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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Break away to San Diego
TRAVEL Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2013-04-02

This article shared 417 times since Tue Apr 2, 2013
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As the seasons change in Chicago, sometimes it is just nice to get away to a place where temperatures are more consistent. San Diego offers sun and tons of fun to the West Coast visitor.

California runs the gamut, from having kooky people to the snobby rich Hollywood elite—but this region seemed to have none of that. There was a down-to-earth feeling from locals that rivaled the Midwest in terms of realness and friendliness.

It's really not a bad flight from Illinois and it's under four hours, thanks to American Airlines riding the clouds on a good day. Car rentals weren't mandatory but probably a good idea, even though many of the attractions were within walking distance of accommodations at Inn at the Park. This centrally located boutique hotel is currently being renovated and updated. The beautiful suite where I stayed was a cozy purple color with retro yet modern furnishings including electronic window coverings and a full kitchen. On the top floor is a weekly LGBT happy hour where new friends view the entire city and mingle to music.

Gay nightlife is incredibly vibrant in San Diego. Urban Mo's Bar & Grill got a sex change when new owner took over the Hamburger Mary's chain and is now a "hetero-friendly restaurant." This turns into a big dance party that is packed until closing. Guests then head over to Rich's dance club, where go-go boys shake their moneymakers to the beat of DJs manning the turntables. Other more tranquil spots in the gayborhood include Martini's Above Fourth for an older crowd, or Flicks for sports and videos.

Balboa Park is dubbed the "Smithsonian of the West," with 15 major museums included on the grounds. The number of tourist attractions was almost overwhelming. Start first with the Museum of Man or Museum of Art before heading over to the San Diego Zoo. Take a bus tour around the animal playground, then head back to your favorite spots by foot. The panda exhibit was adorable; crowds lined up to see the little panda eat some bamboo.

It may be difficult to compete with the rich theater scene in New York or Chicago, but San Diego makes a strong statement with offerings at the Old Globe. Audiences in the past have been treated to the likes of Chita Rivera and Kathy Najimy in this historic venue. This time around it was Star Trek's George Takei, Miss Saigon's Lea Salonga and Glee's Telly Leung forming a trio in the Broadway bound production of Allegiance. The Globe is in the heart of the park, putting on top-notch shows that are not to be missed.

The Hillcrest Brewing Company was a lively place to dine that evening being the first gay brewery in the world. The craft beers complimented the pizza and salad, contributing to the overall friendly staff and spot-on service.

Coronado Island is another place to visit. The legendary Hotel del Coronado is the property to stay at there. It is a huge complex with restaurants, such as 1500 Ocean, located inside. Amazing food and sangria add to an elegant experience in this signature restaurant that uses fresh ingredients from its herb garden. The award-winning brunch on Sundays is a must, with action stations ranging from breakfast to seafood and desserts. After letting all that food settle, try surf lessons or rent a bike to explore more of the island.

Nearby is the Lamb's Players Theatre to take in a show on Orange Avenue. Across the street is homemade ice cream and one of the best restaurants around, called Leroy's Kitchen. Stone-smoked porter shortribs are just one of the delicacies that make up a menu of locally sourced eclectic food. Staff members were not only knowledgeable but made diners feel at home with a laid-back attitude that was in keeping many San Diego folks.

With temperate weather, a soothing attitude and an overall warm feeling to the area, this is the perfect time to head out west for a break from the cold that's still hanging around Chicago.

Book a hot getaway today with more information at www.sandiego.org .


This article shared 417 times since Tue Apr 2, 2013
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