attractions in San Diego

12 highly rated tourist attractions in San Diego

Located in Southern California, not far from the border with Mexico, San Diego is the oldest city in California, founded in 1769. It has an enchanting natural beauty and a pleasant climate, with mild temperatures and plenty of sunshine. Some of the city’s most popular attractions include the museums, gardens, and Spanish colonial-style architecture in Balboa Park; the world-famous San Diego Zoo; and the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum. For a little history and shopping, visitors can stroll the streets of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park or wander through the Gaslamp Quarter. San Diego also has more than 68 miles of beaches in and around the city for sunning and surfing.

1 Balboa Park

Balboa Park
 

Balboa Park encompasses a 1,400-acre site with historic buildings, numerous museums, gardens and green space. The park was created for the Panama California Exhibition of 1915-1916 and most of the buildings remain from that event. The predominant architecture is Spanish-style low buildings that blend into the natural environment. Park highlights include the Botanical Gardens and Lily Pond, the Museum of Man, the Museum of Natural History, the San Diego Museum of Art, and the famous San Diego Zoo. Even if you never enter a building, the park is just a beautiful place.

Address: 1549 El Prado, San Diego, California

Official site: https://www.balboapark.org/

Read also: Discovering the Hidden Gems of Historic San Antonio

2 Sea world

Sea World
Sea World
 

SeaWorld San Diego is one of the city’s main attractions, especially for families. It is located on the water in Mission Bay. For many Americans, SeaWorld has been an old family tradition, going back since the 1960s. Highlights include shows with killer whales, sea lions, dolphins and other marine life. There are all kinds of rides, from roller coasters plowing into water to more sedate carnival type rides for toddlers. SeaWorld is an aquarium that offers up-close views of sharks and other sea creatures that can be seen through an acrylic tunnel, as well as touch tanks and close encounters with dolphins and tide pool residents.

Address: 500 SeaWorld Drive, San Diego, California

Official site: https://seaworldparks.com/en/seaworld-sandiego

3 San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo
 

The San Diego Zoo, located in Balboa Park, is one of the largest and best-known zoos in the United States. The zoo has all kinds of exotic animals, including pandas, which have been successfully bred here. It is spread out along a gorge, with many hills that are sometimes challenging for visitors wandering through the site. The park takes pride in its animal enclosures, which are designed to mimic the natural environment.

Address: 2920 Zoo Drive, Balboa Park, San Diego, California

Official site: https://www.sandiegozoo.org/

4 Gaslamp Quarter

Gaslamp Quarter
Gaslamp Quarter
 

Downtown San Diego is home to the Gaslamp Quarter Historic District, an area of ​​restored Victorian buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, the Gaslamp Quarter is a trendy area with shops, restaurants and galleries, attracting locals and tourists. The area covers less than 20 blocks and runs approximately from Broadway to San Diego Bay. There are also a large number of high-end hotels that are popular with both tourists and business travelers due to their great location in the city. This area underwent restorations in the 1970s, which eventually led to its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

Official site: https://gaslamp.org/

5 Seaport Village

Seaport Village
Seaport Village
 

San Diego’s Seaport Village is a lovely place to stroll around and spend an afternoon. This area of ​​unique shops and restaurants, right on the water, is a must-see. Picnic tables, benches and waterfront patios are spread throughout the area and it can be very busy on weekends. Outdoor performers regularly take to the stage in the afternoon, some of which can be quite eclectic. The area is easily accessible on foot from many of the nearby attractions, including the USS Midway . Since there is limited and expensive parking at Seaport Village, it may be best to park a short distance away and enjoy the walk along the waterfront to the campground.

Adres: West Harbor Drive en Pacific Highway, San Diego, Californië

Official site: https://www.seaportvillage.com/

6 Old Town State Historic Park

Old Town State Historic Park
Old Town State Historic Park
 

Historic Downtown San Diego gives visitors a glimpse into the city’s Mexican and early American history and offers shopping and dining opportunities. It was probably founded in 1820 by demobilized Mexican soldiers who had done their military service in the Presidio or in the fort on Presidio Hill, both of which are located here. Many of the historic buildings, including numerous adobe homes, have been repaired. There are also interesting shops and restaurants with terraces here. The Historic Downtown Historic Park is the most visited state park in California. There is no entrance fee.

Address: 4002 Wallace Street, San Diego, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=663

7 Point Loma en Cabrillo National Monument

Point Loma en Cabrillo National Monument
Point Loma en Cabrillo National Monument
 

Point Loma offers incredible views of San Diego and the Pacific Ocean. This is where Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first arrived on the west coast of the United States in 1542. The history of his incredible “Voyage of Discovery” is told through a variety of displays and exhibits at the Cabrillo National Monument. A large statue dedicated to Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo looks out over the land he discovered. Point Loma is also home to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, built in 1858. Visitors can tour the renovated lighthouse building. Access to Point Loma is along a very scenic roadway.

