- If you can dream it, you can do it. Walt Disney
Go to San Diego
Out of Africa
You've heard of the San Diego Zoo, but did you know about the San Diego Zoo Safari Park? Located in the northern part of San Diego County, this 1,800-acre preserve is one of the closest things to an African safari this side of Africa. You'll find 3,500 animals from nearly 300 species, ranging from red-fronted gazelles to Sumatran tigers. Rowrr.
A Beach of One's Own
Speaking of the border -- not all Southern California beaches are crowded; in fact, there are some that are so beautiful and yet so quiet, it's almost freaky. That's what you'll find down at Border Fields State Park, otherwise known as our favorite beach in San Diego County. On a sunny Saturday, which is most Saturdays, it's not out of the question that you'll be the only one there. Getting there takes work, though; the government is continually making up new excuses to keep the park gate shut; we suspect it's to discourage visitors to the area completely. When you complete the one-plus mile hike out to the beach and down towards Tijuana, you get a pretty good idea as to why -- once it gets down to the beach, the border wall kind of just stops, allowing just about anyone who wants to the chance to slip through. Not only is it a pretty beach (occasional empty water bottle pile-up aside), on weekends, you'll hear some pretty decent live music from the bars in Mexico.
Escape From It All
As good as the spas are in San Diego, sometimes we just don't feel like lifting a finger. That's OK -- there are plenty of resorts in the region, staffed by the sort of people who are just waiting for us to press a button and ask to have, say, another bottle of champagne sent up to the patio. This fall, you can get some great rates at some of the area's most exclusive properties -- check out the Park Hyatt Aviara (www.parkaviara.hyatt.com), for instance, with its great views from up on a hill overlooking the Batiquitos Lagoon and the Pacific Ocean; through Dec. 31, get your third night free, plus a $50 resort credit.
Prado, Prado, Prado!
Right at the heart of the city's gorgeous Balboa Park, you'll find El Prado, one of the most beautiful streets in the United States. Of course, it's not so much an actual street as it is a collection of ornate Spanish revival/Baroque buildings dating back to nearly 100 years ago, when the park was the site of the Panama-California Exposition. Today, the buildings are largely occupied by museums; of all the high-profile choices here, though, our favorite is the lesser-known Mingei International Museum (www.mingei.org), dedicated to folk art and contemporary craft from around the world.
Catch a Wave
Ever want to learn how to surf, but don't know where to start? The laidback beach scene here is the perfect place for newbies to get on, er, board -- seven days a week, the dudes at Surfari welcome beginners for a two-hour lesson that include both on-land and in-the-water practice. Classes are held in Mission Beach, starting at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm. All are welcome, and you can even book private lessons if you embarrass easily. Bring your swimsuit and a towel, and you're ready to go.