Lighter Than Air: San Diego Air Adventures

The search for elevation is what drives many of us to travel, play, live and strive to once again attain that feeling of being lighter than air. Leonardo da Vinci once famously said, “For once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”  This longing is not unlike what many of us call “wanderlust” or the craving to taste that melt-in-your-mouth morsel, or even still a sip of the Brunello that hits the palate just so with Chateaubriand.

I’m watching the gliders soar in San Diego’s balmy blue skies this afternoon from the Torrey Pines Gliderport located in sun-drenched California and I got to thinking about the rich, balmy realm of the air. No longer just for commuter planes shuttling you to and from your destination of choice,  an adventure taken in air can be amazing in places far from an airport. Here we’ll share with you some activities that will make you feel lighter than air while traveling in San Diego including a divine place to dine, where to take the family, a hidden thrill, and the story of a soar above a vineyard at sunrise.

Tender Greens: Tucked behind evergreen doors, Tender Greens is a farm-to-table restaurant on Historic Decatur road a short drive from downtown San Diego. Their cuisine revolves around fresh local produce (organic whenever possible), artisanal-baked breads,  San Diego beer and an open kitchen with aromas to make you float blissfully into lunch or dinner. Among standouts are a baby spinach salad with goat cheese, hazelnuts, and cabernet vinaigrette from the “simple salads from an extraordinary farm” portion of their menu, and a just-right-for-two cheese plate that is best enjoyed outdoors (note: there is some overhead noise from planes flying through SAN but there is ample indoor seating, if you’d prefer.)  More than this, Tender Greens is the vision of where three men from the restaurant industry (David Dressler, Erik Oberholtzer, and Matt Lyman) would eat on their days off and are sharing that vision in San Diego.

San Diego Safari Park Flightline: Escondido (the Spanish word for “hidden”) is home to the world-famous Zoo’s sister–San Diego Zoo Safari Park–which has San Diego’s only zipline. The zip, named Flightline, costs $70 for members (up to $110 for non-members) and is an hour-long journey around the park culminating with the rousing adventure of zipping more than 2/3 of amile from a five-story tower over oryx, rhino, Przewalski’s wild horse, and more for anyone over the age of 10.  When WAFT went for a visit there were people flying from ages 12-50 to get a taste of how condor’s soar.  We discovered even more about the park on the Rolling Safari which has you glide through the Asian savannah on a Segway X2.  Did you know that many of the animals at Safari Park were the inspiration for Stephen Spielberg’s Jurassic Park? They are also one of the premier places in America where breeding programs have the highest success rates.

Legoland: A short hop, skip and jump away is Legoland, in Carlsbad,  which has been a big kid’s fantasy since 1999 and is the first of the Lego parks to feature a water park.  The word “lego” is  from Danish phrase LEg GOdt, meaning “play well” and was named by creator Ole Kirk Christiansen.  Their park has a well-hidden secret for those who want to “play well” in mid-air.  Tucked away in the park is the robo-coaster nicknamed Knights’ Tournament and is worth the trip for teens and adults.  The non-coaster coaster uses a robotic arm to launch brave excitement-junkies into the air doing 360 degree turns, arcs, heart-stopping inversions, and more.  The park created ‘Knight’s Tournament’ to be interactive and allow riders to enjoy it no matter what their thrill level.  The ride can be customized–1 for kid’s wanting to try their first “big kid” ride up to 5 which is borderline extreme.

California Dreamin’ Balloon Adventures: For wine lovers, Temecula has an aero-adventure for you.  California Dreamin’ Balloon Adventures, an iteration that takes you on the oldest (successful) human-carrying flight technology, meets pre-sunrise at Vindemia the adopted vineyard of of David and Gail Bradley who started Vindemia Vineyard and Estate Winery in 2005. David noticed early on the parallels between ballooning and successful viticulture–for example, the necessity to understand currents in the air and weather patterns are as important to raising successful vines as they are to flying.  and The hour-long excursion has FAA-certified pilots taking you over the vines and citrus trees of Temecula and back for a sumptuous breakfast with champagne and mimosas in the vineyard’s rose garden where you’ll be regaled with stories of the Frenchmen who flew the first aerostat and why they drink champagne.  While the sun rises, you are privy to watching the balloon fill-up for breathtaking morning photos.  The Vineyard also has a bed and breakfast for those who’d rather rise and fly than drive at the break of dawn.

San Diego Air and Space Musuem: If your hunger for flight is still un-satisfied try the flight simulator in the San Diego Air and Space Museum which has you upside-down and indulging your inner fighter pilot.   Happy Flying!


Tender Greens
2400 Historic Decatur Rd.
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 226-6254

San Diego Zoo Safari Park
15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd.
San Diego, CA92027
(760) 747-8702

1 Legoland Dr
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 918-5346

California Dreamin’ Balloon Adventures (at Vindemia Vineyard)
33133 Vista Del Monte Dr.
Temecula, CA92591
(800) 373-3359

San Diego Air and Space Musuem
Balboa Park
2001 Pan American Plz
San Diego, CA 92101

Katherine Hsia

Known affectionately as "the wandering concierge," Katherine segued a hospitality career in fabulous New York City into a life pursuing her passions of writing, adventure and travel on the spectacular island of O'ahu. She is a freelance writer for publications such as Honolulu Magazine, Hawai'i Parent, Freesurf, and more, while working on her Hawaiian comic and non-fiction book. She enjoys seeing life for its whimsical beauty, great meals with good friends, her love affair with travel, and being overstimulated by new experiences. Want to get in touch with Kat? Add her on facebook or send her a message on her website,, where she's been known to get her blog on.

  1. Thanks for sharing this awesome news. Traveling with flight is really very enjoyable. It’s really feel good when we are in the blue sky. But, how flight simulator would help us in providing environment for flight?
    cheap international flights

  2. Glad to read this post. Air adventure is really awesome way to feel enjoy the fun, thrill and joy of adventure. This post makes me to feel jealous because i don’t face such air experience in my whole life. But now i decided to fulfill my desire of air adventure by planing my next trip to San Diego.

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