While San Diego may be California’s second largest city, it feels smaller – and friendlier – than some of the other, better-known neighbors further north along the California coast. With some of the best weather to be found anywhere in the U.S., a world-renowned zoo, a slew of amusement parks and attractions, first-rate cuisine and a rich history to go along with some fantastic beaches, San Diego may well be, “America’s Finest City,” as it likes to call itself.
San Diego holds the distinction as the first settlement on the West Coast by Europeans in what would become the United States when Portuguese explorer Juan Cabrillo claimed the land for Spain in 1542. Over the centuries the city’s economy has become firmly anchored by a major military presence, a solid and growing tourism industry and burgeoning high technology and life sciences industries.
It doesn’t matter if you are seven or 75 there is plenty to keep everyone active and interested during a visit. Kids and adults are entertained at the San Diego Zoo, a leader in the idea of a cage free open-air facility, letting visitors appreciate wild animals in a more natural environment. SeaWorld, also in San Diego, offers a chance to sea large marine animals, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography is a world leader in marine research and a top-notch venue to see aquatic life up close.
A bit further up the road is Legoland where young and old can spend the day enjoying creativity and a family friendly water park. And sports fans can choose between Padres baseball, Chargers football, a number of Professional Golf Association tournaments, and horse racing at Del Mar. And for those who like to read, Comic Con, an internationally recognized craze-fest for all things comics, graphic novels, art and anime, now draws more than 125,000 visitors each year.
At the foot of downtown, the harbor offers incredible tours of ships, both ancient as well as heroic. The aircraft carrier USS Midway can easily be an all day tour, understanding her workings and learning from the many retired seamen who proudly tell of her history and service to a nation she served.
The Maritime Museum, right next door, has a collection of old sailing vessels that plied the waters of the world, some of which have been featured in Hollywood movies.
Cabrillo National Monument marks the site where Juan Cabrillo first came ashore and also houses the old lighthouse and the location offers sweeping views of the San Diego Bay and city.
The area’s beaches have lots of sand, and for surfers, approximately 10 different spots offer waves that will give either novice or experienced wave riders plenty to enjoy.
San Diego is fast becoming known for its food and excellent craft beers. There is legendary seafood, and numerous Mexican food options, and innovative chefs are drawn to the city, with a strong concentration in the Gaslamp Quarter where a growing roster of restaurants and bars offer creative and tasty fare.
Two other things about San Diego deserve mention. The area is relatively easy to get around (again, compared with other well-known California cities), and the people who live in San Diego are both friendly and happy to help visitors find just what they are looking for.