Northbound: Travels to Tijuana

Amidst all the rancor over Measure A in Carlsbad, I forgot to mention I traveled to Tijuana recently.

Like most North County residents, I haven’t visited TJ in years. My lapse has nothing to do with concerns about personal safety; in fact I travel a few times a year to other Baja spots (Mexicali, Ensenada). Reasons to travel to Tijuana simply hadn’t popped onto my radar, until now.

A friend recently opened up a brewery tasting room in an area called Plaza Fiesta, and had invited me to come visit. Mexican hospitality is legendary, so I couldn’t pass up the offer. A few articles in the U.S. have been written about Plaza Fiesta as an up-and-coming craft beer destination in Tijuana’s Zona Rio district, so, as a craft beer enthusiast, I was intrigued. I recruited a San Diego friend to join me, and we headed out into the unknown on an early Friday afternoon.

From Carlsbad Village, I took a southbound Coaster train to the Santa Fe Train Depot, then transferred over to the southbound Trolley Blue Line to the San Ysidro border crossing, in all taking a little under two hours (total transportation costs: $8.50). We walked across the border, and used Uber to get to our hotels and later destinations.

The devalued Mexican peso is a prime reason to visit — everything is a bargain by American standards. Upon a friend’s recommendation, I booked a no-frills room at the Hotel Fiesta Tijuana for $28 a night. Craft beers were generally $2 to $2.50 each, and food was equally cheap. In all, I spent less than $100 on my overnight trip. Try to match that in downtown San Diego.

There’s nothing quite like Plaza Fiesta in San Diego — certainly not in North County. Thousands of young people milling through 13 Baja brewery tasting rooms, as well as other bars and restaurants, until all hours of the nights. We were among the handful of Americans there, but it didn’t matter — everyone was friendly, and many of the servers spoke English (though a basic understanding of Spanish is recommended). It was a late night for us, to say the least. My top picks to visit at Plaza Fiesta are Bad Brew Bar, Fauna, and Insurgente.

The next day, we went on an impromptu walking tour of Tijuana, ending up at Mamut Brewery, which is right off of Revolucion in the Zona Centro district. Its location was hidden — there was no sign or door, just a street address we knew was correct. We took a chance and headed up a colorful staircase, which led to a sprawling tasting room, complete with patio, numerous rooms and bars. Among the beers we sampled, we enjoyed the Mamut White IPA the most (recommend).

With staycations now the rage, why not do something different and head to Tijuana for a night this spring? It’s not a bad idea to have street addresses and print-outs/smart phone photos of your destinations, but besides that it’s impossible to get lost, especially with a smart phone with a data plan. I look forward to visiting again with more friends, and I encourage all of my North County readers to explore the unknown. You’ll be glad you did.

Travelling to Tijuana is safe and easy. Coaster and Trolley schedules can be found online, and overnight vehicle parking is available on the American side of the San Ysidro border crossing. Hotel Fiesta Tijuana is bookable online at Expedia.com. More information on Plaza Fiesta and Mamut Brewery can be found on their Facebook pages, https://www.facebook.com/plazafiestatijuana and https://www.facebook.com/MamutBreweryCo.

 

Vince Vasquez is a think tank analyst based in Torrey Pines. He is a Carlsbad resident.

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