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With a casual, relaxed atmosphere and locals who take good beer seriously without taking themselves too seriously, San Diego is the perfect place to escape for a libation vacation. Industry innovators like Karl Strauss and Stone Brewing make their homes in San Diego, and the region boasts an enviable number of award-winning breweries and a wide variety of pubs and restaurants catering to those who enjoy unique, locally crafted beers.

The following are some of the outstanding places where visitors can discover for themselves why beer lovers are flocking to the region's burgeoning craft brew scene.

The Great American Beer City

Blind Lady Ale House PicmonkeyBlind Lady Ale House photo by Rob TardiSan Diego breweries have repeatedly brought home major awards at the annual Great American Beer Festival. In the past five years, San Diego's AleSmith Brewing Company and Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey have been named Best Small Brewing Company, while Carlsbad's Pizza Port has taken home the Brewpub of the Year award on more than one occasion.

At the World Beer Cup, an event that only happens every two years, San Diego breweries dominate. Ballast Point was named the "Champion Small Brewery" in 2010 above stiff competition from around the world. Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey won the same honor in 2008. In 2010, San Diego-area breweries earned more medals at the World Beer Cup than breweries in the traditional beer countries of England, Germany and Belgium combined.

Cited as "a sunny heaven for suds lovers," the New York Times named San Diego as a top travel destination for 2012 for its craft beer culture. In the October 2009 issue of Men's Journal magazine, San Diego was named the "#1 Beer Town in America" and the 30th Street Corridor in North Park was lauded as "easily the nation's best beer boulevard."

In the January/February 2012 issue of DRAFT magazine, San Diego's O'Brien's, Hamilton's Tavern, O'Brien's American Pub and Blind Lady Ale House all nabbed spots on the magazine's list of the "Best Beer Bars in America." In January 2012, RateBeer.com's "Best of 2012" reviewer's lists placed San Diego breweries in two of the top 10 spots on the "Best Brewers" list - AleSmith at #4 and Stone Brewing at #7.

Brewery Tasting RoomsMany San Diego breweries offer tasting rooms and tours that allow visitors to meet the brewers and sample their wares. The following are just a few of the many options:

The award-winning AleSmith Brewing Company in Miramar is an artisan microbrewery specializing in handcrafted brews. Visitors can find fresh flavors inspired by Great Britain's and Belgium's high alcohol content and strongly hopped beers; AleSmith tours are available Fridays and Saturdays. www.alesmith.com

Alpine Beer Company, located in the East County community of Alpine, opened in 2002 and offers a tasting room with six to eight of their signature beers like Pure Hoppiness, a San Diego style IPA, and Captain Stout, a chocolate oatmeal dry stout, on tap. The tasting room is open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. www.alpinebeerco.com

Ballast Point Brewing Company offers tours and tastings at both their main brewery in Scripps Ranch and home brew store/brewery in Linda Vista. Guests can tour behind the barrels for tastings of specialty citrus hops, scotch ales and German Klosch-style beer; they can also purchase a selection of "do-it-yourself" beer making supplies ranging from starter kits to advanced brewing systems. In Scripps Ranch, public tours are offered at noon, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and the tasting room is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. www.ballastpoint.com

Guests can find great ales brewed with recipes from the pre-Prohibition era at the Firehouse Brewing Company in Miramar. A behind-the-scenes tour takes visitors inside the custom-made brew house where the brewery's American Pale Ale and Hefeweizen are created. www.firehousebrew.com

Green Flash Brewing Company in Mira Mesa showcases the use of fine, all natural ingredients in their award-winning beers that are brewed in small batches to insure each glass is of the freshest and purest quality. The brewery is features an on-site tasting room and offers tours on the weekends. www.greenflashbrew.com

Lightning Brewery in Poway offers fine, hand-crafted European style beers with a distinctively crisp, clean aroma, pronounced maltiness and prolonged, slightly bitter finish known as the "Lightning Finish." Unique to San Diego, Lighting Brewery uses the labor intensive "step mashing" brewing process that furthers flavors and enhances the body of beer by releasing starches. Guest tours are available Fridays and Saturdays. www.lightningbrewery.com

Oceanside's first brewery, Oceanside Ale Works, produces an award-winning combination of ales inspired by European brewing traditions and innovative flavors inspired by West Coast brewers. One of the few manual brew houses in the United States, Oceanside Ale Works produces ales true to its Southern California setting like Surfer Stout and Buccaneer Blonde. Guests can sample brews on location daily. www.oceansidealeworks.com

Located in San Marcos, Port Brewing is the home of The Lost Abbey, a niche label focused on brewing beers that follow the monastic and artistic Belgian brewing traditions. Brewed in very small batches, these exquisite beers have won awards - and fans - the world over. www.portbrewing.com; www.lostabbey.com



In addition to creating outstanding craft beer on-site, the following breweries boast great restaurants where beer tourists can fuel up for further exploration.

