San Diego stands on the West Coast of the United States. Situated right on the border with Mexico, it’s the southern-most city in California and is home to almost one-and-a-half million people.
Ever since the Europeans first settled here in the 18th century, San Diego has been a city whose fortunes and personality has been influenced by the warm currents of the Pacific Ocean.
With a deepwater harbor, the city has always been an important trading port, and at one time was the tuna fishing capital of the world. Today San Diego is the mainland home to the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet.
San Diego’s Old Town
San Diego’s Old Town is often called the “birthplace of California”. This heritage precinct preserves and recreates life from the early Mexican and American periods.
In the 1860s the city’s development and focus shifted to the waterfront, however, Old Town remains an important center for community and cultural celebrations.
San Diego’s Downtown
San Diego’s Downtown area rises straight from the water’s edge. The Central Business District is home to some beautiful heritage buildings, but to feel the real pulse of San Diego, head to the Gaslamp Quarter. This 16-block historical neighborhood of Victorian buildings really lights up at night as theatergoers and university students pour into the area.
The Balboa Park
A few blocks inland from Downtown is the largest urban parkland in the US – a place where nature, culture, and fabulous architecture converge. Balboa Park features over a dozen museums with collections ranging from automobiles to aviation, and from art to natural history.
There are almost twenty different gardens to explore, including a recreation of the Alcazar Gardens of Seville.
The San Diego Zoo
Balboa Park is laced with miles of paths and trails which connect its many treasures – like the San Diego Zoo. This is one of the world’s greatest zoological parks and one of the few places outside of China where you can come face to face with a Giant Panda.
The Maritime Museum and the Navy Pier
To truly appreciate San Diego’s relationship with the ‘seven seas’, head to the Downtown waterfront area. Here you’ll find the Maritime Museum and the Navy Pier.
Climb aboard the USS Midway, the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century.
At the nearby Broadway Pier, jump aboard a ferry and leave the busy Downtown behind. It’s just a short ride to Coronado, where the pace slows. Locals have been kicking back in the sunshine here since the 1880s.
The Point Loma
Just across the harbor entrance is Point Loma, the place where explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first stepped ashore in 1542.
Loma is Spanish for ‘hill’, and the views here are incredible. When the weather is right, you can see all the way to Mexico. Heading north, the dramatic cliffside neighborhoods of Point Loma open out into an endless string of California beaches – the kind of beaches that inspired all those Beach Boys songs!
Each beachside community is unique; Mission Beach is relaxed and laid back, while neighboring Pacific Beach with its vibrant bar scene likes to stay up late and party. A great way to explore these coastal neighborhoods is to hire a beach cruiser and hit the promenade.
The La Jolla
A little further up the coast is ‘the jewel city’ – La Jolla! Surrounded by ocean on three sides, La Jolla is all about the pristine coastline, picturesque streets, and beautiful architecture. This is about as good as California Dreaming gets. Even the sea lions agree!
San Diego is a dream destination for children too. The little ones can let their imaginations run wild in Legoland, while at historic Belmont Park, the Giant Dipper has been thrilling kids of all ages for almost one hundred years.
The Birch Aquarium
The people of San Diego have a deep abiding respect for the ocean. The Birch Aquarium plays an important part in the city’s tradition in marine research and conservation.
Then, of course, there’s SeaWorld, which has been entertaining and educating visitors from around the globe since 1964.
Exploring San Diego can build up an appetite. With its proximity to Mexico and the sea, there’s no prize for guessing what the specialties are. So why not wash down that shrimp taco with an ice cold beer. Of course, the ideal way to end your San Diego day is to grab a friend or two, head to the water, and simply look to the west.
More To Explore in San Diego