experience 3 different aspects of the city: Coronado Island, Downtown and La Jolla.

On Coronado, Mike recommends an alternative hotel to the famous Hotel del Coronado. He starts a day in Coronado with renting a beach cruiser, a fat tired bike, for a ride along the beach. Downtown he recommends for the night life, while some of his favorite, less crowded beaches are further north in La Jolla and Carlsbad.

We talk about museums like the aircraft carrier Midway and the Air & Space Museum, theme parks like Seaworld and Legoland as well as more quirky destinations like the Self Realization Fellowship Hermitage & Meditation Gardens. We talk about beach towns and camping, water sports and where you can go hot air ballooning over vineyards.

We recommend Mexican food near California’s oldest mission in Old Town as well as dinner spots with great views and or great seafood. Mike also recommends a few spots for live music in the city.

Come enjoy the kind of city people think of when they think of California and the only other city that matches Chris’s wife’s 3 criteria for where she could live.
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Show Notes
San Diego Zoo
San Diego Safari Park
Birch Aquarium
1908 Lodge in Coronado
Hotel del Coronado
Peohe’s Restaurant – Fresh Seafood
Gaslamp Quarter
Kettner Exchange
Juniper & Ivy
Point Loma Seafood
Seaport Village
Little Italy
USS Midway
Balboa Park
Campland on the Bay
San Diego Air & Space Museum
Carlsbad Beaches – Visit Carlsbad
Pacific Beach, San Diego
Old Town San Diego
Heritage County Park
Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park
Mt. Helix Park
Self Realization Fellowship Hermitage & Meditation Gardens
Humphreys Half Moon Inn & Suites
Julian California
Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association
Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá
Mike on San Diego


@BookportPaula wrote on twitter:

@chris2x love your podcasts and listen when I drive!Would help if all guests spelled their name and you posted somewhere to refer back to

Roslyn wrote about the Great Smoky Mountains episode 245

Hello, Chris!

I’m fairly new listener to your Amateur Traveler, and am loving the variety within the episodes! It’s feeding the wanderlust bug that’s slowly been taking over my daydreams.

I just listened to the Great Smoky Mountains episode (Episode 345–a REAL archive!) and it took me back to my internship in 2013 as a park ranger intern in the national park! I found myself nodding in full-hearted agreement of some of the things to see in the Smokies, and do remember seeing the name-sake “Smoke” rising off the tops of the mountains. It truly is a surreal experience!

Clingmans Dome is definitely THE place to watch the sunrise and sunset if you time it right! (The trick is getting up there when there aren’t clouds–the lowlands can be clear and Clingmans Dome can be socked in. But be sure to have a sweatshirt or jacket regardless–it can get COLD up there depending on what time of year you get there)

Something I wanted add for your listeners if they were interested in what else there is to see in the park besides Cades Cove and Clingmans Dome itself, which were mentioned in the podcast. Traveling eastward from those sites, right before entering the town of Cherokee is the Oconaluftee (pronounced Oh-CON-ahl-UHFF-tee) Visitor Center, which includes a Mountain Farm Museum.

Before the park was established, the land was privately owned as homesteads, so a number of families had barns, spring houses, cabins, and other wooden structures to accommodate survival in the Smokies before the logging industry took advantage of the virgin timber in the area. In the process of creating the park to let the ecosystem recover from over-harvesting of the trees, residents were forced out and these buildings were destroyed.

Because the “eminent domain” card was played and people were still very bitter when US-441 was constructed and opened, Tennessee “transferred ownership…to the federal government, it stipulated that ‘no toll or license fee shall ever be imposed’ to travel the road.” (Source: And since US-441 bisects the park, admission to the park is free. Camping and backpacking permits are still charged, but that’s different.

Somewhere within the process of structure removal, someone realized the historical significance these buildings would have for future generations, and a few of them buildings were rescued and gathered together in one spot. Cades Cove is kind of the same in keeping some of the historical cabins, but not in the consolidated fashion as is what is at the Mountain Farm Museum. In the summer, a vegetable garden and sorghum field is manually run–as long as the resident elk don’t trample and eat it all!

Another area of interest is the Cataloochee (pronounced the same way it’s spelled) Valley. It’s about 2.5 hours from Cherokee, because you have to drive out, around, and back into the park to get there. There are some historical buildings here as well, but a big draw for many is the elk.

Elk were once a native species in the Appalachians, and were reintroduced in the Cataloochee Valley in 2005. The population has grown since then (and expanded to Cherokee!), and the fall is the heart of the rut season. By then, the bulls have huge racks of antlers, and begin to call to the cows. One word of caution to those hoping to visit: the elk are still wild animals, and especially during the rut, can be especially dangerous. Rangers encourage a 50 yard minimum distance from the animals, and feeding/petting is subject to fines. Keeping a distance keeps the elk safe, too! The less habituated they are to people, the less of a chance of a visitor getting hurt and the elk being relocated or removed entirely.

The Great Smoky Mountains are deeply enriched with natural and cultural history…thank you and your podcast for taking me back to those memories!



Travel to San Diego, California - Amateur Traveler Episode 494

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by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast, and a co-host for This Week in Travel podcast.

4 Responses to “Travel to San Diego – Episode 494”



I am in San Diego right now for a conference! This episode is perfectly timed and I will take some of your guest’s recommendations. One thing I would add is that San Diego is full of craft breweries and great brew pubs, and I have been enjoying many of the different local beers. If people are interested, has all the information you could need to find the many breweries. Thanks for the great episode!



thanks for letting the beer drinkers know that great resource



Great episode introducing San Diego! I grew up in lovely Carlsbad, lived near downtown for two years, and started hosting Couchsurfers recently so have been thinking about places to visit. I definitely second the San Diego beer scene as an attraction with excellent local beer to be found in just about every neighborhood! I would also like to note that the mission is not in Old Town, but further northeast in Mission Valley by the football stadium and big malls. One random cool museum in Balboa Park to add is the model train museum – a very detailed, extensive, funky little spot! And a food tip: City Tacos in the North Park neighborhood is delicious and popular.

Mark Carrara


My wife and I were in the San Diego area during this Christmas. We had two days to spend with two of our grandsons, age 5 and 7. Day two we visited the Birch aquarium. The kids had a great time as did grandma and grandpa. We also were impressed by the views from Cabrillo NM. On the first day we did something your guest did not mention. We took Nate Harrison Grade, one of several gravel roads up the side of Palomar Mountain. Suitable for almost any family vehicle. Great views along the way.

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