Just outside of the city of San Diego is Coronado, a family-friendly island town full of history, ghosts, sailors, and good food. Here are a few things to know before you go.
1. Hotel Del Coronado
It seems that many things on this tiny island town revolve around the lore of the grand Hotel Del Coronado. This massive beachfront resort is one of the oldest of its kind in the United States, celebrating i's 125th anniversary this year. It's been visited by 11 presidents, and film productions have ventured south from Hollywood to film at the resort since 1901; it played an iconic role in the classic 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon. Sure, during the heights of the tourist season, this place can be a madhouse, but locals and visitors alike swarm the grounds for dinner, ice cream, shopping, lounging, or the decadent reservation-only Sunday brunch buffet.
Of course any mention of the Hotel Del would be amiss without mention of the resort's most famous ghost, Kate Morgan (among the other storied spirits that supposedly keep a long-term residency at the hotel). She took her own life in 1892 at the hotel, supposedly after being jilted by her husband or lover. Her spirit lives on in the general eeriness and ghoulish pranks that some report upon setting foot in the hotel. If you're into things that go bump in the night, try downloading one of those ghost-hunting phone apps and take a trip around the hotel grounds. You just might meet someone — or something — new.
2. For the History Buff
Coronado has quite the history, from its involvement in early train travel to some of its early inhabitants and the famous visitors it has enticed. But Coronado played a key role in America's naval aeronautical development, starting with World War I. The Coronado Historical Association and Museum of History and Art is a quick, informative stop during with a collection of photographs, military paraphernalia, garments, and other artifacts that tell the story of life on the island.
3. Running Along the Shore or Go Paddle-Boarding
For those of us who can't leave home without a pair of running sneakers, a jaunt down the coastline at sunrise (OK, let's be real, maybe an hour after sunrise), Silver Strand State Beach provides a peaceful two-mile strip. If you wake up early enough, you might find yourself running alongside some of the Navy's best, who also use the beach to train. If running isn't quite your thing but you're interested in an outdoor workout, try renting a stand-up paddle board from the Loews Coronado Bay Resort and puttering around the calm waters of the resort's marina. Or, just say screw it and lounge through a romantic, 50-minute gondola ride.
4. Coronado Brewery
Look, "don't ask, don't tell" is over. If you want to bag yourself a sailor, grab a cold one at the Coronado Brewing Company, the island's only brewery. You may be saying "only?!" but the city of San Diego is home to dozens of breweries, making it one of the hottest cities in the U.S. for craft beer lovers. This friendly, family-owned brewery and pub is a favorite among the local Navy personnel for a hearty lunch and tasty suds.
5. The Sand Castle Man
Coronado beach is a 1.5-mile stretch of beautiful, sandy coastline, perfect for a relaxing, refreshing, and fun day at the beach. The sand, deposited northward from the exquisite shores of Mexico, provides a soft surface for lying out as well as the perfect material for the Sand Castle Man. If you're addicted to the Travel Channel, you've probably seen the Sand Castle Man, Bill Pavlacka, who creates a new structure each day. Typically, he sets up camp on the beach right out in front of the Hotel Del.
6. Culinary Hot Spot
The hip Leroy's (top) has a fantastically cultivated gastropub-inspired menu, while the Hotel Del's swanky 1500 Ocean (bottom) offers high-end farm-to-table dining headed by Chef de Cuisine Robert Hohmann. Il Fornaio is great for a delectable sweet treat, and Coronado Brewing Company's menu offers satisfying and delicious food like the Lobster Mac'n Cheese or Cilantro Chicken to go down with their suds.
7. The Baum House
If you're truly a Friend of Dorothy visiting this island, a trip would be incomplete without checking out the haunts of Dorothy's creator, L. Frank Baum. The writer often fled the Midwest for the Pacific coast, making the Hotel Del his residence of choice in 1904, and became a frequent visitor through 1910. During that time, he published three books in the Oz series: Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz (1908), The Road to Oz (1909), and The Emerald City (1910). He frequented the island so often that he eventually purchased a lovely blue and yellow home in Star Park Circle. The house is modest compared to some of the nearby estates, but as Dorothy said, "There's no place like home."