Weekend Getaway: Falling For San Diego's History, Hotels & Charm

San Diego Travel Story - US Grant Hotel - LATFI've said it before and I'll say it again, it's easy to 'Fall In Love With San Diego;' as the city's tourism slogan reads. From Hollywood to the center of SD, it's a scenic 2 hour drive sans traffic, making this SoCal city one of the best weekend getaways for Angelenos.

Even if you go for one day and one night, you can easily plan a quick trip that will still give you the feeling of being on vacation. The historic and contemporary attractions are endless, and the restaurant life is thriving with up-and-coming chefs.

Although LATF normally road-trips to San Diego in the summertime to join the fanboys and superhero wannabes at Comic-Con, the Fall and Winter are equally perfect seasons to plan a trip. Leaving early on a Saturday morning, we decided to spend some time at the San Diego Zoo. If you can believe it, it actually takes a full day to visit all of their animals under the sun: Majestic monkeys, gorillas, tigers, flamingos, polar bears, snow leopards and those fascinating 100+ year-old Galapagos tortoises. While the pandas Xiao Liwu, Bai Yun, and Gao Gao are the main attraction at the Panda Trek, I favor the comedic personalities of the Tufted Capuchin monkeys and the happy-go-lucky elephants. http://zoo.sandiegozoo.org

San Diego Zoo travel story - LATFAfter walking the Zoo's entire map, we were ready for a siesta! When it comes to lodging, you always have the choice of Airbnb and the multitude of B&B's and hotels throughout the city. But sometimes you just need the royal treatment, or in this case: the presidential treatment. Enter, The US Grant Hotel. As someone who has a passion for history, The US Grant is a magical place to stay as you can feel the classic grandeur of all 14 U.S. Presidents and leaders who have passed through over the century. Located in the heart of the Gaslamp district, you are a light stroll away from an incredible amount of restaurants, pubs and shopping.

Founded in 1910, the hotel was developed by Ulysses S. (“Buck”) Grant, Jr. in honor of his father, Civil War hero and the 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. On the hotel's debut evening over 100 years ago, the fountain located in the historic Horton Plaza Park just across the way was dedicated to the citizens of San Diego. As you walk through The US Grant, there are endless stories to hear, from Ulysses S. Grant's campaign to save the Native American Kumeyaay Nation's territory in SD country, to the times of the Prohibition.

From the lobby to the Signature Suite, where we stayed, the restored decor is nothing short of grand, with a modern touch to the regal design. With 270 guest rooms, including an impressive 47 suites, each room has classic empire style furnishings. The hotel adds a contemporary flair with their 'sleeping with art' experience. Artist is Yves Clement (he signs Clement Le Grand) created dripping-paint headboards for the beds, which certainly serve as a focal point to each room. Clement's work is seen throughout the hotel, from the Presidential Ballroom to the lobby. The hotel will quickly become your go-to with its impeccable service and comfortable accomodations.The US Grant - San Diego travel Story - LATFBefore dinner, we had crafted cocktails at The Grant Grill, another branch of the hotel with great history. The Chef de Bar, Cory Alberto guided us through their unique cocktail menu, from the seasonal Smashing Pumpkin drink to Fall in New England, mixed with Johnny Walker Red, Vermont Sapling Liquor, Don Ciccio Walnut Amaro, Cinnamon Bitters and Cold Smoked Apple Juice. (Stay tuned for LATF's special holiday cocktail recipe series, courtesy of Cory and The Grant Grill in our Food & Drink section!). We enjoyed music from The Grant Grill's live band before taking off for San Diego's Little Italy.

Little Italy is thriving with new restaurants. Although Davanti Enoteca was a top choice on my last visit, Civico 1845 has rocketed to my #1. Sitting at one of their outdoor cafe tables, you feel as if you're dining in a small Italian village. After all, the Gallo owners hail from Cosenza, Italy. Their head Chef Alfonso Pisacane, comes from a long line of Italian chefs from Positano, Italy. If you're a meat lover, I recommend their Pappardelle Brasato, slow braised short rib ragu with Cabernet.

With always pleasant weather, we took a walk after dinner before heading back to The US Grant. If you're up for a nightcap, the Grant Grill's jazz band will lure you on any weekend night and, if you're lucky, Cory might be there to tailor a cocktail especially for you. http://www.usgrant.net/

Places To Go, Attractions To See:

Old Town San Diego: Considered the “birthplace” of California. The city is the first permanent Spanish settlement in the state, where the initial mission was founded in 1979. You feel as if you’ve stepped into a time machine back to the Wild West. You can take a trolley through the streets and hop off to visit the shops and the 19th century buildings.  http://www.oldtownsandiegoguide.com/

Balboa Park: Home to the Botanical Gardens and, for those who like to see one of a kind record breakers: one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs. It’s quite a site. Come Football season, The San Diego Chargers’ fans come from near and far to the stadium located just outside of Mission City.

Coronado: Just across the bridge from downtown is this beautiful small town surrounded by Ocean views. Walk through the historic Hotel del Coronado and enjoy a drink on the large patio just above the sand. Visitors do everything from bike ride to golf and stroll the picture perfect neighborhood.

San Diego travel story - LATFEmbarcadero (Spanish for “Landing place”): The Star of India ship is docked in the Port. The ship is billed by the Maritime Museum as being the “world’s oldest working ship.” She was originally built in 1863 on the Isle of Man, one of the isles of the “British Isles.” Through the museum you can tour the ship and learn all about its history.

Sea World: Visit the marine animals and the Turtle Reef, an attraction featuring a 280,000-gallon aquarium with up to 60 threatened sea turtles. For the holidays, Sea World has plenty of attractions planned, from Shamu Christmas Miracles to Dolphin Island Christmas. http://seaworldparks.com

On your drive back, I recommend stopping in La Jolla to visit the seals of La Jolla Cove. Everytime I walk the cliffs, there are always a family of seals to greet the visitors. You can even kayak through the La Jolla caves! Waving to the crashing waves is a perfect farewell to your weekend getaway.

If you live half way across the world or just in Los Angeles, San Diego is a wonderful city to cross off your travel bucket list!

For more information on San Diego’s offerings visit the San Diego Tourism Authority’s website at www.sandiego.org or call 619-236-1212.

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