The Crown Jewels of Coronado (And Beyond)

Romantic Gondola rides

If you’ve ever been to San Diego, you may have ventured over the Coronado Bridge to see what was on the other side, driven through, snapped a few photos and came back to town. However, for a small “island,” (as the locals call it) it sure packs a wallop, with many fabulous things to do and see.

Coronado Bridge

If you didn’t already know, Coronado is Spanish for “The Crowned One” and there is an obvious crown motif that pervades throughout, illustrated by the Crown Room at the Hotel Del, as well as gift shop items in the quaint Mom and Pop stores that pepper Orange Avenue, the main drag in Coronado.

The feeling most people take with them after visiting Coronado is its strong sense of history. From the signature red roof and silo-like spire of the Hotel Del to the beautiful Craftsman restoration of the 1906 Lodge, you feel like time stands still. That’s not to say you don’t have all the modern conveniences of the 21st century, but technology and urban sprawl is not present here. It’s laid back and relaxed. Coronado has that small-town feel yet you see the skyline of San Diego across the bay, which entitles the traveler to the best of both worlds.

ACCOMMODATIONS GRAND – THE HOTEL DEL CORONADO

Most people have heard or seen pictures of the Del, but to actually stay there is yet another experience. The Titanic of hotels, it certainly reminds one of the historic vessel with its ornate furnishings, the lobby’s grand chandelier and the birdcage elevator with a real, live operator. The stately sitting rooms and the myriad designs and detail of the paneled ceiling all provide one with a warm welcome to rejoice in a bygone era.

Sand Castles at the Hotel Del

Our oceanfront suite was generously divided into three areas: living room, dining room and master bedroom, luxuriously appointed in muted shades of grey. Our balcony overlooked the busy goings-on from happy beachgoers, surfers, sunbathers reading by the pool, revelers sipping cocktails and sand castle builders. The beach at Coronado is considered one of the finest in the country and you can immediately see why.

Sunday Brunch at the Crown Room can leave you speechless. With so many different food stations, it becomes excruciating difficult to decide what type of cuisine you want to partake in. Seafood, meat carving stations, Eggs Benedict, waffles, international food stations, dessert tables galore and the decadent chocolate fountain underneath the domed ceiling with crown fixtures completes a feast you will never forget.

Named one of the top 20 hotel spas in the world, the spa at the Del is another memorable experience. My wife and I had soothing massages and enjoyed a stimulating whirlpool afterwards. There is also a specially designated outdoor pool for spa clients. In addition, the spa offers a variety of treatments from facials to body scrubs and has recently opened an eco-friendly salon. The shops on the lower level can keep you busy for a full day and don’t forget 1500 Ocean, Sheerwater, Babcock and Story Bar to keep you satiated with food and libation.

ACCOMMODATIONS INTIMATE – 1906 LODGE

For a more intimate experience, the 1906 Lodge is a striking example of an extraordinary bed and breakfast, boutique luxury hotel. Painstakingly renovated in stately Craftsman style, it is yet another opportunity to be transported in time. Situated within walking distance of all shops and restaurants, you enter the Lodge’s inviting lobby. To your left, an sitting room for reading and complimentary, afternoon wine and cheese where you can gaze through the original leaded stained glass windows. To your right, the check-in area has a tempting display of quality souvenirs of all kinds. As you make your way to your accommodations, you are pleasantly forced to pass through a breakfast room which unabashedly belongs in a museum. From the period lighting fixtures that extend gracefully to the stunning wallpaper border containing the exact field color displayed on the walls (a divine shade of light green), one can only imagine being distracted during breakfast, but you’ll want to fight that temptation so as not to miss the chile cheese bake casserole or carrot pancakes! Simply delicious!

Victorian Estates

Our Star Park suite, adorned patriotically in red, white and blue, was spacious with a king size bed, yet cozy with a seating area, sleeper sofa and desk for planning the day’s events. The bathroom was further enticing with a large spa tub next to a see-through fireplace enjoyed from either of two rooms. Outside our door was a tranquil seating area overlooking the stunning botanical wonders that surround a calming, reflecting pool. Walking through the hallways you can enjoy pictures of what Coronado was like at the turn of the century and beyond. And, at the end of the day you can activate a garage door around the corner with your key card and park safely in an underground lair, worthy of a James Bond escape. The 1906 is first class perfection!

THINGS TO DO

A Venetian-style gondola ride on San Diego Bay serenaded by Enrico who was an American Idol finalist. Enrico takes you through the canals of San Diego Bay and points out homes of the rich and famous!

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Taking in a professional show at the Lamb’s Players Theater on Orange Avenue.

A ride out to Point Loma Lighthouse has great scenery and is educational as well.

A jaunt to Los Americanos outlet mall for you shopaholics.

Bicycling galore with very few hills.

Walking tours, bicycling tours, speed boat adventures and much more!

RESTAURANTS

Saiko Sushi is the go-to place for the most creative sushi around. With a hip, local hangout vibe, it presents extraordinary rolls such as the Ace, Crown and Saiko Roll. The lighting is romantic with a great outdoor patio to view the lights of San Diego, and your host Evan Bennett is hands on with the best suggestions. $$

Leroy’s Kitchen is a great lunch or dinner spot with excellent, out-of-the-box delights featuring tasty sandwiches, soups, salads and great pretzels with hot mustard. After lunch, save dessert and go next door to the Moo time Creamery and order the to-die-for coffee ice cream. $

A.R. Valentien at the Lodge at Torrey Pines is the premiere dining experience in La Jolla (not far) serving California cuisine with standouts such as carrot and coriander soup, pork loin and Alaskan halibut. A fabulous wine list with impeccable service. $$$

Primavera is a great Italian, fine dining establishment on Orange Ave., with ample portions and fabulous chicken parm. $$

I sincerely believe if you took a snapshot of Coronado a hundred years from now, the automobiles and boats might look a bit different, but the rest of the “island” would have stayed exactly the same. Quaint, friendly, spirited and wonderfully historic. A place where time stands still, exuding good old fashioned fun. It’s crowning achievement!

Richard Atkins is a travel writer, photographer, playwright, pianist and actor. He can be reached at: seaofclouds@att.net

Flickr Slide Show at this link: www.flickr.com/photos/78656673@N07/show

IF YOU GO

Hotel Del Coronado – www.hoteldel.com, 1500 Orange Ave., 800.468.3533 or 619.435.6611, starting at $279

1906 Lodge – www.1906lodge.com, 1060 Adella Ave., 866.435.1906, starting at $189

Gondola Rides – www.gondolacompany.com, 400 Loews Coronado Bay Rd., 619.429.6317, info@gondolacompany.com

Lambs Players Theater – www.lambsplayers.org, 1142 Orange Ave., 619.437.6000

Point Loma Lighthouse – www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_Loma,_San_Diego

Coronado Walking Tours – www.coronadowalkingtour.com

Biking Tours – www.wheretours.com

Coronado Surfing Lessons – www.coronadosurfing.com

Speed Boat Adventures – www.speedboatadventures.com, 619.294.5852

Saiko Sushi – www.saikosushisd.com, 116 Orange Ave., 619.435.0868

A.R. Valentien – www.arvalentien.com, 11480 North Torrey Pines Rd., La Jolla, 858.453.4420

Leroy’s Kitchen and Lounge – www.leroysluckylounge.com, 1015 Orange Ave., 619.437.6087

Moo-Time Creamery – www.mootime.com, 1025 Orange Ave., 619.435.2422

Primavera Ristorante – www.primavera1st.com, 932 Orange Ave., 619.435.0454