San Diego - AttractionGuide

San Diego

Welcome to MetroGuide Networks' overview of San Diego-area attractions. The Greater San Diego area is full of attractions for all ages. California's southernmost city is known for near-idyllic sunny climate, pristine beaches, proximity to Mexico's border stronghold of Tijuana, and a dazzling array of world-class family attractions including the famed San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park. For the record, San Diego also ranks as the state's second largest city (after L.A.), boasting a population of nearly 1.3 million, compared to 2.8 million for all of San Diego County's 18 cities and other charming neighborhoods including downtown's historic Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy, Coronado, La Jolla, Escondido, Chula Vista and more. San Diego, with 70 miles of beach shoreline, grew up around water, and a ride along its 59-mile scenic drive provides a tutorial in fascinating history, people and places. Within San Diego County itself are both mountains up to 6,500 feet high and a desert expanse. As an important naval base, San Diego's natural harbor is home to several Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy installations. Whale-watching cruises are a draw here when mammoth grays make their way from Alaska's Bering Sea to the Baja peninsula. The 1200-acre Balboa Park in the center of the city showcases art galleries, museums and theaters in addition to garden walks, subtropical plants and ponds. With more than 6,400 restaurants, San Diego has become a canvas for culinary artistry, attracting world-class chefs catering to discerning tastes, while more casual eateries serve up local favorites like fruit smoothies and fish tacos. With more than 90 golf courses, and a dynamic schedule of multicultural festivals and celebrations, some of San Diego's most alluring attractions remain what nature provided.

Below is a list of some suggested things to do in the San Diego Metropolitan Area, with links to more details when available.

B Street Pier
B Street Pier has long been a mustering point for catamaran trips to Catalina, an island about three hours northeast, and cruise trips to Mexico's Ensenada, about 80 miles south, and now the B Street Cruise Ship Terminal welcomes dozens of gleaming cruise vessels calling throughout the year. For possibilities for sailing to Mexico, Hawaii, Tahiti and beyond, consult MetroGuide's CruiseGuide. Between the foot of Broadway and A Street.

