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Special San Diego

Often overlooked in favor San Francisco and Los Angeles, San Diego’s reputation for only sunshine is vanishing as swiftly as the margaritas in any one of the city’s fabulous taquerias.

See, San Diego is growing – as the Downtown skyscrapers attest. But as well as fast becoming a business hub, the city is rapidly gaining a reputation as a party town, both for business people seeking to unwind and college students seeking to, well, do what college students love to do.

Unlike most party towns, though, San Diego is big enough to have large doses of family-appeal. Activities centre on the marinas and beaches, including Coronado and Chula Vista. The city’s history of conservation is proudly celebrated at popular attractions San Diego Zoo and Sea World, but Birch Aquarium and Children’s Cove both provide a more up-close-and-personal experience with the marine exhibits.

San Diego’s weather is perfect for surfing and swimming, while sports fans can take in a Chargers NFL game at Qualcomm Stadium. If you’re feeling brave (and, judging by numbers, most visitors to San Diego are), the Mexican border and Tijuana are just a bus drive – or a 20-minute walk – away.

As tempting as it may be to pick up some prescription meds over the counter south of the border, beware that customs officers are more than prepared to search you upon re-entry. If you are holding illegal drugs, let’s just say that you might not be the only one making a southern entry. ¿Comprende?

San Diego’s Top 10

10. Pacific Beach Populated by college students, surfers and new money, the beach is perfect for a sneaky surf or leisurely stroll.

5. National Comedy Theater Providing the best comedy in San Diego for the past 10 years, the National Comedy Theatre is home to great stand-ups, sketch and improvisation shows.

9. San Diego Safari Park Featuring large open areas filled with wild African animals, the best part of the Safari Park are the tours allowing you to get as close as possible to some amazing and endangered animals.

4. Balboa Park Laying claim to the title of Largest Urban Cultural Park, Balboa Park holds over 25 different museums, galleries and attractions. But no Rocky, sadly.

8. LegoLand One for the kids and the parents, LegoLand provides an opportunity to get lost in a world of toy construction. With most of the attractions built entirely out of the Lego toys, it’s inspiring to see what some people’s imaginations have created.

3. USS Midway The longest-serving ship in US Navy history, this aircraft carrier is worth a look simply for its sheer size. At maximum capacity, it housed 100 aircraft and over 4000 crew.

7. La Jolla Twenty minutes from San Diego lies La Jolla, a quaint little seaside town. Not yet invaded by tourists, the town maintains a beautiful charm about it with quality restaurants and scenic walks.

2. San Diego Zoo Beginning operation in 1916, the San Diego Zoo is home to over 4000 rare and endangered animals and 700,000 exotic plants.

6. Gaslamp Quarter Including 94 historical trust buildings, this 16-block historical neighborhood is a beautiful Victorian throwback and hub of entertainment in San Diego.

1. Sea World Shamu, the world-famous killer whale, has calledSea Worldd San Diego home for several decades now, and is looking to keep on going. Easily the city’s biggest tourist attraction, it’s one of those places you’ll go to because you feel you have to – and end up loving it.

San Diego History

  • Mission Trails Regional Park – A reservation that was first inhabited by the Kumeyaay people, who cultivated and hunted in the area.
  • Point Loma Lighthouse and Cabrillo National Monument – A place for beautiful sunset views that commemorates the arrival of the first Europeans to San Diego and marks the spot where they first set foot on land.
  • Old Town – This area was the centre of daily life for locals in the 1800s.
  • Mission San Luis Rey – One of the biggest, most lovely and flourishing missions of its day.
  • Mission San Diego de Alcala – The oldest of the missions in California.

San Diego Art & Culture

  • Old Globe Theatre – One of the most popular places to go for music and theatre productions.
  • La Jolla Playhouse – Offers many performing arts presentations, including a world-premier opening play each season.
  • San Diego Museum of Art – A place to find an intriguing collection of modern art.
  • National Comedy Museum – Home to San Diego’s widely acclaimed improvised comedy show.
  • Spreckels Organ Pavilion – This wonderful, 4,445-pipe instrument was a gift to the city of San Diego from the Spreckles brothers.

