The Check-In: 48 hours in San Diego, a river cruise 8 decades in the making, and more

The Check-In: 48 hours in San Diego, a river cruise 8 decades in the making, and more

Welcome to The Check-In, our weekend feature focusing on all things travel.

Arizona's Havasu Falls reopening to visitors

Adventurers who had to postpone their trip to Havasu Falls will be able to reschedule, starting Feb. 1.

Havasu Falls is situated on the Grand Canyon-adjacent Havasupai Indian Reservation, which closed in March 2020 due to COVID-19. The tribe, which controls access to the falls, also then paused all planned trips to the area. For the reopening, only people who had their campground reservations suspended due to COVID can sign up — although if someone is unable to reschedule, their spot will be up for grabs. Visit the Havasupai Campground Reservations page for more information.

Havasu Falls

Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A California river cruise is setting sail in February — the first in 80 years

It's time to see Napa in a whole new light.

American Cruise Lines is launching a California river cruise, which the company says will be the first to embark in the state in 80 years. The 8-day journey aboard the American Jazz will start in San Francisco and continue with several wine-filled stops in Napa, before heading to Sacramento for a honey tasting and then Stockton for a visit to the Haggin Museum. The ship, which was inaugurated in 2020, holds 99 passengers.

Charles B. Robertson, president and CEO of American Cruise Lines, told Travel + Leisure his company has wanted to have a presence in Northern California for some time, as "the California Delta is one of the most beautiful areas in the U.S. to explore by riverboat. Many have visited wine country, but few can say they cruised it." The first sailing is set for Feb. 24, with additional departures in the spring and fall.

Lots of sun and tons of fun: Spending 48 Hours in San Diego

With its beautiful weather, miles of beaches, eclectic restaurants, and attractions galore, San Diego is one destination that every traveler can get behind. It's family-friendly, but also great for solo visitors, couples, and groups of friends. A trip to San Diego also means you'll be spending a lot of time outdoors, whether it's hanging out on the beach or getting up close and personal with the lions and gorillas at the zoo — how's that for a vacation?

Here are a few suggestions on how to spend 48 hours in San Diego:

Day 1:

If it's a weekend, start your day with brunch at the Farmer & the Seahorse in Torrey Pines. Ask for a table outside on the patio, and enjoy the Mimosa Kit — a bottle of brut cava with a choice of three juices — with one of the benedicts (the lobster and miso-cured salmon are great) or the bananas foster French toast.

Next, make your way to the Cabrillo National Monument, which commemorates Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo's historic 1542 landing at San Diego Bay. The sweeping views of the city and the Pacific Ocean are breathtaking, and there's plenty to do, like visiting the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and the tide pools. The best time to observe the pools is during the late fall and winter, when low tides during park hours allow visitors a better view of the sea life.

Wildflowers bloom near the Old Point Loma Lighthouse

Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

San Diego's Embarcadero isn't too far away, and you'll be able to walk along the bay and stop at attractions like the USS Midway Museum, a former naval aircraft carrier, and the Maritime Museum of San Diego. If shopping is more your speed, check out Seaport Village, which boasts clothing, toy, souvenir, and gift shops, as well as casual and fine dining. A harbor cruise is also a delightful way to enjoy views of U.S. Navy ships and the Coronado Bridge — but thrill seekers might opt for the Speed Boat Adventure Tour, during which adrenaline junkies can drive their own speedboat around the harbor as a guide shares facts about the city.

If you're looking for a simple beach day, well ... take your pick — there are 31 beaches to choose from in San Diego County, each with its own merits. Del Mar Beach, for example, is great for families, while Coronado Beach-North is perfect for experienced surfers. On your way, make sure to stop for lunch at Liberty Station. Formerly the Naval Training Center at San Diego, the center's grounds have been repurposed and are now home to art spaces, shops, and several restaurants and food vendors (Mexican, burgers, sushi, pizza — it's all here). Bring a blanket and stretch out on one of the many grassy areas — this is a great spot to watch the planes as they take off from San Diego International Airport.

A beach in La Jolla.

