See all the city has to offer onboard an Old Town Trolley San Diego Tour. The orange and green trolley takes you around the city, highlighting the most interesting places, San Diego attractions and points of interest, all while an experienced conductor offers a humorous blend of history and facts about San Diego. You can get on and off the trolley at every stop and spend as much time as you’d like visiting the sights, then catch another trolley when you’re ready. It’s a great way to see the best of America’s Finest City.
Zoo Drive in Balboa Park • 619-234-3153
One of the world’s most famous zoos, the San Diego Zoo offers hours of fascinating entertainment for people of all ages. Of the several thousand animals that live in the zoo, you’ll have an opportunity to see everything from Giant Pandas and Polar Bears to the Tasmanian Devil and African Wild Dogs—and so much more. The many hundreds of species include rare amphibians, birds, mammals, reptiles and insects that come from all over the world and are cared for in their natural habitats. As you walk through the lush pathways and thriving gardens that frame the zoo, keep in mind that much of the flora are exotic plants and vegetation. Spend an afternoon or the whole day and gain an understanding of the many beautiful animals that inhabit our world.
The San Diego Padres have been San Diego’s Major Baseball League Team since 1969. They have a large following of fans that include both San Diego residents and baseball enthusiasts around the country. Their stadium, PETCO Park, is known for its architecturally attractive design and for capturing the spirit and natural beauty of the city. PETCO park has many unique features about it, including the Park at the Park, which is a small sloping grass area behind the outfield where people can sit and watch the game for just a few dollars. When there are no games going on, the Park at the Park is free and open to everyone.
1500 Orange Avenue • 619-522-8490
With stunning views of the Pacific, opulent accommodations and a history filled with intrigue, the Hotel Del Coronado is an icon in San Diego. Its legendary past includes visits from United States Presidents, movie stars and famous athletes, to dignitaries and other prestigious people. Built in 1888, the Victorian structure has been gloriously maintained and restored and is a National Historic Landmark that travelers from everywhere flock to for comfort and luxury. Located on Coronado Island, the Hotel Del Coronado is a must-see when visiting the area.
Northeast Edge of the Business District • 619-239-0512
Like no place else in the country, Balboa Park offers a magnificent combination of art, architecture, history and agriculture in one expansive park. Spanning approximately 1,200 acres, Balboa Park was once known as City Park and was founded more than 125 years ago. Today, the park is home to 15 museums, theaters, marvelous gardens, restaurants, shopping and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. From wonderful concerts featuring the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ, The Spreckels Organ, to tours through science, art and history museums, a day spent in Balboa Park is an unforgettable experience. There’s much to see and do for children and adults, so be sure to allocate enough time to enjoy it all.
Located inside Balboa Park, the San Diego Museum of Art plays host to a large collection of artwork. For those who enjoy viewing masterpieces created by European, American and Asian artists, the museum offers a broad selection of pieces including work from the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as some from today’s most recognizable artists. The San Diego Museum of Art is the oldest and largest art museum in the region and welcomes guests from all over the world throughout the year.
At the San Diego Natural History Museum, the world comes to life through a variety of exhibits. The Museum was founded in 1874, making it the oldest scientific institution in Southern California. It is here that the founders hoped to educate and enlighten visitors with the wonders of nature and to teach people how to respect and protect our natural resources. Today, guests to the museum will be enthralled by photographs, satellite images, sculptures and more that depict a variety of stunning scientific discoveries and interests. From the Fossils to the world’s most dangerous volcanoes and everything in between, the San Diego Natural History Museum is an exciting experience for all.
For those who marvel at man’s desire to travel to the heavens, the San Diego Air & Space Museum offers an exquisite collection of exhibits, interactive displays and educational programs that outline the dramatic timeline of flight. From the first hot air balloon and the Wright Brothers’ first flight, to marvelous military aircraft and space-age technology, guests can learn all about the many brilliant people and aircrafts that have led men on their quest of flying.
