Shortly after our family moved to the Foothills, we heard friends and acquaintances talk about Coronado, Calif. People raved about it. They told us it's a wonderful vacation destination, with beautiful beaches, lots of green parks and activities for the whole family. One friend described it as Mayberry, the fictional town from "The Andy Griffith Show," and said that people still don't lock their doors there.

We had visited San Diego and La Jolla a few times, but had never made the trip across the Coronado Bridge to see what Coronado was all about.

That changed last summer, as we spent some vacation time on The Island. We quickly saw what the fuss was all about, and we went back for a visit this summer as well. In addition to the historic Hotel del Coronado and its highly ranked beaches, Coronado has many unique and charming characteristics, big and small, including:

• The Naval Air Station and Naval Amphibious Base. A sign appears on the front lawn of some homes announcing that it is the "Home of a Naval Aviator." We saw muscular Navy Seals running in groups and the tough obstacle course with ropes and walls and tires on which they train.

• Amazing display of patriotism on the Fourth of July. The parade in town lasted about two hours, and I've never seen so much red, white and blue bunting in my entire life.

• Locals getting around town in golf carts.

• Free summer concerts at Spreckels Park on Sunday evenings. The bands play under the gazebo in the center of the park, and people spread out their lawn chairs, with food and drink. Children play at the playground and buy snow cones from an enterprising family who live right across from the park.

• Miles upon miles of sidewalks and paved paths, perfect for riding scooters and bikes.

• Front yards with beautiful flower gardens. So many homes we passed by looked like they could appear on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens.

In our opinion, Coronado lives up to the hype. It's funny to think that, for years, we had no idea that this little gem was at the end of that blue-and-white bridge.

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