5 Things to Do in San Diego

Weather, water, and wildlife are three big reasons to visit San Diego but that’s just the beginning. The weather in San Diego is never too hot, never too cold with an average daytime temperature of 70 degrees year-round! Water can be found easily since the Pacific Ocean is basically the backyard here; need we say more. And wildlife is a cinch with the world renowned San Diego Zoo, plus with the San Diego Safari Park and SeaWorld San Diego there are plenty of places to hear the call of the wild in San Diego. Book a stay at Thousand Trails Pio Pico and choose from cabin and cottage glamping accommodations and get ready to explore the city that is considered the “birthplace of California.”

Cabin at Thousand Trails Pio Pico RV Campground
Cabin at Thousand Trails Pio Pico RV Campground

1. Day Trip to Dana Point: Wait, we just got here, you say? Well, this roughly 65-mile drive will be worth it, especially if you’re traveling between now and mid-May. Why? Because it’s the best time for whale watching here and after all, Dana Point is considered the “Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World.” There are plenty of excursions to book for a whale watching cruise but it is not uncommon to see them right from the beach. Additionally, the Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area has three miles of public trails and the viewpoints are perfect for catching a glimpse. Other sightings here can include dolphins, harbor seals, and sea lions.

2. Old Town San Diego: In addition to the more than 30 historic sites found here (Old Town is the oldest neighborhood in San Diego), there is also shopping, museums, art galleries, and eateries. Whaley House, which was completed in 1857, not only provides a glimpse into the history of the area but also provides a “spirited” adventure as it is considered one of the most haunted houses in the U.S. Day tours of the home area are available as well as the spookier evening tours (whaleyhousesandiego.com). Old Town also hosts several annual events including Taste of Old Town, Old Town Cinco De Mayo, and a Day of the Dead event (oldtownsandiegoguide.com).

Hotel Del Coronado

3. “Star” Destinations: Big screen and small screen enthusiasts will be delighted to know that there are several areas in and around San Diego that were the backdrop for many a scene or two. For example, Kansas City Barbeque was “the bar” from Top Gun and the piano that saw Goose and Mav belting out Great Balls of Fire is still there (sadly, a fire destroyed most of the original building) along with plenty of other Top Gun memorabilia. The iconic Hotel Del Coronado is almost as beautiful as Marilyn Monroe and was also featured in the classic Some Like it Hot, starring Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis. “Stay Classy San Diego” and check out Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo which were featured in Anchorman, the Will Ferrell funny film. And, small-screen shows like Veronica Mars and Animal Kingdom were actually filmed in Ocean Beach versus the fictional town setting portrayed in these shows.

Thousand Trails Pio Pico
Thousand Trails Pio Pico

4. Anzo Borrego: Springtime in Anzo Borrego Desert State Park is a blooming good time with wildflowers everywhere (note the drought has affected blooms in the past years and there is a Wildflower Hotline to call with questions (760) 767-4684). Hikers can enjoy the many trails here and a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail is within the Park – an easy trail is the 3.5-mile Palm Canyon Trail near the Visitors Center. There are also plenty of canyon and rock formations and the evening sky here is an event in itself.

5. Take a Tour: There are plenty of tours to take to get to know San Diego including the Gaslamp Quarter Food Tour (sidewalkfoodtours.com), the San Diego Highlights Tour (anothersideofsandiegotours.com), or a whale watching cruise (viator.com). If you want to DIY, check out the self-guided tours from GPSmyCity that include tours of Old Town San Diego and Coronado Island (gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/san-diego-1033).

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Top Coaster Rides

The ups and downs you may have experienced this summer will feel like nothing once you take a ride on one of these roller coasters. August is National Roller Coaster Month, so we rounded up a few of the newest, oldest, and scariest to consider.

According to an article in USA Today, the best roller coasters of 2022 includes Steel Vengeance at Ohio’s Cedar Point. Opened in 2018, it is considered a “hyper-hybrid” coaster standing 205 feet tall and riding at a whopping 74 miles per hour. With over 5500 feet of track, which includes 30 seconds of airtime, this 2-minute ride is guaranteed to shake you up, just a bit! Plan to stay in a cabin at Kenisee Lake and you’re about 100 miles from Cedar Point.