Balboa Park
Passports for this park, where the 200-foot California Tower's 100-bell carillon chimes every 15 minutes, are available at the Balboa Park Visitors Center in the Plaza de Panama and include admission to 13 attractions plus deluxe admission to the San Diego Zoo. Other park attractions include the Botanical Building, Japanese Friendship Garden, and the San Diego Aerospace Museum where there's a replica of Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis.
Northeast Edge of the Business District. (619) 239-0512
Belmont Park
A wooden roller coaster, a carousel and a 175-foot long indoor swimming pool are part of this Oceanside amusement park's allure. The Big Dipper, built in 1925 and now a California Historic Monument, is comparatively small with a maximum 74-foot rise, but is known for turbulent twists and g-forces.
3146 Mission Road. (619) 656-1500
The Big Bay
San Diego Bay, also known as The Big Bay, invites water exploration with narrated harbor tours for North Bay, South Bay, Point Loma, Cabrillo National Monument, North Island Naval Air Station, the Submarine Base, Coronado Bridge and more. A ferry shuttles between B-Street Pier (downtown) and The Ferry Landing Marketplace (Coronado).
1050 North Harbor Drive. (800) 44-CRUISE
Gaslamp Quarter
This 16-block National Historic District contains most of San Diego's Victorian-syle commercial buildings from the late 1800s when Market Street was the downtown hub. The 1900s saw business moving westward and what was then called the Stingaree District sank into a haven for proliferating flophouses and working girls picking up sailors in dance halls. Moves to raze the district in the 1970s galvanized history buffs, artists and architects, forming the Gaslamp Quarter Council, bent on preservation. Tree-shaded brick sidewalks are now lined with shops and restaurants. At 410 Island Avenue is the William Heath Davis house, a restored 19th-century saltbox. Across the street, at Island and Third, is the century-old Horton Grand Hotel. The Golden Lion Tavern, at Fourth and F streets, has a spectacular stained-glass domed ceiling.
Fourth and Fifth avenues from Broadway to Market Street.
La Jolla
Part of San Diego, upscale La Jolla nevertheless staked out its own postal zone and is often viewed with good cause as the Monte Carlo of California. The coastal attraction here is Ellen Browning Scripps Park (named after the newspaper heiress) at La Jolla Cove where the children's pool at the south end has shallow waters and a curving beach. Kayaking among the La Jolla sea caves is popular, with the cliffs of Torrey Pines State Park and picturesque La Jolla as backdrops. As an underwater marine preserve, wildlife abounds and sightings of seals, sea lions, dolphins, cormorants, pelicans, garibaldi, and gentle leopard sharks are common.
Maritime Museum of San Diego
With the U.S. Coast Guard Base, the U.S. Marine Training Center, and the Naval Air Station flanking San Diego Bay, the Maritime Museum of San Diego has its own watery intrigue, with assorted exhibits along with three historic vessels – the 1863 tall ship Star of India, the 1898 ferry Berkeley, and the 1904 steam yacht Medea.
1492 North Harbor Drive. (619) 234-9153
Mission Bay
Admission is free and kite-flying is hot at this breezy 4,600-acre aquatic park (with 75 percent on public land) that includes 27 miles of bay front beach and 17 miles of ocean frontage. In 1542, Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo called it “Baja Falso” after the ocean-facing inlet lured him into discouraging swampland. In the 1960s, the city dredged to build a monumental man-made bay with vast stretches of beaches and lawns for picnics and recreation, and resort hotels dotting the natural landscape.
2688 East Mission Bay Drive. (619) 276-8200
Museum of Photographic Arts
MOPA, one of the few museums devoted solely to photography, has works by both the renowned and virtually obscure, with impressive holdings of the entire history of photography, from Daguerreotypes through laser holograms and other advancements. Major strengths are in social documentary photography and photojournalism.
1649 El Prado. (619) 238-7559
Old Town San Diego
This six-block area of the San Diego State Historic Park marks founding of the first European settlement in California and encompasses many of San Diego's original buildings. Presidio Park is the site of California's first mission and military fortress, established in 1769. Black Hawk Smithy & Stable, where blacksmithing is demonstrated, opened in the 1860s. An 1868 stagecoach is on display at the Colorado House/Wells Fargo History Museum. Whaley House, believed Southern California's oldest two-story brick house, has been a residence, store, courthouse and theater, and now showcases restored period furnishings.
Bounded by Wallace, Juan,Twiggs, and Congress streets.
San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo, one of the largest, most famous in the world, has some of the rarest specimens in captivity with exhibits replicating natural environments of the animals. The 100-acre zoo was founded in 1916 by Dr. Harry Wegeforth, an enterprising San Diego physician who started with a handful of animals left over from the Panama-California Exposition. The zoo now cares for more than 4,000 animals representing 800 species. The Skyfari aerial tram provides a panoramic view of all there is to enjoy and 40-minute guided tours on double-deck buses over miles of winding roads help zoo-goers plot visitation strategy.
Zoo Drive in Balboa Park. (619) 234-3153
Seaport Village
Seaport Village, connecting hotels and the convention center with the harbor is a 14-acre outdoor mall with 75 shops, arts and crafts, dining and recreation with opportunity for sunset watching.
849 West Harbor Drive. (619) 235-6569
SeaWorld Adventure Park
Since opening in 1964, SeaWorld Adventure Park in San Diego has hosted more than 100 million adventure-seekers with amazing animals and wondrous shows. Journey to Atlantis, Wild Arctic, and Shamu's show Believe are just a few of the many attractions and activities that await.
500 SeaWorld Drive. (800) 25-SHAMU
On their annual migration from Alaska to Mexico, some 200 barnacled gray whales pass by the San Diego coastline each day, often coming within yards of tour boats. Some companies, including San Diego Harbor Excursion, guarantee whale sightings or allow disappointed whale-watchers to try again another day for free. Tours, accompanied by a naturalist, start Dec. 26 and run through the end of March.
1050 North Harbor Drive. (619) 234-4111
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San Diego: A view of San Diego's favorite Paddlewheel boat the Bahia Belle