Stone Brewing Company in Escondido is recognized as one of the best breweries in the United States by the two largest beer enthusiast websites, Ratebeer.com and BeerAdvocate.com. Brewing more than 150,000 barrels of beer annually, it is also one of the fastest growing breweries in the nation. Guests can enjoy big character beers like Arrogant Bastard Ale with its high quality ingredients and high alcohol contents. The Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, a restaurant with a large outdoor patio and one-acre garden, serves a rotating organic menu. www.stonebrew.com

With multiple San Diego settings and brews served and sold in over 2,000 Southern California locations, Karl Strauss Brewing Company is the largest craft brewery in San Diego. The brewery offers a core lineup of seven delicious beers, plus a variety of specialty seasonal beers, each perfectly paired with the restaurant's menu of Southern inspired cuisine. Karl Strauss also hosts monthly "firkin" parties in which kegs are tapped in the traditional way, by driving a spigot through the front of the keg with a wooden mallet. Guests can find locations in Sorrento Mesa, La Jolla, downtown San Diego and Carlsbad. www.karlstrauss.com

Pizza Port, a favorite San Diego North County restaurant with locations in Solana Beach and Carlsbad and Ocean Beach. At Pizza Port locations, guests can enjoy hoppy Pizza Port beers and more than 15 different pizzas served on the Port's signature wholegrain beer crust. www.pizzaport.com

La Jolla Brew House is a casual establishment in La Jolla featuring high-quality, moderately priced classic cuisine and a distinctive selection of craft-brewed and specialty beers. Its private party room and bar are perfect for hosting events and parties, and the outdoor patio and fire pit are pet-friendly. Guests enjoy weekly beer specials and events while watching their favorite sports teams on over 20 flat-screen TVs. www.lajollabrewhouse.com

Family-owned Coronado Brewing Company in Coronado is located just minutes from downtown San Diego. The brewpub features quality handcrafted beers and delicious food like woodfired pizzas and fresh seafood. Eight signature beers are brewed on-site including the popular Coronado Golden, the unfiltered Idiot IPA and the full-bodied Outlet Stout. www.coronadobrewingcompany.com

Gordon Biersch Brewing Company is an upscale brewpub where guests find authentic German-style lagers and creative cuisine. Located in Mission Valley, the Gordon Biersch menu consists of appetizers and entrees influenced by a variety of cultures and ingredients, all designed to complement the signature lager beers. Gordon Biersch brews are available in a wide variety of bars and restaurants throughout California. www.gordonbiersch.com

Oggi's Pizza & Brewing Company serves stuffed pizza and signature beers ranging from a refreshing cream ale like California Gold to the dark, full-bodied Black Magic Stout. Six of Oggi's eight year-round brews are winners of the Great American Beer Festival including Left Coast Hop Juice, in which hops are added to each step of the brewing process, and the Torrey Pines IPA. Guests can find Oggi's in Carmel Mountain Ranch, Mission Valley and Vista. www.oggis.com

Located just steps from the Pacific Ocean, Pacific Beach Alehouse serves up handcrafted beer and great food in a casual beach setting. Favorite brews like the Shipwreck Stout, PB Porter, Crystal Pier Ale and Amber Wave can be sipped on an outdoor deck overlooking the ocean or next to a fire pit on the patio. On the menu, handcrafted burgers and upscale casual items like lobster mac 'n cheese provide a culinary counterpoint. www.pbalehouse.com

Rock Bottom Brewery offers fresh, handcrafted beers and a diverse menu in two San Diego locations, La Jolla and downtown San Diego. The La Jolla brewpub was awarded the "Beer Excellence Award" by the Southern California Restaurant Writers Association and boasts a variety of mouthwatering items on its innovative menu. Rock Bottom's downtown location is a casual dining experience with a $5 happy hour and late-night menu offerings. www.rockbottom.com

Located just east of Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley, the San Diego Brewing Company has one of the largest draft selections in the county with more than 50 beers on tap daily. Weekly specials and sports packages cater to a diverse group of visitingsports fans and locals alike. The hefty menu of burgers, soups, salads, sandwiches and pizza complements the ever-changing selection of homemade beers and out-of-town taps. www.sandiegobrewing.com

San Marcos Brewery & Grill in San Marcos specializes in "American Grill" classics and fine, handcrafted ales from an on-site microbrewery; it also offers a full list of California produced wines. Special features at the brewpub are the Old English Ale and Oatmeal Stout that are dispensed through a traditional hand pump to create a distinct similarity to authentic English Ales. www.sanmarcosbrewery.com

Beer-Centric Bars and RestaurantsBeer Cheers at The LinkeryCheers at The Linkery.  photo: Erik Isacson

San Diego also offers a diverse range of bars and restaurants that truly specialize in rare beers from local brewers and others from around the globe.

