San Diego Sightseeing & Unique Things To Do
San Diego, with its moderate climate, sprawling beaches and exceptional attraction is a great place for a vacation. There is literally something for everyone. From nightclubs to beach bums and club hoppers, let’s take a look at some of San Diego’s best sightseeing opportunities.
San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is one of the most famous zoos in the world with over 4,000 animals of more than 800 species. Because of the weather, almost all major exhibits of the San Diego Zoo are open-air. The San Diego Zoo is also extremely active in conservation and preservation efforts and many species are bred in captivity for release into their native habitats where appropriate. Guided tours are available for those who prefer not to amble around aimlessly.
With more than 130 million visitors since its opening in 1964, SeaWorld is the leading tourist attraction in San Diego and one of the most popular marine life parks in the world. With shows, displays and enclosures people can learn about the world’s oceans and the creatures that inhabit them such as dolphins, killer whales, walruses, penguins and Polar bears. It really is the ultimate guided tour.
The laid back small town atmosphere of Coronado Island is ideal for those who are looking for a place to relax. The quaint island offers sightseeing tours of the area which is connected to San Diego by the San Diego-Coronado Bridge. Whether strolling on the beach or riding a rental bike around the inland, visitors can partake of the charm of this community, home to the Coronado Museum of History and Art, the shops and art galleries at Ferry Landing, and views of San Diego across the bay. Tours all include a stop at the Hotel del Coronado, which is said to be the inspiration for the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz.
The Uss Midway Museum
The USS Midway Museum, located on the Embarcadero’s Navy Pier, offers visitors a chance to explore, from stem to stern, one of the longest-serving aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy. The guided tour gives in depth detail on the nearly quarter-million sailors who have served on the Midway between 1945 to 1992, when it was retired. It has been a San Diego tourist attraction since 2004, receiving more than one million visitors annually, making it one of the world’s most visited ship museums. Guided tours take visitors to the ship’s sleeping and officer quarters, engine room and galley.
Balboa Park isn’t just another park. It has plenty of green space, flora and fauna, naturally, but it also contains 15 museums, a carousel, miniature railroad, the renowned San Diego Zoo and the historic Old Globe Theatre, among other attractions. The list of museums include a couple of art museums while others are devoted to natural history, air and space, science and the famous Museum of Man. Comprehensive tours are available of the numerous gardens which are devoted to native plants, roses, cactus, and the veterans memorial. The nation’s largest urban garden also includes restaurants, and biking and hiking trails.
The Gaslamp Quarter
One of the most popular areas to pick up a “walking tour guide”, The Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego’s premier dining, nightlife and shopping center, dates back to 1850. Decades later, this Victorian district was cleaned up, both in appearance and reputation, and became known as the Gaslamp Quarter. Now home to more than 200 restaurants, boutiques and art galleries, it is on the National Historic Register and is a shopping addicts dream.
La Jolla Shores
La Jolla Shores is one of the San Diego area’s best beaches. La Jolla is an upscale community sometimes referred to as the “jewel of San Diego,” but this gem really shines when it comes to its beaches. La Jolla Shores is a mile-long beach that is popular with locals and visitors alike for a variety of water activities: swimming, surfing, scuba diving and kayaking. Be sure to make use of the many guided tours for both out of water and in water activities to take full advantage of this gem.
Cabrillo National Monument
Located at the tip of Point Loma, the Cabrillo National Monument honors Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the Spanish explorer who landed at San Diego Bay in 1542, thus becoming the first European to set foot on the West Coast of what is now the United States. The Cabrillo National Monument offers plenty of activities for visitors who enjoy the great outdoors. Activities range from watching for Pacific Gray whales that swim by during the winter months to a guided hike along the two-mile Bayside Trail with its stunning views of the city and bay.
Though Native Americans lived in the area for thousands of years, the area known as Old Town wasn’t “discovered” until 1542 by a Spanish explorer. Old Town is considered the birthplace of California since it was the first permanent Spanish settlement in California, with Father Junipero Serra establishing his first mission here on Presidio Hill. Today, Old Town is a great place to see San Diego’s colonial roots. Casas, or houses, built in the 19th century, are now museums, shops or restaurants; adobe churches add to the color of Old Town. Guided historical tours are a plenty here and a plethora of knowledge is shared while you amble the historical sights.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, located near Escondido, is one of the top tourist attractions in San Diego. The 1,200-acre zoo has more than 300 species of animals, especially those that are endangered in the wild, concentrating on breeding them and then reintroducing them back into their wild native habitat. Visitors can take a guided tram tour of the zoo or see it from above via a hot-air tethered balloon and a nature specialised guide. Other activities include watching a cheetah run at up to 70 mph, a petting zoo, walking among the lemurs and visiting an aviary.
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