San Diego Shopping

  • Fashion Valley Center – The most upscale of San Diego’s malls, with world-famous department stores and top name-brand stores.
  • Otay Ranch Town Center –Opened a few years age, this spot is considered a “lifestyle” shopping centre with places for dining and entertainment.
  • Westfield Horton Plaza – A place to see, even if just for the architecture and unique design.
  • Westfield University Town Centre – A wonderful outdoor-mall that houses a popular ice-skating rink.
  • Westfield Parkway Plaza – This mall includes attractions for families and children, such as a carousel play area and family lounge.

San Diego Gay & Lesbian

  • Diversionary Theatre – One of the oldest San Diego theatres of its kind, offering edgy dramas and fun musicals.
  • Bacchus House – A top bar boasting an incredible Greek-Renaissance theme.
  • Bourbon Street – It offers music, dancing, DJs, wonderful entertainment and always-changing activities.
  • Caliph Lounge – This Moroccan-style lounge features a friendly crowd and piano performances by local musicians.
  • Cheers – With live music and great mixed drinks, this popular spot caters to the rockabilly crowd, as well as punk and metal lovers.

San Diego Outdoor

  • Balboa Park – At the top of the most popular parks in the United States, it offers many attractions for all ages.
  • Torrey Pines State Reserve – One of the wildest areas along the coast,with trails for walking and hiking with unspoiled landscape and wildlife.
  • Cabrillo Tide Pools – A one-mile hiking region offers the chance to enjoy the area along the shore.
  • Botanical Building and Lily Pond – More than 1,200 different types of flowers and plants can be found under the dome of the botanical building.
  • Mission Bay Park – A great place in San Diego to enjoy a variety of water and active sports.

San Diego Sport

  • For an exhilarating San Diego Chargers football game, head to the Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.
  • For boating fun, check out Point Loma, Downtown Coronado or Chula Vista bay areas with marinas and anchorages that cater to all.
  • Baseball fans can catch a game with the San Diego Padres at the PETCO Park.
  • Wreck Valley offers great scuba diving in beautiful blue waters.
  • The San Diego State University Aztecs basketball team plays home games at the Viejas Arena.

San Diego Local

Mission Beach

Located between the ocean and Mission Bay, Mission Beach is a trendier, more relaxed version of Los Angeles’ famous Venice Beach. The beach itself provides a plethora of activities, including swimming and scuba diving, and if sun-worshiping is on the agenda, rest assured it provides the perfect opportunity for soaking up the rays.

Nearby Belmont Park is equipped with the iconic Giant Dipper roller coaster, plus as the city’s largest indoor swimming pool, The Plunge. Mission Beach is enormously popular with locals seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of Downtown.

Mission Beach is also the place to head is want to try a hookah (not to be confused with the hookers who used to populate the Gaslamp Quarter from frontier times to the 1970s). Head to Sinbad’s to smoke flavored tobacco through a traditional Middle Eastern pipe. Worth it if only for the photo op.

Old Town

Technically the birthplace of San Diego, Old Town is now a popular tourist site, allowing you a glimpse of the history behind the Spanish origins of the city. The Old Town was originally a series of Catholic missions established by monks from south of the border. TheMission San Diego de Alcala was the first of these and today features a museum explaining the religious foundations of the city. If you’re still interested in learning more, the Juniper Serra Museum provides a more detailed historical exploration of the missions.

Whaley House is San Diego’s most famous haunted house, and well worth a visit for otherworldly enthusiasts. Built in 1856 and retaining its original furnishings, the place exudes a Spanish Gothic vibe that will raise the hairs on your neck before you even walk in.

Balboa Park

Situated in the heart of Downtown, Balboa Park is an oasis of calm amidst the skyscrapers. The park is filled with an enormous collection of museums and child-friendly attractions, including Balboa Park Carousel and the Balboa Park Miniature Railroad. Also, an exact replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was commissioned in the early 1940s, and theOld Globe Theatre has three stages, each used year-round for different dramatic productions.

Downtown

The central business district of San Diego transforms into a nightlife hub as soon as the sun goes down – and it’s just as busy by day.

TheMaritime Museum of San Diego is the perfect way to explore the harbour and includes the world’s oldest active sailing ship among its exhibits. Also Downtown is theVilla Montezuma. Built in the 1880s, this palatial house with massive turrets and glass windows offers an intriguing insight into the mindset of expansionist San Diego.