At Blind Lady Ale House, located in Normal Heights near Balboa Park, 20 taps pour local, regional and hard-to-find Belgian brews from a list carefully curated by owner Lee Chase, former head brewer of San Diego's own Stone Brewing Company. Future plans include brewing on-site, but in the interim Chase is brewing Blind Lady Ales at the nearby Mission Brewery facility. The restaurant also specializes in hand-crafted Neapolitan-style pizzas with fresh mozzarella, house-made sausages, local produce and sustainable meats. www.blindladyalehouse.com

The Yard House in downtown San Diego's historic Gaslamp Quarter is an upscale, casual eatery known for its extensive menu and self-proclaimed "world's largest selection of draft beer." Guests can find a wide range of brews including classic lagers and obscure ales and stouts served in authentic goblets, pints and half-yard glasses. The Yard House features a transparent keg room containing more than 600 barrels and a fleet of over 130 tap handles. www.yardhouse.com

The laid-back Downtown Johnny Brown's, located in downtown San Diego, has an excellent selection of hard-to-find, specialty local brews from Green Flash, Stone Brewing, AleSmith and Ballast Point. Other selections are also available from top-notch craft brewers from around the country. www.downtownjohnnybrowns.com

Located in downtown San Diego's East Village, Neighborhood offers more than 27 local craft brews on tap and a creative, upscale take on classic American dishes like burgers. Tasting flights of San Diego beers and international selections are also available. www.neighborhoodsd.com

Toronado San Diego, located in North Park, is a sibling of San Francisco's famous beer outpost. At Toronado San Diego, the focus is clearly on craft beer with 50 beers on tap featuring the best from local, domestic and international breweries. Bottled offerings number more than 230 and focus on Belgian, French,German and English brews. www.toronadosd.com

With more than 75 years of service, Hamilton's Tavern in South Park is the oldest beer and wine licensed establishment in San Diego. It offers high quality ales and craft beers from around the world and boasts oneof the most diverse bottle selections in San Diego.

The Linkery in North Park offers gourmet local food that earned it national recognition as one of the "Best Farm-to-Table Restaurants in America" by Gourmet magazine. Guests can find an extensive list of beer made by true artisans, many of them local and regional; rare cask ales are always on tap. www.thelinkery.com

Ritual Tavern in North Park, a dark cozy pub with a modern medieval atmosphere, serves eight local beers on tap and boasts an extensive list of bottled beer that leans heavily toward European imports, with Belgium and Germany well represented. Its menu favors sustainably and humanely raised meats and locally sourced produce with a nod to classic pub fare. www.ritualtavern.com

The 25 taps and extensive bottle list at O'Brien's American Pub in Kearny Mesa features rare brews and local San Diego drafts. Known as the "hoppiest place on earth," guests can find an extensive selection of the pub's specialty, hoppy beers, including Alpine Beer Company's Pure Hoppiness, AleSmith's Speedway Stout and Ballast Point's Even Keel, along with an authentic, tasty tavern menu. www.obrienspub.net

Pub Crawls: On Foot and by RailSampling San Diego's beer culture can be done on foot by visiting the brewpubs, restaurants and bars in downtown San Diego and the North Park and Normal Heights neighborhoods.

In downtown San Diego, there are several options for beer lovers to map out their perfect pub crawl. Breweries within easy walking distance include Karl Strauss' downtown location and Rock Bottom Brewery in the Gaslamp Quarter. Local beers can also be sampled at downtown pubs and restaurants like Downtown Johnny Brown's, The Yard House and Neighborhood.

The North Park neighborhood is bisected by 30th Street which locals like to call "the best street in the world for craft beer." More than a dozen restaurants and bars located along 30th Street proudly serve local craft brews including beer-havens like Hamilton's Tavern, Toronado San Diego, The Linkery and Ritual Tavern. Just a short walk east on Adam's Avenue in neighboring Normal Heights, Blind Lady Ale House serves a top-notch selection including their own craft beers.

