Left Coast Escape: Sandiego

The city of San Diego, California is as far away from Burlington, Vermont on a physically and social scale as one can possibly go. As the crow flies, it is almost 3000 miles from the wind-crusted ice paradise of Burlington to the palm-packed seaside oasis of San Diego.The San Diego mentality is almost as far from Burlington in lifestyle as it is in distance. The ultra laid back attitude of this city of 1.1 million is as shocking as it is infectious with a good majority of the people walking around without a single care in the world. San Diego is full of twenty-somethings looking for a good time and just the right Wednesday night drink special. The average work day starts around nine in the morning and ends at four (at the latest) when people funnel from their place of work right into a favorite watering hole to celebrate happy hour which leads right into the evening activity that may last until three or four in the morning.All the while, a smile is a constant on everyone’s face which says, ‘If it gets done, then great. If not, we’ll still celebrate at the end of the day.’From a style standpoint, San Diego is as ‘SoCal’ as SoCal gets. ‘SoCal’, coming from the term Southern California is a style that was born from the alternative sporting scene which flourishes in San Diego with the average temperature hovering at 68 degrees. Whether it is hiked sweat socks, long shorts, a shirt representing the favorite custom motorcycle shop, and a hat with a brim on it that is flatter than your ex-girlfriend; or surf trunks, flip flops, and sun bleached hair, San Diego style is definitive and unique. Of course, no southern Californian would be complete without their’ride’. A car, truck, or SUV is a quintessential accessory to anyone with any style in San Diego. A lowered Ford F-150, a Jeep Grand Cherokee with a 24 inch lift kit, or a BMW Five series with custom everything is standard issue and if you are not driving one of those, or something comparable, you better get out of the way.Luckily, there is much more to the city of San Diego and its surrounding towns than the unique people who inhabit it. The downtown area is laid out in a grid of one way streets that are wide and easy to navigate. The business district is separate from the entertainment and leisure district so everything from dining to concerts to night clubs is within comfortable walking distance of each other. The Gas Lamp district sits quietly underneath the towering sky scrapers and transforms from a business lunch hub by day to a quaint and affordable neighborhood full of pubs and small shops by night.Perhaps one of the biggest pull to San Diego could be the plethora and diversity of beaches that span nearly sixty miles of Pacific coast. Mission and Pacific beaches are more like a frat party on sand than anything else. With open containers being a legal thing, keg hopping is the activity of choice during the summer months. Heading north two miles will bring the polar opposite of Mission and Pacific with the La Jolla Shores. La Jolla is the J Lo of San Diego which features a Bentley and Lamborghini dealership sandwiched between a taco store and surf shop.One block down from the place where you can buy a $350,000 car and an $800 nine foot nose rider, the La Jolla Shores coastline meets the ocean with sandstone sculptures and caves that looks like a scene from a Dalipainting. And if that weren’t enough, two miles north of the La Jolla Shores is a famed back called Black’s known for its dark sand, dramatic cliffs, and nude sunbathers. All of these beaches have some of the best surf on the West Coast and are a great place to watch great surfers.Boredom is not a word in any San Diegans’ vocabulary for the activities that are available within a half hour drive of the city are endless. The San Diego Zoo is one of the best in the world and features the Chinese pandas brought to the U.S. to protect and revive the panda population. A short trip up the highway is the zoo’s 1800 acre Wild Animal Park where elephants, giraffes, zebras and 250 other species roam freely in the same way they would in Africa.Balboa Park is San Diego’s natural park and museum district. It is host to the zoo and many natural history museums which features history of aerospace and history of torture exhibits. The near tropical climate of San Diego allows Balboa Park to grow and cultivate an enormous amount of plants and trees in the 1,300 acre Balboa Park Gardens. The Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden, for example, has over 2,300 roses in 180 different varieties and is in the top two best rose gardens in the country and top 12 in the world. The Garden also has 70-year-old cacti and trees over 160 feet tall.There is also San Diego’s Old Town which is California’s largest free tourist attraction. Old Town was the place where California’s founding father Juan Cabrillo settled in 1539 and is chock full of historic buildings, shops and restaurants. The largest Cinco de Maio celebration in the country takes place here which is a spectacle to be seen.But who could think of San Diego without mentioning its rude, brash, and dirty step-brother, Tijuana. Indeed, the Mexican city of brotherly love and pickpocketing is a mere 20 minute trolley ride or ten minute drive from San Diego. If the persistent street peddlers pushing their three foot ceramic Winnie-the Pooh statues don’t get you, then the tequila, night clubs, strippers, cab drivers, discount pharmaceuticals, or hotdogs surely will. Any time spent in Tijuana will be a time to remember, good or bad.Getting to San Diego is quite easy and inexpensive from Vermont. Jet Blue offers about $300 round trip tickets during spring break out of Burlington and Southwest offers $200 round trip from Manchester, New Hampshire.