Dining & Exploring San Diego on a Budget

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Visiting San Diego on a budget, but also want to experience the city’s largest attractions? No problem if you cut out unnecessary spending. For many visitors, eating out is one of the largest vacation expenses and buying food at all of the San Diego attractions doesn’t help. To minimize your spending while visiting local attractions, plan your dining options ahead of time.

The San Diego Zoo is probably the largest attraction in the city and comes along with a hefty price tag. Although parking is free, admission is $44 a person. Add to that any food or beverage purchase and you’ll easily spend over $55. To cut down on food costs, eat a large meal beforehand or eat out afterwards. If you know you’ll get hungry during the day, bring your own lunch or snacks. Aside from food, there are discounts for admission that are available online and some hotels near the San Diego Zoo offer discount tickets.

SeaWorld is another must see San Diego attraction that can easily exhaust a vacation budget. Just like the zoo, discounted admission tickets can be obtained either through online research or at select hotels. SeaWorld, however, has a strict outside food policy where only snack items are permitted into the park. You’ll also need to set aside $15 for parking which makes it worthwhile to take public transportation if you aren’t staying too far away.

Nothing says summer like baseball! If going to a Padre game is in your vacation plans, there are many Petco Park restaurants to enjoy during your stay. However, like all ballpark dining, it can quickly add up so consider grabbing something to eat before going into the park. There are many affordable and convenient places to grab a sandwich or something light to tie you over during the game.

Are you a budget conscious vacationer? Share your money saving vacation tips with us! As a affordable downtown San Diego hotel, we’re always looking for valuable travel information to pass onto our guests.

Explore San Diego by Visiting the City’s Top Attractions


San Diego is a large place with many things to do and see. If you want a fun way to enjoy San Diego, make your way to its most popular attractions.

  • Visit the San Diego Zoo. The zoo is the city’s most popular attraction. Situated on more than 100 acres of land in the heart of downtown San Diego, a great way to see the entire park and all its exhibits is by hopping on a bus tour. Be sure not to miss the giant pandas, the elephants, and the new zoo exhibit Koalafornia.
  • Go to SeaWorld.  This aquatic theme park has a large selection of marine animals from local and international waters.  To get an up close look at the marine life, check out one of the SeaWorld San Diego live shows. Other popular activities include dining with Shamu, dancing with Alex the Lion in the Madagascar musical or going on one of the many water rides.
  • Stop By Old Town. This is the oldest neighborhood in San Diego, making it a great place to learn about the city’s beginnings. To make the most of your visit here, take one of the Old Town San Diego tours. Also stop by the many shops in the area that feature handmade crafts, pottery and clothing.
  • Visit a beach. San Diego is known for its many scenic beaches and sandy white shores. If you want be like a local San Diegan, try taking some surfing lessons at La Jolla Shores, Pacific Beach or Mission Beach. There many schools along the water where you can sign up for lessons but advance reservations are always recommended.

Depending on your interests and who you’re traveling with, you may find additional attractions to visit to make your stay in San Diego enjoyable. Guests who want to get the most out of their San Diego vacation should stay at the Marina Inn. It is a cheap downtown San Diego hotel which offers clean, spacious rooms and is conveniently located near most of San Diego’s top attractions.

San Diego’s Military Attractions Honoring the Past and Present

San Diego has a proud military history and continues to have a strong military presence as the home of military installations including the MCAS Miramar and NAS North Island. For visitors staying at the Marina Inn in downtown who are interested in the history of San Diego, there are numerous nearby attractions that highlight the influence the military has had on the city.

The Marine Corps Recruiting Depot, located just north of downtown San Diego is largest Marine training facility on the west coast. Each year, hundreds of new Marines graduate from MCRD’s strenuous program. The Marina Inn San Diego is the preferred MCRD lodging option for proud families who come to celebrate their Marine’s achievement.

If you want to experience San Diego’s military past, a visit to the iconic USS Midway Museum is a must. This San Diego naval history museum is on the retired aircraft carrier, the USS Midway. Here, visitors can take a self-guided audio tour throughout 60 areas of the ship. The tour ends on the top of the carrier’s runway on which visitors can climb aboard renovated airplanes, jets and helicopters and view other great USS Midway exhibits.