The San Diego Trolley and Coaster commuter train also enable visitors to ride the rails to their next great pint.

The San Diego Brewer's Guild offers itineraries with detailed directions by rail for visiting local breweries and brew pubs. A Central San Diego route stops at Ballast Point, Gordon Biersch, Oggi's and San Diego Brewing Company; a North County tour begins at Ballast Point and visits both Pizza Port locations in Solana Beach and Carlsbad www.sandiegobrewersguild.org


Guided Brewery Tours

For those who want to experience San Diego's beer culture, meet the brewers and leave the driving to someone else, guided brewery tours are an excellent option.

Brew Hop offers custom-designed private brewery tours of San Diego. Visitors can relax in luxury as they are chauffeured to their choice of local breweries. The 5-hour "Beer Connoisseur" tour includes samples, behind-the-scenes tours at four breweries and a meal. The 2.5-hour "Beer Tasters" tour stops at two or three breweries and includes samples and tours. www.brewhop.com

Brewery Tours of San Diego offers regularly scheduled tours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Each tour visits three breweries and includes transportation, tastings and lunch. www.brewerytoursofsandiego.com


Exciting Beer Events

Throughout the year, the San Diego community turns out in droves for festivals and celebrations of the region's exciting craft beer scene.

This summer, guests can sample craft beer with a backdrop of exciting horseracing action and live music during three special beer events at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. During Beer Fest in August, more than 75 different beers from Ballast, Coronado, Firestone, Full Sail, Gordon Biersch, Green Flash, Left Coast, Lagunitas, New Belgium, Pyramid, Palm and more will be poured from noon to 6 p.m. with live music on the race track's in-field afterwards. Later in August, a Craft Microbrew Festival will feature over 150 locally brewed beers followed by a showcase of local bands. During all three events, guests can purchase $15 wristbands, each good for five 7 oz. sample size beers. Admission is included in the $6 price for Stretch Run general race admission, but additional fees like $10 for parking and $20 for admission will be charged for those attending after the races end at 6:30 p.m. Dates for 2012 are TBD. www.dmtc.com

San Diego has recently gained an international reputation for inspired beers with area breweries earning more medals at the 2010 World Beer Cup than breweries in the traditional beer countries of England, Germany and Belgium combined. San Diego Beer Week returns November 2 - 12, 2012 for a 10-day celebration of local craft beer and San Diego's thriving brewing culture. Festivities kick off with a Brewers Guild Festival and conclude with a Chef Celebration of San Diego Beer, a gourmet beer and food pairing event. Last year's inaugural San Diego Beer Week boasted more than 300 events, ranging from beer dinners to meet and greats with local brewers, with an estimated 20,000 attendees.2012 San Diego Beer Week events will be posted online at www.SDBW.org


For more information on San Diego's offerings, including exciting vacation packages and valuable coupons for attractions, restaurants and more, visit the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau's websiteat www.sandiego.org or call 619-236-1212.


(This article also appears in Drives and Destinations)

TravMedia sources contributed to this article.

Editor's note: If you're planning a visit to San Diego, you'll find links to hundreds Lodging and Dining options at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. Also in the directory is a list wineries in the nearby Temecula region. Recognizing the great interest in craft beers, we have also created a section in our Resource Directory for brewpubs, restaurants and bars that specialize in a broad offering of high quality brews.

Situated across San Diego Bay from downtown San Diego, Coronado boasts a unique combination of quaint small-town friendliness and sophisticated luxury. Defined by two famous structures, the historic Hotel del Coronado and distinctive San Diego-Coronado Bridge, the "Crown City" offers an enchanting island experience that has made Coronado one of California's most sought-after vacation destinations for more than 100 years. The city is famous for pairing a relaxed atmosphere with pristine beaches, first-class accommodations, exciting arts and culture and abundant outdoor recreational activities.Following are some of the offerings that make Coronado a perfect year-round destination for a romantic weekend getaway, fun-filled family vacation or relaxing day at the beach.


Beautiful Beaches

Coronado Beach at SunsetCoronado Beach at SunseKnown for picturesque coastline views and expansive stretches of white sand, Coronado has several distinct beach experiences to offer visitors.

Occupying the area between the iconic Hotel del Coronado and Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado Beach is a 1.5-mile long aquatic wonderland for swimmers, surfers, sunbathers and America's military elite. Popular for its wide, sandy beaches and set against a backdrop of beautiful homes, Coronado Beach is consistently named among the Travel Channel's "Best Beaches in California" and annually ranks among Dr. Beach's "Top 10 Beaches in the US," taking the #1 spot in 2012 (www.drbeach.org).