2476 San Diego Avenue • 619-297-7511
Whether you enjoy spotting ghosts and apparitions or have an interest in historic places, the Whaley House is a definite tourist pleaser. The lovely brick two-story structure was built in 1857 by the original owner Thomas Whaley. Its historical significance lies in the many different roles the home played for the community. Between 1857 and 1871, the home was not only where the Whaley family lived, but also the site of the county courthouse, the first commercial theater and the Whaley and Crosthwaite General Store. Today, visitors enjoy touring through the house, which was dedicated as a Historic House Museum in 1960, to see collections of artifacts from that time period and to view the beautiful Greek Revival Structure. The chance of encountering a resident ghost or apparition is also intriguing to many, there is said to be several roaming the hallways and rooms. Additionally, you can visit the Whaley House on the Ghosts and Gravestones San Diego tour.
Take a stroll through history as you walk the decks, cabins, dining room and other areas of the Star of India, an iron sailing ship that once sailed to Great Britain, India and New Zealand and later became a salmon hauler on the Alaska-California route. Her voyages began in 1863 and continued for many years until she was retired in 1923. The ship suffered many difficulties including collisions, treacherous weather and deaths of a captain, various crew members and stowaways. Her long career and battered condition led to a restoration effort by local San Diego Maritime enthusiasts who bought her in 1926 and had her towed to San Diego. Today, guests can tour the magnificent ship which is sailed at least once a year—making it the oldest sailing ship of its kind in the world, at the San Diego Maritime Museum. Year after year, the Star of India is one of the top San Diego Attractions. The Star of India is a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
849 West Harbor Drive • 619-235-6569
A visit to San Diego is not complete without a stop at Seaport Village. Lovely bay breezes and picturesque views are the ideal backdrop to this open-air shopping, dining and entertainment arena. There’s a vast assortment of unique stores to pick up anything from clothing to keepsakes, a delicious selection of eateries to please every member of the family and year-round entertainment including concerts, book-signings and events. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the cobblestone pathways and be sure to take a ride on the antique carousel.
Fourth and Fifth avenues from Broadway to Market Street.
Originally known as the New Town, San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter is a historic neighborhood that spans more than 16 blocks and includes close to 100 historic buildings. Its creation began in the 1860’s when Alonzo Horton purchased the land to build up a new town near the bay. Through its long and colorful history, many prestigious and well-known people came to the area to live and work. Today, the area is known for its vibrant Victorians, chic restaurants, clubs, galleries and shops and for its significance to the rich past of San Diego. Walk the streets to enjoy the beauty and elegance of this era, as a visit to the Gaslamp Quarter is a journey through time.
910 North Harbor Drive • 619-544-9600
Step on board the Midway Aircraft Carrier that sits in the Navy Pier and get a first-hand look at the longest-serving carrier of its kind in US history. For 47 years, the Midway served the United States Navy, a career that spans from World War II through Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Now, as an interactive museum, the Midway offers visitors a chance to see where all the action took place and to gain an understanding of United States’ Military history. Walk through various decks and listen to audio tours of actual crew members as they tell of their adventures on board.
4008 Twiggs Street • 619-291-4903
Just a step inside the Old Town Market and you’ll get a sense of what life was like several centuries ago when the city of San Diego was brand new. The market offers visitors a chance to see and hear tales of Old Town, the original inhabitants and how they lived, worked and survived in the early 1800’s. Visit the free museum, watch working artisans, pick up a souvenir or two at one of the shops or enjoy a meal—Old Town Market of San Diego is a charming, nostalgic landmark brimming with history and entertainment.
3146 Mission Road • 619-656-1500
A wooden roller coaster, a carousel and a 175-foot long indoor swimming pool are part of this Oceanside amusement park’s allure. The Big Dipper, built in 1925 and now a California Historic Monument, is known for turbulent twists and g-forces.
