Weathering winter Cali-style

Away from the snow in San Diego

I love sledding, snowshoeing and snowboarding as much as the next guy, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to escape the chilly, white blanket that is Alberta’s winter season. Our Chinooks can occasionally give us a taste of warmth, but a quick flight to California will offer you much more favourable weather conditions.

You can usually fly direct to San Diego from Calgary at prices that won’t break the bank. A quick travel tip that my friend pointed out to me recently: Google has a flight search feature that will give you a cross-section of all airlines ranging from lowest to highest cost, as well as a date range graph showing you if it’s cheaper to fly from a Thursday to a Monday, as opposed to a Friday to Tuesday. Very handy for the eager traveller.

Once you land in sunny California there’s a ton to do. Touristy-ness aside, one thing you have to do while you’re in San Diego is check out the zoo. Located in the gorgeous Balboa Park, this animal nation is huge. From lions, to tigers and bears you can see just about any creature your heart desires. Well, except dinosaurs... bastards... I mean, it’s almost 2013, it can’t be that hard to get some dinosaurs up and running Jurassic Park-style, can it?

On a mildly unrelated note, I have a pet parrot named Baub. While at the zoo, I attempted to locate his brothers and sisters to no avail. Which means he is either an extremely rare breed of bird, or so common that he is not deserving of display. Sadly, I fear it’s the latter. Also located in and around the Balboa Park area is the Natural History Museum, the Science Center, Japanese Gardens and several other attractions You could spend a whole vacation exploring this vicinity alone.

Speaking of food (were we speaking of food?), there is no shortage of great places to eat. In Hillcrest, you can find Snooze Eatery, a brunch hot spot with decor that’s mildly reminiscent of a Jetson’s episode. I’m not implying dated, but bright, with a sort of retro-futuristic feel. At any rate, the brunch offerings are nothing short of stellar. It’s one of those places where literally everything on the menu sounds delicious. I finally settled on a breakfast pot pie that was topped with puff pastry and a rosemary-sausage gravy. My cousin went with the Chilaquiles Benedict, a Latin-American spin on the classic. Equally tasty. I’m not much of a sweets guy, but I’d wager a bet that the pancake and french toast options, including “Coffee and doughnut” pancakes, would not disappoint anyone. I will always love Calgary’s Diner Deluxe, but I think I’ve found a secret brunch love affair in San Diego.

The Gaslamp District is one of the go-to places to experience some good eats and hoppin’ nightlife. An array of clubs, pubs and resto-lounges litter this downtown district. It’s a little bit gritty but, in my opinion, gritty is good. Definitely check out Searsucker, owned by Brian Malarkey (for any Top Chef fans out there), which boasts some quality eats, including the best calamari I’ve ever had, and a buzzing late-night atmosphere. Perfect for starting the evening out with a few drinks, or hanging out all night. For a more laid-back evening, try The Hopping Pig just up the block, which has an excellent selection of American microbrews, beer cocktails and some “angry gnocchi” which, contrary to its name, is actually quite a nice example of pub fare done right.

Last but not least, La Jolla Beach (pronounced la-HOY-ah), is another great place to spend a day. The ocean views are spectacular. Again, definitely on the tourist side of things, but we don’t often get the chance to breath in salty, ocean air, so I say it’s worth it. The water never gets particularly warm, but dip your toes in anyway, just to say you did it, and maybe post a shot of it to Instagram to make your friends back home jealous. Once you’ve strolled the shores, the streets just behind the beach area offer an array of boutique shops and restaurants as well as San Diego’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Us Canadians will happily stroll down the beach in shorts and T-shirts when the temperature hits the low 20s, but take note of the Americans wearing cardigans and jackets looking at you strangely. It’s a “You’re weird!”/”No, you’re weird!” unspoken interaction that we quite enjoyed.

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