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.
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.
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.
The San Diego Natural History Museum is the second oldest scientific institution in California. A bi-national museum, its mission is to interpret the natural world through research, education and exhibits. The museum strives to promote understanding of the evolution and diversity of southern California and the peninsula of Baja California to inspire in all a respect for nature and the environment. Between exhibits on dinosaurs and the Arctic to mammoths and the Titanic, this museum is sure to interest the old, young and everything in between.
These hands-on science and technology exhibits open a window into the future. Take a multi-sensory simulated space mission and encounter a rogue comet. Also found here is the world's first Omnimax Theater, a dome 10 times larger than a typical movie screen. If the exploration of the science center makes you hungry, pay a visit to the museum's Galileo Cafe for a snack or a cup of coffee.
Forming an integral part of the city, Downtown San Diego is one location you just cannot miss. The center of the city, Downtown San Diego has attracted tourists and locals alike because of favorable climate throughout the year, fun activities, facilities and amenities and easy access to other parts of the city. Check the downtown website for details and plan your trip to this tourist haven.
MCASD Downtown has a large permanent collection of paintings, sculptures, works on paper, photography, video, film, and installation. MCASD is an established patron of art has helped many mid-career artists. Over the years it has built an extensive collection of minimalist, pop, conceptual, installation, Latin American, and Californian art. MCASD's La Jolla location is also worth a visit for its collection of fine art and breathtaking ocean views.
San Diego's rich Genoese and Sicilian history is explored in a flavorful way on this guided tour through the Little Italy district. Guests enjoy an Italian lunch and dessert, hear about Little Italy during the Prohibition era and discover the miracle that named a Little Italy church. The leisurely-paced walk also shows Italian gardens and Sicilian bread-making. Reservations are required and the tours are offered around the year on Saturdays only.
Vibrant, eclectic, and endlessly entertaining, the Gaslamp Quarter covers more than 16 city blocks of downtown San Diego, with hundreds of specialty shops and dozens of trendy restaurants, bars and avant-garde playhouses. Most of the shops keep late hours, so delightful shopping, drinking, and dining can occur virtually simultaneously. Cutting-edge women's fashions elbow up against exclusive art galleries, while nearby is a hardware store founded more than 100 years ago. The San Diego Convention Center is just steps away from the Gaslamp, and during major conventions the flow of souvenir-hunting attendees floods the area. For an upscale shopping mall experience, the adjacent Horton Plaza offers major department stores and a hundred or so mall shops set in an architecturally amusing maze of bridges, stairways, and intricately tiled walls. If you have just a few hours to devote to shopping, spend the time and the money here.