Be inspired by Olympic hopefuls on a weekend escape to Chula Vista
Derrick Dykes of Santee fishes for bass at Otay Lakes in Chula Vista, Calif.(Misael Virgen / San Diego Union-Tribune)
Olympic hopefuls train and compete at the Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., where facilities include a BMX track. Visitors can watch.(Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)
The Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., includes a BMX track.(Doug Pensinger / Getty Images)
Visitors can watch BMX Olympic hopefuls train at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center.(Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)
For outdoor enthusiasts who relish exploring new biomes, the mountain ranges of Chula Vista, Calif., offer hiking, biking, fishing and skydiving. Otay Ranch, the city’s easternmost neighborhood, about 20 miles south of downtown San Diego and 10 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, has another hidden claim to fame: the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center, where Olympic hopefuls work toward gold. The tab: $298 for two nights at the Residence Inn, $125 for two dinners and $35 for an extensive tour of the training center.
The 148-room Residence Inn opened in October. Along with a gym, swimming pool and free hot breakfast, the place offers a chance to lounge alongside Olympians. When I visited, a Polish track-and-field team was staying here. Mondays through Wednesdays the lobby becomes a cozy living room with complimentary appetizers, beer and wine.
Locals are crazy for Pizzo’s Pizzeria & Wine Bar. Owner Santino Pizzo adds local twists to his Neapolitan pizzas, including the Olympian ($19) and the San Miguel ($14), the latter named for the nearby chaparral-clad mountain peak. After dinner, hop over to Novo Brazil Brewing Co. and order — what else? — the Otay IPA ($5.80 for a pint), named after another landmark.
Tour the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center, where you can eat in the dining hall with the athletes, then get a glimpse of medal hopefuls at the BMX track, the tennis and beach volleyball courts, the soccer fields or inside the archery building. Afterward, hike the trails at Otay Lakes County Park to see the majestic dam, which broke in 1916, causing the worst flood in San Diego history. A small part of the old wall remains. The Lower Otay Reservoir has boat rentals as well as catch-and-release fishing Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. End the trip with a scenic 14-mile drive to Hollywood Casino, which opened in 2016. Sip craft brews and eat beer bites on an airy veranda while taking in more chaparral and mountain views. For high-octane adventurers, book an appointment with Skydive San Diego.
THE LESSON LEARNED
Bike rentals aren’t available inside the county park, so visit Trek Bicycle Superstore, which charges $50 for an all-day rental. Call ahead and the store will do a round-trip delivery to the hotel for $100.
Residence Inn Marriott, 2005 Centerpark Road, Chula Vista; (619) 216-1000, lat.ms/chulavistaresidenceinn. Rooms start at $146. Limited wheelchair-accessible rooms.
Pizzo’s Pizzeria & Wine Bar, 2322 Proctor Valley Road, Chula Vista; (619) 240-3826, pizzospizzeria.com. Wheelchair accessible.
Novo Brazil Brewing Co., 901 Lane Ave., Chula Vista; (619) 869-4274, novobrazilbrewing.com. Wheelchair accessible
Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center, 2800 Olympic Parkway, Chula Vista; (619) 656-1500, www.easchulavista.com/home
Trek Bicycle Superstore, 901 Lane Ave., Chula Vista; (619) 216-9123, www.trekbicyclesuperstore.com
Otay Lakes County Park (and Lower Otay Dam), 2270 Wueste Road, Chula Vista; (619) 397-5212, lat.ms/otaylakes. No wheelchair accessibility.
Lower Otay Reservoir, Wueste Road, Chula Vista; (619) 397-5212, lat.ms/lowerotayreservoir. Wheelchair accessible.
Hollywood Casino, 14145 Campo Road, Jamul, Calif.; (619) 315-2250, www.hollywoodcasinojamul.com
Skydive San Diego, 13531 Otay Lakes Road, Jamul, Calif.; (619) 216-8416, SkydiveSanDiego.com
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