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San Diego And The Hilton Gaslamp Quarter

by Kathryn Lemmon, Wedding Zone Staff Writer

San Diego shines. With nearly constant sunshine dancing on the bay, the city has a kind of luster only light combined with water can produce. Throw in obliging temperatures and you can quickly understand San Diego's appeal. As one long-time resident quipped, "What's not to like?"

Here's another bonus, if you honeymoon in San Diego, you won't soon run out of sightseeing options. The list is long and the choices diverse.

The Gaslamp Quarter downtown, is a sixteen block area listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Once a rowdy red-light district, it's said Wyatt Earp ran three gambling halls in the Quarter.

Today, the Victorian-era buildings have become home to a vast array of the city's pubs, boutiques, art galleries and restaurants, assuring the on-going vitality of this part of town. Look for Croce's Restaurant on the corner of Fifth and F Streets. As a tribute to her late husband, the singer Jim Croce, Ingrid Croce opened this excellent eatery.

If you prefer to lodge in the Quarter, The Hilton Gaslamp Quarter is ideal. As the first new hotel built in the Gaslamp Quarter in more than 100 years, (it opened in 2000) the Hilton met the challenge of producing an exterior consistent with the surrounding buildings. Although it carries the Hilton name, it is boutique in style and represents the best in modern design.

The warm residential feel of the lobby is the first thing you'll notice. High, woodbeam ceilings accent a rich wood and brick interior, decorated in a cozy living room style. The over-all effect might be best described as urban, sophistication. Muted, earth tones create a soothing sensation.

The Hilton sits next to the waterfront Convention Center, with trolley tracks in between. A green area adorned with palm trees and popular with dog-walkers extends out from the front. Along the green space is a beautifully landscaped walkway called Martin Luther King Jr. Way. His thought-provoking quotations are etched on the stone path.

Amenities of the Hilton include the Artesia Spa. Artesia means deep, self-replenishing water and the theme of "living water" is carried throughout the spa, beginning with the entry, highlighted by a waterfall. Natural, invigorating light fills the 4,500 square foot space. The entire Spa features custom-designed furniture. One of their treatment specialties is La Stone Therapy, an ancient technique using stones along the spine.

The New Leaf Restaurant, just off the lobby, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Take advantage of their creative room service menu and try pecan crusted french toast for breakfast. If you decide to eat in the restaurant, you'll find the service impeccable and the portions large.

If you need some kick-back and relax time, the Hilton has a heated outdoor pool with whirlpool and sundeck. The complimentary fitness center is open 24 hours.

For this special time, why not splurge? The Enclave within the Hilton is called a "hotel within a hotel" and consists of 30 suites and eight lofts set apart from the main hotel. Several suites boast 180-degree views. All lofts in The Enclave receive the hotel's complimentary Executive Level services, such as Frette linens, bath robes, continental breakfast, a cocktail hour and private concierge service.

For dinner, try Lou & Mickey's restaurant, just around the corner. Their signature dishes include Fruits of the Sea, a sampling of fresh shucked oysters, jumbo gulf shrimp, littleneck clams, mussels, stone crab and Maine Lobster. My suggestion; definitely have the lobster bisque as an appetizer--delicious! If seafood isn't your thing, there's plenty of beef on the menu, as well.

Terra is another dining option, a bit further afield in the Hillcrest section of the city. Not one to hide in the kitchen, Chef Jeff likes to personally speak with the patrons. Terra's cuisine features a contemporary American blend of South, Central and North American influences. Be sure to save room for their smoke-free Chocolate cigar. It's very large, so get one to share. I only managed half.

When it's time to venture out, save a day for the Old Town Trolley and leave the driving to others. The Trolley does a continuous circuit with 8 total stops. You can hop off and back on as needed, but remember you only get one full circuit.

One stop on the Trolley is the Old Town area, which is now a State Historic Park. Wonder through La Casa de Estudillo, begun in 1827. At first L-shaped, the house later grew into a U-shape as it is today. As you tour the casa, you'll be introduced to the lifestyle of a prominent early San Diego family. The rooms are fully furnished in period style. Other historic buildings in Old Town include a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, San Diego's first newspaper office, and a stable with a carriage collection.

While you're in the Old Town, make it a point to lunch at Casa De Bandini, a restored 1829 adobe hacienda. The lobster enchiladas come highly recommended. In fact, they have a diverse selection of award-winning Mexican seafood dishes. You can eat indoors or out, but on a nice day the atmosphere in the outdoor courtyard is romantic and lovely.

A short walk from the Old Town area is the Whaley House, known as the most haunted house in all of San Diego. Ghost hunters come from far and wide to visit this historic home and it's been featured on the History Channel and the Discovery Channel. Aside from the resident ghosts, the Whaley House is interesting in it's own right. As you enter, pick up a printed history and a description of the rooms.

For a majestic view of the San Diego area, spiced with a dash of history, drive to the Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma. The point forms a natural protective barrier at the entrance of San Diego Bay. Basically a sandstone rampart jutting into the sea, the peninsula rises 422 feet. Get your bearings at the Visitor Center, where you can watch a short film and browse their small museum.

In September of 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed into San Diego Bay. His visit marked the first time Europeans had set foot on what later became the west coast of the United States. Commanding three vessels, Cabrillo sailed north from Mexico, seeking a passage that connected the Pacific and Atlantic oceans ... no luck there obviously.

If you visit during January and February, you may be lucky enough to spot gray whales off Point Loma. These whales pass the point during their annual round-trip migration. They leave Arctic summer feeding grounds in September and travel to the bays of Baja, California, where females bear calves. It's estimated that 25,000 gray whales migrate on this route, thankfully up from a time when only a few thousand remained due to hunting. Also located on Point Loma is the Old Point Loma lighthouse.

Animal attractions are a major part of the fun in San Diego. The original Sea World draws crowds, and with good reason. Everyone loves to get splashed by Shamu the Killer Whale. In addition to shows, the park has plenty of exhibits, from funny penguins to a deep touch pool where you can come face to face with dolphins for a quick pat.

The San Diego Wild Animal Park is a completely different type of "zoo" experience. It's all about wide open spaces. The park is 30 miles from downtown and covers a 2,200 acre preserve. The animals roam free as they would in their natural habitats of Africa and Asia.

The San Diego Zoo is situated on hilly terrain within Balboa Park. They've even installed escalators so you can avoid those rigorous uphill climbs. Without a doubt, seeing the panda bears is a highlight. Very few zoos in the U. S. have pandas, so don't miss these giant cuddly bamboo-crunching creatures.

While San Diego admits to being the second-largest city in California, it also claims to be the site of the nation's largest city park, Balboa Park (1,158 acres) topping New York City's Central Park (840 acres). Within Balboa Park are 15 museums, making it more like a city within a city, rather than a park.

Balboa began as the site of the Panama-California Exposition in 1915-1916. Many of the Moorish and Spanish Renaissance-style exhibit halls were preserved and refurbished. The most prominent feature in the park is the 200-foot California Tower, which houses a 100-bell carillon that chimes every 15 minutes.

The Hilton Gaslamp Quarter will welcome you and make your honeymoon a time to remember. A true "class act" their great location, amenities and friendly staff await. The hotel is located at 401 K Street, San Diego. For more information on the hotel click on: www.hilton.com. To plan a trip to San Diego click on: www.sandiego.org.


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