Another USA Today list maker was the Jurassic World VelociCoaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Florida. Four inversions, an 80-degree drop, 4,700 feet of track and oh, yeah, the simulated velociraptors, combine to make this one heart-stopping, stomach-dropping ride. Book a cabin or cottage rental at Orlando RV Resort or a colorful cottage at Tropical Palms and get ready to ride!

Deluxe Cabins at Pine Haven Campground, NJ
Deluxe Cabins at Pine Haven Campground, NJ

The Travel Channel has its own list of top coasters in the U.S. and they include El Toro at New Jersey’s Six Flags Great Adventure (but coincidentally was also named by USA Today as #1 in 2022. El Toro, which means the bull, is a wooden roller coaster that opened in 2006. It may be old by some standards, but it is mighty, as in mighty scary. The coaster ride starts with a 19-story climb only to drop 176 feet. It continues on, totaling one minute and forty-two seconds for the whole ride, through twists and turns and hills and valleys, just like any good bucking bull would as it tries to knock off a rider. Stay at any of our New Jersey locations to enjoy Six Flags Great Adventure.

Safari Tent at Morgan Hill Campgroud, CA
Safari Tent at Morgan Hill Campgroud, CA

Speaking of old, what about riding one of the oldest roller coasters in America? Head out for a glamping adventure at California’s Morgan Hill and head into Santa Cruz to ride the 98-year-old Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Or, glamp at California’s Pio Pico RV Resort & Campground, just outside San Diego, to ride another nonagenarian coaster, also named the Giant Dipper and also 98-years-old, found in the city’s Belmont Park. They are still pretty swift for their age, each running at a speed of 55 miles per hour.

Giant Dipper Roller Coaster in San Diego, CA
Giant Dipper Roller Coaster in San Diego, CA

A newbie to the coaster world includes The Pantheon, which premiered this past March at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, billed as the world’s fastest multi-launch roller coaster and travels at a top speed of 73 miles per hour. Hold on to your hats, and togas, when riding this ride that is said to have the strength of the strongest Roman Gods. Book a stay in a cabin at Virginia’s Williamsburg Camping Resort when visiting Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

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Green City Getaways

With April having two dates that recognize the importance of taking care of our Earth (Earth Day and Arbor Day), it makes sense to plan a trip to visit a Green City this month (or in the future).

Cherry tree blossoms on the waterfront in Portland, OR.

According to treehugger.com, there are several things to take into consideration in determining how “green” a city is. Those include efficient public transportation, quality public space, plentiful parks, and the availability of bike lanes as well as composting and recycling programs. One other interesting item is whether a city offers “good green fun,” which means farmer’s markets, plenty of organic fare served up in the local eating and drinking establishments and music festivals and outdoor events that feature solar-powered stages and valet parking for bicycles. There are several more “green definers” and combined that’s a lot for a city to tackle, yet slowly but surely, more and more of our urban areas around the country are hitting the mark when it comes to being green. Additionally, there are many different groups providing different rankings for these cities, but some consistently make the grade across the board.

  1. San Diego, California: San Diego’s nickname is “America’s Finest City”, but it can also boast being one of America’s greenest cities. San Diego is home to Balboa Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country. Other green things about this southern California city include dozens of weekly farmer’s markets, a major “Farm to Fork” movement in the dining industry, a variety of public transportation including trolleys, shuttles, and pedi-cabs, and plenty of opportunities for green fun including kayaking, mountain biking, and surfing.

Book a cabin or cottage stay at Pio Pico or Oakzanita Springs for a San Diego Green Getaway.

Tiny House Savannah at Mt. Hood Tiny House Village in Welches, OR.
  1. Portland, Oregon: With over 90,000 acres of green space and a top-notch biking/walking trail system, Portland is definitely eco-friendly. In fact, they have the highest rate of workers biking to the office than any other U.S. city. They were also one of the first cities to ban the use of plastic bags. For green space, visitors and residents alike need to look no further than the city’s Forest Park, a 5200-acre urban forest, featuring hiking and biking trails, waterfalls, and plenty of greenery!

Book a stay at the Mt. Hood Tiny House Village for a Portland Green Getaway.

