San Diego is a large coastal city in the south west of California and the United States. It was originally a part of Mexico and still has Mexican influences throughout it today. There is a large international airport there allowing easy access via air, land or sea.
Whilst in San Diego we stayed at The Sofia Hotel and felt really comfortable for the 7 days we were there. Everyone was so friendly and helpful. Our hotel room came with everything we needed (bedroom, lounge area, ensuite, mini kitchenette including a microwave and bar fridge, as well as two large dog food and water bowls). The team at The Sofia Hotel love dogs and they were kind enough to give Mya a welcome pack with a toy turtle, a ball and lots of treats. They really take being pet friendly to the next level. The hotel offers a variety of services including valet parking, concierge desk, free Yoga classes for hotel guests, a fitness centre and the availability to book an in hotel massage. It is really well located between the Gaslamp and Little Italy districts, has easy freeway access and is walking distance to the Midway Museum and bay cruises. Just outside of the hotel is several bars, restaurants and a coffee shop for those who need a morning brew to start their day.
Pet Friendly Dining
I was told that San Diego is extremely pet friendly and from what we saw, I can’t argue with that statement. We didn’t eat out a lot, but we did visit the Princess Hotel in Little Italy for drinks with friends and found almost as many dogs there, as there were people. We also had dinner at a great pet friendly restaurant nearby called Table 509 inside Hotel Indigo. The service was fantastic, the food was delicious & the best thing was Mya was allowed with us the whole time (note she didn’t sit at the table the whole meal).
Instead we rented a bike from Sun Country Cycle in Vernon, who suggested a great pet friendly trail between the Predator Ridge Estate and the Ellison Provincial Park. Several local’s told us it would be fine to ride with Mya off leash, but we have since checked with the Predator Ridge Estate and been told they do require dogs to be on a lead. We rode along the Ellison Connector Trail which has a fair bit of flow and was a lot of fun for both Mya and I.
Doggy Daycare & Grooming
Unfortunately Mya isn’t always allowed to accompany me to all the attractions that I want to see. As much as I want to have her by my side, I don’t want to visit an incredible place like San Diego, and only see half the things that I’d like to see. As a result I knew I’d need to find a doggy day care provider that I was happy with and trusted. I looked at what San Diego had to offer and there was a lot, but I wanted something a little more than keeping Mya cooped up whilst I was off exploring and having my own adventures. I wanted Mya to be able to have her own fun adventures whilst I was away. One of the day care providers I found that did this was Wags and Ruffs, which was only a five minute drive from The Sofia Hotel.
They offer a variety of services in San Diego including, overnight boarding, grooming, pet taxis, walking and day care. The unique thing that I liked about their day care services was that they offered a service that included an adventure hike along the beach so that Mya would be able to get out and explore San Diego too, whilst I was gone. Mya ended up with three days of day care and adventure hikes and always came home tired and with a smile on her face. On her last day of day care I also had Mya groomed and brushed out, as you can imagine with the amount of fluff she has, she sheds a lot of hair and the groomers at Wags and Ruffs did a great job.
Whilst in San Diego we got to see and do some pretty amazing things. Some we go to do together and others unfortunately weren’t dog friendly for a variety of reasons.
One of our favourite places we visited was Dog Beach. I’m not sure if you knew, but it was one of the first official leash free beaches in the USA. It was great walking along the beach together and playing in the breaking waves. Parking was free and really easy to find. It seemed to have a great feel to it and I loved seeing everyone down there with their dogs or surf boards.
After seeing a promotional video and having missed out on most of the canyons in Utah and Arizona I really wanted to check out Annie’s Canyon Trail, which is dog friendly as long as your pup is on a leash. It’s about a 30 minute drive from downtown San Diego and parking was free and fairly easy, although there were lots of people around. I was really excited to go through a canyon with Mya, as it is was something we hadn’t done together. The actual canyon loop is one way and during the hike there is a fork in the canyon with a sign saying no dogs, I thought the sign meant no dogs down one side of the fork, as everything we had read indicated the trail was dog friendly. In hindsight, I think it meant from that point into the Canyon as the trail gets really narrow and there is an 8′ ladder at the end that they need to get up. We managed fine as a team, but had I realised before going into the Canyon that it would have those issues, I probably wouldn’t have taken the risk. I wouldn’t recommend bringing your pup through the Canyon, however the other part of the loop offers some nice views and is an easy walk with a dog.
San Diego Zoo
I wanted to check out one of the best zoos in the world & as animal friendly as they are, unfortunately Mya wasn’t allowed (I can understand why). Not to worry though, whilst I was off exploring San Diego Zoo, Mya was with the team at Wags & Ruffs, where she was spoilt during her doggy day care with a private adventure hike around Fiesta Island. As for the Zoo, I was really impressed. It’s home to over 3700 animals and has over 650 different species. I felt for the large part each enclosure was representative of the animals natural habitats and they educated me a lot about extinct species. Did you know Dire Wolfs actually existed? I didn’t. The San Diego Zoo really places a strong emphasis on educating people about endangered species and showing people that if we don’t protect them, these species of animals are at a real chance of extinction.
If you head to the San Diego Zoo, my suggestion would be to get there as early as possible, before it gets too hot and whilst the animals are still awake. I’d take one of the zoos 45 minute long bus tours to see a good overall of the park, before taking their sky tram gondola across the park & then exploring anything more you want to see on foot. Both are included with the standard zoo entry. Some of my highlights would have been to see the lions come out of their den for the first time during the day, the elephants, the waterfall and I was really impressed with the baboon enclosure & the work the San Diego Zoo has put into with them. Ultimately if we are going to protect our environment, we need to educate people & ensure they feel connected with it & I think San Diego Zoo does a great job of this.