Families arrive early in the morning toting umbrellas, beach towels and picnic coolers for an all-day stay. Visitors often fly kites at the southern end of the beach, join pick-up volleyball games on the sand courts behind the main lifeguard station and enjoy romantic strolls along the sand at sunset. Just north of Coronado Beach, North Beach is a favorite site for surfers in the morning and bonfires in the evenings. The northern most section is known as Dog Beach, because four-legged visitors are permitted off leash. In June 2010, Fido Friendly magazine named Coronado's Dog Beach one of their "10 Sizzling Summertime Fido Friendly Beaches." On a typical day, dozens of dogs can be seen rolling in the sand, splashing in the waves and fetching Frisbees.

Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay along the isthmus that connects Coronado southward to Imperial Beach, Silver Strand State Beach is a popular spot for swimming, biking and RV camping. The name references the tiny, iridescent seashells that sparkle along the shoreline.

Sumptuous Sleeps

Catering to travelers who seek one-of-a-kind properties, seaside escapes, fine dining and top-quality modern amenities, Coronado's resorts and boutique hotels make for the perfect home away from home. Following are just a few of the Crown City's accommodation options:

Del Coronado PicmonkeyHotel Del CoronadoFamous for its peaked red roof, classic Victorian architecture and serene ocean vistas, the Hotel del Coronado is an iconic landmark offering something for everyone. Guests can play in the expansive swimming pool, browse an eclectic collection of stores, pamper themselves in the spa and partake in active pursuits ranging from beach yoga to surfing lessons. Dining options include dinner at 1500 Ocean, the Del's signature fine dining restaurant; Sheerwater, a more casual all-day option; wine, chocolate and cheese tasting at ENO; and decadent Sunday brunch in the Crown Room. The recently opened Beach Village ups the ante on luxury, offering private beachfront cottages, pools and enhanced amenities. www.hoteldel.com


Located directly across from the Hotel del Coronado, the Glorietta Bay Inn was built around John Spreckels' historic private mansion and has been restored to reflect the house as it looked in the 1920's at the height of the sugar baron's influence (Spreckels was one of the original owners of the Del). In addition to 11 spacious rooms in the main house, this boutique hotel features 89 rooms in the adjacent contemporary wing, an expansive music room and spectacular views of picturesque Glorietta Bay. Guests of the property enjoy daily complimentary continental breakfast, afternoon refreshments, a hot tub and heated pool. www.gloriettabayinn.com

Situated on a private peninsula on San Diego Bay just across from the Silver Strand State Beach, Loews Coronado Bay Resort is a relaxing resort with a bevy of exciting activities. Guests can opt for a dive-in movie, watched on a big screen while floating in one of the resort's pools, make s'mores on the nearby beach, tour the resort's on-site herb garden or escape for rejuvenating treatments in the spa. When hungers strikes, options include dinner at Mistral, the resort's signature restaurant with views of the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, and the more casual Market Café overlooking the resort's private marina. Each Sunday, the Market Café boasts a Brews, Blues and BBQ brunch featuring local craft beer and live music. www.loewshotels.com/en/Coronado-Bay-Resort With a bay-front location adjacent to the Coronado Ferry Landing, the Coronado Island Marriott Resort boasts astounding views of San Diego Bay and the downtown San Diego skyline. Three heated swimming pools, six lighted tennis courts, an outdoor whirlpool, the rejuvenating Spa Coronado and Current restaurant, serving fresh coastal California cuisine, make the hotel a great vacation escape within easy walking distance of Coronado's charming downtown. www.coronadoresortmarriott.com

Cultural Pursuits

Coronado's rich history, eclectic art offerings and engaging cultural diversions are on display in galleries, theaters and community events year-round.

Coronado Art WalkCoronado Art Walk at the FerryThe Coronado Historical Association Museum of History and Art features three galleries highlighting Coronado's unique relationship with the U.S. Navy, the history of the landmark Hotel del Coronado and rotating special exhibits. Located on Orange Avenue, the museum also boasts a lecture hall and museum store where visitors can purchase mementos of Coronado's enchanted history. On display through January 2012, "Wings of Gold: Coronado and Naval Aviation" celebrates the National Centennial of Naval Aviation. www.coronadohistory.org

A professional, non-profit, artist-directed company, Lamb's Players Theatre performs a five-play season February through November plus special holiday productions each December at its 350-seat Resident Stage in the historic Spreckels Building on Orange Avenue. Over the last 20 years, Lamb's Players has produced more than 38 world premieres and 35 regional premieres along with presenting classics and lesser known gems of the theatre. www.lambsplayers.org

