Enjoying ‘America’s Finest City’

By: Peter Pollack

Beyond the convention center, San Diego offers a wealth of activities

Given its history and geography, San Diego offers many popular tourist destinations, including those described here.

Nature, museums, and more
Visitors who seek an excellent view and intriguing tide pools are rewarded when they visit the Cabrillo National Monument, located at the southern tip of the Point Loma Peninsula.


The Gaslamp Quarter is one of San Diego’s oldest, best-known neighborhoods.
Courtesy of Stuart J. Fischer, MD

“There’s a lighthouse and some hiking available,” said Jeffrey M. Smith, MD. “The main attraction is a spectacular view of the city, which many people don’t usually take advantage of when visiting.”

According to Alexandra E. Page, MD, another popular location is Balboa Park, one of America’s largest municipal parks. It offers 15 museums, a calendar of cultural events, restaurants, a zoo, gardens, and hiking and biking trails.

“You can rent an audio tour from the visitor’s center,” noted Dr. Page. “It takes you through the whole park and offers little details that you might otherwise miss. It gives you a nice history, and it’s a pleasant way to experience the area.”

Museums located at Balboa Park include the Fleet Science Center, the Veteran’s Museum, the Automotive Museum, the Centro Cultural de la Raza cultural center, and the Air & Space Museum, which houses the Apollo 9 Command Module and a flying replica of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis.

For those with less time or who wish to stay closer to the convention center, James P. Tasto, MD, points out that there are plenty of fine attractions in the marina. Most obvious may be the USS Midway Museum, which consists of the legendary aircraft carrier and dozens of restored aircraft. Nearby is the San Diego Maritime Museum, which among other vessels contains the tall-ship Californian, a Soviet B-39 submarine, and the Star of India—the oldest active sailing ship in the world.

“One of my favorite things is to go down to the marina,” said Dr. Tasto. “The Midway, the Star of India, and a number of other exhibits are all next to each other. The weather is usually good, the waterfront is beautiful, and it’s a very nice walk.”

Dr. Page also recommends taking the ferry to Coronado Island to take in an enjoyable nearby attraction.

“When the ferry lands on the Coronado side you can rent a bike or surrey and ride down the strand,” she said.  “It’s very beautiful. And it’s lovely to walk around the Hotel del Coronado and view the ocean.”

A little farther away near Escondido, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is one of the largest and most famous collections of animals in the world, with an 1,800-acre wildlife preserve, more than 3,500 animals representing 260 species—including an array of wild and endangered animals from Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Australia—and a botanical garden. Animals such as antelopes, giraffes, buffalo, and cranes are housed in free-range enclosures at this kid-friendly attraction.

AAOS Annual Meeting attendees with children may also find that the LEGOLAND California Theme Park and the SeaWorld San Diego California Theme Park can each be a fun way to spend a day.

San Diego restaurants offer a wide variety of cuisines, not the least of which is excellent seafood. As a personal recommendation, Dr. Smith notes that attendees may enjoy Coasterra, Island Prime, and C-Level (all are located at 880 Harbor Island Dr.).

Coasterra is a relatively new restaurant with a Mexican fusion vibe. Island Prime offers seafood and steaks; C-Level is the associated bar and light menu restaurant for Island Prime.

In addition, Dr. Smith offers up Point Loma Seafoods (2805 Emerson St.) as a unique local experience.

“There’s very little seating, and some people will eat outside,” he explained. “It’s mainly a seafood deli, where people come to buy fresh seafood, but they also serve prepared food after 10:30 a.m. If you try to stand in line you’ll be waiting a long time; just step up to the counter and give them your order. The food is great and it’s a fun experience.”

Other restaurants recommended by Dr. Smith include the following:

  • Eddie V’s Prime Seafood; seafood and steak (789 W. Harbor Dr.)
  • Richard Walker’s Pancake House; hearty breakfast staples, closes early (520 Front St.)
  • Roy’s; Hawaiian fusion (333 W. Harbor Dr.)
  • Ruth’s Chris; upmarket steakhouse (1355 N. Harbor Dr.)
  • Seasons 52; seasonal American and wine (789 W. Harbor Dr.)

Dr. Tasto suggests visitors check out Herb & Wood (2210 Kettner Blvd.), which offers “rustic, wood-fired dishes and old-school cocktails,” and is his current favorite restaurant. He also likes Mister A’s (2550 Fifth Ave.), described as French-hued American cooking, and Island Prime.

Other activities
San Diego also offers several options for the golfer: Torrey Pines, where the US Open is often held, and the San Diego Country Club. The San Diego Country Club is restricted to members and their guests.

For baseball fans, the second round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic will be held March 14–19 at Petco Park in San Diego.

“Petco Park is spectacular,” said Dr. Tasto. “It’s one of the best stadiums in Major League Baseball. There will be opportunities to attend a game or just even tour the park.”

Other popular visitor activities include walking through the various neighborhoods. Many visitors will stay in or near the Gaslamp Quarter, which is filled with restaurants and historic buildings.

Dr. Page recommends Little Italy, North Park, and Hillcrest as good areas to wander and take in the sights, as well as La Jolla, which offers dining, shopping, art galleries, snorkeling, as well as plenty of opportunities to see seals and sea lions.

With respect to neighborhoods, Dr. Tasto offers some recommendations based on experience.

“The Gaslamp is going to be extremely crowded,” he explained, “and the restaurants there, although there are many good ones, can be sort of touristy. In addition, Academy attendees will be competing for space with baseball fans, and on Friday night, St. Patrick’s Day crowds.

“Little Italy is just a mile away and has excellent restaurants, but my first choice would be Bankers Hill,” he continued. “It’s about a 10-minute cab ride from the convention center and has some great restaurants. La Jolla is excellent as well, and about 20 minutes away. The farther out you go, the less you’ll be competing with walkers and convention-goers.”

During the last several AAOS Annual Meetings, Dr. Smith has been organizing yoga, tai chi, and bicycling opportunities for attendees.

“These events are really intended to be parts of a surgeon’s burnout prevention strategy,” he said.

Dr. Smith has two yoga sessions planned: one at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15, and another at 6:00 a.m. on Friday, March 17. They will be held at the Embarcadero Marina Park South.

In addition, Dr. Smith is matching up bicyclists to coordinate a few rides during the week depending upon attendee schedules, experience levels, and interests. Whether participating in the “official” rides or not, he has made arrangements with a local company so riders can rent bicycles, which the company will drop off and pick up at the renter’s hotel or a central meeting point.

For more information on the bicycles, bike rides, and yoga classes, contact Dr. Smith at jeff@jeffsmithmd.com and ask to be added to the information mailing list.