Cruisin’ the Mission Beach Boardwalk
by John Rogers, Enlightened Explorer Travel
The Mission Beach boardwalk is the heart and soul of San Diego’s vibrant beach community. Flowing like a river, churning with energy and activity, the boardwalk provides inexpensive fun and is a great way to relax and enjoy the freedom of just hanging at the beach.
A great day on the Mission Beach boardwalk starts with a good parking spot. On summer weekends arrive early (before 10:00 a.m.) and you will have no trouble securing a spot close to the boardwalk — a good thing if you need to return to the car for food, extra clothing, etc. See the easy directions below.
Depending on your mood and level of energy, there are many ways to enjoy the boardwalk. Some folks simply enjoy finding a nice spot to sit, usually on the wall adjoining the beach. From here you can take in the show, a non-stop parade of interesting characters finding the most unusual ways to express themselves. Physically challenged folks have plenty of room to hang out or they can cruise the boardwalk if they have the means to do so.
Mission Beach Rentals
I like to start a boardwalk cruise near the main lifeguard tower located on Ventura Place, next to Belmont Park (roller coaster). The energy here is so much fun with all kinds of interesting people doing interesting stuff. Sometimes I will take a few moments just to soak up the atmosphere, get in the boardwalk frame of mind. This is also a great location to hook up with rentals like roller blades, skateboards, and beach cruisers (bicycles). There are several rental shops on Ventura Place and a couple more on Mission Boulevard just a block away. Rent equipment by the hour, half day, or full day. Two of our favorites are “Hamels” on Ventura and “Cheap Rentals” on Mission Boulevard.
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Most of my visits involve skateboarding, rollerblading, or cycling. The boardwalk now has designated lanes for all activities. Follow the lane guidelines and nobody will know if you’re a local or tourist. On busy days it can help to communicate when passing. As with life, common courtesy applies on the boardwalk.
Riding the Boardwalk
For a more laid-back ride, head south from the main lifeguard tower to South Mission Beach. The boardwalk passes beachfront homes and condos, ending at the South Mission Beach parking lot. From here you can ride east, away from the beach, crossing Mission Boulevard to get to the Mission Bay riding path. The Mission Bay path will take you back to the main lifeguard tower (you will have to cross Mission Boulevard at Ventura Place).
From the main lifeguard tower you can also ride north on the boardwalk to Pacific Beach. This is a good choice if you want to grab a bite to eat or maybe get a beer at a beachside pub. Pacific Beach has lots of restaurants and shopping, a great place to take a break between rides. The boardwalk ends just north of Pacific Beach at Palisades Park (Law Street Park). Here you will find a nice grassy area overlooking the ocean. Take a break, lie on the grass and enjoy the view. There is also a public restroom here. When you’re ready, return the way you came to the main lifeguard tower.
Remember, you can cruise or sit at the boardwalk as long as you like — it’s free. Always use sunscreen, even on overcast days. And don’t forget, the longer you cruise, the happier you get; your troubles never seem to catch up.
From most of San Diego, take Highway 8 west to the Mission Bay Drive exit. Turn right at the stoplight and cross the San Diego River floodway bridge. Continue past the Sea World Drive exit and watch for signs to the West Mission Bay Drive exit on the right. Take the West Mission Bay Drive exit and continue to the second stop light (Gleason Road). At Gleason Road, turn left or right into one of the large parking lots; both are convenient to the boardwalk. Families might prefer the lot on the left because there is a children’s playground nearby. Find a convenient spot to park and simply walk toward the big roller coaster, located just steps from the boardwalk.
John Rogers, the
author of this article, was born and raised in San Diego. He spends
much of his free time exploring the beaches and open spaces of California,
especially those described on this site.
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