If you’re headed to San Diego on vacation you probably already have one or more tourist stops that you want to hit, the city is simply loaded with activities. Unless you’re planning on making a return visit, your best bet is to research what there is to see and do in San Diego and then try to squeeze in as many of your top selections as possible
The world famous San Diego Zoo is not your typical zoo. The staff at the San Diego Zoo diligently research rare animals and work hard on captive breeding programs to help ensure their survival. The zoo is designed for the comfort and well being of the inhabitants rather than the guests so you may have to try hard to see each animal as you tour the zoo, but you’ll get a better idea of their natural habitats. The zoo is huge so it can get quite exhausting trying to see everything, look for one of the zoo tour busses and get an overall image of the park while saving a little shoe leather.
Torrey Pines State Reserve lets you look at how the land around San Diego looked centuries ago. The more than 2000 acres of majestic Torrey pines and chaparral plants grace the edges of the unspoiled beaches and sea beyond. The area is largely untouched and strangely welcomes visitors into a time before global warming and pollution. It’s a rare chance to see what was and what should probably be again. Explore the eight miles of trails by yourself or stop by on a weekend and take a guided tour.
Balboa Park is the country’s largest urban cultural park and contains 15 major museums, performing arts venues, gardens and the San Diego Zoo. If you’re planning on seeing the zoo you may want to check the performance and exhibit schedule and see if something within Balboa Park fits in your schedule. The park is a great way to relax and enjoy San Diego’s beautiful weather or see a performance or fill your afternoon with visits to the museums on the grounds. If you’re interested in the museums check out the Passport to Balboa Park which gets you a discount on 13 of the museums with the pass.
SeaWorld San Diego has gone beyond the ubiquitous dolphin show and shark tank and includes a Sesame Street Imagination presentation, Shamu’s SkySplash fireworks, Cirque de la Mer and an acrobatic and musical production, Riptide. There are also eight amusement park rides if you need an adrenalin rush in your day. If you’ve actually come to SeaWorld to see the aquatic animals make sure you check out the exhibits including: Shark Encounter, Wild Arctic, Rocky Point Preserve, Shamu Close Up, Penguin Encounter, Forbidden Reef, Manatee Rescue, California Tide Pool, Pacific Point, Freshwater Aquarium, Aquarium de la Mer, World of the Sea Aquarium and Flamingo Cove. This is another activity that can easily take a full day.
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park gives you a chance to learn more about what the San Diego region was like from 1821 to 1872. Explore how Mexican and American cultures came together to create a culture that was all their own. Restored buildings from the era sit in the middle of The Historic Plaza and provide the focal point for all activity in the park. Visit the historical museums, retail stores and restaurants while listening to traditional music and interacting with characters from days long ago.
The San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum or the USS Midway Museum is the world’s largest floating naval-aviation museum. After 47 years of service the ship completed its final voyage in 1991 and moored at the Embarcadero. During its years of service the ship was home to more than 225,000 people and spent years patrolling the sea during wartime. Self guided tours let you spend as much time exploring as you want, but if you can join a docent tour do so as they’re typically headed by vets who actually served on board the USS Midway.
The San Diego Aerospace Museum’s focuses on the history of flight from a replica of the 1783 Montgolfier brothers’ hot air balloon to a thorough exploration of space age technology. The museum has a number of incredible permanent exhibits but they’ve also got a great traveling exhibit program so each visit is bound to be a little bit different than the last.
The Maritime Museum of San Diego is known throughout the world for its great ability in restoring, maintaining and operating historic vessels. A trip through this museum will give you a glimpse at one of the best collections of historic ships in the world. One of the highlights of The Maritime Museum of San Diego is the Star of India, the oldest active ship in the world. If you’d like to get the chance to ride one of this wonders you can purchase an Historic Bay Cruise for only $3 and spend up to two hours riding the 1914 Pilot.
Cabrillo National Monument is a celebration of the first European to set foot on the west coast in 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. The monument gives guests a chance to see back into that era and learn more about Cabrillo’s exploits and the natural wonder that was to become San Diego. Point Loma sits on more than 660 acres of native habitat so you still may get to glimpse some of the natural flora and fauna. Once on the point you’ll quickly realize why the military decided to use the area to protect the San Diego Bay.
In the Cabrillo National Monument is Point Loma Lighthouse, making this stop a two-fer. The Old Point Loma Lighthouse was designed to protect the San Diego Bay but never really served a lot of good. The lighthouse was in service for 36 years but the normal fog and low clouds made it inefficient. In 1891 the lighthouse was decommissioned and a new one was established for protection of the bay. The Old Point Loma Lighthouse was opened to the public and can be toured with a park ranger as the guide.
photo credit: Black.Dots.