Opened in 1946, the Coronado Playhouse is the longest running community theater company in the San Diego region. Housed in a state-of-the-art new 100-seat cabaret style theatre overlooking Glorietta Bay, the Playhouse presents a year-round season of classic and modern productions plus free Shakespeare in the summer and exciting original works by local authors. www.coronadoplayhouse.com

Coronado's mild summer temperatures make for enjoyable outdoor concert performances during the annual Coronado Promenade Concerts in Spreckels Park. Visitors can pack a picnic and join local residents for this free, family-friendly event, held every Sunday evening in the summer from Memorial Day through mid-September. www.coronadovisitorcenter.com

Spreckels Park is also host to "Art-in-the-Park,"occurring the first and third Sunday of every month. Each show highlights more than 50 local artists specializing in oil, acrylic, watercolor painting and a variety of other art forms. www.coronadoartassn.com


Shopping Delights

Coronado is one of San Diego's most desirable shopping districts known for sophisticated, upscale, designer apparel boutiques, art galleries, jewelry shops and more.

Coronado Ferry Landing, located on the San Diego bayside of Coronado, is a popular retail and entertainment complex featuring waterfront dining and one-of-a-kind shops surrounded by tree-lined walkways, swaying palms, sparkling ponds and wonderful views of the San Diego-Coronado Bridge and downtown San Diego's skyline. Shoppers can find everything from novelty gifts and memorabilia to seashells and fine jewelry. www.coronadoferrylandingshops.com

Coronado's historically-preserved downtown also offers one-of-a-kind specialty shops, especially along Orange Avenue which is lined with bookstores, antique shops, home and garden stores and gourmet food shops. Orange Avenue is Coronado's charming main street - originally named after the numerous orange trees that were once planted down the media. www.coronadochamber.com

At the Shops at the Del, visitors can find a unique shopping opportunity with an exquisite variety of 20 shops and boutiques featuring upscale women's apparel, including Karen Kane, Trina Turk and other name brands; men's apparel, including Tommy Bahama and Greg Norman, as well as fine jewelry, bath and spa products and a full collection of Del merchandise. www.hoteldel.com/shopping.aspx


Culinary Adventures

Coronado offers a mouthwatering array of dining options. Whether the mood calls for a romantic candlelit dinner or a casual post-beach bite, visitors are guaranteed meals as memorable as the "Crown City" itself.

Ideally situated between the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay, Coronado offers some serious dining with a view. Mistral at Loews Coronado Bay Resort offers spectacular floor-to-ceiling views of San Diego Bay and the striking San Diego-Coronado Bridge, www.dineatmistral.com. Equally impressive are the panoramic bayside views from Current at the Coronado Island Marriott Resort, www.coronadoresortmarriott.com.

Romance is always in the air at 1500 Ocean, the Hotel del Coronado's signature restaurant, www.1500ocean.com, and the intimate Chez Loma French Bistro, located in a charming historic house just off Orange Avenue, www.chezloma.com.

For more casual eats, the Coronado Brewing Company serves up great burgers, classic brewpub fare plus award-winning craft beers, www.coronadobrewingcompany.com. Danny's Palm Bar & Grill serves up a "dive bar" burger considered by many to the best in the region.

For a fabulous brunch, nothing beats the scrumptious spread at the Hotel del Coronado's Crown Room on Sundays - also a top-rated local favorite! www.hoteldel.com/crown-room.aspx

Making waves on the seafood menu are Peohe's, specializing in fresh tropical seafood and Pacific rim cuisine, www.peohes.com; The Brigantine, a Coronado tradition, www.brigantine.com, and the Del's Sheerwater overlooking the Pacific Ocean, www.hoteldel.com/Sheerwater-dining.aspx.

South of the border flavors can be found at Miguels Cocina, known for their award-wining Mexican food, www.brigantine.com/locations_migcor.html; Candelas on the Bay, offering upscale Mexico City-style cuisine, www.candelas-coronado.com, and Costa Azul, a perennial favorite for classic Mexican fare, www.costaazulcoronado.com.

To satisfy one's sweet tooth, Tartine, a French bakery and bistro, is the perfect place for a light meal and sweet treat, www.tartinecorondo.com. Mootime Creamery is another sweet sensation for frozen yogurt and homemade ice cream, www.mootime.com.


Explore the Outdoors

Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy a wide range of activities in Coronado, from surfing on the Pacific Ocean to biking along scenic San Diego Bay to enchanting waterfront golfing.

