San Diego Visitors Guide
Spectacular scenery and near-perfect weather have made San Diego a top Southern California destination. Quieter and more scenic than Los Angeles, this city on San Diego Bay is home to a vibrant mix of cultures and areas of well-preserved coastal beauty. There’s something for everyone here: families flock to SeaWorld, LEGOLAND® (in nearby Carlsbad) and the world-famous San Diego Zoo, while adults can go tequila tasting in Old Town and experience the famed nightlife of downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter.
San Diego Adventures
- The Gaslamp Quarter: San Diego’s 16-square-block entertainment district has been called the French Quarter of the West because of its annual Mardi Gras celebration and energetic nightlife scene. Galleries, theaters, shops and restaurants abound, housed in a mix of modern high-rises and charming Victorian-era structures. Traveling with kids? The Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House has been called the Quarter’s most haunted house, providing some spooky fun.
- A Breathtaking Beach: Kids and adults alike love La Jolla Cove, a stunning beach tucked away 15 miles north of downtown. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the cove’s famous sea lions and seals basking on the rocks. After a trip to the beach, enjoy the galleries and restaurants in the village or take a drive through the expansive and picturesque University of California, San Diego campus.
- Balboa Park: This lovely 1,400-acre urban park hosted the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition and the pavilions here call to mind that bygone time. Strolling the park’s botanical gardens is a must, but there’s a lot more to see here, including the San Diego Museum of Art and the Old Globe Theater.
- The USS Midway Museum: Commissioned just after the end of World War II and decommissioned in 1992, the USS Midway was the longest-serving aircraft carrier in US history. It’s now a museum where you can operate flight simulators and climb aboard some of the restored aircraft in its collection.
- Charming Old Town: Get a feel for San Diego’s Spanish mission past at Old Town San Diego. Old Town San Diego State Historic Park houses original historic buildings and specialty museums that provide a glimpse into Mexican and American life from 1821 to 1872. You can dine al fresco at one of many Mexican restaurants and shop for souvenirs in the main village.
Best Bet: San Diego Zoo
More than 3.2 million visitors tour this 100-acre zoo each year, making it San Diego’s top attraction. Highlights include its lovable pandas, massive Galapagos tortoises (in residence since 1928) and well-designed habitats. Morning finds most animals at their liveliest, so come early and allow at least four hours for exploring.
Off the Beaten Path: Wine Country
Southern California’s Mediterranean-style climate makes it an ideal location for wine production and there are more than 50 wineries in San Diego County. Within a 30-minute drive of the city, you can visit wineries producing a number of wines, most notably merlot and chardonnay.
When to Visit San Diego
There’s really no bad time to book your San Diego hotel stay, with its blissfully perfect temperature (highs in the high 60s and lows in the high 50s are average) and minimal rainfall and humidity. Despite the warm temperatures on land, the Pacific is quite chilly for swimming and many opt for wetsuits even during summer months. (Dana Point and Coronado Beach are reputed to have warmer water temperatures.)
San Diego Travel Tip
More than 100,000 sci-fi and comic fans trek to San Diego each summer for Comic-Con International, an epic event held at the San Diego Convention Center. In addition to celebrity-studded panels, movie trailer premieres and costume contests, Comic-Con features hundreds of vendors selling comic-related merchandise. If you want to attend, make sure to plan ahead: this is one of the city’s biggest annual events, so tickets and San Diego hotel rooms can be hard to come by.