San Diego Safari Park
Another famous zoo in San Diego is the San Diego Safari Park. Although the park isn’t dog friendly (even more understandably than the zoo), it is one the main attractions in the area & raises millions of dollars towards the protection of endangered species. The San Diego Safari Park is speard out over 1800 acres and has the last two remaining white Rhinos in the world. They are doing their best to ensure a breeding program stops these animals from becoming instinct. You could easily spend a whole day in the park, especially if you go on one of the additional Safari tours. I really enjoyed seeing the African animals all interacting together in a large open exhibit and made sure I checked out the brand new Australian Walkabout area. I can see in a few years time when the plans grow up this will be a really beautiful part of the park.
USS Midway Museum
One of my must see attractions in San Diego was the USS Midway Museum. Again this isn’t a dog friendly attraction, so you would need to arrange some doggy day care to go. If you didn’t know, it is a decommissioned aircraft carrier that offers a unique experience to see first hand what an aircraft carrier is like. You will have the opportunity to explore the hangar, flight deck, bridge and remaining decks as well as see a variety of aircraft. They usually recommend 2-4 hours to walk through it & take things in and be sure to check out the bridge before 3:30pm as that is when they stop tours going through that part of the ship. I struggled to find parking in the vicinity due to the demand for it, so I ended up leaving the Jeep at The Sofia Hotel and walking 15 minutes to get there.
Balboa Dog Park
Whilst staying at The Sofia Hotel you could make the 10 minute drive to Balboa Dog Park for some off leash fun. The park is fully fenced in and had a variety of large and small breed dogs. All seemed well socialised and we met some really friendly dog owners whilst visiting. Just around the corner from the dog park a variety of different museums. I had hoped to check some of these out, but never got the opportunity to. I do not believe any of them allow dogs inside at this time.
If you’re going to visit San Diego and want some great photos or even just want to take in a really beautiful moment, make sure you head down to the Sunset Cliffs. It was a really beautiful sight, but be sure to get in early, as it does get quite crowded down there. I actually thought it would be a great place to take a rug and a picnic dinner.
Hornblower San Diego Bay Cruises
If you visit the USS Midway Museum you might want to check out one of the Hornblower Bay Cruises which depart right next door. I enjoyed a one hour cruise showing me the harbor and the Navy Yards and found it really interesting to hear about San Diego and the history of the Naval Yards and some of the ships in them. If you’re interested they also offer a one hour sea lion or a whale watching cruise and you have the ability to combine both these cruises into a two hour package. Unfortunately for me, none of these cruises are dog friendly, which is why getting help from the team at Wags and Ruffs was fantastic.
As many of you know, I love my adrenaline rushes & couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to ride the Big Dipper roller coaster, which didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t quite as intense as many modern day roller coasters, no going upside down etc, however went for a lot longer than I expected. If roller coasters aren’t your thing, there are a variety of different rides and amusement park attractions at Belmont Park and I think it really makes a great evening. Unfortunately at this time Belmont Park isn’t pet friendly so if you want to check it out you will need to arrange some doggy day care. I found parking really easy, but that may be different if you go during the day.
Potato Chip Rock
We had lots of people tell us that we couldn’t visit Southern California without a visit to Potato Chip Rock. If you didn’t know it’s a thin rock ledge that looks like a potato chip and overlooks a valley. To get to it you will have a 3.5 hour return hike and have to navigate some pretty steep rocks (for a dog anyway) right at the end. It was a nice hike & we met lots of dogs along the way, but I warn you the trail is all ash felt, so you will need to monitor your pup’s paws in the heat so that they don’t get burnt. Mya had her Ruffwear Griptex Boots which do a great job of protecting her paws.
Being in San Diego & staying at the Sofia Hotel, we were only 20 minutes away from the Mexican / USA Boarder & I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to cross the border & tick off Mya’s fourth country. I found that it was very similar to crossing the Canadian / USA border. Your dog needs to be in good health, micro chipped, have all its vaccination certificates including rabies & an extra form completed by a vet (APHIS Form 7001 for a land crossing, I believe there is a different form for an air crossing). The form cost me $58 from one of the local vets in San Diego.
Actually crossing the border seemed simple enough, however this is where I came across my first issue that probably made me a little more cautious. I don’t speak Spanish & unlike Quebec, not everyone spoke English. Nonetheless, with a few smiles, some broken English & gesturing we made it work & got across the border.
Our first stop was central Tijuana & along the way we found a really steep hill that seemed to overlook a lot of the city. I didn’t want to stay to long as there were a lot of stray dogs in the area and I didn’t want to have any issues between them and Mya.
Next on the agenda was Revolution Avenue, known to locals as “La Revu”. Here I bought a sombrero & saw a heap of donkeys painted like Zebras which confused the hell out of me why. I’ve since been told its for tourist wanting to take photos of them. We had a short look around, but there was some sort of celebration going on & they were letting off crackers, which upset Mya. We then drove to north western corner of Mexico, where we went for a walk along the beach & ate some delicious Mexican seafood.
Finally the crossing the border back into the USA from Mexico. Everyone warned me & I thought one or two hours would be ok by me to have had that experience, but it took me four hours to travel four miles. It was definitely an experience in itself. Whilst I understand TJ is not a reflection of the rest of Mexico it was a very interesting experience & opened my eyes more.
Mark & Mya’s Mates
Visit: Visit San Diego | @VisitSanDiego
Stay: The Sofia Hotel | @TheSofiaHotel
Doggy Day Care: Wags and Ruffs | @WagsAndRuffs