The Bayshore Bikeway, a scenic bike path along the shores of San Diego Bay, provides cyclists, inline skaters and walkers an invigorating route that spans 11 miles from the Coronado Ferry Landing, down along the eastern shore of the peninsula and then parallel to Silver Strand State Beach south toward Imperial Beach. www.portofsandiego.org/recreation/bike-san-diego-bay.html

At Tidelands Park, visitors can frolic on a sandy shore nestled below the mighty span of the San Diego-Coronado Bridge. Encompassing 22 acres, the park is the largest green space on the shores of San Diego Bay and boasts a fitness course, children's play equipment, ball fields, picnic tables, restrooms and free public parking. http://www.portofsandiego.org/coronado-tidelands-park.html

Just north of the Coronado Ferry Landing, Coronado Landing Park offers panoramic views of San Diego Bay and the downtown San Diego skyline plus a petite beach, play equipment, picnic tables, fishing pier and restrooms. www.portofsandiego.org/coronado-landing-park.html

For visitors who feel the call of the sea, Coronado boasts two full-service marinas, the Glorietta Bay Marina and Loews' Crown Isle Marina, located on San Diego Bay across from the Silver Strand State Beach. Both offer rentals ranging from paddleboats and sailboats to jet skis and deep sea fishing.

With dramatic views of the San Diego- Coronado Bridge, the legendary Hotel del Coronado and picturesque San Diego Bay, the Coronado Municipal Golf Course is known as one of the best waterfront golf values in San Diego County. With immaculately manicured greens, the 18-hole, par 72 facility offers advanced reservations with a $30 green fee on weekdays and $35 fee on weekends. www.golfcoronado.com

Located on Glorietta Bay, the Coronado Tennis Center offers eight tennis courts and a Pro Shop under the direction of USPTA Professional Phillip D. Hopkins along with private lessons and clinics, racket stringing, ball machine rental, a complete line of tennis merchandise and video stroke analysis available on site. Court use is free of charge and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. www.coronado.ca.us/department/division.php?fDD=13-159

For those who want to hang-ten, options abound in the Crown City. Coronado City Beach faces due south with gentle swells that make it perfect for the novice to intermediate surfer. Silver Strand State Beach also offers a gently sloping break and fun and forgiving surf for beginning surfers. Beginners can take lessons with expert instructors at the Coronado Surfing Academy, www.coronadosurfing.com, or the Executive Surfing Club www.executivesurfingclub.com.

Guests can indulge in the most romantic of outdoor activities, cruising in an authentic, private Venetian gondola through the canals of the Coronado Cays with The Gondola Company. The one-hour cruise includes a complimentary appetizer or dessert plate. Gondolas can accommodate up to six passengers, and guests are welcome to bring their own beverages.www.gondolacompany.com


Joy in the Journey

Coronado Ferry LandingCoronado Ferry Landing photo by Brett Shoaf Part of the charm of visiting Coronado is the journey. Options include driving across the beautiful San Diego-Coronado Bridge, taking a ferry or water taxi across San Diego Bay and driving along the seven-mile long Silver Strand peninsula.

The San Diego-Coronado Ferry leaves from the Broadway Pier in downtown San Diego daily on the hour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and travels across San Diego Bay to the Coronado Ferry Landing. Return trips to San Diego happen on the half-hour, and the ferry also runs every two hours between downtown San Diego's Convention Center Marina and the Coronado Ferry Landing. All trips take 15 minutes; cost is $3.75 one-way for

Docked across from the Hotel del Coronado at the Glorietta Bay Marina, the San Diego Bay Water Taxi offers on-call transportation service around San Diego Bay between marinas on Coronado and those in downtown San Diego. Embarkation options on Coronado include the Coronado Ferry Landing, Coronado Island Marriott Resort and Loews

Coronado Bay Resort. One-way fare is $7 per person. www.sdhe.com/san-diego-water-taxi.html

The breathtaking San Diego-Coronado Bridge became an area landmark the moment it opened in August 1969 during San Diego's bicentennial. Then-California governor Ronald Reagan became the first person to drive across the span. The distinctive curve and soaring sweep of the bridge made Coronado widely accessible by vehicle traffic for the first time in the city's history. Over two miles long and five lanes wide, the bridge has a clearance of approximately 200 feet that allows massive merchant and military ships to pass easily beneath it.

For more information on Coronado or the entire San Diego region, visit the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau's website, www.sandiego.org/coronado, or call (619) 236-1212.


