Known as the heart of San Diego, Balboa Park is not only the largest urban park in the city but also in the whole country. Originally designed with a plan for just 100 trees in 1892, the 1,200-acre park now hosts 15 museums, dozens of gardens and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.
After three decades of redevelopment and restoration, the historic Gaslamp Quarter is once again in its prime. Top attractions include the largest collection of commercial Victorian-style buildings in the US. The area has also attracted hundreds of trendy shop and restaurant owners, making it the most-visited neighborhood in downtown San Diego.
As the site of the first permanent European settlement on the west coast, Old Town San Diego has been called “the birthplace” of California. In 1968, the area was declared a state historic park. Nearby lies Heritage Park, where several of San Diego’s most notable Victorian homes have been relocated and authentically restored.
The island-like peninsula of Coronado has been a popular resort destination since the late 19th century. In those days (as today), the main attraction was the Hotel Del Coronado, known as “The Del.” The hotel has counted numerous presidents and celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra, among its guests.
This historical site commemorates Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who led the first European expedition to what is now California. Cabrillo is believed to have anchored his flagship, the "San Salvador", on Point Loma’s east shore in 1542. The site offers breathtaking views of the bay, and the statue of Cabrillo is one of the most visited national monuments in the US.
Stunning Sunset Cliffs Natural Park offers breath-taking views, spots for hiking, and access for surfers. The Park's topography includes intricately carved coastal bluffs, arches and sea caves, and if you're lucky, you might see the California Gray Whale on its annual migration from the Bering Sea to Baja California.
La Jolla Cove – or simply “the Cove,” as locals call it – lies next to one of the most photographed beaches in Southern California. As water visibility at the north end of the cove can reach 20-30 feet in the summer, it is also a popular location for scuba divers and snorkelers.
The botanical building is part of Balboa Park, built for the 1915-1916 Exposition held in the city. The attraction consists of the botanical building, the Lily Pond and the Lagoon. The building itself is the worlds biggest lath structure. The garden features 2,100 plants permanently and presents a seasonal exposition, as well.
San Diego is surrounded by great beaches,making it an ideal place for surfers. Many surf schools offer training and organize camps where tourists can learn how to surf in a safe environment. Pacific Surf School is located on Mission Beach, offering its services to experienced and inexperienced tourists alike.
Food critics have called Antica Trattoria “the best Italian” in San Diego, and with reviews that describe the dishes as “sensuous to the point of sin,” it is hard to stay away. The Sicilian-born chef is known to use the best Italian ingredients, such as San Daniele prosciutto and imported Fontina cheese.
The Pearl features California Coastal cuisine, friendly table service, and award-winning interior design. Executive Chef Elliott Townsend calls upon his background in a variety of regional styles to create exciting and eclectic dishes from seasonal, local ingredients.
Marion's Fish Market & Restaurant is the perfect spot to enjoy the bay views in the waterfront patio, while eating the specialty fish tacos prepared with mayo chipotle sauce. You can also find a great selection of home made Clam Chowder served in sourdough bread, seafood combos, ceviche cocktails and salads.
Claire de Lune Coffee Lounge has been around since the end of the 90s with the objective of being more than just a coffee shop. They host small concerts from local bands as well as art exhibitions, and their popularity has grown thanks to their warm and inviting venue.
The House of Blues San Diego has become one of the area's top spots for live music performances. Located in the city's bustling downtown area, the House of Blues San Diego has stuck to its roots by keeping a box of Delta Mississippi mud underneath its stage - a gesture to ensure that each performer will have the "spirit of the South" beneath their feet.
This award-winning, modern version of the traditional supper clubs of the 30's and 40's is a must for all foodies and music lovers. Voted Best Restaurant and Live Music Venue 3 years in a row, the intimate and elegant space contains concert hall acoustics, superb sight lines, and a fine-dining experience you can't find anywhere else.
The concept here is to combine wine buying with wine tasting in a casual and fun atmosphere. Wine Steals combines the experience of wine tasting in a traditional European winery with a relaxed lounge setting. The knowledgeable and friendly staff can help you choose a wine to your exact specifications.
More than 18 million shoppers visit Fashion Valley shopping mall every year. The upscale mall is located in Mission Valley, northeast of downtown, and has more than 200 shops, restaurants and department stores, including Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and Tiffany. If you are looking for something extraordinary, check out Na Hoku, a Hawaiian jewelry store.
Located in Little Italy's design district since 1985, Boomerang’s friendly atmosphere and home-like setting have been the benchmark of vintage modern design in San Diego. Three floors of carefully and personally chosen classic modern furnishings, lighting and accessories. Most are vintages from local estates, and some are new from the original manufacturers and craftspeople.
The official San Diego Zoo gift shop has every type of souvenir you can think of, including gifts, gourmet foods, sundries, fashion, hats, jewellery, T-shirts, stationery, books, toys, stuffed animals and much more, and of course, everything is appropriately animal-themed.
This self-branded "analogue reading headquarters and the epicentre of anti-social media," this wonderful book store prides itself in providing customers with the "lost art of personal service in the non-digital world." It calls itself a real book store and the opposite of cyberspace, a browser's paradise with thousands of softcover and hardcover titles to choose from.
San Diego International Airport (SAN), also known as Lindbergh Field, is located three miles northwest of downtown. Terminals 1 and 2 serve major airlines and are situated close to Transportation Plaza, where you can find all ground transportation including taxis and shuttle vans. A taxi ride to downtown usually takes five minutes. If you prefer public transport, look for the red and blue-striped buses.
San Diego’s bright-orange trolleys are great for exploring the city and operate from about 5am to midnight, seven days a week. Fares are based on trip distance. San Diego Transit also provides local bus services throughout the county. Most buses have bike racks, making it easy to pedal around the city. For most visitors, driving in Southern California is an adventure, but it can also be stressful. Make things easy on yourself by avoiding the freeway during the morning and afternoon rush hours (6-8:30am and 3:30-6pm). Downtown San Diego is pretty simple to navigate, and finding on-street parking can be easy. Just remember to feed your parking meters.