A large coastal city in California, San Diego is located on the Pacific Ocean in Southern California. As the second largest city in the state of California, it is home to 1.3 million people, and is known for its temperate climate, pretty beaches, and premier tourist attractions such as SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo, two of its most famous. Furthermore, it is only a hop, skip, and a jump away from Tijuana, Mexico, making it a great jumping off point to visit that area as well. While it is a major metropolitan area, San Diego life moves at a much slower pace than its comparable sister city Los Angeles, making it a great place to get away, relax, and escape the hustle and bustle.
While San Diego does not have officially defined districts, it can be broken down into distinct neighborhoods, each with their own culture and feel, starting with the downtown area. Located on the San Diego Bay, downtown San Diego offers businesses, nightlife, tall office and hotel towers, and a multitude of tourist attractions. These include the San Diego Maritime Museum, which houses a collection of 19th century sailing ships, including the Star of India, which is the world’s oldest active sailing ship, a former Soviet Union attack submarine and a steam ferryboat. Downtown San Diego is also home to the USS Midway Museum, a former aircraft carrier turned attraction that houses a collection of former naval aircraft.
Next is Balboa Park-Hillcrest, situated in the heart of the city. It is home to many museums and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. It is also close to Hillcrest, a trendy urban neighborhood. In this area one will also find an expansive array of parks, gardens and arboretums. Mid City is an area located east of Balboa Park that offers tons of local dining, shopping, and theaters.
Old Town-Mission Valley is the site of the first Spanish settlement in California. As such, it is a historic district popular with tourists that includes preserved buildings, 19th century cannons, the haunted Whaley House, shopping, dining, and live performances.
For breathtaking views of San Diego, head to Point Loma-Ocean Beach, which offers a beautiful coast and relaxed beach neighborhoods. It is home to the Point Loma Lighthouse, where visitors can catch panoramic views of downtown San Diego, the Naval Air Station, the Coronado Bridge and the distant mountains, as well as stunning sunset views of the Pacific Ocean and offshore islands. Another popular beach community is Mission Beach-Pacific Beach, which offers a plethora of shops, restaurants, and nightlife, and is home to Sea World. La Jolla is yet another beach neighborhood, more upscale in nature and home to picturesque coasts and gorgeous beaches, an aquarium, and the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). It offers visitors secluded coves, beaches and ocean cliffs to explore. Urban attractions in the area include eateries, coffee shops and high-end shopping outlets. Originally a small beach built for children, La Jolla has become a breeding ground for harbor seals, where one can glimpse picturesque views of their chubby brown bodies basking in the sun by the hundreds. Then there is Northeastern, home to the popular Safari Park, and San Ysidro, where one can travel between San Diego and Tijuana.
Sites in San Francisco that are not to be missed include the San Diego Zoo, North America’s premier zoo attraction. It covers over 100 acres of displays and habitats, animal shows, and creatures that one won’t find anywhere else. Animal lovers will also enjoy San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the sister park to the San Diego Zoo. Then there is SeaWorld, the home of Shamu, where visitors can interact with aquatic animals through shows and displays. For those who like marine life, Birch Aquarium is another must-see. It offers exhibits that encompass oceanography, standard aquarium fish, and a huge kelp tank.
For a bit of history, check out the Mission San Diego de Alcala. Located in Mission Valley, it is the oldest mission in California. Another historic site not to miss is the Hotel Del Coronado, located in nearby Coronado. Constructed in the late 1800s, this historic and lux hotel is located right on the beach, and offers high-end shops and services.
And of course, there are San Diego’s multitude of beaches, which offer fun activities like swimming, surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing and boating or just relaxing in the sand. Prime beach going options include Imperial Beach south of San Diego, Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, Coronado, La Jolla, and the coast of northern San Diego County. In February, San Diego is a great place to go whale-watching, as that is when California gray whales migrate south. As such, there are several private companies offering sailing tours during this time to bring visitors right up close and personal with the whales.
If you just want to sit back and relax with a cold pint in hand, San Diego is the place to do it, as the city has a happening microbrewery scene with 44 breweries, each with an emphasis on highly-hopped beers. Local breweries to check out include Stone Brewing Company, AleSmith Brewing Company, Coronado Brewing Company, Green Flash Brewing Company, Ballast Point Brewing Company, and Port Brewing Company.