San Diego long ago shed its reputation as a scruffy province of surfers and military lifers. But in the last decade it has developed into a cosmopolitan city with, among other things, superior golf and vibrant nightlife. Torrey Pines in nearby La Jolla is grooming itself for the 2008 U.S. Open, yet it’s still a reasonably affordable municipal course. Downtown San Diego, once hard-bitten, is sprouting gorgeous lofts and artsy boutiques. It takes only thirty or forty minutes on the light-rail Tijuana Trolley to reach to the blossoming art capital of Baja California. And the Port of San Diego still houses the largest naval fleet in the world, lending a whiff of brine to the air and giving the town its heady amalgam of grit and romance.
A three-and-a-half-hour Hornblower Cruise (888-467-6256, hornblower.com) on the bay may sound tame, but it passes some dramatic hardware, such as the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier that served for forty-seven years from World War II to the First Gulf War. If you sail from December through March, you may see one of the estimated twenty-five thousand gray whales that doff their dorsals cruising past San Diego’s coast.