In southern California, the vibrant metropolis of San Diego is known for its always good weather and varied attractions. The lively downtown area is characterized by cultural and artistic highlights – from the numerous shopping malls to Balboa Park and the colorful restaurants in the historic “Gaslamp Quarter”. Especially attractive is the ideal location to the Pacific Ocean with numerous beautiful beaches and the impressive Anza-Borrego Desert Park. From hiking in the rustic backcountry to kayaking in secluded bays, there are a variety of activities that are possible at any time of year thanks to the pleasant climate.
Tip 1: Balboa Park
This Spanish architectural style park in the heart of San Diego was created in 1910 and gained its final touch in 1915 with the Panama-California Exposition.
Over 1,200 acres (485 ha) are home to more than 15 museums and numerous cultural attractions. The park was named after the Spanish explorer Balboa. In addition to Spanish Colonial style, one finds hints of Baroque, Rococo and Gothic.
If you enter the park through the West Gate, you think you are entering an old Spanish city. The design of the West Gate is meant to represent the connection of the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Panama Canal.
All in all, very contrasting to the modern skyscraper style of the city. But it is exactly this mix that makes San Diego. The 61m high California Tower, a bell tower with 100 bells, is the most noticed attraction in the park. It rings every 15 minutes.
In addition to the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park features include:
Balboa Park Carousel, Balboa Park Miniature Railroad, House of Hospitality and Balboa Park Visitors Center, House of Pacific Relations International Cottages, Photographic Arts Building, Sefton Plaza, Spanish Village Art Center, United Nations Building and nealy 20 museums.
Tip 2: Seaworld San Diego
SeaWorld San Diego is a theme park about our oceans with their species-rich underwater worlds! San Diego is one of only 3 locations (Orlando, San Antonio) worldwide and also the first ever! When the park opened in 1964, 400,000 visitors came directly in the first year – today the park, which is located on the south shore of Mission Bay, attracts more than 4 million visitors annually.
Unlike the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld is a theme park that, in addition to numerous shows, allows visitors to experience the animals up close and also learn about them and their lives underwater in interactive areas. Some animals, such as sea lions, can be fed directly in open-air enclosures, while others you can get closer than would be possible in the wild such as stingrays (stingrays) and the impressive bat rays. Here is a short list of some of SeaWorld’s many animal inhabitants: whales like the Orca Killer Whales or Beluga Whales, dolphins, sharks, polar bears, rays, penguins, sea lions and many more!
Tip 3: Gaslamp Quarter
The historic heart of Downtown San Diego is the 16-and-a-half-block Gaslamp Quarter The Victorian entertainment district charms with the lively spirit of a bygone era. There are more than 70 restaurants, 40 stores and 20 nightclubs for visitors to explore.
Throughout the year, the Gaslamp Quarter is a gigantic outdoor party with definitely bigger events like the annual Mardi Gras parade on “Fat Tuesday” in February. Then there’s Sham Rock, the St. Patrick’s Day Block Parade in March, the Easter Bonnet Parade in April and the annual Fiesta Cinco de Mayo in May, which wraps the Mexican national holiday in festive garb. Taste of Gaslamp, Downtown’s favorite for foodies in June, and Street Scene, California’s largest food & music festival in September. Watch your valuables a bit; this is one of the few places in town where pickpockets can be more prevalent when it’s crowded. Jazz venues and live music are also plentiful.
Tip 4: La Jolla
The village of La Jolla on the Pacific coast is all Mediterranean style and is considered the jewel of San Diego. La Jolla is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Southern California and offers luxurious hotels and resorts, first-class restaurants with breathtaking ocean views, shopping opportunities that are in no way inferior to rivals further north such as Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles or the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.
The town’s gorgeous location is complemented by seemingly endless outdoor recreational activities: snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, surfing, slope/paragliding from one of the most famous coastal launch sites in the U.S., and golfing at the world-renowned Torrey Pines Golf Course. Be sure to visit the sea lions, who are very happy here and have made part of the beach their home.
Tip 5: San Diego Old Town
The extreme south of California and the adjoining area of northern Baja California in Mexico were originally inhabited by the Kumai tribe, a Native American people who lived here for nearly 10,000 years as hunters, gatherers and farmers. The first white man to set foot on the land was the Portuguese Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, who was in Spanish service. The goal of his two-year expedition was to search for a connection between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and to find the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola with their rich gold treasures, which were said to be located near the Pacific coast. Although his expedition was ultimately unsuccessful, he was still remembered as the man who, on September 28, 1542, became the first white man to set foot on the west coast of America, declaring the newly discovered territory the property of the Spanish Crown.
The old town of San Diego is thus considered the birthplace of California. At Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, you can admire some rustic 19th-century wood and adobe buildings and colorful stores that are beautifully preserved and offer a glimpse into San Diego’s colonial life. At that time, by the way, California was still part of Mexico. It did not become a state of the USA until 1850. Even today, for example, San Diego’s oldest tobacco store, Racine & Laramie, sells tobacco, cigars and stationery just as it did over 150 years ago.
As if you were in Mexico, you feel on the edge of the Old Town Plaza in the Bazaar Del Mundo, a colorful Mexican market. Stalls, small boutiques and a restaurant invite you to browse and linger. In the entire area of Old Town you will find more than 30 restaurants – many of them Mexican – that will spoil your palate with margaritas, guacamole and co.