The United States' largest urban cultural park is also one of the world's most scenic, with a dazzling array of museums, entertainment venues, botanical gardens and architectural landmarks. The world-renowned San Diego Zoo is just one of the many treasures nestled within the verdant expanse of this 1,200-acre (490-hectare) park, set aside as a reserve for public use as early as 1835. The 1915-16 Panama-California Expo and the 1935–36 California Pacific International Expo left behind a wealth of architectural jewels strewn across the park, including the California Building fashioned after the typical design of a Spanish Colonial Church and now home to the San Diego Museum of Man. Fifteen museums, award-winning theaters, an antique carousel, a miniature railroad and the Spanish Village Arts Center come together at Balboa Park to celebrate the cultural diversity of the state and its inspiring natural landscape.
Located right along the Navy Pier in downtown San Diego, the USS Midway Museum lends deep insights into naval aviation and one of the important chapters of American history. The museum is home to the iconic USS Midway, which has been one of the country's oldest aircraft carriers. A famed naval museum in the United States, it also shelters an arsenal of other significant carriers, most of which were crafted in Southern California. The museum is complete with simulators, myriad deck exhibits and the stirring Battle of Midway theater. The museum has also been a host to an array of private, media and sporting events.
Fun for adults and kids, this museum-on-water is the focal point of San Diego's historic Embarcadero Promenade. Comprised of several painstakingly restored historic ships, it is a tribute to the sea-faring age. One of the ships showcased at Maritime Museum of San Diego is the Star of India (1863), a stunning vision that graces the coastline as the world's oldest actively-sailed, square-rigged ship.
Founded in 1769, Mission San Diego de Alcalá was the first mission founded by Father Junipero Serra in The Californias. Like many of the Spanish missions that were built along California's famous El Camino Real, the mission is actually the namesake of the major city it's near--in this case, San Diego. The mission experienced a tumultuous history since its founding, and its church building has since been rebuilt five times on the same site. Today, the mission stands as a remarkable example of early California history and is currently registered as a National Historic Landmark.
Known as the harbor for the first European voyageurs to ever step foot in California, Point Loma is an attraction of great historic importance. Often described as the place where California began, this seaside community of San Diego overlooks the San Diego River to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the south and the Old Town to the east. Today, Point Loma is home to two important military bases, a university and a national cemetery. Proximity to the bay attracts surfers, sport fishers and yachts from all around the world.
History, food and fun are all within easy walking distance of the Old Town. Father Serra established the first mission here more than 225 years ago; Kit Carson helped to raise the first American flag in 1846. Now there are 37 restaurants and entertainment is abundant with artisans, dancers, galleries, hotels, mariachis, professional theatre and shops. Most restaurants and shops accept major credit cards. You can access this area from Interstate-5 by taking the Old Town Avenue exit, driving east and turning left on San Diego Avenue.
The House of Charm is a historic structure that is nestled in the Balboa Park. This building that was once known as the Indian Arts Building, currently houses the Mingei International Museum and the San Diego Art Institute.
Lying in the center of the Mount Soledad Veteran's Memorial, the Cross is beloved for some but for others, it has been a subject of controversy. Due to the involvement of religion in government, the Mount Soledad Cross has gained a lot of popularity since the past few years. However, it has made its name as the local icon and is the proud landmark of La Jolla.
Behind trees, hidden from the historic prestige of much of the rest of Old Town San Diego, this white chapel was built in 1850 as the home of John Brown. Don Jose Aguirre converted this building into a parish in 1858. This chapel, a rebuild of the original bulldozed chapel, contains many of the original artifacts, including the tabernacle, altar, and doors. Jose Aguirre's tomb is in the floor of the chapel.
If you are passionate about flying, this is definitely the place for you. Here, you will find everything there is to know about aviation. Famous jets like Douglas R4D 'Gooney Bird', Fairchild R4Q 'Packet', McDonnell Douglas FA-18 'Hornet', Grumman F9F 'Cougar', Mikoyan-Gurevch MIG-15 'Fagot', and F4F (FM-2) 'Wildcat' can be admired from close quarters. You can also become a member of the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation. All members receive a membership card, decal and lapel pin, discounts at the museum gift shop and the foundation newsletter called The Log Book.