America's finest city? Maybe. America's funnest city? Without a doubt.
Nobody can touch us. New York? A concrete jungle full of angst-ridden people. Miami? Yuck. Austin? So self-reverential. Portland? See Austin, add rain. San Francisco? See Portland, add fog. Los Angeles? Traffic, smog, sprawl, and the overarching phoniness of the entertainment industry.
San Diego stands as a counterpoint to all of those places. It starts with the perfect weather, because it's hard to be full of angst when it's 72 and sunny. It continues with the diversity of our populace; we're from every corner of this country and this planet, and we're here to live and let live. Throw in the diversity of our environment, our neighborhoods, and our lifestyles, and have we got? Ideal conditions for fun. And, boy, are we having it.
Dr. Arturo Guerra #70, Tecate, B.C., Mexico, MX: 665-654-9490, 656-654-9478
The canned Tecate brew imported into the states is made in Monterrey— with different water and less alcohol than its Tecate-bottled, spring-water counterpart — so going to the source for a tasting is a must. The behemoth Tecate Brewery lies 40 miles southeast of downtown San Diego and ¾ of a mile southwest of Mexico’s Tecate border. Reserve the free hourlong tour in advance by phone and specify language preference. The tour gets you a free beer from the adjacent beer garden, which is open Monday–Friday, 10am–5pm, and Saturday from 10am–2pm while tour hours are further limited.
Otay Sweetwater Refuge
Off SR-94 by the Old Steel Bridge, Rancho San Diego, 619-468-9245
You know the only thing harder to spot than a California gnat? A California gnatcatcher. Or maybe a least Bell’s vireo. No, no — a Quino checkerspot butterfly. But your best bet for spotting any or all of these is to take a stroll through the grasslands, chaparral-covered hills, and stream banks of the Refuge. The 3.5-mile trail loop is easy on the feet and should take you only about 90 minutes. And if you look down to watch your step, you may catch a glimpse of the San Diego horned lizard. (Now there’s a name for local sports team.) Just keep an eye out for the rattlesnakes, too. The Refuge has two access points; call for directions.
Become a ukulelist at Rebecca’s Coffee House
3015 Juniper Street, South Park
There’s something about the uke. The Portuguese really invented it, but when the instrument turned up in the Sandwich Islands (as Cap’n Cook called them), the Hawaiians took it, adapted it, and in the end owned it. Maybe it’s not so challenging, not so romantic as a guitar. But it’s lighter of spirit, easier to carry around, and with four strings, way easier to play. And it’s back in vogue. Ronnie Seno’s teaching it at Rebecca’s Coffee House on the first Wednesday evening of every month. Bonus: Rebecca’s bakes what could be the best scones in the universe.
Play Bike Polo
The horse version is the oldest team game in the world, they say, but even bike polo goes back to 19th Century British Raj days in India. Soldiers would use the new-fangled bikes to practice for the real thing. Today’s hardcore players seem to be mostly bike messengers, but anybody can play. Two ever-changing teams of three try to get the ball into the opposition’s net without falling off their bikes. Just turn up Wednesday nights at 7:00 p.m. on the tennis courts at the Linda Vista Recreation Center. But other locations, too. Check San Diego Bike Polo’s Facebook page for locations and times.
UCSD’s Stuart Collection
9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, 858-534-2117
A 12-foot-high red shoe among trees; a house perched on the edge of a seven-story building; a 370,000-pound, 23-foot-tall stone bear sitting in a grass courtyard. Eighteen site-specific works by 18 artists dot La Jolla’s 1200-acre UCSD campus. Known as the Stuart Collection and under agreement with UCSD to consider any spot on campus for installations, it has been growing since its inaugural work — now a campus icon — was erected in 1983. Called Sun God — it’s a 14-foot multi-colored, golden-crowned bird perched on a 15-foot concrete arch. While walking the 3.4-mile sculpture “loop,” don’t forget to carve your name into the lead-encased eucalyptus trees.
Rube Powell Archery Range in Balboa Park
Not much compares to holding a bow steady with your entire body, letting the arrow go with a swoosh, and hearing it fwoomp into the target a moment later. Beneath the east end of the Cabrillo Bridge in Balboa Park lies the Rube Powell Archery Range — one of the two remaining public field archery ranges in Southern California. Put $2 in the drop box at the southwest corner of the Alcazar Garden parking lot in Balboa Park for access to this 40-target, 28-acre walking course. Nestled among the palms and eucalyptus, you’ll feel like an elf in no time.
Disc golf at Morley Field
3090 Pershing Drive, Balboa Park
Disc golf. Frisbee golf. Frolf. Its golf’s stoner kid brother who dropped out of Humboldt instead of graduating with honors at Yale. In fact, Morley Field’s 11th hole was once reputedly name-checked by High Times magazine as a standout place to smoke Jah herb, and — despite the course’s no drug/alcohol policy — both beers and buds seem to be endemic in the sport. Built in the late ’70s, Morley’s crowded course features short (most under 300´), technical shots over shrubs and around eucalyptus trees. Open 365 days a year from sunrise to sunset — $3 weekdays, $4 weekends, $1.50 disc rentals.
Limos are so 2009. Instead of touring San Diego neighborhoods in a traditional gas-guzzler way, why not opt for something eco-friendly? Social Cycle is a 16-person Dutch bicycle bus that can be rented for private parties for city tours and pub crawls. Six passengers are required to pedal the bike, but each bike bus can carry up to 16 people per tour. Weekend rental goes for $200 per hour, while weekdays will set you back $185 per hour. The company offers four different guided city tours. Pick from the Gaslamp; North/South Park; Bankers Hill/Hillcrest and Hillcrest/University Heights. They are also open to custom tours. 619-846-9436.