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/cabr/index.htm

8 San Diego Museum of Art

San Diego Museum of Art
San Diego Museum of Art
 

The San Diego Museum of Art is a copy of the 17th century University of Salamanca, in the so-called Platero style, with finely chiseled terracotta and silversmith work. Busts of Spanish painters decorate the facade and their works hang in the museum’s collection. The museum’s collection includes a broad spectrum of works from around the world and pieces dating back 7,000 years. Spanish Old Master paintings, along with Asian art, European art and art from the Americas are highlighted.

Address: 1450 El Prado, San Diego, California

Official site: https://www.sdmart.org/

9 Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum

Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum
Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum
 

Strolling along San Diego’s waterfront, visitors may be surprised to come across one of the largest ships in the U.S. military. The decommissioned USS Midway is permanently moored at Navy Pier. The highlights of a visit to the USS Midway Museum include more than 60 exhibits and 25 restored aircraft. More than 225,000 military personnel served on the ship and today visitors can take a self-guided audio tour to learn all about its history. For an additional fee, visitors can try an onboard flight simulator.

Adres: 910 North Harbor Drive, San Diego, Californië

Official site: https://www.midway.org/

10 Mission Beach

Mission Beach
Mission Beach
 

The Mission Beach Boardwalk epitomizes San Diego’s dreamy Southern California lifestyle. This beautiful five-mile stretch is the place for a leisurely stroll, sunbathing and people watching. The boardwalk is also a popular spot for skating, skateboarding and cycling. A highlight of Mission Beach is Belmont Park, an east coast amusement park complete with a historic roller coaster, excellent restaurants, carnival rides, and street performances. The carnival atmosphere encourages visitors to enjoy a day of fun in the sun.

11 Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Dany13 / photo modified
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Dany13 / photo modified
 

Romantics will appreciate the awe-inspiring experience of a Southern California sunset. One of the best places to go is Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, which stretches over 68 hectares along rocky coasts above the Pacific Ocean. The location offers an incomparable vantage point from which to take in the ocean panoramas as the sun transforms the horizon from blue to glorious shades of pink. During gray whale migration season, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park offers a chance to spot the whales as they migrate to Baja California, Mexico.

12 Missie Basilica San Diego de Alcala

Image
Image
 

Missie Basilica San Diego de Alcala

This was California’s first mission. In 1769, the Spanish Franciscan father from Majorca, Junipero Serra, founded the missions, the first of which was built in San Diego. However, a few years after it was founded, it was moved six miles inland because disputes arose between the Spanish forces and the Indians. In 1775 the Indians burned the new mission; the fathers took refuge with the army and it was 1777 before they built a new mission station with the help of the Indians. However, it quickly became dilapidated after secularization. Today, visitors can see the old church with a bell tower, which was called a basilica in the 1970s; a beautiful garden; and a small museum. It is a National Historic Landmark.

Address: 10818 San Diego Mission Road, San Diego, California

Official site: https://www.missionsandiego.com/

Where to Stay in San Diego for Sightseeing

In San Diego, the main tourist attractions are spread over a large area. However, staying downtown gives you easy access to many of the top locations, including the Gaslamp Quarter; Balboa Park; San Diego Zoo; the harbour; Horton Plaza shopping; Little Italy; and Petco Park, where the Padres play. From the center it’s about a ten-minute drive to the quieter coasts of Coronado, a popular weekend getaway. Here are some highly rated San Diego hotels in a convenient, central location

  • Luxury Lodging: In San Diego, luxury travelers don’t have to sacrifice ocean views for a central location. The Manchester Grand Hyatt overlooks sparkling San Diego Bay, a short walk from Seaport Village, the Gaslamp Quarter and the USS Midway Museum. In the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter, The US Grant is steeped in historic elegance, while the Omni San Diego Hotel is connected to Petco Park by a pedestrian crossing. Both are also central to other top attractions such as Balboa Park and Little Italy.
  • Mid-range Accommodation: Overlooking Petco Park, the hip Hotel Indigo in the Gaslamp Quarter is a pet-friendly property with an eco-roof garden. Also located in the Gaslamp Quarter, the Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown is housed in an impressive 1920s bank building. The modern boutique Bristol Hotel is not far from here, within walking distance of all the downtown action, as well as the USS Midway Museum and Horton Plaza.
  • Cheap Lodging: Travelers watching their wallet but still looking for a central location should consider the Comfort Inn Gaslamp, in the heart of the namesake district, and the Days Inn San Diego Downtown, five minutes by car to Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo.Another affordable, value option is the Old Town Inn, a ten-minute walk from Old Town, with easy trolley access to Balboa Park, the Gaslamp Quarter, and the harbor.

Tips and Tours: How to Get the Most Out of Your Visit to San Diego

For sightseeing in San Diego, the Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley Tour is the best choice. With the city’s mild climate all year round, this is the perfect tour in any season and offers complete flexibility. Get out and explore the areas that interest you or just stay up to see the city at a leisurely pace without worrying about driving or parking. One or two day passes are available.

If you want to get out on the water and see the city skyline, take a San Diego Harbor Cruise. These one or two hour tours are a great way to learn a bit of history, see some sights and possibly see some seals and sea lions sunbathing.

Read also:

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