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Think quick, pay a lot to see city

San Diego offers plenty ... if you have any money left after getting there.

By ROBERT N. JENKINS, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 21, 2003

Planning to hop on the Bucs bandwagon headed to San Diego? Better hurry.

Bring money, too.

If you didn't lock in a hotel room a few years ago, when the city was awarded Super Bowl XXXVII, and if you didn't make flight reservations at least 10 days ago, plan on staying somewhere else and driving for more than an hour to reach San Diego.

THE FLIGHT: I asked Tom Parsons, creator of the fare-tracking site, to check options from the Tampa Bay area to San Diego departing Friday.

Parsons found a $598 fare, but there are no return seats at that price until the night of Jan. 28, which would add two hotel nights to your costs.

The cheaper options are to fly to airports north of San Diego. Ranked in order of preference, these are: John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana/Orange County (about a 75-minute drive from San Diego), Ontario (about two hours) and Los Angeles International (about two hours). The last has, by far, the most flights connecting to Tampa.

Parsons found a fare of $198 to Los Angeles on American Trans Air, but seating already was limited.

The cheapest round trip to Orange County or Ontario, as of Monday, was $498, on America West. But seats at that fare to Ontario were available only for a Thursday departure.

Otherwise, the cheapest fares to these airports were $598.

STAYING THERE: The online booking site offers discounted rooms and lists more than 50 hotels in Orange County, one of the airport options. Prices start at $49 (Ramada and Days Inn).

The Web site lists the three-star Doubletree Club's two-person rooms at $64 and three-person rooms for $74.

The hotel is 1 mile from Orange County Airport and 12 miles from Disneyland.

The Web site also lists $80 rooms, sleeping up to four, at a four-star Crowne Plaza Resort. It is 1 mile from Disneyland and 90 miles from the San Diego Zoo.

EATING THERE: While you aren't staying in San Diego, you will want to prowl about one of California's largest and most interesting cities.

The renovated Gaslamp Quarter downtown runs for 16 blocks and has 153 historic buildings, most now hotels, trendy bars, shops or restaurants.

Why not figure on a meal here? Greystone (658 Fifth Ave., (619) 232-0225) has entrees starting at about $25 but is one of the city's most popular places. The menu ranges from steaks and chops to lobsters, and the wine list is notable.

Downscale and on the water is Point Loma Seafoods (2805 Emerson St., (619) 223-1109). It has everything from herring in cream to seven kinds of sushi.

Or you can pick out a lobster and enjoy the harbor view while your lobster heads to the stove. Sit at picnic tables, or take it back to the hotel.

A universally acclaimed restaurant is in a third special location. The Prado is in a Spanish Colonial building set amid fountains and landscaped terraces in lovely Balboa Park.

The park is the site of the world-famous San Diego Zoo, several museums and buildings built for two world expositions during the early 20th century.

The Prado offers Latin and Italian treatments of poultry, meat, pasta and seafood and everything from tortilla soup to wild mushroom risotto. Meals average $30-$40.

While corporations have reserved the restaurant for dinners Thursday, Friday and Saturday, you still can make it for lunch on those days. Call (619) 557-9441.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Two helpful Web sites are and The latter is the city's official site and includes information on hotel reservations, events and maps. And check the San Diego Union-Tribune (www. for Super Bowl news.

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