San Diego Guide

San Diego Guide anaheimer

The city of San Diego and the greater San Diego County are home to beautiful beaches, popular attractions, hiking trails, and many more adventures.

San Diego Skyline

Most people come to the city to enjoy SeaWorld’s exhibits and shows or the world-famous San Diego Zoo, but there is much more to explore around town. 

You can spend days visiting the museums at Balboa Park, take a sunset dinner cruise in the harbor, or climb aboard an Aircraft Carrier. 

Balboa ParkIf you prefer, you can visit the Cabrillo National Monument, hike through Torrey Pines State Park, or take the Sunset Cliffs trail for stunning views of the ocean.

If you have more time, you can drive away from the city to enjoy San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido or Lego Land in Carlsbad.

Plan your visit to San Diego at the official website here.  

A brief history

La JollaEven though some Native American tribes lived in the area for thousands of years, San Diego is the first area of California to be discovered by Europeans. 

Since the first discovery by Juan Cabrillo in 1542, the area changed hands several times. First, it was a Spanish territory. Then, it was claimed by Mexico after Mexican independence from Spain. Finally, it became a US territory in 1848 after the American Victory in the Mexican–American War. 

The city started flourishing when the US Navy became interested in its great natural harbor and location.

Find your Wild Animal Safari here.

Interesting Facts: The top employer in the city is the United States Navy.

Read more about San Diego’s history at Wikipedia.  

 

Things to do in San Diego

There is plenty to explore without leaving town. You can take a stroll in the Gaslamp Quarter, which has many shops and restaurants, rent a bike and ride along the bayfront, visit SeaWorld, go on a cruise, or spend a day at Balboa Park.  

Gaslamp Quarter

Gaslamp QuarterOne of the best ways to get to know a city is to walk around. One of the best walks in San Diego is in the Gaslamp Quarter.

This area has about 16 city blocks with a major shopping mall anchoring one corner. 

You can start your walk at the Westfield Horton Plaza mall. The mall itself is a destination for shoppers and gawkers alike due to its unique architecture. 

Outside the mall is a small park with a nice fountain and statues of the San Diego founding fathers.

The quarter streets are named by letters and numbers. You can explore any street, but the main thoroughfare is 5th Avenue. This street is the longest stretch and has the most shops, restaurants, and nightclubs. 

Interesting Facts: Did you know that San Diego was home to everyone’s favorite wacky children’s author, Ted Geisel – more frequently referred to as Dr. Seuss?

The quarter is especially beautiful at night when all the Gaslamps are lit, the streets are bustling with people, and the music is blaring from the nightclubs.

If you plan to dine at the quarter, try La Puerta Mexican restaurant, Greystone the Steak House, or Meze Greek Fusion. 

La Puerta is famous for its street tacos. They also have a great surf & turf burrito. Happy hour is very busy and loud, but you can expect good prices. 

At Greystone, you can’t go wrong with any of the meats. Try the New York Steak or Filet Mignon. If you are hungry, try the short ribs tacos for starters. The place is a little pricey, but if you go during happy hour, you can try different cuts at reduced prices.

Gaslamp Quarter at nightMy favorite is Meze Greek Fusion on Sixth Street. This restaurant offers authentic Greek cuisine with a California flair. Meze means small plates, but the menu offers full meals for every appetite. For starters, you must try the Lentil Soup, Baba Ghanosh, Dolma, or Fiery Fetta Dip. For an entre, try the Lamb Chops or traditional Greek favorites like Falafel or Gyro plates. And finally, don’t skip the Baklava for dessert.

For Japanese cuisine lovers, stop at Ramaki on the edge of the Gaslamp Quarter, where you can get some great Ramen, Poke, and Sushi. 

You must try Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop for a dessert or snack. Their ice cream flavors on waffle cones are to die for. Once you finish your dessert, you can shop for a collection of chocolates for your family and friends – or indulge yourself. 

If you keep walking down 5th Avenue, you will reach the waterfront, where you will find the Convention Center, some of San Diego’s iconic hotels, Seaport Village, and the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier. 

Seaport Village

Seaport VillageSeaport Village is about a 20-minute walk from the Gaslamp Quarter. Close enough to include it in the same walk. 

The village resembles an old harborside town with its unique shops and casual dining places. You can also enjoy fine dining at 4 waterfront restaurants. 

Seaport also hosts some unique events like the Surfin Santa Arrival and Busker Festival. Many restaurants book live music events. My favorite is the Bit of Greece at the Greek Islands Café.

Interesting Facts: San Diego has the most ideal climate with temperatures averaging 70 all year long.

One caution! The village is a tourist trap. Shop at your own risk. Despite that warning, you can still have lots of fun. Browse through the shops. Try a few things like flying a kite or face painting. Enjoy the street performers.

The Headquarters are right across the street from Seaport Village. It is a new plaza with more boutique shops and dining options. You can find known places like the Cheesecake Factory, Starbucks, or Sunglass Hut. Or discover new places like Gelato Paradiso, Geppetto’s Toys, and Lori L. Fine Art Gallery. 

USS Midway Aircraft Carrier

USS Midway Aircraft CarrierA few steps away from the Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village, or the Cruise terminal is this must-see attraction—a real Aircraft carrier!

