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Grand Vacation 2012: San Diego and Las Vegas

Finalizing my plans for next week’s trip to San Diego and Las Vegas is a bit of a challenge, especially with a plan to head instead to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, close to the coast. However, checking the admission fee and tour for the castle, we, being my mom, my aunt, and I, opt instead to head to San Diego and bask under the sun and enjoy the coast even more (comparing it as well to here in the Bay Area) before heading inland to sun-scorched yet ever-evolving Las Vegas.

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I have been to Las Vegas twice before, with the last trip being a fun and memorable experience since I had the opportunity to eat at the Wynn buffet for brunch while staying at the Mandalay Bay. However, being Vegas, the city evolves much faster than San Francisco, and the building boom along the Strip is nearly complete, thanks to the opening of the Aria and Cosmopolitan Hotels, located at the former location of the Stardust Hotel. Along with that, I enjoyed the immense shopping opportunities in the city, as well as a wealth of slot machines available for play anytime of day, 24 hours each day. It was something of a remembrance for me as I have not seen Las Vegas evolve so quickly that I need to be on constant watch each day to see how developed the city, particularly along the Strip, has become since my last visit. I also couldn’t forget the variety of foods available at the buffets I’ve been, including Circus Circus, Bellagio, and Mandalay Bay, in which I found Wynn’s the best. I just hope that the Aria and Cosmopolitan buffets outmatch or exceed the Wynn, if not for the wonderful atmosphere and freshness of the food, as well as excellent and attentive service. What I would like to explore, though (if there is sufficient time) is the Hoover Dam, in which I would like to cross the border between Nevada and Arizona and say, “I have crossed into another state, even for a tad bit!”

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Before heading to Sin City, though, I’ll be vacationing for a night (or two, depending on itinerary) in San Diego wherein I would like to visit Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo, as well as the San Diego Air and Space Museum, Downtown area (including Petco Park), La Jolla, Seaworld, and Oceanside. Too many to list, but those are some of the places I would really love to visit at least once — if not passing by — since I have visualized such places from watching television shows, especially House Hunters, with their picturesque beauty and quaint seaside towns along the Pacific coast (and still in California!). I have visualized San Diego, not as a gateway city to Mexico, but as a multicultural and diverse city where so many Filipinos live, as well as a large urban sprawl to the north and east of the city, and a region filled with magnificent views of beaches and mountains that line next to Interstate 5. I’ve been to Los Angeles thrice — once I stayed in Anaheim, the other two I stayed in Burbank. I like the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the city and the skyline of Downtown from the 101; however, what I really don’t appreciate were the massive traffic jams on the region’s numerous freeways, especially when arriving from the north on I-5 wherein the traffic was bad from just after the Grapevine down towards the notorious 405. I have checked route plans for the trip heading straight to San Diego from my place, and it gave me three choices:

  • Option 1 will run via Interstate 5 through Los Angeles, Anaheim, Oceanside, and La Jolla;
  • Option 2 will run via Interstate 210, the 71, the 91, and Interstate 15 through Pasadena, Chino, Corona, and Escondido; and
  • Option 3¬†will run via the 138 (while going through the Grapevine on I-5), the 14, Interstate 15, and Interstate 215 that will eventually return to Interstate 15 through Lancaster, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Escondido — the “Inland” route

Preferably, since I haven’t seen the coastline between Mission Viejo and San Diego, I would opt for Option 1, with a note to avoid the 405 altogether because of the notoriety of traffic through the freeway — albeit meant to be used as a bypass for Downtown Los Angeles — as well as unpredictability on when the traffic starts and ends. However, options 2 and 3 seem to be feasible if I want to avoid the clogged freeways in the inner Los Angeles area; however, portions of Interstate 15 between San Diego and Corona (with Option 2) and around San Bernardino (with Option 3) will be passed by again when heading northeast to Las Vegas, and I would prefer to go through such areas only once since I would like to explore unique areas and communities along the route.


I then have several questions in mind:

  • What would be a quickest route that will allow me to bypass Downtown LA, if possible, so that my trip to San Diego would be quicker?
  • What other attractions would you suggest me to visit when I visit San Diego and Las Vegas?
  • Would you like me to post a day-by-day blog special on my vacation?
  • What would be excellent photo-shooting locations along my routes?

Feel free to discuss those below.

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