Heading west over the Coronado Bay Bridge, the view encompasses a sleepy little beach community complete with shady parks, sandy beaches, Victorian architecture and quite possibly some of the greenest grass you'll ever see. Welcome to Whitebread Island. Just what is it about this peninsula paradise that makes Coronado living seem so perfect? It's probably got something to do with the millions of dollars required to buy a home here, the conservative military influence, the steady stream of tourists and the sizable amount of related revenue this tiny city invests in maintaining its chaste image. Reality or illusion, we choose to buy into the magical-isle spin and pretend that the grass really is greener on the other side.
One of the coolest of Coronado's many cool spots, the stretch of shoreline that runs from Tidelands Park (2000 Mullinix Drive) to the Ferry Landing Marketplace (1201 First St.) offers astounding views of the neon-fringed downtown skyline as well as the perfect spot to watch an endless procession of yachts, freighters and tugs cruise past.
There are also several nearby restaurants worth checking out, mostly due to their views and proximity to the water. The Bay Beach Cafe is a decent lunch spot in the marketplace that features seafood-coconut calamari, anyone?-and also serves breakfast on the weekends. Next door, Spiros Gyros has cheap Greek eats. Fancier and more expensive alternatives include the slightly tacky Peohe's for sushi and Hawaiian/Asian seafood specialties and Il Fornaio (1333 First St.) for regional Italian fare-both great places to take a date.
As Coronado's main drag, Orange Avenue is the only place to be, and there's no better place along this palm-lined pathway to kick back and enjoy a cold beer on a sunny California day than the patio of the Coronado Brewing Company (170 Orange Ave.). With about a dozen original microbrews on-tap-the Mermaid's Red Ale is delicious-a well-priced menu and happy hour stretching from 2 to 6 p.m., there's really no reason to ever leave. But if your feet get itchy and your thirst still needs quenching, try The Little Club (132 Orange Ave.), a dark hole-in-the-wall lounge where the bartenders pour rigid drinks and perform magic on Saturdays. Also, a few blocks west, Mc P's (1107 Orange Ave.) is an Irish pub that always draws a healthy crowd and features live music every single night of the week.
The most important meal of the day is given the respect it deserves in Coronado, evident by the numerous greasy spoons-some have been in business since the early 1900s-lining Orange Avenue. Topping the list of worthy breakfast joints is the Night and Day Café (847 Orange Ave), which can be a tough place to land a seat, with just 13 stools at the counter. Fortunately, as the name suggests, the cafe is open 24 hours a day and is consequently the only place in town to satiate the late-night munchies.
Other solid options include Clayton's Coffee Shop (979 Orange Ave.) and Stretch's Café (943 Orange), which also serves inexpensive homemade sandwiches and vegetarian chow for lunch and dinner.
More substantial fare can be found at Danny's Palm Bar & Grill (965 Orange Ave.). Home of the one-pound grand slam burger, nobody leaves here hungry. Other notable Coronado restaurants include Swadee Thai (1001 C Ave.), The Fish Company (1007 C Ave.) and Bino's European Coffees and Crepes (1120 Adella St.). But if you're really trying to make an impression and have money to burn, Chez Loma (1132 Loma Ave.) is consistently rated as one of SoCal's best French restaurants, and the Hotel del Coronado (1500 Orange Ave.) offers three dining choices in a uniquely opulent setting.
Great food aside, the real reason to venture across the bridge is to spend the day at one of America's premier beaches. Wide and non-crowded, Central Beach (Ocean Boulevard) is the perfect place for a game of touch football with friends or to watch the sun sink into the Pacific with someone special. But the highlight here is located at the northwest end, where locals bring their dogs to romp. Simply put, it's the happiest place in all of San Diego. There's just something about watching a pack of pooches run, swim and sniff butts that makes all that's wrong with this world of ours seem right. Maybe it's how silly wet dogs look or the way they chase a ball into the surf with frenetic glee, but it's hard to resist getting down on all fours and joining in.
If the beach or the dogs aren't your style, catch a Lamb's Players Theatre production at the Resident Theatre (1142 Orange Ave.), relax in the shade at Spreckels Park (Orange Ave.), cruise the 25-mile long Bayshore Bikeway along the Silver Strand or poach a poolside deckchair at the Hotel Del.