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San Diego Scenic Drive

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Follow the Scenic Drive signs for some great sightseeing of San Diego.

UPDATE: We have noticed that some of the Scenic Drive signs have been replaced with newer signs! Be on the look out!

If you have the time for a day trip, this journey will cover 59 miles.

Alright, we debated as to whether or not we tell you about the Scenic Drive. Why? Well, the drive is very pretty IF you know where to go. Sure, there are lovely blue signs indicating that you are on the correct path but they are not clear, consistent and well, altogether helpful. It is a shame that a lovely scenic adventure is not better addressed but if you think of it as a scavenger hunt, you can still have fun (especially, if you don't mind getting lost or off-track).

The San Diego Union-Tribune published the following article back in July 2006 and it is an amusing account of San Diego's Scenic Drive. Be warned that even in 2012, some of the signs are so faded, you cannot see the seagull image.

Like any good day trip, it's an adventure after all.


By Michael Stetz UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER July 24, 2006 (photo: JACIE LANDEROS / Union-Tribune)

You want to go. You want to step on it, already. The engine is humming. The windows are down. The tank is full.

One problem.

San Diego's scenic drive is not cooperating. You're on the downtown part of it, at Fourth Avenue and Market Street, and there's a traffic tie-up.


You're itching to see Belmont Park. And La Jolla Cove. And Shelter Island.

But instead, you're eating exhaust and counting how many condominium towers you've passed.

San Diego's scenic drive is a 59-mile route that takes you to all the city's hot spots.

The only downside?

You have to deal with, oh, about 423,987 traffic lights.

Forget a car. To enjoy this ride, you need a time machine. Because the route was designed in 1965.


Back then, gas was 31 cents a gallon. The population of San Diego was less than 700,000. A Democrat from Texas was in the White House.


Gas goes for $3.32 a gallon. About 1.2 million people call the city home. And a Republican from Texas is in the White House.

The aging signs that mark the route still lead you to lovely spots, such as Sunset Cliffs. But then you have to clear Ocean Beach before you can get to the next attraction, Mission Bay.


What fun. Cars, cars and more cars clog Sunset Cliffs Boulevard.

Taking the scenic route may have been a joy back when Walter Cronkite read the news.

But now you want to pull your hair out.

Many of the signs -- yellow and blue with a sea gull on them -- are old and faded. Some are missing. They are supposed to be spaced every quarter-mile. But this is San Diego. Broke San Diego. The city doesn't take action unless it gets a specific complaint about a specific sign.

So it's easy to make a wrong turn. And, just like that, you're no longer on the scenic drive. But how would you know? You have to go several blocks, searching for signs, before realizing you're headed to El Cajon, not the Embarcadero.

OK. You're back on track.

The scenic drive takes you past the airport. You'd like to look at the pretty harbor, but you're scared to take your eyes off the road.

A Hummer roars past.

There were no Hummers in 1965.

The scenic drive was once, no doubt, a marvel, what with the way it could take you throughout the city, from downtown to La Jolla, with many stunning stops in between.

Imagine driving through La Jolla in 1965.

And today?

Along Prospect Street, it's crazy with cars. You inch along.

The late Mary Eleanor Jones, who served as president of the San Diego Woman's Club, came up with the idea of the scenic drive. Other cities, such as San Francisco, had such dedicated routes. Why not San Diego?

The drive still offers moments.

You crest Hill Street in Point Loma and -- pow! -- there's the Pacific in all its glory, even though it was a bear to get there.

In between the stop and go, the stop and go, the stop and go, you sometimes can imagine the leisurely excursions the scenic drive offered in Jones' day. You can almost see a family, in a Chevy wagon, the kids with crew cuts, loving the ride.

The scenic drive is still promoted by the city. The San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau hands out literature highlighting the scenic route.

The drive "is a beautiful way to spend a day," it says.


Want some advice? Sure, take the drive. But go on a Sunday.

And leave at 6 a.m.

Hopefully, at times, you can hit 30 mph.

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