Other locations along the Embarcadero and in Liberty Station are other great places to enjoy a bit of the city’s military history. What are your favorite military attractions? Share them with us!

How to Find The Best Deal for San Diego Rental Cars

When traveling to San Diego for the first time, the best way to explore the sites and attractions is by driving a rental car. Unfortunately for out of town guests, a rental car can be expensive. Even experienced travelers can miss out on rental car deals and end up paying more than they need to. At the Marina Inn San Diego Airport hotel with free parking, we want to help you get the most out of your vacation and offer these tips to help ensure that you don’t overpay for your rental vehicle.

  • Do research. Compare current rates on travel sites and on individual car rental websites to find the lowest price. Also be aware that there are no rental car facilities on site at the San Diego Airport, so you will want to choose a rental car company with a location that is near your airport and your hotel for maximum convenience.
  • Look for discounts. Many car rental companies offer weekend and weekly discounts, which are indicated on their main websites by a promotional or discount code. If you are a part of a nationally recognized group such as AAA or AARP, you should also inquire about any additional discounts affiliated with such groups.
  • Don’t pay for extras. Only pay for extras you’ll need in your rental. This also applies for insurance. Many auto insurance companies provide coverage for rental cars so you don’t have to pay for additional insurance unless it would make you feel more comfortable during your trip.
  • Opt for a smaller vehicle. Prices for midsized cars are the highest as they are the most popular. Rates for compact cars are less and they’ll give you better fuel economy. If you don’t have a certain number of passengers with you, opt for a smaller vehicle and enjoy additional savings.
  • Check for travel restrictions. Some car rental agencies may impose additional fees on drivers who drive into other states. These travel restrictions are not likely to be covered in the rental’s mileage allowance. Those who stay at the Marina Inn are only a couple miles from downtown attractions such as the Horton Plaza Mall. For directions to the mall, click here.
  • Return the car on time and with a full tank. Car rental companies can charge up to a day’s rental if you return your car late. If you don’t return the car with a full tank, you’ll also be required to pay an additional fee.

However, if you don’t want to hassle with the additional costs and headaches that can sometimes accompany renting a car, skip it entirely and stay at a downtown hotel. One of the benefits of a downtown San Diego hotel is that guests are located near enough to the city’s major attractions that they can either walk or take public transportation and must only hassle with an inexpensive taxi fare from the airport to their hotel! For affordable accommodations in downtown San Diego, contact the Marina Inn today.

Convenience for San Diego Conventioneers

When visiting San Diego for a convention or event, you may not have time for a lot sightseeing. However, being short on time shouldn’t deter your from enjoying everything this beautiful city has to offer. By staying at an affordable hotel in downtown San Diego, you can easily travel to various downtown attractions during your convention breaks or after your event is over for the day. The following options are some of the most popular downtown sites among guests of the Marina Inn.

If you have some time to spare, head to the Gaslamp Quarter for dining and shopping. The area is packed with hundreds of restaurants, cocktail lounges and shops ideal for spending the afternoon or evening. No matter what you’re looking for, this small sixteen square block district just outside the convention center will be able to provide you with whatever you need.

For a relaxing break, take a leisurely stroll through Balboa Park. The lush landscaping, tropical gardens and many museums are a great way to spend an afternoon. There are also various restaurants at Balboa Park and a few concessions stands where you can get something to eat while enjoying the sunny San Diego weather. Click here to learn more about the outdoor activities at Balboa Park.

A little walk north of the San Diego Convention Center will take you to another great place to explore, Seaport Village. At this quaint bay front attraction, you can grab a quick bite to eat or take a seat along water and watch the boats come and go from the harbor. There are also many specialty shops where convention goers can find one-of-a-kind souvenirs.

Although San Diego conventioneers don’t often have much time to sightsee, these nearby attractions are the perfect places for much needed breaks. For more information about the San Diego Convention Center or for hotel rates and availability, contact the Marina Inn today.

Top 3 Must Visit Neighborhoods in Downtown San Diego


Downtown San Diego is an exciting, vibrant area which encompasses a variety of interesting and distinct neighborhoods. If you’re unfamiliar with San Diego’s downtown district and want to know which communities are worth exploring, the Marina Inn in downtown San Diego offers a list of the top three neighborhoods in the area.