2300 Expedition Way • 619-534-3474
Birch Aquarium at Scripps brings to life the exciting discoveries of world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Enter the world of sharks, seahorses, living coral reefs and more, and discover a stunning variety of Pacific marine life in more than 60 habitats. Interact with exhibits that showcase the cutting-edge discoveries of Scripps Oceanography explorers through hands-on displays and multimedia.
It commemorates the landing of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542; first time that a European expedition had set foot on what later became the west coast of the United States. The lighthouse, which is often used to depict San Diego, dates from 1855 and was decommissioned in 1891. Both are part of the National Park Service.
A multidisciplinary cultural arts center dedicated to creating, promoting, preserving and educating about Chicano, Mexican, Indigenous and Latino art and culture.
200 West Island Avenue • 619-233-8792
The Children’s Museum provides a dynamic, playful public space and community center for children and families—a place to experience exciting art exhibitions, hands-on studio projects, performances, birthday parties, in-depth classes, camps and educational programs. Across the street from the new building is a beautiful park, extending the museum visit outdoors with space for running, climbing, family picnics and a view of the trains and trolley going by.
1201 1st Street • 800-442-7847
Located on the beautiful island of Coronado, you’ll discover a charming collection of shops, art galleries, fine restaurants and fun eateries surrounded by tree lined walkways, swaying palms and sparkling ponds. Across the bay is one of the best views of downtown San Diego.
The Garden originated as a teahouse during the 1915–16 Panama-California Exposition and now lies on two acres near the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.
1100 Coast Boulevard.
Not far from downtown La Jolla – an upscale hamlet of hotels, boutiques, and galleries – lies La Jolla Cove, a swimming and diving paradise. This tiny beach nook, part of the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, is sheltered by picturesque cliffs and offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean in an intimate setting. La Jolla Cove has some of the clearest water of all San Diego beaches, making it ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling. The gentle lapping waves of La Jolla Cove also make for an enjoyable day of sunbathing, picnicking, or reading a book.
One LEGOLAND Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008
A 128-acre family theme park located just 30 miles outside of San Diego. The park features more than 15,000 models created from more than 35 million Lego bricks.
1492 North Harbor Drive • 619-234-9153
Maritime Museum of San Diego features assorted exhibits along with three historic vessels: the 1863 tall ship Star of India, the 1898 ferry Berkeley, and the 1904 steam yacht Medea. Also included are sail ships HMS Surprise, The California, and two submarines: the USS Dolphin and a Soviet B-39 sub.
3525 7th Avenue • 619-297-7511
This classic 1905 Arts and Crafts style museum home was built for noted civic leader and merchant George W. Marston and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Dedicated to art of the people (mingei) from all eras and cultures of the world, Mingei International Museum features dynamic, changing exhibitions of historical and contemporary folk art, craft and design.
10818 San Diego Mission Road, 92108
First of the 21 missions and known as the Mother of the Missions, Mission San Diego de Alcala was founded on July 16, 1769 by Blessed Junipero Serra. It was designated as a Minor Basilica in 1976 by Pope Paul VI. The Mission today is an active Catholic Parish in the Diocese of San Diego.
MOPA, one of the few museums devoted solely to photography, features works by both the famous and not so famous.
4002 Wallace Street • 619-220-5422
San Diego State Historic Park marks the founding of the first European settlement in California and encompasses many of San Diego’s original buildings. Museums, shops, theater and restaurants can be found in this six-block area.
2811 Jackson St. • 619-692-4918
A historical fort established on May 14, 1769, the Presidio was the first permanent European settlement on the Pacific Coast.
The Fleet is home to Southern California’s only IMAX® Dome Theater and 100+ hands-on science exhibits for all ages. Watch immersive giant-screen films and amazing planetarium shows in the Eugene Heikoff and Marilyn Jacobs Heikoff Dome Theatre and experience seven galleries of fun, interactive exhibits.
