20:56 PM

California dreaming: A quick adventure to San Diego

Alaska Airlines now offers a daily nonstop flight between TPA and SAN, giving TPA's C.J. Johnson more time to explore this sunny destination.


Say hello to sunny Southern California! Alaska Airlines recently launched daily nonstop flights between Tampa Bay and San Diego, adding to their growing roster of options available at TPA.

IMG_2502We recently sent our Communications Specialist, C.J. Johnson, on a trip to explore the second-largest city in California. C.J. manages TPA’s social media accounts and is an avid traveler, so he was happy to share his experiences in San Diego. 

From check-in to take-off, an easy experience

I couldn't contain my excitement when I got the chance to explore San Diego via Alaska Airlines' new nonstop service between TPA and SAN. California is one of my all-time favorite destinations and I eagerly embraced the opportunity to trade the Gulf Coast for the sunny shores of the West Coast.

With the addition this year of a nonstop route to SAN, Alaska Airlines expanded their West Coast offerings to five destinations from TPA. Alaska Airlines is part of the Oneworld Alliance, and the partnership makes flying with Alaska Airlines even more appealing because of the reciprocal travel benefits for people like me who have status on a partner airline.

The check-in process with Alaska was super easy – within 20 minutes, I had obtained my boarding pass, breezed through security and was settling into my spot at the American Airlines Admirals Club in TPA's Airside F. 

The convenience of having a nonstop flight to the West Coast added to the thrill of the trip. No layovers, just a straight shot from Tampa Bay to the Pacific Coast – 2,000 miles away!– in about five hours. The flight left in the early evening and arrived in San Diego around 8 p.m. 

A special livery

One distinctive note about my particular flight is that it was aboard one of Alaska's special aircraft, adorned with the X̱áat Ḵwáani Salmon Livery (a livery is the color scheme and design on the exterior of an aircraft). Alaska Airlines said this unique livery in the Alaskan Tlingit language represents the spiritual connection between people and the vital role salmon play in our environment. 

The onboard experience

IMG_1167Being a bit tall, I snagged an emergency exit row seat that provided ample legroom, making the cross-country journey exceptionally comfortable. 

The crew's phenomenal service during the flight left a lasting impression. Their attentiveness kept the trip comfortable as they offered a delightful array of refreshments and snacks. 

I also purchased the WiFi package, which was only $8 for the duration of the flight. The internet connection was more than fast enough for me to keep up with social media and email. 

After touching down in San Diego, I picked up a super cool Jeep Wrangler as my rental car and took the short drive over to my hotel in the city's historic Gaslamp Quarter to prepare for a jam-packed day of exploration.

A morning adventure in Balboa Park

With my body still on East Coast time, I woke up quite early the next morning to see the city bathed in the early morning sun. After a quick breakfast, my first stop was Communal Coffee, a charming spot housed in a renovated Airstream trailer – a dream for a coffee enthusiast like me that provided just the right amount of caffeine I needed to get my day going.

A short drive later, I parked and began to explore Balboa Park. This massive complex features stunning architecture and a botanical garden that easily warrants a full day of exploration. And while I was limited on time, I was able to marvel at the sights and snag lots of photos.

From there, I walked over to the world-renowned San Diego Zoo, hopping on a double-decker bus for a 35-minute ride through the whole facility. It was a delight to visit, with exhibits featuring everything from lions to giraffes to elephants and more. The Zoo spans 100 acres and houses more than 3,500 animals, so there's no shortage of amazing things to see. 

Over the river and across the bridge

Wrapping up the zoo adventure, I hopped back in my Jeep and drove across the Coronado Bridge to the legendary Hotel del Coronado on the peninsula in San Diego Bay. This historic and iconic beachfront resort is known for its stunning Victorian architecture and grand seaside setting. Established in 1888, "The Del" has welcomed dignitaries, celebrities and guests from around the world, offering a timeless blend of luxury, charm and breathtaking ocean views.

After renting a bicycle from Little Sam's Island & Beach Fun nearby, I pedaled along the Pacific, savoring the fantastic views and the fresh ocean breeze.

Before returning to downtown, I made a pit stop at Better Buzz for another dose of caffeine. Their Snickerdoodle Latte, a new-to-me combination of vanilla espresso and spiced brown sugar, was to die for, although I didn't take time to sample any of the cafe's food offerings. 

Postcards and sea lions 

After crossing back over the Coronado Bridge, I visited the famous San Diego mural at 4223 30th Street. For an Instagram junkie like me, this gem provided the perfect photo opportunity. 

Heading north on “The 5,” as Californians refer to their interstate highways, I soon reached La Jolla Cove, known for its cliffs and the very vocal (and smelly) Pacific harbor seals and California sea lions. Despite the slightly unpleasant odor, the spectacle of scores of marine mammals along the shores was a reminder of nature's wonders. Tourists gawked and snapped photo after photo as these creatures barked and basked in the late afternoon sun. 

A magical way to end the day

To cap off my busy day, I rolled down the windows of my Jeep for a drive to Sunset Cliffs Park to catch the sunset. These cliffs provide spectacular views out over the Pacific, periodically punctuated by high-flying sea spray. A word of caution: be mindful of the edge of the cliffs, as there is no guardrail or safety net. As I sat a safe distance from the edge and watched the sun make its way to the horizon, I was joined by dozens of people who also wanted to take in the sight. It had been quite a while since I'd taken the time to watch the sun slip out of view, and this moment turned out to be one of my favorites of the entire trip. 

Before calling it a night, I couldn't resist a visit to In-N-Out Burger, a West Coast favorite of mine, for a double double with fries. When I arrived back at my hotel, I went for a wandering walk around the Gaslamp Quarter. This vibrant part of town is filled with live music and late-night fun – think Ybor City, but with a California vibe.

Back to Tampa Bay

When it came time to catch my return flight to TPA, Alaska Airlines once again delivered a seamless and hassle-free experience. I had ordered a meal ahead of time and, shortly after takeoff, my selection of a cheese and fruit platter was delivered. We touched down in Tampa Bay just a few hours later. 

The trip was remarkable, and I would return tomorrow if I could. I can’t wait to enjoy San Diego’s vibrant charm again. With Alaska’s new nonstop service linking the city to Tampa Bay, it won’t take me very long before I’m ready to go back.

If you're ready to embark on your own adventure to Southern California, don't hesitate to book a trip today by clicking here