There are certain times when a sports schedule in a particular city lines up so well that you just gotta go. Welcome to the ESPN SportsTravel Power Weekend.
As if you needed a reason to visit sunny San Diego in March, how's this for a sports lineup: The first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament are being hosted in San Diego the same weekend as the semifinals and finals of the inaugural World Baseball Classic. Not bad, huh? Tickets are sold out, but the, ahem, secondary ticketing market should be reasonable for both events.
So slap on your eye black and write in a little "619" a la Reggie Bush (the Helix High grad's nod to his home area code), and let's get going. Here's our sample agenda for this dream sports weekend in "America's Finest City."
FRIDAY, MARCH 17
Unfortunately, the San Diego pod is on a Thursday-Saturday schedule for the NCAAs, because a Friday-Sunday pod would line up perfectly with the Saturday-Monday schedule of the World Baseball Classic. Not to worry, we still have a full weekend planned for you. Let's start with a St. Patrick's Day arrival.
Enjoy the roof-skimming ride into San Diego International Airport/Lindbergh Field, a rare big-city airport located in the heart of town. That means it's just a quick ride into downtown by cab, but you'll probably want to rent a car to take full advantage of the San Diego area. As an alternative, the San Diego Trolley (Web site) does offer reasonably extensive service throughout the area.
If you're craving green beer when you get in, go over to the Gaslamp Quarter downtown. San Diego's most popular area for nightlife is hosting ShamRock 2006 (Web site), a block party that draws around 20,000 people and features plenty of Irish music and entertainment. Entry fee is $20 and the party runs from 4 p.m. to midnight.
SATURDAY, MARCH 18
Load up for a big day of sports with a classic hearty breakfast at Hob Nob Hill (2271 First Ave., Web site), a San Diego institution since 1944. Most everything is baked on site, so make sure you save room for a pecan roll or muffin after gorging on the basics.
With the World Baseball Classic semifinals scheduled for noon and 7 p.m. PT, you'll have to skip the early hardball (the Dominican Republic and Venezuela are the favorites to meet in that matchup) to catch the college hoops doubleheader.
Attending an NCAA Tournament doubleheader has to be on the must-do list of any self-respecting U.S. sports fan. Head up to Cox Arena (5500 Canyon Crest Drive, Web site) on the campus of San Diego State University, about nine miles northeast of downtown, to take in the Great American Sporting Event. A pair of teams will advance on from these second-round games to the Sweet 16.
Tickets are often easier to find for the second round than the first. More tickets are on the market because of fans who skip town after their teams fall in the first round. Good luck.
Times for the NCAA Tournament games are not set until after the matchups are determined, but the odds are that you'll have to hightail it downtown to make it to PETCO Park for the first pitch.
Perfect time for a quick stop to grab the signature San Diego taste: the fish taco.
Rubio's (Web site) has been offering its soft taco filled with beer-battered fish, cabbage, salsa and a yogurt-mayo white sauce (don't forget the wedge of lime!) since 1983, after founder Ralph Rubio brought the idea back from a spring break trip to Baja.
The original fish-taco purveyor in the area is also the most ubiquitous. Rubio's can be found at more than 40 locations in the San Diego area, including, truth be told, at PETCO Park. So perhaps the proper course of action is to sample one at a spot favored by locals, such as El Zarape (4642 Park Blvd., (619) 692-1652) -- where the fish tacos are just 99 cents! -- and then conduct your own taste test at the ballpark with a Rubio's World Famous.
Let's go to the ballpark for the second semifinal of the World Baseball Classic. The top two teams in Pool 1, the United States' half of the bracket, will meet in this 7 p.m. PT matchup. Japan and Mexico join the U.S. as favorites to make it to this semi.
PETCO Park is located near the Gaslamp Quarter at 100 Park Blvd. ESPN.com's Jim Caple broke down everything and anything you'd want to know about Mission Field, er, PETCO, in 2004 as part of Page 2's ballpark tour.
How much energy do you have left after that full day of sports?
Just want to chill, shoot some pool and catch the highlights from the day's tournament action? Nick's at the Beach (809 Thomas Ave., Web site) is a casual restaurant/sports bar that's, you know, at the beach. Which is not a bad place to end the day.
Up for some nightlife? Just a couple blocks from PETCO, Stingaree (454 Sixth Ave., Web site) is the hottest new club downtown, boasting three stories and 22,000 square feet of partying Californians. You'll need $20 for the cover and probably sharper clothes than you wore to the ballpark.
