San Diego: best place for R&R

San Diego, host city of this year's American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery meeting, April 27 to May 2, offers attendees an ideal climate for enjoying the great outdoors. Take time to explore the surroundings with a run on the beach, a bike ride on a scenic trail, or for the more adventurous spirit, rock climbing in the backcountry.

With 70 miles of coastline, visitors to San Diego County have many recreational options, such as surfing, snorkeling, sailing, or kayaking in a secluded cove. Head across the bay from downtown San Diego to Coronado peninsula. It offers one of "America's Top 10 Beaches," according to The Travel Channel. You can reach Coronado in 15 minutes by ferry, leaving the B Street Pier in downtown San Diego on the hour. Also, you can drive across the Coronado Bridge.

Stroll through the tree-lined streets of Coronado, a beautiful community of stately old homes and cozy bungalows. Visit the specialty shops and restaurants at the Ferry Landing Marketplace. Rent a bike or rollerblades to travel the 15 miles of bike paths. Don't miss a trip to Hotel del Coronado, a national landmark resort with nearby marina. The Coronado Visitor Center can be found at 1100 Orange Ave. (619/437-8788).

Garden tours are available, including a self-guided walk originating from the Balboa Park Visitor's Center. Offshoot Tours covers the history and horticulture of the park every Saturday at 10 a.m. Park rangers focus on the park's historical and botanical treasures, giving tours every Tuesday and Sunday at 1 p.m.

For the museum lover, Balboa Park has a $35 passport, valid for 1 week, to visit 13 park attractions. Call 619/239-0512 for general information on days and times. The pass includes entrance to:

Sports

The San Diego Padres will be playing ball at PETCO Ballpark. Baseball fanatics can catch a game in the 46,000-seat ballpark on April 27, 28, and 30 at 7:05 p.m. or April 29 at 1:05 p.m. For information or tickets, call 877/374-2784 or order online at http://www.padres.com/.

Golf enthusiasts will have no trouble finding a course to play because San Diego has more than 90 courses.

You might want to try Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, CA ( http://www.torreypines.com/), where the Buick Invitational was held earlier this year. Or consider La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, CA ( http://www.lacosta.com/), offering two PGA championship courses.

Family excursions

SeaWorld San Diego, I-5 Exit SeaWorld (800/380-3203), is home to the famous killer whale, Shamu, who performs in a new show, "Believe." Consider visiting Rocky Point Preserve, where bottlenose dolphins and California sea otters wow the crowds; Shark Encounter, showcasing hundreds of sharks; and Manatee Rescue, where rescued and rehabilitated manatees reside in a 215,000-gallon freshwater river.

LEGOLAND California, Carlsbad, CA (760/918-LEGO; http://www.legoland.com/), is considered one of the world's best theme parks, according to http://Forbes.com/. This 128-acre playground offers attractions, rides, and opportunities to build. Its most recent addition to Miniland U.S.A. is a replica of the Las Vegas Strip made with 2 million Lego bricks. Don't miss Dino Island, Explore Village, Fun Town, Pirate Shores, Knight's Kingdom, or Imagination Zone.

If you visit the Web site http://www.seeyouinsandiego.com/attractions_family.asp#coupons, you can purchase discounted tickets to the San Diego Zoo, San Diego's Wild Animal Park, LEGOLAND California, and SeaWorld San Diego.

A Southern California CityPass offers a 26% discount on a package admission to the San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park and SeaWorld San Diego, Disneyland, Disney's California Adventure, and Universal Studios. For more information, visit the Web site http://www.citypass.com/city/socal.html

Spa resorts

Need time to rejuvenate? Visit a European-style spa, such as L'Auberge Del Mar Resort and Spa, Four Seasons Resort Aviara, Hotel del Coronado, La Costa Resort and Spa, The Lodge at Torrey Pines, or Paradise Point Resort and Spa. They offer various pampering options, including massages, facials, hydrotherapy, aromatherapy, seaweed body wraps, mud masks, sauna, steam rooms, and whirlpools.

Tranquil surroundings also can be found at numerous day spas throughout the county. Beauty Kliniek Aromatherapy Day Spa and Wellness Center, San Diego, follows the Ayurvedic "Science of Life" health-care methods practiced on the Indian subcontinent for 6,000 years. Bellissima Day Spa in Escondido focuses on health, elegance, beauty, and pampering. Oasis Day Spa, also in Escondido, specializes in holistic treatments. Victoria Rose Spa in downtown San Diego is an elegant center located in a Victorian mansion filled with antiques.

Shopping

Downtown shopping has never been easier with a visit to Westfield Horton Plaza, 324 Horton Plaza (619/239-8180). Enjoy browsing through Nordstrom, Macy's, Louis Vuitton, as well as any of the other 140 specialty stores that catch your eye.

For waterfront shopping, head to Seaport Village, West Harbor Drive at Pacific Coast Highway (619/235-4014), to explore more than 54 unique shops and galleries. It also features 13 sidewalk eateries, an 1890s carousel, and 2 hours of free parking with purchase.

If you are visiting La Jolla, cruise along Prospect Street, famous for its upscale boutiques, offering designer clothing, jewelry, fine art, and antiques. It's also called the "Rodeo Drive" of San Diego.

The outlet shopping destination can be found in Carlsbad, a seaside village north of San Diego. It is home to Carlsbad Company Stores (760/804-9000), with more than 80 name-brand outlets.