  1. The Gaslamp Quarter. The most energizing, busiest neighborhood in downtown San Diego is the Gaslamp Quarter. It is this community that is at the heart of San Diego’s nightlife scene, being home to hundreds of bars and a variety of nightclubs. The Gaslamp neighborhood, which is two blocks wide and eight blocks long, is also packed with some of San Diego’s finest restaurants.
  2. Little Italy. As the Gaslamp is home to San Diego’s nightlife, the Little Italy neighborhood is home to San Diego’s most authentic Italian restaurants. Little Italy is not only a place to savor great food, but it is a peek into genuine Italian traditions. In Little Italy, you can explore museums and beautiful church grounds as well as peruse the neighborhood’s many fine art galleries. Many cultural and community celebrations take place in the Little Italy neighborhood, including the popular Little Italy Mercado farmer’s market that occurs every Saturday.
  3. Seaport Village. Why visit Seaport Village? This quiet, waterfront community features a collection of quaint shops and dessert vendors, something for individuals of all ages to enjoy. Located on the San Diego Bay, Seaport Village gives visitors scenic views of the bay and Coronado Bridge while they relax and enjoy a light meal or their favorite sweets. The shops and restaurants of Seaport Village are connected by narrow, cobblestone paths and feature a central, open dining area where visitors can catch live musical performances.

Whether you’re looking for a night on the town or a lazy afternoon lunch by the water, there’s a community in downtown San Diego for you. Click here for more information about neighborhoods near San Diego’s Little Italy, Seaport Village and the Gaslamp Quarter.

Travel to All of San Diego from One Convenient Location






With so many attractions located in or near downtown San Diego, visitors who stay at a downtown hotel like the Marina Inn, have easy access to the city’s most unique and exciting sites.

If you’ve booked a room at a downtown hotel, you can walk to exciting attractions including the Embarcadero, Little Italy and the Gaslamp Quarter. Downtown San Diego is compact, meaning you can enjoy a variety of activities in one day, just by walking along the harbor. For instance, after watching boats at the San Diego Bay, you can easily tour the USS Midway Museum, check out the shops at Seaport Village and end the day a restaurant with live music in the Gaslamp Quarter! Even an attraction located across the downtown district, such as the San Diego Zoo, is a five minute taxi, trolley, bus or car ride away.

You’ll also have easy access to other San Diego attractions that aren’t in the downtown area. Within 15 minutes, you can visit Old Town, the malls in Mission Valley, Pacific Beach, SeaWorld and Del Mar. Within 30 minutes you can enjoy the fine gaming at an east county casino or go hiking in the scenic mountains. Everything is so close to downtown that you can even take a bus or a trolley from downtown San Diego and still easily and quickly get to your tourist destination.

Besides being a few minutes from popular sites, guests of the Marina Inn are conveniently located within 2 minutes of the San Diego International Airport.  This is great for international travelers arriving at the San Diego Airport who are unfamiliar with the area or those who are not planning on renting a car during their stay.

Interested in staying at the Marina Inn San Diego? Contact a Reservation Manager today and learn how much you can save by staying at our hotel!

Celebrate the Traditions of San Diego

A couple weeks ago, we celebrated the traditions of America with the Fourth of July. On Independence Day, we remembered our nation’s founding and the sacrifice paid for our freedoms. While the Fourth of July is a single day where we observe the nation’s past, the city of San Diego is also home to many traditions that can be celebrated any day of the year.

There is no greater place to observe San Diego’s Spanish and Old Western heritage than in Old Town. The area which was first discovered by Spanish explorers later become a home to settlers and now is a historic piece of San Diego. From museums chronicling San Diego’s early beginnings to Mexican restaurants offering the best tortillas, visitors can get a firsthand look into this city’s colorful past.

San Diego is also a military town and is proud to be home to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. The history of MCRD is a large part of what the military installation stands for today. Most families visit for Marine graduation as the MCRD is responsible for the recruitment and training of thousands of new Marines each year. In addition to the MCRD, other San Diego military sights to see include the USS Midway Museum, the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, and the Cabrillo National Monument.

