The city is one of the most desirable destinations in the United States due to its pristine beaches, famous attractions, and near perfect year-round weather. Regardless if you’re visiting San Diego for the very first time or it’s your favorite spot to vacation, here are some places you must see!
When was the last time you were able to visit the zoo, museums, theatre and dine at fine restaurants all at once? Balboa Park is one of the most popular attractions in San Diego because visitors can enjoy culture, science, and nature in one convenient location. Named after the Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the iconic park just celebrated its 150th anniversary. The 1,200-acre park has 16 world-class museums, lush gardens, walking trails, live performing arts venues and more for you to explore.
When you first enter the park, you can’t help but notice its beautiful, grandiose architecture. Balboa Park has a mixture of different architectural styles, ranging from Spanish-Renaissance to mid-century modern and Italian-Renaissance. The stunning buildings alone and gardens alone are awe-inspiring and make a great photo op!
Balboa Park has something for everyone. Nature lover? Check out the Botanical Building, Memorial Rose Garden and the Japanese Friendship Garden. Only care about history and science? Go to the San Diego Natural History Museum and Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. Meanwhile, if you love the arts, you should visit the Timken Museum of Art, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego Art Institute and the San Diego Museum of Art. You may also be able to catch a live theatrical performance at the historic Old Globe Theatre or the San Diego Junior Theatre.
San Diego Zoo
After you explore Balboa Park, head to the legendary San Diego Zoo next door. Widely considered one of the best zoos in the world, the San Diego Zoo is one of the top tourist destinations in Southern California.
According to a local newspaper, the San Diego Zoo started from very humble beginnings when it opened in 1916. Pelicans, rattlesnakes, and bears were just some of the first animals donated to the zoo. Navy sailors raised the young bears as pets on the ship and later donated them to the zoo when the animal grew up and was too large to control.
Now the San Diego Zoo has over 4,000 rare and endangered animals and 800 different species. The zoo is about 100 acres and is considered one of the best places to see polar bears, tigers, gorillas and other wild animals in naturalistic habitats. They also have an extensive botanical collection with more than 700,000 plants.
The San Diego Zoo has many unique and notable animal habitats. Some of them include the Monkey Trails, Elephant Odyssey and Australia Outback exhibit. You can also check out the Africa Rocks exhibit and see polar bears swim in the Polar Bear Plunge. Get up close and personal with animals in the Children’s Zoo or you can book a special tour like Animals in Action if you really want a unique experience.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
If you are craving adventure, you should go to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. It’s one of the few places where you can go on a safari and watch in wonderment as giraffes, rhinos and other animals roam the landscape. All you have to do is decide if you want to observe the animals from the sky with a secure zip line, traveling through the park by vehicle or walking.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located in the city of Escondido, which is a short distance from the zoo. Around 2,600 animals live inside the 1,800-acre park. One must see exhibit is the Lion Camp and the bird show. You can also check out Lorikeet Landing and personally feed lorikeets up close and in person. Meanwhile, make sure to check out the bats, meerkats, and lemurs in Nairobi Village before you leave the park.
Of course, you can’t visit San Diego without exploring the city’s world-famous beaches. One of the most popular beaches is Mission Beach. Thousands of people flock to it every year to enjoy its beautiful ocean view. Mission Beach is perfect if you want to take a leisurely stroll or ride a bike along its boardwalk, sunbathe or simply enjoy the water. There are lots of charming local shops and restaurants you can visit in the area. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can visit Belmont Park. The boardwalk amusement park has a wooden roller coaster called the Giant Dipper that was originally built in 1925. You can also practice surfing at the Wave House, play miniature golf, ride bumper cars and many other fun activities.
Known as the “Crown City,” the charming city of Coronado has some of the best views of downtown San Diego. Coronado Beach is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a nice beach vacation. The serene beach is nestled between a United States navy base and the iconic Hotel del Coronado, which was featured in many old Hollywood movies. Coronado Beach is consistently rated as one of the best beaches due to its sparkling sandy beach and pristine environment. When you’re done enjoying the beach, you can also explore the shops and restaurants in downtown Coronado.
Torrey Pines Beach
Located just north of La Jolla, Torrey Pines Beach is an amazing natural wonder that features towering rocky cliffs, canyons, and sandy beaches. The area is popular with daring hang gliders who jump off its cliffs to soar above the ocean and nature lovers who want to walk the hiking trails of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Park and marvel at the native pine trees. It’s also close by the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course.