Whether you are a first-time visitor to San Diego, California, or a frequent visitor or even if you currently live there, I wholeheartedly recommend taking the San Diego Trolley Tour! As a one-time resident 42 years ago, and a periodic visitor over the years I thought I had seen a lot and knew a lot. I quickly learned that I hadn’t seen as much as I thought I had and I certainly didn’t know as much as I thought I did. I want to thank my daughters, Heather and Kristi and their families for this truly wonderful gift! Thanks so much!
One of the great features of taking the trolley tour is it’s a “hop on, hop off” trolley. It is a 2-hour tour if you stay on the trolley, or a full day of hopping on and off. It travels 25 miles and there are 11 stops. The bus driver/tour guides are terrific — informative and entertaining.
You can start the tour at any of the 11 stops, but most riders start at the station in Old Town.
We started at Old Town and caught the 9 AM Trolley. Old Town at 9 AM is just waking up with only grounds people and the occasional lucky person who walks to work through Old Town.
We did not spend much time in Old Town because I had previously visited there a number of times. You can read more about Old Town at https://littleusatrips.org/2013/02/14/places-to-visit-in-southern-california-old-town/
The first stop on the tour is the San Diego Harbor where you’ll find the Visitors Center, perhaps tour the Maritime Museum and the Midway Aircraft Museum, or catch a harbor cruise. San Diego Harbor is also home to the very famous statue “Unconditional Surrender”.
There are two statutes of the soldier kissing a nurse in the park, one is bronze and is much smaller than the colorful one that stands 25 feet. The statue is said to have been based on the 1945 Life magazine photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt in Times Square in New York when it was announced that the war was over. The 25 foot sculpture is also made out of bronze and replaces the foam core statute that was on loan from the Santa Monica based nonprofit Sculpture Foundation and taken to New Jersey for restoration in May of 2012.
The replacement statue was dedicated February 11, 2013.
Next stop on the Trolley Tour is Seaport Village, a place I had never been to and a place that didn’t exist when I lived there. It is hard to describe what a truly unique and wonderful place the Village is. You have to see it, you have to experience it! There are the shops and the restaurants, but it is the landscaping, the views, and the peacefulness of the Village that captures your heart.
On to Marriott Marquis and Marina. You can see the unique Convention Center at this location.
With 615,700 sq ft of exhibit space and a capacity of 125,000 the San Diego Convention Center is one of the top ten convention centers in the US. This year final approval was given for the proposed expansion which will increase the convention center’s size by approximately 200,000 sq ft.
Canadian Designer Arthur Erickson designed the convention center to reflect San Diego’s maritime history. In the middle of the convention center is the Sails Pavilion which is a 90,000 sq ft exhibit and special event area. The roof over the Sails Pavilion is marked by fiberglass sails. The wings on both ends of the convention center are made of curved turquoise blue glass which is intended to represent waves. I get it, but I think our tour guide was spot on when he said it looked like a giant gerbil run.
Stop number five is the Westfield Horton Plaza Shopping Center! We did not hop off here, but if you do — bring lots of cash! It is a five-level, 6.5 block outdoor shopping mall. I was disappointed that Horton Plaza Park was still under renovation and behind a construction fence. It was a great little city park in the 60s.
The park and the plaza as well as a hotel in San Diego are named after Alonzo E Horton. Alonzo first came to California during the gold rush in 1851 to seek his fortune. He had already successfully founded Hortonville, Wisconsin and he was ready to move on. During that time he had visited San Diego and he just couldn’t stop thinking about it. In 1867 he made the decision to move to San Diego and start a new town on the bay. It must have been in a moment of profound creativity that he decided to name it “New Town.” (That’s how the old Spanish presidio further inland became “Old Town”.) It was going well through the 1880s and then everything started to fall apart when his train didn’t come in — literally. Horton was credited with being the “Father” of San Diego.
Next the Gaslamp Quarter which known for it’s great restaurants, shops, galleries and let’s not forget the night life. Before engaging in any of that we must tour the reputedly haunted house of William Heath Davis.
