Weijen Chang, MD, SFHM, associate clinical professor at the University of California at San Diego, has a concern: If people attending HM16 don’t get out and about, he worries, they might leave with the impression that his town is sort of, well, normal.
“San Diego is a very laid-back place in general,” says Dr. Chang, director of the hospitalist service in the La Jolla location of the UCSD Health System and longtime pediatrics editor for The Hospitalist. “I think tourists end up being in very touristy areas and don’t generally get a sense of that.”
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Like a good doctor, he’s here to offer a cure. Here are Dr. Chang’s tips for seeing the city. Some are fairly standard and, yes, even a little touristy. But some do give you a taste of that true San Diego vibe, if you’re up for it. He hopes you are.
Mission Beach, Pacific Beach
“Mission Beach is kind of funky,” Dr. Chang says. “Pacific Beach is a little less funky, but it kind of gives you that sort of funky San Diego feeling that a lot of people don’t get when they’re in touristy areas.”
If you make it to Pacific Beach, he says, keep an eye out for “Slomo,” the nickname of a neurologist-turned-Rollerblader who constantly skates up and down the promenade and is nationally known.
“He’s kind of like a fixture,” Dr. Chang says. “Literally, he’s there every single day.”
“If you don’t have access to a car, a really fun and easy thing is a harbor cruise,” Dr. Chang says. “It takes you around all the different ships in the harbor.”
The cruise also goes to Coronado, an island just across the San Diego Bay from downtown.
Lunch at Hotel del Coronado
For those willing to hitch a ride via Uber, Lyft, or a regular taxi—you don’t really need a car to see quite a bit in San Diego—this is a good option. “It’s not super-expensive, and you could see the hotel and walk around the beach there,” Dr. Chang says.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, La Jolla Cove
Torrey Pines is north of downtown and is a good choice for a family outing, Dr. Chang suggests.
“It’s a beautiful hike. They have cliffs in that area. It’s a good family thing to do because the whole family can hike along,” he says. “They have a museum there.”
And beautiful Torrey pine trees are unique to that area.
Also, La Jolla Cove is an option. It’s a touristy spot but a “really pretty” one, Dr. Chang adds.
Balboa Park, Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy
Dr. Chang suggests Panama 66, a restaurant in Balboa Park.
“It’s in a sculpture garden, and there’s usually a live band playing,” he says. “You can buy a beer or glass of wine and have dinner, too. Or you can just get a couple snacks and hang out and listen to music. That’s sort of my speed when it comes to nightlife. And I imagine for most doctors, it’s sort of their speed.”
There’s also the Old Globe theater in the park. Attendees might want to catch a show. “Just walking around Balboa Park at night is kind of fun,” he says.
Hitting the Gaslamp Quarter, a trendy restaurant and shop area near the convention center, is a nice, “easy thing to do,” he says. One spot there worth checking out is a new speakeasy-style place called Prohibition.
“It’s quieter; it’s got nice jazz and is a little more laid-back than perhaps a big loud, bustling bar would be,” he notes.
Little Italy, a long walk or a taxi ride from the conference, is an area “that some people overlook that has a lot of nice restaurants and bars. And it’s a little more laid-back than the Gaslamp,” Dr. Chang says. “The Gaslamp can sometimes be a little bit overwhelming.”
Coronado, Mission Beach
If you want suggestions for seeing a great sunset, he says, Coronado and Mission Beach would be worthwhile, but “anywhere along the westward-facing beach is pretty spectacular.”
Thomas R. Collins is a freelance writer in South Florida.