Another great way to explore a bit of San Diego’s history is by staying at the Marina Inn hotel in downtown San Diego. Guests of the Marina Inn are in close proximity to the historic Gaslamp Quarter. While the Gaslamp has undergone revitalization efforts and is home to newly constructed high rises and condos, much of the downtown district has been preserved to pay tribute to its past. The streets are lined with buildings from the Victorian era and the infamous archway still marks the entrance of downtown, signifying the continued efforts toward redeveloping the area.

Do you know of any other historic sites in San Diego? Share them with us!

Downtown Dining Outside the Gaslamp Quarter


The downtown district is overflowing with options for dining out. Whether you are craving a classic American meal or are interested in Asian or Indian inspired cuisine, you can be sure to find it in Gaslamp Quarter. However, if you’re feeling adventurous or are just looking to try something new, there are a variety of dining options outside of the Gaslamp that are still conveniently located in Downtown San Diego.

One of our favorite dining destinations is Balboa Park. After spending a day exploring the many museums, art galleries and tropical gardens, visit one of the dozen restaurants and cafes that can be found on the park’s grounds. Whether you are looking for a snack for the kids, a casual lunch, or are interested in a first-class dining experience, Balboa Park has everything you need, all conveniently in one place. For help planning your day, click here for our recommended 1-day Balboa Park itinerary for families.

Another great dining destination is Seaport Village. Situated along the water, the area is home to many restaurants that offer fantastic views of the San Diego Bay. On most evenings, Seaport Village is less crowded than the Gaslamp and dining options are just as plentiful. Stop by one of the four full-service restaurants which serve everything from specialty seafood to premier steaks. There are also inexpensive Seaport Village dining options where you can order your meal and eat outside as the sun sets.

Just up the coast from Seaport Village is Little Italy which is a favorite among travelers and vacationers. A meal in Little Italy is sure to transport you to Europe as many restaurants are family owned and serve authentic Italian appetizers, main courses and desserts. Guests who stay at a hotel in Downtown San Diego near Little Italy are able to take advantage of the delectable restaurants of the area, as well as the culture that exudes from the shops, museums and art galleries.

No matter where you decide to dine in San Diego, you are sure to enjoy your meal. Remember, the summer seasons are peak tourist seasons so if you know where you want to dine ahead of time, call and make reservations to ensure you are seated at your preferred time!

Visitor’s Guide to Downtown San Diego

The downtown district is one of the most popular and frequented tourist destinations in San Diego. With countless activities to enjoy, a variety of world-class restaurants and one of a kind shops and boutiques, it is a hotspot for vacationing couples and families. If you are unfamiliar with the downtown area, the Marina Inn in downtown San Diego offers some tips for your trip.

Upon your arrival at the San Diego Airport, you have many options for how to get downtown. You can either take the bus which will be less than $3.00 and should take you no more than 20 minutes. There is also a taxi kiosk over the sky bridge just outside the airport. Taxis are lined up no matter what time of day, and fare will be $10-$15 depending on what part of downtown you are going to. If you are planning on renting a car, it is important that you know there are no rental facilities on site at the airport. For more information about rental cars at the San Diego Airport, click here.

In downtown San Diego, you have many options for hotels. The most expensive hotels will be located in the Gaslamp Quarter and in the few blocks just outside the Gaslamp Quarter. These hotels are often luxury hotels and also charge additional daily rates for parking in their private lots as downtown parking is often difficult to find. Other more affordable options include the East Village, Core-Columbia and the popular Little Italy district.

If you are looking for things to do, there is no shortage of activities and attractions in downtown San Diego. Some fun downtown places for families include the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, the USS Midway Museum and the Children’s museum. There are also many boat, ferry and whale watching tours that leave from the bay if your family enjoys the water. For nightlife, Little Italy has a wide selection of authentic Italian restaurants and bakeries, and the Gaslamp Quarter is overflowing with dining options, as well as bars and nightclubs. If you plan on going to the downtown district on a Friday or Saturday night, you may want to consider a hotel near the Gaslamp Quarter bars to avoid the need to drive and park.

For more information about the Gaslamp Quarter, contact the Marina Inn today. We offer some of the lowest rates for hotels in downtown San Diego and have a selection of spacious rooms and suites for our guests to choose from.

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