USS Midway Museum
By BOB SAN
When talking about the best U.S. city to live or visit, San Diego is always mentioned near the top of the list because of its perfect weather and beauty. I recently spent five days visiting my niece in San Diego, nicknamed “America’s finest city”, and agree indeed that it is one of the best destinations for a relaxing vacation.
I stayed with my niece in a beach suburb called Bird Rock. Located about 20 minutes from downtown San Diego, Bird Rock is a quaint quiet community that features nice shops, coffee houses and restaurants.
The first place Michelle took me and her friend Charmaine to was the Children’s Beach in La Jolla Cove, just a couple miles from Bird Rock. Children’s Beach is famous for its seals, which spend most of the year sunbathing on the beach. It’s just amazing that one can live in an urban area and drive 10 minutes and be in the presence of these wonderful wild animals.
The next day, we visited the popular tourist spot Balboa Park. A 1,200-acre urban cultural park, Balboa Park has it all.
It features the world famous San Diego Zoo and many museums and cultural attractions, including the San Diego Museum of Man, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Museum of Photographic Arts, the San Diego Art Institute, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, the San Diego Natural History Museum, the San Diego History Center, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, and the Timken Museum of Art.
Other features include the spectacular Spreckels Organ Pavilion, featuring one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs, the Reflection Pond, the Botanical Building, and numerous flower gardens. One can easily spend a day in Balboa Park. An extra bonus is there are many free parking spots throughout the park.
We explored the park a bit and Michelle and Charmaine decided to go to the Zoo. I had been there before and there was an afternoon San Diego Padres baseball game so I opted to go to the ball game.
Petco Park is home of the Padres, who like our hometown Minnesota Twins, are having a difficult season. The attendance during the day game was dismal. I’d be exaggerating if I said there were 10,000 fans there.
The park itself is nice, with some neat features such as a sandy beach for the kids to play in and a grassy hill just beyond centerfield. I bought a ticket to sit on the grass and watched the game from there lying down. The price was only $6.
I honestly don’t remember much from the game except that the Padres lost badly to the Washington Nationals. Late in the game, I snuck into the right field upper deck to watch the rest of the game. It was a perfect day and as I looked out from the top row in the upper deck, I could see the Pacific Ocean and the USS Midway, our destination the next day.
USS Midway is the longest serving U.S. aircraft carrier. It was commissioned in 1946 and served our country until January 2004 when it docked in San Diego and became the USS Midway Museum.
Because we were short on time, we did not take the tour on the gigantic carrier but instead just walked around the park by the bay and admired the mighty ship. There we found the most popular tourist photo spot in San Diego, a large statue replica of the Alfred Eisenstaedt Life Magazine cover photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day in 1945.
The large statue is located right on the dock next to Midway and makes for a neat photo with the majestic Midway in the background and the occasional swimming seal.
In San Diego, of course you go the beach. My niece lives a couple blocks from the ocean and for three mornings I rode a bike from her condo onto Pacific Beach and all the way to Mission Beach — San Diego’s most popular beach.
It was a gorgeous biking experience as the Pacific Ocean waves are pounding on the beach, hundreds of surfers are bobbing in the distance waves, and tanned California people are doing yoga, roller blading or running along the path. This is paradise for a biker or runner because there are endless paths and boardwalks along the ocean. I lost several pounds during the week even while I was eating like crazy.
That brings me to another of my favorite past-times — dining. San Diego features a diverse restaurant scene and we sampled some of the popular local eateries. For Vietnamese, we went to Pho T Cali on Clairemont Mesa Blvd in Kearny Mesa. The next day, we tried Mexican food at El Zarape, a popular hole-in-the-wall joint famous for its lobster and scallop tacos on Park Blvd in University Heights.
On the third day, we went to Pacific Beach to try Japanese food at PB Sushi on Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach and later for burgers at Bareback Grill on Mission Blvd in Pacific Beach. On my last night in San Diego, we enjoyed some decadent desserts at Extraordinary Desserts, a popular downtown dessert destination on Union Street in Little Italy.
In previous trips, I had dined in Chinatown and in Lady Vista, where there are some fine Vietnamese places. The Chinese food and Vietnamese restaurants are good and the prices are a bit cheaper than in the Twin Cities.
It was a nice, relaxing trip to San Diego. I will certainly go back.