A great way to explore a city is to take a guided tour with a local and what better way to do that than walking from restaurant to restaurant trying the local food. When we heard about this walking food tour in San Jose it ticked all the boxes for an authentic Mexican experience.
Whilst in Mexico we wanted to explore the local streets and try the food the locals eat, but were also cautious and hesitant as to where we could explore safely. With the help of a local, in our case Francisco, we were guided through a culinary journey sampling tacos, tamales, ice-cream and more at local restaurants and street vendors that we otherwise would not have known existed.
In fact on our first night in San Jose we had visited the same local area the tour took us through but had stopped one street short of all the great restaurants as we had questioned the safety of the area. If only we had done this tour earlier in our itinerary!
Francisco ensured us all the places we visited were places he has taken his family providing an authentic local experience. Each location served us the specialty of the house and provided plenty of variety and options to step out of your culinary comfort zone.
The first three restaurants on the tour all served a variety of tacos in the options of either a corn or flour soft taco or a crispy flat tostada. As we restaurant hopped we tried tacos filled with smoked Marlin (our favourite), Sea Bass and then a marinated pork. A fresh condiment bar at the first restaurant provided plenty of local flavour and the second restaurant offered a fiery sauce to sample - Miss 8 was brave enough to try but instantly regretted the choice. I wish I had videoed her facial expressions they were priceless!
One of the great insights was to discover that real Mexican food rarely includes cheese! And Mexicans do not eat hard shelled Tacos! Clearly our love of Mexican food comes from the American version of Mexican cuisine that has filtered across the world. Can you imagine Nachos without cheese!
The three hour tour included visits to four seated restaurants as well as stops at a Pearl Shop and Tequila Tasting Bar. At the pearl shop Miss 8 picked the lucky door prize and was rewarded with a pearl which was opened in front of us, fresh from the pearl farm.
Our final two destinations of the tour were a Tamales street vendor followed by a local ice-cream store. Whilst the Tamales were not to our taste we were grateful for the opportunity to try them. We had always wondered what Tamales were - and to try them from a street vendor that was being frequented by locals was a great authentic experience.
The Tamales, in my non culinary layman terms, are a thick wrap made from maize stuffed with a choice of filling that come in both savoury and sweet. The wrap is steamed in a maize husk or banana leaf and has quite a distinctive flavour. We tried both a pork and a chicken and neither really kicked goals for our tastebuds.
Overall we were really glad to have chosen this experience. The group of five ladies from the US East Coast that joined us on the tour brought some great interactions to the table and made us feel welcome. The kids appreciated the authentic experience and we all enjoyed trying something new.
Find out more details here at Juan More Taco Tours.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
If you are taking the family for a holiday to California, a side trip away from Los Angeles to the beautiful city of San Diego is definitely worth considering. Just a two hour drive (depending on traffic) from Los Angeles, this city has so much to offer for families.
San Diego has made the itinerary on a few of our USA holidays and on our most recent visit in 2018 we included a four night stay. Here are just five of the attractions that drew us back to include San Diego in our family travels.
1. Explore Old Town
Located just 33 kms from Tijuana, Mexico, San Diego’s Old Town has a great Mexican Wild West flavour. This neighbourhood, along with being a good base to find a hotel for your visit, has plenty to offer as far as dining and entertainment go.
In the historic park you can stroll the Victorian Village with restored homes dating back to the early 1800’s, visit the old style saloon and general store, climb aboard a wagon and visit the Sheriff’s Museum.
When you are hungry there are a myriad of restaurants - mostly Mexican cuisine - that will serve up some flavoursome favourites of nachos and guacamole to be washed down with a margarita!
2. Visit Balboa Park
Balboa Park is a central hub of activity for families visiting San Diego, celebrating 150 yeas in 2018 there is 1,200 acres to explore. Apart from housing the famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park contains some 16 museums along with acres of parklands, gardens, trails and historical buildings providing something for everyone in one central spot.
The range of museums available alone will keep you busy, they include the Automotive Museum, Air and Space Museum, Natural History Museum and Museum of Art to name a few. Purchase a day pass for access to up to five museums, or a multi-day pass for access to all 16.
If you have nice weather, walk the trails of the Japanese Friendship Garden or one of the many other trails that weave you through both the botanical and other specialty gardens. There is even an Australian garden to explore! And if you don’t want to walk look out for the free Park Tram, the bright green tram will get you where you need to go or even just a great ride to explore the enormity of the park.
3. Spend a Day at SeaWorld San Diego
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, a visit to SeaWorld San Diego is a whole day out. During summer the park opens at 10am and closes at 10pm and trust me when I say there is plenty to do to fill a 12 hour visit.
A sea animal themed park, SeaWorld offers roller coasters for the thrill seekers, aquariums to get up close and personal with sharks as well as fun and fascinating dolphin, orca and sea lion shows for some light entertainment.
A family that loves roller coaster we timed our trip well being able to try out the latest attraction to be added to the park, the Electric Eel. The tallest, fastest roller coaster in San Diego, Master 11 and Miss 8 loved the loops and speed of this ride. It was our first stop of the day and then we capped off our 11 hour visit with the Electric Eel as the finale of the night.
For those less adventurous with younger children this summer has seen the launch of the Sesame Street Parade where colourful floats and characters parade through the streets of the park.
4. Hire an Electric Scooter
We have all seen the craze of dockless bike rental operators such as Ofo littering our city streets around the world, San Diego has a unique twist on this phenomenon with the offering of dockless communally shared electric scooters for hire. Download the Bird or LimeBike app to your smartphone and you can find an electric scooter to unlock for hire from as little as $1.
San Diego is crazy for these scooters and we saw people of all walks of life passing us by with ease as we unknowingly walked the streets of San Diego!
5. Visit the Fleet Science Centre
If you can only choose one museum to visit with the kids in Balboa park, our favourite was the Fleet Science Centre. This interactive museum allows you to get hands on for an experiential learning experience.
We recently visited the Melbourne Science Works which offers a very similar experience of hands on science facts displayed in a way that intrigues both children and adults alike.
The Fleet Science Centre is also home to an Imax theatre providing a unique large screen cinematic experience - we saw the movie Panda which was fantastic.
Have you visited San Diego with the family? There is so much to see and do there, what are your top tips of places to visit and sights to see.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
*Itchy Feet Family were guests of the San Diego Tourism Authority and Sea World San Diego as part of this visit.