By Papa Doug Manchester
It’s a beautiful day in America’s Finest City. The sun is shining, there’s a lovely breeze and a hint of a Santa Ana on the horizon. It’s November, and our weather is ideal. It’s a perfect time to visit.
For those new to our region, and even those who’ve visited our city before, let me take you on a little journey to my favorite landmarks. Of course, San Diego has many icons: the beaches, the world famous San Diego Zoo, the Old Globe Theater, amazing museums in Balboa Park, SeaWorld and a host of other attractions and destinations.
Let me suggest some other highlights. This month we celebrate Veterans Day, so a drive up to the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial is a must. The now-permanent monument pays homage to veterans who have honorably served our country. In addition, the memorial serves to educate the public on the contributions of military personnel throughout our nation’s history. I have prayed for this this memorial for many years, and have a true sense of spiritual fulfillment by supporting a memorial that honors the sacrifice of our veterans, the best and brightest among us.
While you’re in the area, I recommend a visit to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, one of the wildest stretches of land on our Southern California coast. You can wander the trails to get a sense of the majesty of the 2,000 acres of land filled with maritime chaparral, the rare Torrey pine, miles of unspoiled beaches, and a lagoon that is vital to migrating seabirds. It’s truly a historic experience that will give you a sense of what California must have looked like to the early settlers.
For grandeur and beauty, drive a little east to Carmel Valley where you can spend some time at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, a magnificent property that features Spanish and French influences, and a design reflecting the Mediterranean style of famed American resort architect Addison Mizner. Hopefully, you’ll find time to enjoy the luxury resort’s 21,000 square foot spa, which received a Five Star rating from Forbes Travel Guide in 2015; a round of golf at the 18-hole Tom-Fazio designed golf course and clubhouse; or lunch or dinner at Addison, the resort’s AAA Five Diamond rated signature restaurant. You will feel transported the moment you walk into the elegant hotel lobby.
Heading back south to the heart of the city and port district, I recommend a drive-through of the University of San Diego campus located in Alcalá Park overlooking Mission Bay and other parts of San Diego. This gorgeous and prestigious university was designed in a 16th-century Spanish Renaissance architectural style, paying homage to both San Diego’s Catholic heritage and the Universidad de Alcalá in Spain.
From USD, continue into Cabrillo National Monument at the edge of Point Loma to visit the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, built in 1855 with an interior that has been refurbished by the National Park Service to its historic 1880s appearance. Also take some time to visit the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, a beautiful and serene environment with interments that date to the early years of the California Territory.
You may note that many of my landmark suggestions relate to San Diego’s historical significance as a military town with a focus on our natural beauty. To continue this theme, head downtown to our wonderful port district and take a tour of the USS Midway Museum. The USS Midway was America’s longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century. For 47 years approximately 200,000 sailors served aboard the carrier, known for several naval aviation breakthroughs and several humanitarian missions. Now a maritime museum, the USS Midway houses an extensive collection of aircraft, many of which were built in Southern California.
While you’re in the neighborhood, take a picture of you and your loved ones by the iconic Unconditional Surrender (The Kiss) statue at the entrance to the USS Midway Museum. San Diego was honored to host the original Unconditional Surrender sculpture and replaced it with a permanent bronze replacement. The sculpture, constructed in 2005 by Seward Johnson, resembles a photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt of V–J day in Times Square.
There are so many other remarkable landmarks in America’s Finest City: magnificent and historic properties like the Horton Grand, U.S. Grant and La Valencia hotels; districts like Old Town, Little Italy and the downtown Gaslamp; and coastal areas like our own jewel, La Jolla, old Carlsbad, and casual Encinitas with its world-class surfing. Presidio Park, where the San Diego Presidio and the San Diego Mission were founded in 1769, is a joyful and iconic experience.
Let me end with a drive over the Coronado Bridge onto the island of Coronado for an unforgettable visit to the Hotel del Coronado. Built in 1888, this incredible property fronts one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The image of the hotel itself — made forever famous in the 1959 movie “Some Like It Hot” with Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis — is a recognized landmark throughout the world.
I spent part of my youth growing up in Coronado and selling newspapers to people taking the ferry to the mainland from Coronado. I had a wonderful view of a port district that I have been blessed to help transform into an evolving world-class destination.
Douglas “Papa Doug” Manchester is chairman of San Diego-based Manchester Financial Group, which is developing office and hotel properties in San Diego and Austin.