A new exhibition of works by San Diego artists opens every four to six weeks in this 10,000-square-foot gallery, dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts through outreach, education, and exhibition.
A nostalgic look at the icon of the 20th-century features more than 80 historic autos and motorcycles. Special exhibitions every two or three months display other fine vehicles and famous autos.
The Breitbard Hall of Fame, consisting of 153 inductee plaques, is located in the Western Metal Supply Co. Building on the main concourse at Petco Park. This space is a high-traffic passageway for thousands of fans each game, connecting the seating bowl and the Padres Hall of Fame presented by Sony.
The museum showcases the region’s unique, colorful, and diverse history exhibiting artifacts, costumes, textiles, art, and photographs detailing life and development of the local area.
At 28,000 square feet, the museum is the world’s largest operating model railroad museum and contains four enormous scale and model layouts which depict railroads of the Southwest. The San Diego Model Railroad Museum features a Toy Train Gallery with an interactive Lionel layout for children and state-of-the-art theater lighting.
500 SeaWorld Drive • 800-25-SHAMU
Since opening in 1964, SeaWorld Adventure Park in San Diego has hosted more than 100 million adventure-seekers with amazing animals and wondrous shows. Journey to Atlantis, Wild Arctic, and Shamu’s show Believe are just a few of the many attractions and activities that await.
John D. and Adolph Spreckels donated the Spreckels Organ, one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs, to the city of San Diego in 1914 for the Panama-California Exposition. This unique organ contains 4,530 pipes ranging in length from the size of a pencil to 32 feet and is housed in an ornate vaulted structure with highly embellished gables. Since 1917, San Diego has had a civic organist, who performs free weekly Sunday concerts.
Constructed for the 1935-1936 California-Pacific Exposition, Starlight Bowl is the home of the Starlight Theatre (San Diego Civic Light Opera Association), which performs during the months of July, August, and September. One of the oldest continuously producing musical theater companies in the United States, Starlight presented its first season in 1946 and has featured more than 1,000 productions of 120 musicals.
1050 North Harbor Drive • 800-44-CRUISE
San Diego Bay, also known as The Big Bay, invites water exploration with narrated harbor tours for North Bay, South Bay, Point Loma, Cabrillo National Monument, North Island Naval Air Station, the Submarine Base, Coronado Bridge and more. A ferry shuttles between B-Street Pier (downtown) and The Ferry Landing Marketplace (Coronado).
Considered one of the great small museums in the world, the Timken houses a wonderful collection of European old master paintings, American paintings, and Russian icons. Artists represented include Rembrandt, Rubens, Fragonard, Bierstadt, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, John Singleton Copley, and Eastman Johnson. Admission is always free.
Located in the historic Old Navy Chapel, the museum preserves and honors the memory of men and women of the Armed Forces, Coast Guard, and Wartime Merchant Marine. The collection contains artifacts, documents, photographs, memorabilia, and artwork from the Civil War to the present.
Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park
Free concerts Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings in Balboa Park, June 15th through August 26th. Twilight’s live music under the stars features a mix of musical performances, including military bands, Dixieland jazz, big band swing and Latin salsa. Concerts take place 6:15-7:15.
15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, California
Just 30 miles outside of San Diego, this 1,800 acre park is home to more than 3,000 animals, many wild and endangered, including species from the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Australia. Animals are in free-range enclosures.
410 Island Avenue • 619-233-4692
The William Heath Davis Historic House Museum is the Gaslamp district’s oldest surviving structure, a saltbox style home shipped around Cape Horn and assembled in San Diego in 1850. The museum has been home to many fascinating people, including pre-civil war soldiers, a German Spy and Alonzo Horton, founder of San Diego. Each room represents a historic period of the home and is filled with fascinating and amusing stories about the former inhabitants.
The Center is dedicated to promoting and preserving African, African-American, and other indigenous cultures of the world through art, music, dance, education, and technology. Classes in international dance and drumming are offered year round, along with concerts and lectures.