The Bitter End (770 Fifth Ave., Web site) offers three more trendy floors of drinks and dancing. Never to be out-trendied, the W Hotel (421 West B St., Web site) counters with a rooftop bar called Beach, replete with private cabanas and a heated sand floor.
Really up for some nightlife? Dude, Tijuana's less than 20 miles away from downtown, just a trolley ride away...
SUNDAY, MARCH 19
You know, the weather's beautiful, you really should hit the beach, maybe go for a run ... Oh, OK, who are we kidding: It's tournament time, baby! Get your butt and your bracket over to Seau's (1640 Camino Del Rio N., #1376, Web site) and engorge yourself on hours of madness. Junior may have left the Chargers, but he still has a mammoth sports bar in town with a 12x14-foot projection-screen TV as its centerpiece.
Eventually, it'll be time to venture back out into civilization. If you were with family or significant other, we might suggest that this is the time to visit a quintessential San Diego attraction such as SeaWorld or the San Diego Zoo. This, however, is a sports trip, my friend, so you're heading over to the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum in Balboa Park (2131 Pan American Plaza, Web site). Put on your baby-blue No. 19 Lance Alworth throwback and pay homage to San Diego-bred superstars such as Ted Williams, Marcus Allen and Bill Walton.
If you insist on sprinkling a little culture into the weekend, Sunday night would seem to be a good time to attend a show at The Old Globe (1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park, Web site), one of the nation's most well-respected regional theaters. Of note is "The Times They Are A-Changin'," a musical based, improbably enough, on the songs of Bob Dylan.
Old Town San Diego, a few miles north of downtown, is considered the birthplace of California because it's the site of the state's first permanent Spanish settlement. Today, it's something of a historic theme park, with parks and historic sites interspersed with shopping and restaurants. The lively Old Town Mexican Café (2489 San Diego Ave., Web site) is a perennial favorite of both locals and tourists. If you prefer more of a gourmet meal, El Agave Tequileria (2304 San Diego Ave., Web site) is a highly regarded "nouvelle Mexican" restaurant which includes six different mole sauces among its specialties.
MONDAY, MARCH 20
How about taking advantage of great weather and a Monday off to play a round of golf? You can't beat Torrey Pines Golf Course (11480 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, Web site), about 15 miles north of downtown in La Jolla. Set on cliffs overlooking the Pacific, Torrey Pines is a municipal course which will host the 2008 U.S. Open and is the home of the Buick Invitational.
Torrey Pines' tee times are divvied out seven days in advance in a telephone lottery at 7 p.m. PT. If you want to play on Monday the 20th, for instance, call (619) 570-1234 at 7 p.m. PT on Monday the 13th. Good luck.
Standard green fees for visitors on weekdays are $75 on the North course and $115 on the South course. [Note: the South course is scheduled to be aerated from March 8 to April 8; the North course from March 22 to April 22.]
If your lottery bid is unsuccessful, go to our San Diego City Guide for information on other top golf courses in the area.
If you're not a golfer, but still want some activity, Torrey Pines State Reserve (Web site) is a great place for a hike, located just north of the golf course on similarly gorgeous coastal bluffs.
You might as well continue your day in style in La Jolla with lunch on the Ocean Terrace Bistro at George's at the Cove (1250 Prospect St., Web site), consistently rated as one of the San Diego area's finest restaurants. Even if you don't make it to Torrey Pines, it's worth the trip up north to La Jolla for the seasonal menus and breathtaking views at George's.
The rooftop Ocean Terrace Bistro is a more informal and inexpensive alternative to the fine dining restaurant downstairs (which is open for dinner only). Various sandwiches and seafood dishes are available for lunch, and the black bean soup with smoked chicken and broccoli is a favorite.
Go back to the hotel and rest up a little bit, because it's almost time for a main event: the finals of the World Baseball Classic (6 p.m. PT). A meeting of the two favorites -- the United States and the Dominican Republic -- would be a dream matchup.
The Americans would try to counter the Dominicans' stacked lineup of Miguel Tejada, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz and Alfonso Soriano with arms like Roger Clemens, Jake Peavy and Dontrelle Willis. But don't count out the Venezuelans, reigning Caribbean Series champs whose pitching depth includes Johan Santana, Freddy Garcia and Francisco Rodriguez.
Unwind and finish your weekend with some prime rib at Bully's (2401 Camino Del Rio S., Web site), a steakhouse with an old-school feel. Open since 1967, Bully's is a perfect postgame spot not only because it's open until 12:15 a.m., but also because its atmosphere is more casual than a traditional steakhouse -- and its prices are more reasonable, too.
Toast your Power Weekend of sports delights and, if you're visiting from northern climes, say goodbye to summertime for now and get ready to return to March.