If you’re after a sporty day, head over to the Petco Park where the San Diego Padres baseball team holds court. Or field.

Point Loma

Often overlooked by tourists as it’s not near the popular beaches, Point Loma is a welcome distraction from other carbon-copy locations around San Diego. A slower pace means exploring the locations can be done at your leisure. Worth visiting are Fort Rosecrans, a former World War II outpost protecting San Diego from attack by sea and the adjacent Fort Rosencrans National Cemetery. For the eco-minded, the Tidepool at Ocean Beach is like Disneyland!

San Diego Eat & Drink

Bertrand at Mr. A’s Owner Bertrand Hug guarantees that the modern American cuisine fits with the weather. The menu evolves with the seasons, making sure that the best local produce is sourced.

Turf Supper Club An original 1950s booze den, the TSC has been renovated in recent years to restore it to its former glory. The highlight of this dive (in the traditional sense of the word) is the do-it-yourself steak bar in the middle of the establishment.

Primavera Ristorante Aiming to capture all your senses, this restaurant is a little quieter than others, providing a more romantic dining experience.

The Casbah Famous club that plays host to international and local touring acts every day of the week. If you want a sneaky drink and great gig, arrive at early to avoid the cover charge. A favourite hangout for local hipsters and national music tourists.

The Crab Catcher The restaurant hires fishermen to catch its seafood, so make sure you appreciate the exclusivity of the crustaceans you’re eating.

Lestats Although not technically a bar or a restaurant, this 24-hour coffee house sees some of the best up-and-coming singer-songwriters in America strum and strut their stuff. Acoustic nirvana, it’s also worth checking out the comedy or book readings.

George’s at the Cove One of the most celebrated restaurants on the west coast. Closing in 2008 for renovations and to ‘take stock of its identity’ (seriously, you can’t get much more Californian than a restaurant needing therapy!), George’s at the Cove reopened to acclaim for its fresh ingredients and innovative new menu.

Red Fox Lounge This revival piano bar has been popular in several generations and still provides the Sinatra charm that made it a serious celebrity hotspot back in the days of the Rat Pack. The cocktails are classic, the beers are cold and the pianist is always in tune. North Park

San Diego Events

Every February, Mardi Gras lights up the streets of the Gaslamp Quarter with fresh and wonderful colours celebrating the end of the cold winter months.

Staged on the fourth weekend of April, ArtWalk is a celebration of San Diego’s thriving local art scene. In collaboration with neighbouring Tijuana, hundreds musicians, artists and dancers pack the streets for two days of extroverted expression.

San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual (LGBT) Pride is celebrated in Balboa Park on the last weekend in July. San Diego’s largest annual event, the weekend is packed with political meaning as it fights to reenergise debate over equal rights.

StreetScene bursts into San Diego every September, and the huge music event sees local and international music acts fill massive stages, as well as buskers and visitors filling the streets. The atmosphere is undeniably electric.

When To Go

San Diego is blessed with a pleasant climate year-round. With no extreme hot or extreme cold seasons, it is mostly sunny and warm.

Autumn is the best time to visit. The days are warm but the nights have a bit of bite to them, so remember to pack accordingly!

What To Miss

Although tempting, the Mexican city of Tijuana is a very dangerous place. The nights are filled with murders, kidnapping and drug trafficking, while the days provide countless opportunities for the unsuspecting tourist to be swindled. If you must visit, stick with a tour group.

Bus tours are a safe and convenient to travel around San Diego, but they often leave out the more interesting cultural attractions in favour of the bigger names like LegoLand and SeaWorld

Getting Around

San Diego has begun a new initiative to provide unique ways to see the city, including small buggies, segues and kayaks. If you’ve got time, this is a must.

A classic rental car can be the best way to visit places in the city. Balboa Park, for example, could take a day to explore by car but even longer without, because it is so spread out.

San Diego Information

Sunny San Diego is the sand and surf capital of California. The vibrant city on the other side of the border from Tijuana, Mexico is a cosmopolitan mix of cultures, with many fine neighbourhoods, landmarks and points of interest to explore. For sports teams like the Chargers of the NFL and baseball’s lovable, perpetual doormat, the Padres, San Diego is superb. The metropolis has a beautiful landscape that spans the pristine coast of the Pacific Ocean and the periphery of Cleveland National Forest, with countless inherent points of interest in between.