Cozy cabin Yukon Trails in Lyndon Station, WI.
  1. Madison, Wisconsin: Did you know that the man behind Earth Day was from Wisconsin? Gaylord Nelson, who served as both governor and senator of the state was not only a politician, but also an avid environmentalist, calling upon the citizens of America to bring awareness to problems with the environment. So naturally, it makes sense that Madison would be a green city – it’s in the genes! Madison consistently ranks as a green city thanks to its abundance of green space – from plenty of city parks to acres of lakes and miles of biking and hiking trails. Madison is home to more bikes than cars and the city is very walkable. The city has more farmer’s markets than you can shake a cucumber at, and in fact, Saturday on the Square, an event that features more than 250 vendors, is a popular destination for visitors and Mad-Town residents like.

Book a cabin stay at Yukon Trails for a Madison Green Getaway.

Lake Eola Park in Orlando, FL.
  1. Orlando, Florida: While green space is not as abundant as in some of the other green cities, Orlando makes the green grade thanks to its continued efforts and eye to the future when it comes to being, and staying, green. With goals like a 40% city-wide tree canopy coverage by 2040, the One Person One Tree initiative to help expand the urban forest, and a host of programs to protect the ecosystems found here, Orlando is definitely putting a green foot forward. And to clarify, they have plenty of green space to the tune of more than 100 parks, plus plenty of lakes and wetlands.
Colorful cottage stay at Tropical Palms in Kissimmee, FL.

Book a colorful cottage stay at Tropical Palms for an Orlando Green Getaway.

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5 Things to Do in… San Diego

The climate alone is reason enough to plan a getaway to San Diego. There’s plenty of sunshine and 80-degree days to be found here. There’s also the draw of the ocean and the miles of beaches as well as the history, the theme parks, a world-class zoo, and much more. We came up with five ways to experience this sunny southern California favorite:

Sunset on La Jolla Beach, CA.
  1. Act Like a Local: Some say the best way to get to know a city is to do what the locals do. So, we checked in with a San Diegan and here’s what they suggest: Start the day with a walk/hike along Sunset Cliffs. Next, head over to Wonderland for mimosas and brunch and some great ocean views. After that, check out the pier at Ocean Beach, which is one of the longest piers on the West coast and has great sea lion sightings. Spend the afternoon strolling Newport Avenue with its cool shops – including surf shops and antiques. Enjoy an afternoon nosh at South Beach for local beers and great fish tacos. End the day with dinner at the OB Noodle House for great Asian fare.
Ocean Beach Pier in San Diego.
  1. Act Like a Kid: What’s more fun than a bunch of Legos (unless, of course, they’re on the floor and you’re barefoot)? Head to Carlsbad and visit LEGOLAND California which is a theme park, a water park, and an aquarium all rolled into one guaranteed fun time. The aquarium portion of LEGOLAND has 350 different species featuring over 6000 sea creatures. The water park has all kinds of wet fun from wave pools to waterslides. And, of course, the theme park has thrill rides, shows, and a Lego retail store. As for Legos, all attractions include a Lego miniland made from millions of genuine Legos. Watch where you step!
  1. Act Like an Athlete: With 70 miles of coastline, water sports are the thing to do in San Diego. Wakeboarding, kitesurfing, kayaking, surfing, and bodysurfing are just a few of the water challenges to be attempted when visiting San Diego. The San Diego Surf School (sandiegosurfingschool.com) offers private, semi-private, and group lessons as well as surf camps and surf retreats for adults. If you’re gonna attempt hanging ten, consider that San Diego has some of the warmest waters and several of the best surfing breaks on the California coast.
  1. Act Like a Foodie: A few years back, Thrillist.com said San Diego was a hotspot for fresh-sourced ingredients and world-class street food and a few years later, San Diego remains a foodie favorite. A good place to start to explore the food scene here is through one of the several food tours offered. Bite San Diego (bitesandiego.com) offers six different neighborhood tours that serve up a side of each neighborhood’s history, as well! Or try the Tequila, Tacos and Tombstones Tour offered through viator.com that takes you through a food and walking tour of the city’s historic Old Town.
Getaway cabin at Pio Pico in Jamul, CA.
  1. Act Like a Glamper: We’ve got two great locations where you can get your glamping fix in while exploring all that San Diego has to offer. Pio Pico in nearby Jamul has great cottage and cabin options for your consideration. The resort has bike trails, pickleball courts, nature and hiking trails, a pool, hot tub, and a game room. Each rental cottage sleeps six, has heat and A/C, full-sized refrigerators, electric coffeemakers and microwaves and full-sized bathrooms/showers. Cabins at Pio Pico sleep 4-6, have full-sized bathrooms/showers and kitchens with microwaves and refrigerators. Oakzanita Springs is another option for glamping during a San Diego getaway. Each of the two cottage rentals sleeps 6 while the two cabin rentals sleep 4. All have full-size bathrooms/showers and a variety of kitchen amenities. The resort has bike trails, nature and hiking trails, a swimming pool, hot tub, and bocci and horseshoes.
Cozy cabin at Oakzanita Springs in Descanso, CA.

