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Travel Season in San Diego: Beating the Crowds

They arrive as soon as the sun comes out. The never-ending multitudes, migrating beachward from every state, with lounge chairs, diaper bags, and SPF

45 in tow. They seek suntans, the smell of salt, the sight of elusive pandas

and beluga whales at our amusement parks.

Likely, you and your family are among them.

There’s many reasons San Diego is deemed America’s Finest City, and the secret has been out for decades. Indeed, tourists keep the city fine. But on certain summer weekends, San Diego’s attractions become so inundated, all you’ll really see at Sea World is the back of some stranger’s head. The freeways become clogged, the beaches a patchwork of towels. Vacations become more of a hassle than a holiday.

Clang Went the Trolley

The best way to beat the crowds is the utilize public transportation. Public transportation in San Diego? Sure, we don’t have a subway, but the citywide transit offerings are much broader than people realize. The benefits are huge-instead of behind-the-wheel migraines, wear on your car, and daunting gas prices, you get to curl up with a book or a newspaper, or chat with your company.

Visitors can purchase one to four-day transit passes, the latter only fifteen dollars. If you’re a local, you can purchase a monthly transit pass for the price of one tank of gas; however, the amount of stress saved is truly invaluable. All passes include countless bus routes all over the city, as well as unlimited trolley trips. Visit the Metropolitan Transit System’s website at for more information.

The Master Cards

The worst part of visiting San Diego attractions on busy summer days is waiting in line. Luckily, you and your family can avoid the crunch by prepaying admission. Although there are many all-inclusive city passes to choose from, the best by far is the Go San Diego Card, available at

The full list of admissions covered by the card would take forever to transcribe, but among them are Legoland, Knott’s Soak City, both the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, all Balboa Park museums, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, a Temecula Wine Tasting Tour, and a Belmont Amusement Park Unlimited Ride Wristband. Depending on the length of your vacation, rates range from $39 to $143.

The Early Bird Pays No Cover

This one sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how few people follow through. As more and more Manhattan-esque nightclubs disperse velvet ropes downtown, the cover charges are only growing. Just stepping through the doors of one of the Gaslamp Quarter’s super-clubs like Belo or Stingaree will set you back $25 to $30, and that’s not even including a single $12 drink. Besides knowing somebody, the only way to waive these exorbitant covers it to arrive early. Most clubs start charging at nine. Sure, it’s a little awkward, meandering through an empty dance floor. But once the crowd filters in, who’s to know you didn’t make a late, expensive entrance as well?

Arriving early also goes for daytime attractions. The most difficult part is rousing the kids at ungodly hours, but lines at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and Sea World, for example, can be so atrocious the resultant whining is well worth it.

Scavenger Hunting

When people vacation in San Diego, the make the same rounds every time. The zoo. Legoland. Sea World. Mission Beach. But the city is also home to a whole host of attractions that haven’t yet been tainted by teeming tourists. Naturally, locals don’t spend every weekend at the Wild Animal Park. Where else is there to go?

For starters, there are several beaches you can visit to avoid the worst of the crowds without sacrificing beauty. Black’s Beach in La Jolla is a fine example, offering jaw-dropping vistas, if you can stand the lengthy downhill trek to reach it. Immediately north of Windansea, a series of tide pools and broad rocks create a perfect place to sunbathe. Dog Beach in Ocean Beach is an animal-lover’s paradise.

Other things to do: walk through a less-known neighborhood like artsy North Park, beautiful Bird Rock, or fun-and-funky Ocean Beach. Visit a flavorful locals bar like the Princess Pub in Little Italy, the Whistle Stop in South Park, or Wine Steals in Hillcrest. There’s more to San Diego than a zoo, a beach, and a ballpark, and a simple step off the well-traveled path will result in a treasure trove of hidden jewels.



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