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World Travel Guide > Guides > North America > United States of America > California > San Diego

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Things to see in San Diego

Tourist Offices

San Diego Visitor Information Center

Address: , 996 N Harbor Drive, San Diego, 92101
Telephone: +1 619 236 1242.
Opening times:

Daily 0900-1700.

Website: http://www.sandiego.org

Tourist passes

The Southern California CityPASS allows admission to SeaWorld San Diego, Universal Studios Hollywood, LEGOLAND and either the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park within a 14-day period. You can buy the pass either at the attraction or on the official CityPASS website (www.citypass.com/southern-california).

The Two-Visit Pass includes admission to San Diego Zoo (with a narrated bus tour and aerial tram tour) and a Wild Animal Park general admission. The ticket, which is available for purchase at either establishment, must be used within one year of date of purchase.

The GO San Diego Card includes access to SeaWorld San Diego, LEGOLAND, San Diego Zoo San Diego, Safari Park Zoo, USS Midway Museum and more than 30 other local attractions. It’s available as a 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7-day pass.

The Balboa Park Explorer Pass (www.balboapark.org/explorer) provides access to 13 of the museums within Balboa Park. The pass lasts seven days and can be purchased from the House of Hospitality, within the park.

Attractions

La Jolla

Situated at the southern end of San Diego, La Jolla is home to the city’s most popular beaches. Ocean kayaking and surfing off La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Shores and Windansea beach are popular pastimes in the Orange County sun. The area includes a number of San Diego's best-rated restaurants plus the Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse.

Address: La Jolla, Neptune Place, San Diego,
Telephone:
Opening times: Website: http://www.lajolla.com
Admission Fees: Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Birch Aquarium at Scripps

Scripps Institute of Oceanography is one of the pioneers in oceanographic studies. Visitors can get a glimpse of some of the institute's more unique projects at its Birch Aquarium. Public presentations and displays include lectures, whale-watching expeditions, tide-pooling trips for families and live cam demonstrations of the institute's current research programmes. Among its more impressive exhibits is the Kelp Forest, a giant live exhibit of one of nature's more impressive habitats. It is home to thousands of different kinds of sea life, from leopard sharks to the minuscule kelp fish that survive in camouflage along the leaves of the tall plant. A video camera provides a close-up view of many of the aquarium's inhabitants. The aquarium's Jelly Tanks are home to some of the more beautiful and exotic types of jellyfish in the world, such as moon jellies, the lion mane jellies and the purple-striped jellies.

Address: La Jolla, 2300 Expedition Way, San Diego,
Telephone: +1 858 534 3474.
Opening times:

Daily 0900-1700.

Website: http://www.aquarium.ucsd.edu
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Balboa Park

The largest urban cultural park in the USA, this 485-hectare (1,200-acre) park is located just north of Downtown San Diego and is a favourite landmark for locals and visitors alike. Local developers set aside the land in the early 1900s and commissioned some of the country's finest architects to create exhibit spaces for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal. Several buildings with ornate colonial-style architecture, high archways and tiled walkways have been meticulously preserved through the years and house excellent museums. The main street in the park is El Prado, leading past museums, a lily pond and botanical building, and several gardens. Walkways lead from El Prado to the park's other areas, including an outdoor organ pavilion and the San Diego Zoo. Among the park's 15 museums is the Reuben H Fleet Science Center, with a planetarium, IMAX wide-screen theatre and hands-on science exhibits. Some of the other most celebrated museums include the Automotive Museum (featuring over 80 classic models of car and motorbike), the Museum of Man (exceptional exhibits on anthropology and archaeology), the San Diego Air & Space Museum and the Museum of Art (regularly featuring artists from around the world). Art lovers will find a wide range of topics, artists and mediums to explore throughout the park's many art museums, such as the Museum of Photographic Arts, the Timken Art Gallery and the Mingei International Museum featuring folk art from around the world. The Centro Cultural de la Raza provides resources for Mexican, Chicano and indigenous art and culture. Other attractions include Japanese Friendship Garden, San Diego Hall of Champions, San Diego Historical Society Museum, San Diego Model Railroad Museum, San Diego Natural History Museum, The Globe Theatres, and the Veteran's Memorial Center Museum.