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A Sunny Southern Cali Kind of Stay

A cozy cabin at Pio Pico, near San Diego.
A cozy cabin at Pio Pico, near San Diego.

Make your winter months as sunny as possible and head to southern California to explore the area. Daytime temperatures tend to hover around 68 degrees and the sun is out more than it’s not! There are places to make a home base while you visit the known and lesser known attractions in the Golden State.

Los Angeles: First, book a stay in a cozy cabin at Soledad Canyon and then get ready to check out the area that draws more than 48 million visitors each year.

Of course, many people flock to LA to see the stars of the human variety rather than the celestial kind. You may want to combine a hike in Runyon Canyon with your star-search efforts as this a is favorite spot for the exercise-minded celebrity. Another spot to see stars in their everyday life is The Grove, an LA shopping mecca and the adjacent Original Farmers Market. Whether you see the stars or not, these are all worthy expeditions while in Tinseltown.

Cabin interior at Soledad Canyon, near Los Angeles.
Cabin interior at Soledad Canyon, near Los Angeles.

Other LA attractions include the Griffith Observatory for celestial stargazing, the Santa Monica Pier, and Huntingon Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. And, if you want to feel like it’s winter in all the sunshine, visit Pershing Square’s Holiday Ice Rink, located in the Financial District of the city. The Square will also host a Winter Holiday Festival on December 7, complete with LA’s version of snow!

San Diego: Start by making a reservation to stay in a cabin or cottage at Pio Pico, which is a perfect location thanks to its proximity to San Diego proper. San Diego has beaches, the Pacific Ocean, museums, galleries, a world-class zoo, lots of history, and a boatload of outdoor fun to be had.

The San Diego Zoo consistently ranks as one of the top zoos in the world. With more than 3,500 rare and endangered animals, including gorillas, polar bears, and koala bears, this is definitely not your basic zoo. Visitors can enjoy a guided bus tour through the zoo or see it from above on the zoo’s Skyfari Aerial Tram.

Make a stop at the zoo as part of your San Diego Hop-on Hop-off Trolley tour which also makes stops at Old Town State Historic Park, which is considered the Jamestown of the Pacific; the city’s historic Gaslamp Quarter and Balboa Park.

Santa Barbara: Choose from a cozy cabin, teepee, or covered wagon at Rancho Oso and then head out to explore this charming California town known for its architecture and history.

A safari tent at Rancho Oso, near Santa Barbara.
A safari tent at Rancho Oso, near Santa Barbara.

One of the neat things about Santa Barbara is its proximity to the Channel Islands National Park, an archipelago of five islands. A great way to explore the Park and the islands is through the Santa Barbara Adventure Company (www.sbadventureco.com). There are all kinds of adventures waiting on the Channel Islands including snorkeling, sea cave exploration, hiking and whale watching.

A great way to get to see the beautiful architecture of the city is to take one of the weekend walking tours, offered Saturday and Sunday, through the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara (afsb.org) Tours begin at 10 a.m. and last approximately two hours.

And again, if you want to experience a bit more of a winter feeling in this sunny climate, don’t miss the “snow” events at the town’s Paseo Nuevo outdoor shopping center where “snow” fills the evening skies through December 31. There is also holiday entertainment including carolers, choirs, and Santa himself!