San Diego: things to do in Californias birthplace
Things to do in “America’s Finest City” – find out what the best San Diego attractions are.
San Diego awaits its visitors and pampers the locals with its unique, laid-back atmosphere, sandy beaches, world-class attractions, diverse cultural life and the most beautiful sunsets. All is served under a wonderful climate, which makes the major San Diego things to do a year-round destination.
San Diego things to do #1: Learn more about the birthplace of California
California’s second largest city has a rich and colorful heritage. As a border town, its culture is deeply influenced by Mexican culture. This is the birthplace of California, since Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the maritime explorer first landed here and thus San Diego became the first European settlement on the West Coast. If you’re interested in history, then the Cabrillo National Monument and the Old Town are the places to visit in San Diego! The Cabrillo National Monument commemorates the explorer and his arrival at Point Loma, while the Old Town neighborhood shows traces and memories of the early days of San Diego. Go and experience life in California in the 1820s!
San Diego things to do #2: Dazzling array of world-class family attractions in San Diego
When San Diego things to do comes up in a conversation, almost everyone immediately thinks of the city’s two best-known attractions, the San Diego Zoo and the SeaWorld. For many, these two San Diego attractions are a reason enough to visit the beautiful coastal city.
The San Diego Zoo, a pioneer in the concept of open-air, natural exhibits is a 100-acre wildlife park, which houses close to 4,000 animals of around 650 species, among which one will find very rare and endangered creatures. The zoo is renowned for its breeding programs with such special animals like koalas, Tasmanian devils, tree kangaroos and so on. The crowd-favorite giant pandas that once lived here are now back in China, but don’t let that put you off the places to go in San Diego! It offers a calendar full of themed events, experience tours and is open 365 days a year. Needless to say that it’s one of the best among San Diego’s activities!
The San Diego Zoo is located within the world’s largest urban cultural park, the Balboa Park. In addition to the world-famous zoo, the park houses 17 museums and an array of demonstration and botanical gardens. Bruce Springsteen even named a song after this park! The best thing? This cultural oasis is just a few steps away from downtown, so it’s easy to include it in any of the San Diego tours.
San Diego things to do #3: Be prepared to get wet!
Although it would not fit in a day’s schedule with the zoo, the SeaWorld San Diego is only a 15-minute drive away from Balboa Park and it’s just as high on a San Diego to do list, when visiting the city. SeaWorld is home to nearly 67,000 marine creatures, such as orcas, walruses and the children’s favorites, the dolphins. You can get up close and personal with them within spectacular programs, the Orca Encounter, the Dolphin Encounter or the Dolphin Interaction, just to name a few. Don’t forget to book your session in advance, because SeaWorld is usually crowded and be prepared to get wet!
San Diego things to do #4: Get wild outside the city!
While the San Diego Zoo shows animals from all over the world, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (originally named San Diego Wild Animal Park) focuses mainly on the savannah wildlife of Africa and Asia. The park’s main attraction is the Africa Tram, a tramline, which brings visitors through field exhibits on the different habitats of Africa. The Safari Park is situated 35 miles away from San Diego City in San Pasqual Valley, near Escondido.
San Diego things to do #5: Waterfalls and scenic spots
If looking for San Diego activities running at slower pace, than head to the San Diego Botanic Garden (SDBG). The botanic garden in Encinitas is open to the public since 1970 and it’s often called as the San Diego’s #1 garden. The garden maintains North America’s largest public bamboo collection and thousands of various plants from around the world. You’ll find 300 species for which SDBG is the only garden maintaining a population. Four miles of trails, a rainforest with a waterfall, dozens of scenic spots and a glass conservatory awaits the visitors.
San Diego things to do #6: Fun in the sun – San Diego’s best beaches
San Diego is famous for its sandy beaches, therefore the city is often mentioned as California’s Beach City. There are many things to do for fun in San Diego and enjoying the beach vibe is definitely one of them. Some of the best San Diego beaches are:
- Ocean Beach
- Pacific Beach
- La Jolla Cove
- Coronado Island
In the latter case, the island designation may be misleading, because it’s connected to the mainland by Silver Strand, another popular place for relaxation. Coronado Island is right across the San Diego Bay from downtown and the best options to get here are either via the Coronado Bridge or by one of the ferries from the city center. You can choose from five white sand beaches on Coronado Island and if you happen to build your sand castles here on any Tuesday, check out the Farmer’s Market for fresh fruits and vegetables from local growers.
The Hotel Del Coronado, which could be the set of a Wes Anderson film, worth a visit for anyone interested in architecture and history. The Victorian masterpiece, often dubbed as “the Del”, is welcoming guest since 1888. The luxurious beach resort quickly became a mecca for sophisticated travelers and proudly preserves this status today.
San Diego things to do #7: Maritime History – USS Midway and the Maritime Museum
Being the place, where the explorers first set foot on the West Coast, San Diego couldn’t be historically more significant from a maritime perspective. But the city also played an important role in modern wars, as for example during WWII San Diego was the Navy’s primary air station. Tourist seeking to learn more about naval history, warships or fighter jets, will find both the Maritime Museum and the USS Midway Museum waiting for them in San Diego Bay, on the Embarcadero promenade. Although the 1986 Top Gun movie features the USS Enterprise, you can see an F-14 Tomcat on the flight deck of the USS Midway. Pro tip: check out the exact piano at Kansas City Barbecue, where Maverick and Goose played “Great Balls of Fire”. This is one of the lesser known San Diego attractions.
San Diego things to do #8: Heaven for creative minds and entertainment
In addition to its myriad of museums and creative communities, San Diego offers other ways to let your creative energies run free. The city is a mecca for comic book fans, hosting Comic-Con every year, the largest annual comic and pop culture festival in the world.
San Diego things to do #9: Theme parks make the hearts of young and old beat faster
San Diego is not short of theme parks too, with Belmont Park close to SeaWorld in Mission Beach and LEGOLAND California a little further out of town. One of these must be on the list of places to go to in San Diego for families travelling together.
San Diego things to do #10: Let’s take a pleasant day and explore Little Italy
Due to its proximity to the port, the streets, now called Little Italy, were originally inhabited by Italian and Portuguese fishermen. In recent years, this area has undergone rapid and spectacular development and is now a favorite with locals and tourists alike. The Saturday market, known as the Mercato is not to be missed in our San Diego things to do list! The Little Italy community is particularly active, with many festivals and celebrations linked to Italian culture, like the Little Italy Festa, the largest Italian festival outside of New York City.