Francisco Morales/Eyepix Group/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Ready for dinner? Tom Ham's Lighthouse is a San Diego classic, serving up seafood right on the water. Indulge in a shellfish platter with oysters, clams, bay scallops, jumbo shrimp, and P.E.I. mussels, or try the house shrimp ceviche and seasonal crudo. You could also end the night in downtown San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter, where you might grab either a quick slice from the just-opened Prince Street Pizza (the spicy vodka is a hit) or some fresh sashimi at Taka, then hit up one of the rooftop lounges, comedy clubs, music venues, or bars in the area.

Day 2:

This is a busy day, so you won't have time to sleep in, making Snooze an ironic place to grab breakfast. Known for its breakfast burritos, crab cake benedict, and pancake of the week, this is a tasty spot to fuel up for all of the walking you'll be doing at ...

Balboa Park. This 1,200-acre park is known as the cultural heart of San Diego, and it's easy to see why — it's home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, more than a dozen museums, the Old Globe Theater, gardens, fountains, and some of the most fabulous architecture on the West Coast. The Japanese Friendship Garden boasts bonsai and cherry blossom trees and a moon-viewing deck, while the Mingei International Museum features a plethora of folk art. Meanwhile, The Timken Museum — or San Diego's "jewel box of fine art" — offers curious tourists multiple rooms filled with an impressive collection of European old masters, Russian icons, and American art.

A statue at Balboa Park.

Catherine Garcia/The Week

A great way to see as many museums as possible is to get the Explorer Pass, which grants admission to them all (though some, like the Timken, are already free to enter). Each museum has different hours, so check in advance to see what is open on the day of your visit. There are always special exhibits and events to explore, as well, so you never know what you might find during your adventure ... though you can always count on the free concert held every Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, home to the world's largest outdoor pipe organ. Sitting and listening to the booming instrument is a great way to rest up before your next activity.

Balboa Park

Catherine Garcia/The Week

There are cafes interspersed around Balboa Park, and Artifact at Mingei is a great spot for lunch —not least of all because its innovative menu, which offers international dishes like rock shrimp gyoza and cardamom tapioca, is reflective of the items on display in the museum. For dinner, you can't go wrong with The Prado at Balboa Park. Grab a table on the spacious patio (don't worry, there are heaters in the winter) and enjoy the view of the park's greenery. Start with the spicy calamari fries and seared prime beef sushi roll, then get your vegetables with the red and gold baby beet salad, topped with Sonoma goat cheese and a truffle vinaigrette. Both dishes are great for sharing, as is the Prado paella, filled with shrimp, chorizo, calamari, scallops, salmon, and peas, in a lobster saffron broth.

Balboa Park architecture

Catherine Garcia/The Week

If you're looking for an unforgettable experience (and money is no object), consider a reservation at Addison, the only Michelin-star restaurant in San Diego (and the first to receive three stars in Southern California). There is a nine-course tasting menu in addition to an impressive wine list, and experiential surprises abound, starting with a synchronized pouring of water at the table and only improving from there. A trip to the Addison is for adventurous eaters that appreciate a slow meal, and would also make for an incredible anniversary dinner.

One final tip: When packing your bags for San Diego, remember that layering is important — even in the summer, you might need to throw on a sweatshirt or jacket during a night-time walk along the water. Be sure to bring a bathing suit, water shoes, and a hat for beach and pool days. Sunscreen, lip balm, and comfortable shoes are also must-haves — just one trip to Balboa Park will require several miles of walking. San Diego has a more casual vibe, and most people won't look twice at what you're wearing, but if you plan on going to a fancier restaurant, make sure to bring an ensemble that meets the dress code (i.e. your flip-flops should stay in the hotel room).

A surfer in San Diego

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Plan accordingly: Upcoming events to add to your calendar

The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is a festival like no other. This year, Carnival will run from Feb. 17-25, and the absolute must-do on any attendee's list should be to check out the parades at the Sambadrome. Expect an over-the-top extravaganza, as the samba schools of Rio don their most colorful costumes to wear aboard their floats. There are also street parties and Carnival balls to attend, on top of the typical sightseeing excursions, so expect to be on the go throughout your entire trip.

A Carnival float

Antonio Scorza/AFP via Getty Images

The last Tuesday of January — this year, it's Jan. 31 — is National Plan for Vacation Day. Maybe you've always wanted to see the Australian outback, visit Patagonia, or just take a road trip through New England. Now is the time to start sketching out a possible itinerary, or take the plunge and begin looking for flights and a hotel room. You won't regret it when summer comes around and all you need to do is pack your bags.

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