Start your exploration on Harbor Drive at the foot of Pacific Highway near downtown. Stroll along the waterfront through bustling Seaport Village, where you’ll find an eclectic mix of bistros and boutiques, live music and talented street performers. Past the historic fish market heading north is the USS Midway Museum, where you can experience life at sea without leaving port on this historic naval aircraft carrier museum. Less than a block away on Broadway Pier you can take a harbor excursion or a ferry across to Coronado. Next is the Cruise Ship Terminal, where cruise ships dock when calling on San Diego. Further along the Embarcadero, see one of the world’s top collections of historic ships at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Ships include the ferryboat Berkeley, built in 1898; the Star of India, the oldest active sailing ship, built in 1863; and the museum’s latest star, the newly built San Salvador, a highly accurate replica of the vessel that Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed into what would be San Diego in 1542. Visit www.portofsandiego.org for more information about the Port of San Diego.
Located in the heart of the city, the Gaslamp Quarter has become the hub of cultural activities and bustling nightlife. Encompassing 16 blocks, the Gaslamp Quarter has a predominantly Victorian feel among the skyscrapers surrounding the district. With more than 200 restaurants, shops, galleries and clubs, and music ranging from jazz to country and western, this locality promises quality time in a quality setting. Visit www.gaslamp.org for more information.
Balboa Park is one of the largest urban cultural parks in the U.S. It was named for the Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa, who in 1513 was the first European to reach the Pacific Ocean. Many buildings in the park are Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, constructed for the Panama-California Exposition (1915-1916), and used for the California Pacific International Exposition in 1935. The cultural heartland of the city, it is home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, 15 major museums, art galleries, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, the Tony Award-winning Old Globe theater, one of the nation’s largest outdoor organ pavilions and the iconic California Tower. Visit www.balboapark.org for more information.
Old Town State Historic Park
San Diego’s Old Town marks the site of the first European settlement on the West Coast, founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1769. Nestled below Presidio Park, Old Town represents San Diego’s Hispanic heritage from 1821 to 1872, when the area was the center of San Diego. You can also visit charming Heritage Park Row, where a number of Victorian buildings scheduled for demolition were relocated. Visit www.oldtownsandiego.org for more information.
Hotel del Coronado
Drive across the Coronado Bay Bridge and through Coronado’s downtown village to the Hotel del Coronado, which was completed in 1888. The Del has long housed presidents and visiting dignitaries and been the colorful backdrop for numerous movies. Visit the Coronado Museum of History and Art at 1100 Orange Ave. to see a collection of memorabilia, then enjoy a stroll along the beach. Visit www.hoteldel.com for more information.
Cabrillo National Monument
This 144-acre park at the end of Point Loma features a statue of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, the Portuguese explorer who landed in San Diego in 1542; a restored 1855 lighthouse; museum installations and a bookstore; bayside trails; tide pools; and the Whale Overlook. This is an excellent vantage point to see migrating Pacific gray whales in winter; year-round, you’ll enjoy awesome views of San Diego’s harbor and skyline and the rocky Pacific coastline. When skies are clear, you can also see Mexico in the distance. Visit www.nps.gov/cabr for more information.
San Diego Botanic Garden
San Diego Botanic Garden is a place of year-round beauty. Located 30 minutes north of San Diego in Encinitas, San Diego Botanic Garden features numerous exhibits, including rare bamboo groves, desert gardens, a tropical rainforest, California native plants, Mediterranean climate landscapes, succulent gardens, an herb garden, and the largest interactive children’s garden on the West Coast. Visit www.sdbgarden.org for more information.