Address: , Main entrances: Sixth Avenue and El Prado, and Park Avenue and Village Place, San Diego, ,
Telephone: +1 619 239 0512.
Opening times: Website: http://www.balboapark.org
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Petco Park

With swaying palm trees and a sandy beach just beyond centre field, Petco Park delivers baseball in true Californian style. Major League Baseball games take place from April to November, although the stadium is open year-round with walk-up tours offered seven days a week. Tour highlights include sitting in the press box, learning about the historic Western Metal Supply Co. building and exploring the Padres dugout.

Address: , 100 Park Boulevard, San Diego, 92101
Telephone: +1 619 795 5000.
Opening times:

Daily 1000-1600. Times vary on game days.

Website: http://padres.mlb.com/sd/ballpark
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Cabrillo National Monument

The spot where Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo made history in 1542 by becoming the first European to set foot on what is now the West Coast of the United States. The Cabrillo National Monument tells his story with a visitor centre showing the film "In Search of Cabrillo" alongside an exhibit hall presenting Cabrillo's life and times. The park is also home to a wealth of cultural and natural resources, and offers stunning views of San Diego and the harbour.

Address: , 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive, San Diego,
Telephone: +1 619 557 5450.
Opening times:

Daily 0900-1700.

Website: http://www.nps.gov/cabr/index.htm
Admission Fees:

$5 per person or $10 per passenger vehicle.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Old Town State Park

San Diego's Old Town is where California's Spanish history first began. The area is home to the famous Presidio (Spanish for fort), situated on the grassy knolls above San Diego Bay. The Presidio commands a stunning view of the city, Old Town proper and the Californian coastline. Visitors can wander the Presidio's immaculately sculpted gardens or visit the historical museum. The Old Town State Park includes a number of residential and commercial buildings down the hill from the Presidio in the main part of Old Town. The old school house and blacksmith's building, both of which were constructed of adobe in the early 1800s, are some of Old Town's last remaining pioneer structures. Early San Diego hacienda-style homes house restaurants and shops and art galleries and folk-art stores and cafes are scattered throughout the neighbourhood.

Address: , San Diego Avenue and Twiggs Street, San Diego,
Telephone: +1 619 220 5422.
Opening times:

Daily 1000-1800 (May-Sep); Mon-Thurs 1000-1600, Fri-Sun 1000-1700 (Oct-Apr).

Website: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=663
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

San Diego Zoo

Known for its conservation efforts, the San Diego Zoo maintains several endangered species exhibits and works with conservation groups worldwide to encourage protection of threatened wildlife. The enormous reserve has rambling scenic walkways and narrated bus tours. 'Monkey Trails' at the heart of the zoo includes Asian and African forests with more than 30 species of exotic birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. At 'Tiger River', misty trails wind amid waterfalls in a tropical forest of more than 5,000 types of exotic plants and tigers, Burmese pythons and Malaysian tapirs. The most popular exhibit is the Pacific Bell Giant Panda Research Station, where several endangered pandas have given birth. The baby pandas are a big hit and long lines often form at the enclosure. The zoo hosts several ‘after dark' events, including live music performances and up-close animal encounters.

Address: , 2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego,
Telephone: +1 619 234 1515.
Opening times:

Daily 0900-1700 (basic opening hours); varies according to season.

Website: http://www.sandiegozoo.org
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Seaport Village

Named for its historic waterfront setting on the shores of San Diego Bay, Seaport Village is one of the city's more unusual ‘malls'. Located at the southern edge of the city's old Embarcadero wharf area, the village is primarily a shopping and eating district with paths, ponds and lakes providing scenic views of the waterfront.

Address: , 849 West Harbor Drive, San Diego,
Telephone: +1 619 235 4014.
Opening times:

Shops open daily 1000-2100 (until 2200 between Jun-Aug).