Many tourist attractions in San Diego centre on Balboa Park, a U.S. National Historic Landmark District replete with beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. The most worthwhile include San Diego Zoo, San Diego Air & Space Museum, The Old Globe, San Diego Museum of Man, Timken Museum of Art and the most popular museum in the city, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.

Attractions

  • San Diego Zoo
  • SeaWorld
  • Wild Animal Park
  • La Jolla
  • Museum of Contemporary Art

  • Activities

  • Beaches and Water Sports
  • San Diego Chargers
  • San Diego Padres
  • San Diego Film Festival
  • San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival
  • Restaurants

  • Sushi Ota
  • Hash House A Go Go
  • Island Prime
  • Bronx Pizza
  • South Beach Bar & Grill
  • Nightlife

  • Whiskey Girl
  • Onyx Room
  • The Tipsy Crow
  • Bar West
  • Sinbad’s
  • Climate

    San Diego has a semi-arid and Mediterranean climate, with relatively stable temperatures throughout the year. Temperatures range from 9°C to 25°C.

    Hotels in San Diego

    348 hotels in San Diego, California

    1 Pacific Terrace Hotel - San Diego

    4 stars
    5.0 / 5 1 reviews

    610 Diamond St. Map

    The beachfront Pacific Terrace Hotel San Diego offers discerning travellers in California a tranquil hideaway with sweeping views of Pacific Ocean. While on a San Diego holiday, visitors can frolic... More

    2 Hard Rock Hotel San Diego

    4 stars
    3.7 / 5 9 reviews

    207 5th Avenue Map

    Holidaymakers looking for a vibrant vacation in San Diego find suitable base at the lavish accommodations of Hard Rock Hotel San Diego. This centrally located hotel provides ideal access for... More

    3 Bahia Resort Hotel

    3 stars
    4.7 / 5 3 reviews

    998 W. Mission Bay Dr. Map

    The Bahia Resort Hotel San Diego has enjoyed 50 years of excitement and luxury on the edge of San Diego's Mission Bay. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the resort features lush gardens, meandering... More

    4 Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter

    4 stars
    4.0 / 5 3 reviews

    401 K Street Map

    The Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter is a sophisticated hotel that mixes modern design with attentive service in an urban retreat. GeneralGuests on business trips can make use of the meeting rooms... More

    5 Horton Grand Hotel

    3 stars
    4.3 / 5 4 reviews

    311 Island Ave. Map

    Horton Grand Hotel San Diego offers Victorian-style accommodations nestled in the heart of the historic Gaslamp Quarter District in San Diego. This stylish hotel is a few feet away from Horton... More

    6 Days Hotel San Diego Hotel Circle/ Near SeaWorld

    3 stars
    3.9 / 5 15 reviews

    543 Hotel Circle South Map

    Roadside travellers looking for comfortable accommodations near I-8 Exit can book a stay at Days Hotel Circle San Diego. Guests at this San Diego hotel can ride a carousel and explore the grounds... More

    7 Solamar, a Kimpton Hotel

    4 stars
    4.0 / 5 2 reviews

    435 6th Avenue Map

    The Solamar A Kimpton Hotel San Diego, with all its fabulous facilities and remarkable lodging invites you to experience its warm hospitality, while you are away from your home. GeneralThe Solamar... More

    8 The Sofia Hotel

    3 stars
    3.5 / 5 8 reviews

    150 West Broadway Map

    Upscale sophistication meets old-world charm and comfort at The Sofia Hotel San Diego. Tucked into the historic Gaslamp Quarter, the hotel is steps from the city's trendiest restaurants and shops. ... More

    9 Embassy Suites San Diego Bay - Downtown

    3 stars
    4.0 / 5 1 reviews

    601 Pacific Highway Map

    Recognized for its personal service and classic elegance, this Embassy Suites San Diego Bay - Downtown offers comfortable accommodation for all the senses and is also deemed as one of the best... More

    10 Humphreys Half Moon Inn & Suites

    3 stars
    4.6 / 5 17 reviews

    2303 Shelter Island Dr. Map

    Travellers looking for a tranquil retreat in a convenient location without the high price on accommodations book a stay at Humphreys Half Moon Inn & Suites. The resort-style hotel places guests... More