San Antonio Necua Campground
Off Ensenada-Tecate Hwy 3 (at Km. 73.5 take dirt road; continue approximately 5 miles; pass L.A. Cetto Winery; follow signs to Necua), Valle de Guadalupe, B.C., Mexico. Reservations: Horacio Moncada: 646-108-9278, 646-178-8093, email@example.com
Take a multi-day trip of the dozens of wineries in Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe on the cheap by camping in between. Bibayoff Winery sometimes offers camping, which has included a wine & lamb dinner for $40 in the past, but call ahead to check (646-176-1008.) Your best bet is the 14-site tent campground located just north of L.A. Cetto Winery in the Kumeyaay village of San Antonio Necua. Shaded by ancient oak trees, the grounds have modern amenities such as grills, restrooms and showers, and a general store. Explore the sacred land by hiring a guide for $3 per day. Reservations required; $6 per night; no motorcycles.
Not many bicycle rides start with taking a ferry, but the 24-mile Bayshore Bikeway ride can. Although the loop is designed to end with the 15-minute ferry ride back to its Broadway Pier starting point, opting to reverse the ride — biking from Coronado to downtown San Diego — will generally save you from a gnarly headwind on a seven-mile stretch of the Silver Strand. With a nature center, wildlife refuge, salt flat, railroad spurs, bay and skyline views, and palm trees lining the way, no wonder it’s named one of Sunset magazine’s “Top 20 best bike paths in the West.”
LARPing at Morley Field
3350 Jacaranda Drive, North Park
Ever had one o’ them days when, in a moment of clarity, you realized, Hey, at least it ain’t medieval warfare? Well, it’s time to own up to those negative attitudes towards brutish battle arrangements and reclaim your Worst Case Scenario with the Andor fighters of Belegarth. San Diego’s premier clan of Live Action Role-Playing warriors (not as steamy as it sounds) meets every Sunday afternoon at Morley Field, just southeast of the swimming pool, to duke it out in an anachronistic clusterfunk of old-school combat with weaponry fashioned out of pool noodles. Armaments and training provided for newcomers.
Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve
Farmers Road and Julian Orchards Road
Split into separate west and east sections with three trailheads between the two, Santa Ysabel preserve’s 3800 acres have 18.5 miles of trail options from easy to moderate. The trails are dotted with picnic areas, boasting beautiful views of pristine chaparral, woodlands, riparian habitat and grasslands, a creek, and even cattle grazing in the meadows.
The west trailhead, which opened in 2010 (the east in 2006) is only two miles from Dudley’s Bakery and Julian Pie Co. It’s also hilly, therefore more difficult than the east, but worth it.
Bring your own water. Closed after inclement weather. 760-765-4098.
Skydive San Diego
13531 Otay Lakes Road, Jamul
From 13,000 feet, you see Tijuana, the ocean, the Laguna Mountains, and Otay Lakes directly below. Just seconds into your minute-long free fall, you are careening toward the ground at a deafening 120 miles per hour. The chute pops at 5000 feet, and you lilt back to earth for about five minutes before touching down on a grass field in the hills of Jamul. After your tandem jump ($189 online, $209 day of) you quit your day job and go for a solo certification and then an A-license to start your new life as a jump instructor.
Spotting Saint Elmo’s fire in Shelter Valley
County Road S2 and State Route 78
Ball lightning, also known as Saint Elmo’s fire, is a mysterious phenomenon witnessed as a sphere of light ranging in size from under an inch to several meters in diameter. Though 10,000+ cases have been reported, the spectacle is still not well-understood. Theories cover everything from microwave radiation to vaporized silicon to microscopic black holes to electricity-induced hallucinations. Whatever the case, ball lightning has been observed in Shelter Valley (12 miles east of Julian on SR 78), especially in dry, windy conditions. Tent camping is available at Stagecoach Trails ($27/day) and Blair Valley Campground (free) 5.6 miles to the southeast.
Campo Depot and Railroad Museum
State Highway 94 and Forrest Gate Road, Campo
In 1919, entrepreneur John D. Spreckels completed the “Impossible Railroad,” linking San Diego to the East Coast via the Southern Pacific Railroad terminal in El Centro. The 148-mile stretch of track crossed into Mexico at San Ysidro, returning stateside east of Tecate. Since 1986, the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum has offered 12-mile round-trip rides on the Golden State Limited from Campo and westbound to the border tunnel at Division. The ride ($15 for adults, $5 for kids) lasts about 90 minutes and departs at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on select weekends. Check the website to reserve a spot on the diesel-electric locomotive.
Of over 40 species of spiny lobster worldwide, California has one of the largest, with males reaching up to three feet long and weighing as much as 26 pounds. Spiny lobster season runs from September 28 to March 19, during which time you can join La Jolla Water Sports (call for rates: 619-788-6416) on a nighttime free-dive in La Jolla or Mission Bay. The package includes a 7mm wetsuit, hood, fins, gloves, goggles, snorkel, gauge, and dive light. Anyone over 16 years old must have a valid fishing license ($20) and the elusive crustaceans must be caught by hand (no snares or spears).
San Diego Velodrome
2221 Morley Field Drive, Balboa Park
One of just 20 or so outdoor velodrome tracks in the United States, San Diego Velodrome’s 333-meter concrete, oval track sits at the edge of a canyon beyond the baseball diamond in Balboa Park's Morley Field. It hosts Tuesday-night bicycle races from April through September. Admission is free for spectators, who sit on the bleachers and are treated to racing events. Many former and current world champions are among those competing for bragging rights and free beer.
Look forward to bringing your own grub, your own adult refreshments, and leashed dogs; the track will provide the downtown views and the excitement.