America’s 8th largest city offers plenty to see and do, and it isn’t hard to see why it has become such a popular destination. San Diego offers the culture, nightlife and vibe of a big city, along with proximity to hiking trails and open spaces, and of course, some of the most beautiful beaches and coastline in the Golden State. San Diego is also known for its almost perfect climate for most of the year, and for its casual and laid back lifestyle, especially in the beach communities. If this is your first visit to San Diego, the following are sights you should not miss.
The city’s equivalent to New York’s Central Park, Balboa Park is one of the largest city parks in the country, as well as one of the oldest, having been laid out in 1835. If strolling the several beautiful landscaped gardens isn’t enough, the 1,200 acre park is home to over a dozen world class museums, including the city’s museums of art and natural history. Balboa Park is also a great place to enjoy performances, concerts and puppet shows, with over ten spaces dedicated to performance art, not to mention the largest outdoor pipe organ in the world. But the biggest attraction here of course, is the zoo, one of the largest in the world, home to over 3,700 animals, all housed in inviting, spacious and open air natural habitats.
Old Town San Diego
Another undeniably touristy neighborhood, Old Town is still charming and picturesque and is the site of the first European settlement in California. At the very heart of the area is Old Town State Historic park, with several original structures dating from the 19th century. Volunteers wearing authentic 19th century costumes reenact life as it would have been 200 years ago, and of course there is no shortage of places to eat mostly Mexican food, drink and shop for souvenirs. Several small but fascinating museums can be found in the area, displaying costumes, stagecoaches and everyday items from the 19th century.
Belmont Park and the Giant Dipper
This historic funfair on the waterfront, Belmont Park, has been attracting thrill seekers since it opened in 1925, and features several scary rides, plenty of fast food restaurants, and the largest indoor swimming pool in Southern California. The iconic Giant Dipper roller coaster has become a much treasured city landmark, and the wooden coaster, one of only two surviving rides from the original park, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It may not be the fastest or most high tech ride in the park, but riders can still enjoy reaching speeds of up to about 55 mph on the 2,600 foot long track.
La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove is a great place for diving, snorkeling and kayaking the beautiful beach is said to be the most photographed in the city. It also includes a stretch of the coast also known as Sea Lion Beach. There are several places along the coast where you are virtually guaranteed to see hundreds of the creatures swimming or simply lazing on the rocks.