Website: http://www.seaportvillage.com
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Mission Trails Regional Park

This 2,300-hectare (5,750-acre) park on the east side of San Diego is a naturalist's paradise. On any given day, you can see animals indigenous to this semi-arid landscape, including coyotes, fox, hummingbirds and the small gecko lizard. The park hosts ecology and guided interpretive walks year round. It is also possible to camp in the park during the summer (Thursday through Sunday), as there are 46 fairly primitive campsites accessible to vehicles. Reservations may only be made through the website.

Address: off Highway-8 East, 1 Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Diego,
Telephone: +1 619 668 3281.
Opening times:

Daily 0900-1700.

Website: http://www.mtrp.org
Admission Fees:

No (charge for camping)

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

USS Midway Museum

In 2004 the longest-serving aircraft carrier in history was turned into a museum. The venerable USS Midway was commissioned in 1945 and served as a flagship during Desert Storm as late as 1992. More than 225,000 Americans served on her. The vessel is now a highly popular attraction offering a self-guided audio tour, a wide range of exhibits and displays, access to the mess deck, berthing spaces, hangar deck, flight deck and island superstructure, Mach Combat F-8 and F-4 phantom flight simulators and flight stations, flight avionics motion simulators and 15 restored aircraft, among other things.

Address: , 910 North Harbor Drive, San Diego,
Telephone: +1 619 544 9600.
Opening times:

Daily 1000-1700.

Website: http://www.midway.org
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

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Featured Hotels

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Sofia Hotel

One of the oldest hotels in San Diego's Downtown has been transformed into a chic boutique inn with 212 rooms that have the feel of urban studios with efficient Wi-Fi and access to Currant, one of lower downtown's most happening cafes. Some rooms are dark and noisy - ask to see a few before unpacking.

Hard Rock Hotel San Diego

Set smack at the foot of Fifth Avenue, across the street from the San Diego Convention Center at the edge of the Gaslamp Quarter, the 12-story Hard Rock attracts awe-struck sightseers ogling The Rock Shop (collectable Hard Rock gear), Nobu (chef Nobu Matsuhisa's entree into the SoCal dining scene), Maryjane's diner-style coffee shop and the Sweetwater Saloon - a sidewalk bar by day and happening dance club at night. Guests in the 420 rooms and suites are greeted with their choice of music drifting from speakers on the flat screen HDTVs. Red leather chairs and low white couches, swirly patterned rugs and square showerheads in the ceilings set a fun-loving mood, enhanced by Sleep Like a Rock beds.

Tower 23

Named for the lifeguard tower it faces, this ultra-hip Pacific Beach hotel has 44 slick rooms with rain showers, Egyptian cotton bedding, LCD screen TVs and H2O toiletries. Some suites overlook the boardwalk and beach and have private balconies. Wi-Fi is available throughout the property - checking your e-mail from a cafe table by the sand is just about as SoCal techie as you can get. The hotel's JRDN restaurant serves the freshest regional seafood and produce in a casual setting.

Town and Country Resort

The resort features 1,000 guestrooms, four swimming pools and whirlpool, five restaurants and three lounges, in addition to 16 hectares (40 acres) of beautifully landscaped grounds. There is also a spa, salon and fitness centre. The 27-hole Riverwalk Golf Club and Mission Valley Regional Conference Center are adjacent. Premier shopping is also available nearby.

Inn at the Park

This historic hotel in San Diego, formerly the Park Manor Suites Hotel, occupies a gorgeous seven-storey Italian Renaissance style building in the heart of Balboa Park, adjacent to the Hillcrest neighbourhood. The structure was built in 1926 and designated a historical site by the City of San Diego in 1991. It is situated on the west edge of Balboa Park and offers sweeping views of San Diego Bay, Downtown and Hillcrest. All suites come with full kitchens and dinettes. Deluxe continental breakfast is on offer every morning.

Omni San Diego

A sky bridge connects the tasteful Omni with Petco Park's baseball stadium and a nearby pedestrian crossing makes the walk from the hotel to the Convention Center easy. Baseball memorabilia fills display cases in public spaces. Corner rooms on the east side have a spot-on view of the ballpark; others overlook the Convention Center and bay. The 511 rooms are sensibly and comfortably designed and the outdoor pool with fireplace is the favourite hangout. A McCormick & Schmick's restaurant serves decent seafood.