TravMedia sources contributed to this article.


Links to the websites of Lodging, Dining and Craft Beer Purveyors can be found in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. Also available at that directory are links to all the wineries in the nearby Temecula area.

The next time you head to the airport you might want to think twice before shoving your swimsuit and sunscreen into a hold-all that's seen better days.

Research released today by leading airline Virgin Atlantic reveals that the luggage we carry says a lot about the type of traveler we are, and we find out which celebrity suitcases are most like our passengers'.

The study shows that one in five of us (20%) can't remember the last time we bought new luggage, while more than half (55%) would only upgrade their suitcase if it was worn-out or broken. That said, the lifestyles of the rich and famous are quite likely to influence us at the wheelie shop; 25% of 16-24 year olds admit they'd buy a bag based on what their favorite celeb's been seen toting at check-in.

women with luggage shot one picmonkeyPaul Bushell, Vice President of Airport Operations for North America at Virgin Atlantic, commented: "Virgin Atlantic carries over six million bags a year to London and beyond, and we've seen a lot of changes since our first flight in 1984. The standard black case with a colourful pom-pom has taken the backseat as more and more of our passengers choose to show off their personality and make a fashion statement with their bags. Our crew carries almost anything, from leather holdalls to leopard print cases, and too many designer trunks to mention. And following the focus on athletes in London we're seeing more and more travelers taking along their sporting equipment, which Virgin Atlantic carries for free."

So what exactly does your luggage say about you? And which high profile jet-setter's style do you channel?

The Designer Trunk: This luggage is beloved by those who enjoy showing off a bit; their Upper Class style is reflected from limousine to the lounge, and everywhere there's flashbulbs to be found.

If you won't leave home without your beloved collection of LV luggage, double-check the name tag upon arrival to make sure you aren't picking up Paris Hilton's, Karl Lagerfeld's or Victoria Beckham's.

The Corporate Case: This traveler has been there, packed that, and is as used to breezing in and out of hotel lobbies as a concierge. They like to opt for something practical, low-key and convenient for all those airport runs.

They tend to be rather focused and determined, too, meaning a time-managed flight that includes working on the laptop or catching up on some well-earned power-napping rather than putting on the headphones and chilling in front of a movie. One of our favorite celebs who cops a corporate case is the beautiful Miranda Kerr.

Crazy Colored Luggage: Either attention-seeking, or just keen to instantly recognize their personality piece as it makes its way around the carousel, this type of traveler is zany and fun. You never know what to expect when you share a vacation with this character, or what they've packed (though you can count on a sombrero and fluorescent bikini regardless of the destination).woman with  hold all bag picmonkey

The Hold-All: This is the Indiana Jones of travelers, the one who manages to pack everything they need into one piece of hand luggage, finding space for things the rest of us forget like adaptor plugs and chargers, and yet they still have room for a different pair of flips and cover-alls for every day of their break. Frighteningly practical and fabulously confident, this optimist will tend to be the most seasoned traveler of the lot because for them it's all about low-drama planning rather than last-minute panics.

One-bag wonders include worldly mom Angelina Jolie, our favorite royal rascal Prince Harry, and 007 Daniel Craig.

The Backpack: Meet the eternally young at heart traveler, who enjoys a freewheeling, commitment-free lifestyle. They hate being pinned down and treasure the ability to go anywhere the wind takes them. This frequent flier is a true explorer, a stout-hearted adventurer who will make the best of any situation.

Generally a packing option for teens and college students (who roll with an entourage), Justin Bieber's famously flown with little more than what's required for most folks' morning regimine.

Multiple Suitcases: This 'real housewife' refuses to leave home without every pair of shoes she owns (hey, you never know where you'll end up when you travel!). With little regard for excess baggage fees and maximum need for personal creature comforts, this sort of packer might one day end up on an episode of 'Hoarders,' but at least she'll look good on air!

Along with the entire cast of 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey' other reality 'stars' such as Snooki have been famously snapped at arrivals, totally dwarfed by their duds.

Survey results

Women are 11% more likely to replace luggage when it has worn out, than men

Almost a third of women (32%) would consider buying new luggage based on their holiday destination

A quarter of young people (16-24 year olds) would buy new luggage to copy a celebrity

One in five people cannot remember the last time they bought new luggage

More than one in ten (12%) have bought luggage in the past to make sure it is better than their traveling companions

TravMedia.com sources contributed to this article.


Editor's Note: Planning a trip? You can find thousands of Lodging and Dining options all over California in the easy-to-use Resource Directory of Taste California Travel.

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