We get asked all the time, “Where was your favorite location?” or, “What has been your favorite travel experience?” These types of questions always stump me because we have had so many incredible experiences and loved each city for very different reasons. So far, we have gotten exactly what we hoped to out of travel nursing! We wanted to truly experience our country as locals would in each given city, and we have done that and more.
I honestly can’t choose just one favorite experience throughout our four year travel nursing journey. However, San Diego does win out so far as my favorite city and therefore the culmination of memories and experiences we had there rank right at the top of our favorites list. Our time in San Diego was fairly short actually, but in only 8 weeks we managed to live it up!!!
There were so many factors that went into our San Diego travel nurse assignment that made it such an awesome experience. First off, my husband’s best friend lives there. They just had a baby (our first nephew), so that was special to have the opportunity to be around during that exciting time, and just to have friends on an assignment was nice. As a traveler, sometimes we make new friends and sometimes we don’t. So going someplace that we already know people is always a plus!
Other than being near friends, the coolest part about the San Diego travel nurse assignment was our apartment. It was incredible! We lived downtown in the hip Gaslamp district and loved every second of it! The apartment itself was modern and very cool, and the location was perfect. You can check out my previous article about how important housing is to us here. This one is a perfect example of what I was describing in that article. Our housing in San Diego truly made the assignment for us.
If you aren’t familiar with San Diego, the Gaslamp district is downtown within walking distance to the baseball stadium, bars, restaurants, the seaport, etc.; and a short drive to many other highlights of the city like Balboa Park, the Chargers stadium, Coronado Island, several beaches, etc. So as you can imagine, we stayed super busy every day my husband had off work trying to cram in all the hot spots before our next assignment! Here are just some of the reasons I consider our time in San Diego my favorite travel nurse experience to date…
My two favorite restaurants EVER are both in San Diego. Lucha Libre’s has the most awesome burrito called the Surfin’ California. It was featured on Man V Food and is a-maz-ing!!! Also, our favorite seafood restaurant, Baypark Fish Co., is in San Diego. A random girl in the hot tub at a hotel told us about it on a vacation several years ago and we immediately fell in love with their incredible seafood dishes and casual atmosphere. Every time we visit San Diego, both of these restaurants make our itinerary! Another favorite is The Local downtown. They serve the best lobster tacos for $3 every Tuesday. Yum!
My husband and I aren’t big into the whole “nightlife” scene, but we did hit up a happy hour or two while we lived downtown San Diego. There were some really neat bars with funky atmospheres that we had a lot of fun at. We had quite a bit of company while we lived in San Diego and took full advantage of our convenient downtown location. A couple of our favorites were the Tipsy Crow and Yard House. The Tipsy Crow does their happy hour with a stock market theme. Whatever type of drink they are selling the most of the price increases, drinks that aren’t selling as well are cheap. It’s a lot of fun and to top it off they have great appetizer specials too. Yard House is a chain, but an awesome one! They have tons of beers on tap and excellent food! We love their California roll and spinach dip. Man, this post is making me hungry!
There are so, so, so many great things to do in San Diego! Some of our favorites that make this city so special to us are Balboa Park, Seaport Village, Point Loma, Harbor Tour, and Petco Park for a Padres game. Balboa Park is massive and incredible! It spans 1200 acres and includes the highly acclaimed San Diego Zoo, several museums, and gorgeous gardens. Our top picks include the Rose Garden, the Cactus Garden, and the Spanish Village Art Center. You could spend a week in Balboa Park and still not see everything. It is that awesome!
Another place we frequented in San Diego was Seaport Village. As the name suggests, it’s a cute little village on the seaport downtown with fun shops and restaurants. They do live, local music down there most weekends and they have fun festivals and events throughout the year. It’s just a happy place to walk around and enjoy San Diego’s beautiful weather. It was one of our favorite ways to spend a relaxing afternoon.
Point Loma was always our first stop when we had company in town. The view of the city from Cabrillo National Monument is stunning! It is the perfect way to start any visit to this glorious city! We would take our visitors to the lookout and tell them to take a look at the city they were about to have a lot of fun in. Another favorite place to take visitors was the harbor tour. It is such a fantastic way to experience and learn about the city all from a breezy boat.
We lived within walking distance to Petco Park in San Diego so we hit up a few Padres games and even toured the stadium one day. We have been to lots of ball games over the years, but for some reason we really enjoy going to Petco Park. Our favorite thing to do there was purchase their cheapest tickets and then get there early enough to get a spot on the balcony of the Hall of Fame Bar and Grill restaurant within the park that overlooks the field. They are amazing seats and you get a server that brings out your food and drink order. They had the best (and biggest) nachos, we caught a ball during batting practice, and had pretty great seats for pretty cheap. Padres game definitely rank as one of our best travel memories!
The best attribute of San Diego is the beautiful weather and one of the best outdoor activities for enjoying that weather has to be the many beaches. With temperatures often in that perfect 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit sweet spot, the weather in San Diego is ideal for frequent trips to the beach. There are so many different beaches to choose from, but a couple of our favorites include Coronado Island and Mission Beach. Coronado has the historic Hotel del Coronado along with lots of cute shops and restaurants and a beautiful beach. Mission Beach has a different vibe all together with a little carnival and more of a casual feel. Our favorite thing to do in Mission Beach is watch people on the surf machines at Wave House. It is definitely an entertaining way to spend an afternoon! No matter what beach you visit in San Diego though, you’re bound to have a great day!
So I know that isn’t exactly one favorite experience, but it is the culmination of all of these experiences that make San Diego and the experience of that short 8 week assignment stand out for me as my favorite travel nursing experience so far. I’m not convinced that anything will ever top it…but here’s to hoping!
Kelli Leach and her husband Skyler have been traveling since July 2010. Skyler is a CVICU RN and Kelli is a writer. They are from Missouri and had a baby boy in November 2013 so they are now a traveling family of 3! Connect with Kelli on Facebook.