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.
A sailor's delight! Relax while a licensed captain takes you on the sail of a lifetime with Sail San Diego. Or for the more adventuresome, you take the helm! Cruise through the blue waters of San Diego Bay and see the city from a whole new perspective. During January and February, you can also board their 'Marine Biologist's' boat to get up close and personal with migrating whales.
The centerpiece of the blissful Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo is a prolific destination for adults and children alike. Spread over 98.84 acres (40 hectares) of diverse landscapes, the zoo is home to an excess of 3,500 fauna that belongs to 650 species or subspecies. Established in the year 1916, it is one of the few non-profit wildlife conservation zones to nurture the highly-endangered Giant Panda. Laden with man-made habitats that emulate various topographies from around the globe, the park's most-visited exhibits includes the Monkey Trails, the Polar Bear Plunge, Elephant Odyssey, Tiger River, Koalafornia and the Panda Trek. Virtually every nook and corner of the zoo is made conveniently accessible by the beloved Skyfari, a gondola system that spans across nearly 75 percent of the property.
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.
This club is a prime spot to hear new and cutting edge music in San Diego. Bands such as Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Alanis Morissette have been among the previous guests. Local bands play here as well, primarily featuring a punk-rock flavor. In addition to music, the club offers pool tables, an enclosed smoking patio, vintage pinball and video games. A stage and dance floor provides plenty of room to dance. Meanwhile, the full bar serves a long list of beverages.
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.
St James By the Sea Church is a place where much happens. With worship services and lots of music, there is never a dull moment out here. And if your hunger pangs act up in the midst of all the activity, fret not, for there is a quaint little Cafe to meet your needs with gourmet coffee and fresh pastries. The church can be rented out for weddings and private occasions too, for that lovely seaside ambiance.
Promoting meditation, self-reflection and self-actualization, Self Realization Fellowship Hermitage & Meditation Gardens is garden and major green space which transports visitors into a state of tranquility. Founded by Paramahansa Yogananda, one can stroll through the beautiful green gardens and admire the host of colorful floral species, or simply let their worldly concerns fade away in the meditative silence of the park.
Set overlooking the lush Mildred MacPherson Park, Univ Studio is a truly multipurpose event venue that hosts everything from music performances, art exhibitions, and food festivals. Their community open mic nights are extremely popular with the locals.
If geography interests you as well the knowledge about the continents then head to the Map and Atlas Museum of La Jolla. The featured maps at the museum include the a map of Boston Decorative and Historical, a hysterical map of the Yellowstone Park, Historic and Scenic Reaches of the Nation's Capital and many more. They are also open on the first and third Saturdays of every month at regular times.