Our guest post and monthly column comes from Howard Hian who was recently awarded a Gold Medal/First Place Award from the North American Travel Journalists Association’s annual international writing contest. His prize winning story, Houseboating with My Pirate Pals, was in the Intergenerational Travel category. In 2010 he also received a second place award in the Cancun International writers competition for his feature, Quintessential Quintana Roo. Hian was recently named as the San Diego Hotel Motel Association’s “Allied Member of the Year” for 2011 for his ongoing contributions to the city’s tourism industry through his travel writing.
One of the great things about living in California is that no matter where you reside, you are never far from a variety of vacation destinations. We spent a long weekend in Coronado, just across the bay from our hometown, San Diego. Often referred to as an island, Coronado is actually located on a peninsula connected to the mainland by the Silver Strand Isthmus. Founded in 1885 as a resort community, it gained recognition when the Hotel del Coronado was built in 1888. Today there are accommodation choices galore; luxury, mid-priced, chains, B&Bs and even beach-front quarters for active and retired military. And, a wealth of activities awaits visitors.
Find your place in the sun; Coronado Beach is often ranked among the top 10 in the U.S.A. The town is a walker’s delight; fascinating homes, ranging from charming bungalows to ocean-view mansions with fabulous gardens. Visit Spreckel’s Park (there’s always something going on), the Ferry Landing, go shopping or take an historic walking tour, www.coronadowalkingtour.com. Drop by the Coronado Museum of History and Art, www.coronadohistory.org, to learn about Coronado, including its prominent U.S. military presence. Catch a matinee at the newly refurbished Art Deco-style Village Theatre, www.vintagecinemas.com/village. Or, if you prefer live entertainment, attend a play at the highly acclaimed Lamb’s Players Theatre, now in its 41st. year. Go to www.lambsplayers.org for a schedule of upcoming shows. For a Coronado Visitors Guide, logon to www.coronadovisitorcenter.com.
Triple Treat – Loews Coronado Bay Resort
Spend a day and start by pampering yourself at their Sea Spa (try the Travelers Relief massage); go early and enjoy the relaxation room or lounge by the pool. Try to schedule your session so that you finish around sunset. Then, after your treatment, walk to the Marina for a taste of Venice cruising with the Gondola Company through the Coronado Cays’ canals. Nice touch: you can bring a bottle of wine and they supply the stemware, napkins and an appetizer. Ask for a gondolier that can sing. For the finale, dine at the award-winning Mistral restaurant. Overlooking San Diego Bay, it is romantic and classy. My favorites were the wild mushroom ravioli as a starter and the scallop entree. For something special, try the chef’s degustation (tasting menu). There is the full bar and extensive wine list that one would expect from a sophisticated dining spot. Hint: save room for dessert. Information can be found at www.loewshotels.com/Coronado-Bay-Resort, www.gondolacompany.com and www.dineatmistral.com.
Where to Eat – Lunch Duo
We fell in love with two locally owned restaurants: Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge and Lil’ Piggy’s BBQ. Leroy’s partners with local farmers and brewers and features a lively bar scene in an open-air setting. Food-wise, my recommendations are the bleu pepper chips and the roasted pork sandwich. They have their own pastry chef and the ice cream is homemade so leave room for their “Naughty Ding Dong” for dessert. . Their entire menu can be found at www.leroyskitchenandlounge.com. Lil’ Piggy’s BBQ, www.nadolife.com/lilpiggys, is located at The Ferry Landing. It is a casual, family-style place with picnic tables, benches and patio dining. Meats are either smoked or prepared dry or wet (BBQ lovers will understand that). Large portions are served on tin plates. Take your pick from 100 beers to wash down top-notch BBQ. I particularly liked their brisket, baby back ribs and the corn fritters.
Then There’s the Historic Hotel del Coronado
The trip would have not been complete without visiting the “Del.” We dined at the hotel’s signature beachfront restaurant, 1500 OCEAN (www.dine1500ocean.com). It serves creative, coastal cuisine that focuses on locally-sourced, sustainable produce and seafood. As one would expect, the service was attentive and presentation outstanding. There is an extensive wine list and our two entrees were first rate: Angus beef filet and Moulard duck breast. We capped off the weekend with the award-winning Sunday brunch in the Ballroom at the Hotel Del Coronado (www.hoteldel.com). Champagne flows freely as one grazes between food stations featuring dozens of tables laden with everything imaginable: seafood, cheeses, charcuterie, soups, egg dishes, a carving station, sushi, Mexican favorites, desserts, fruit platters, salads and freshly baked breads and croissants. It is truly a food extravaganza.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the delightful 1906 Lodge at Coronado Beach, a lovingly restored inn that started its life as a boarding house. It features 17 beautifully appointed, comfortable rooms and suites. The rate includes a gourmet breakfast, secure underground parking, afternoon wine and snacks, evening turndown with chocolates, flat panel HD TV with cable, a DVD library and high speed internet access. Their attention to detail is evident and the staff is friendly and helpful. Its location is perfect, one block off the main street and two from the beach. Military rates are available. For information, go to www.1906Lodge.com.
Our travel adventure led us to a place with a unique history, wonderful activities and great food all wrapped up in small town charm. As our outing came to an end, evening was approaching and the city lights were twinkling as we crossed the bridge heading home. Our Coronado caper was a big success.
Safe travels and enjoy the journey…