William Heath Davis was the first person known to have tried to build a city on the bay. He began in 1850 and called his city “New San Diego”. This was 17 years before Alonzo Horton built “New Town” in the same area. The fact that Alonzo Horton is recognized as the “Father” of San Diego was a bone of contention for Davis who felt that he had been overlooked and it was he who deserved that recognition. Davis’ plans for New San Diego began to deteriorate with the 1851 economic depression. Ironically both men died in 1909. Horton had lost most of his wealth and Davis was penniless and living with his daughter.
Davis’ house, however, is the oldest surviving wooden structures in the area. The home was built in Portland, Maine and shipped to California by boat around Cape Horn. It was one of ten prefabricated homes shipped to California at that time. (Who knew? Prefab homes in 1850)
The house had numerous occupants over the years: it housed pre-civil war officers, it was a hospital for a time, and rumor has it that a WWI German spy was in hiding there. The German Spy was later captured but ghost researchers claim to have made contact with his angry spirit. Given the fact that the house has been moved three times and the number of people who have come and gone from the house it was inevitable that several actually died there and probably still reside there. San Diego Ghost Hunters claim to have met many of the ghostly characters and invite you to join them in their monthly 2-hour ghostly tour so you can get to know those characters too. I am not a disbeliever in ghosts, quite the contrary, but running into them on a scheduled one time a month 2-hour visit seems a bit unrealistic.
Another aspect of the home that is unique is that each of the rooms are decorated to depict the different periods of time in the house’s history. You will have to be the judge of that because my decorating knowledge base is empty.
For us the Gaslamp Quarter was the logical place to stop for lunch. A great place to eat if you like fresh, excellent fish is ESCAPE. Our waitress, Mercedes, was terrific, the mussels were probably the best I’ve ever eaten. Everything on their menu looked great and just a little bit different from your average fish-eatery restaurant. I rarely recommend restaurants because everything has to be perfect with a dash of uniqueness to merit my praise. At Escape everything was PERFECT, and it ha more than a “dash” of uniqueness. In San Diego, visiting San Diego — check them out: http://www.escapefishbar.com/
On to Coronado Island — which really isn’t an island at all. Coronado means “the crowned one” in Spanish and it definitely lives up to its name. There are three ways to get to Coronado : there are three ways to get to Coronado: drive up the Silver Strand from Imperial Beach, drive over the distinctive, award winning Coronado Bridge, or you can take a 15 minute ferry ride across San Diego Bay aboard the Coronado Ferry from the Broadway Pier to the Coronado Ferry Landing.
The Trolley stops at the Coronado Ferry Landing and on Orange Avenue which is close to the famous Hotel del Coronado, Coronado Beach, and of course the shops, galleries and restaurants. Having been to Coronado a number of times we passed on the Orange Avenue stop and stopped at Coronado Ferry Landing. (to see highlights of the hotel and beach go to https://littleusatrips.org/2013/01/30/southern-california-beaches-coronado-beach/
Never having been to the Coronado Ferry Landing I was totally in awe at how well it had been developed. There are a few specialty shops and a few restaurants, but what struck me was what a quiet, peaceful place it was with wonderful views of the San Diego Skyline.
The San Diego Skyline deserves a blog post of its own. While it may not be the most beautiful skyline, its buildings are so unique and architecturally very different.
Leaving Coronado the Trolley headed back across the Coronado Bridge to Balboa Park. We had spent hours and hours there so again we did not stop.
We rode through Little Italy. That’s a great place to visit on their Farmers’ Market day! More on Little Italy here:
We arrived back at Old Town Trolley Station at 4:30 PM. The trolley runs from 9 AM to 5 PM during the winter months.
This was a wonderful experience and at $36 I consider this a huge bargain. We saw so many places and we learned so much.
To check their San Diego Trolley Tour packages go:
http://www.trolleytours.com or call 619-378-4600.