The USS Midway was the longest-serving Navy aircraft carrier, active from 1945 to 1992. After its long military service, it is now berthed in San Diego harbor and has been open to the public since 2004.  

Before getting on this magnificent ship, you will be amazed by its size and design. As you approach its berth, you will wonder how this behemoth could float—let alone carry crew and airplanes. 

USS Midway Hanger DeckAfter you get your tickets ($20 adult), you will climb some steep stairs to reach the hangar deck. This is where the aircraft were stored and maintained before launching. The deck is huge with many types of fighters on display. 

The hangar deck also has a row of flight simulators. There are 2 types to choose from: Air Combat and Flight avionics. It is a neat way to pretend you are on a mission launched from the carrier.

The admission price includes a free audio tour. If you decide to use it, you will get 2-minute audio clips about various marked locations throughout the ship. You don’t really need the audio. There are a lot of volunteers at the important spots with a lot of valuable information. Many of the volunteers are retired Navy sailors. 

From the hangar deck, you can go up to the flight deck, where the planes launch or land. More planes and helicopters are on display. You can explore some of them by going inside. 

USS Midway Flight DeckYou also have a great view of San Diego and the Bay from the flight deck. On the port (left) side, you can see a nice statue of the famous sailor kissing a nurse at the end of WWII. 

If you go down from the hangar deck, you will come across the galley where food is prepared, the mess deck – where the enlisted eat, the laundry, sickbay, the brig, and a fire station. 

Tip: If you are claustrophobic, you may want to avoid the lower decks. It is very cramped and stuffy in places. 

If you have more time, you can watch videos about the carrier, try your hand at knot-tying, climb on some bunks, get inside cockpits, go to jail, or take one of the guided tours. See more adventures here.

Balboa Park

San Diego - Balboa Park PanoThis sprawling 1200-acre park is full of open spaces, gardens, hiking trails, and many museums. It is also home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo. 

In 1915, the parklands were used to host the San Diego Panama-Pacific International Exposition, which lasted for two years and celebrated the completion of the Panama Canal. Later, many of the park's buildings were recommissioned as museums.  

You can spend a day just walking around and exploring the history and architecture, picnicking in the green zones, riding a mini train, going on a carousel, or visiting the International Village. 

But you will need several days to experience the variety of museums. The park has an amazing collection of museums like "Air and Space", "Science Center", "Natural History" and "Museum of Art".

Read the full review here.

Downtown Historic Trolley Tour

Old Town TrolleyOne of the best ways to explore the city of San Diego is by taking the historic old town trolley. You can jump on and off the trolley at any of the 10 stops within one day.

Interesting Facts: The first drive-in restaurant in the United States was opened in San Diego by the man who later founded Jack in the Box in 1951.

Along the way, the driver will share with you interesting San Diego history and tips about places to see and things to do.

You can start your tour at any of the 10 stops along the route, but the main starting point is at Old Town San Diego. 

Other important stops include the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, Gaslamp Quarter, Coronado Island, and Balboa Park. 

Read the full review here.

Waterfront Park

Waterfront ParkTwelve acres of land were set aside for this beautiful waterfront park. The park offers picnic areas, clean bathrooms, and a small water park where kids can get wet and have a blast. 

When the kids tire of water play, they can have more fun in the modern playground.

If you do not bring your own picnic, they have a small cafe where you can get some snacks and drinks. 

The park is right across from the Embarcadero and behind the County Center building in Little Italy.

The water park opens from 11 am to 7 pm, while the main park has longer hours.

After the park, the whole family can walk to Little Italy on India Street, do some shopping, or dine at one of the restaurants.

Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National MonumentAt the tip of Point Loma Peninsula, the monument commemorates the explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who was the first to set foot on the west coast of North America. 

This park has a museum, movie theater, tide pool exploration, and a stunning view of San Diego harbor and the downtown skyline from a high vantage point. 

If you are interested in the tide pools, check the low tide schedule. Visit the official website for more details

At the highest point of the park, you will also find the Point Loma Lighthouse. It was closed in 1891 because, due to its height, it was always shrouded in fog. A newer one was built at a lower elevation.

The park is also close to the "Maritime Museum of San Diego," so you can make a side trip to visit the museum.

SeaWorld

Shamu at SeaWorldSea World is the only park where you can get up close and personal with sea creatures and get an education while having fun. You can meet Shamu, the killer whale, watch the Dolphins play their tricks, visit the sharks in their natural habitat, go to the North Pole on an icy safari, and peek at the Penguins – and you get all that fun for a bargain.

Shows that you shouldn’t miss are Orca Encounter, Sea Lions Live, Dolphin Days, A Trip to Wild Arctic, and a Shark Encounter. For thrill-seekers, try one of the rides: Journey To Atlantis, Manta, Shipwreck Rapids, and Wild Arctic (the ride).

Read the full SeaWorld review here.

Outside of Town

San Diego Zoo Safari ParkMany more attractions and adventures are available on the outskirts of San Diego or further inland. Visit the beaches at La Jolla, visit Lego Land and the flower fields in Carlsbad, or go on a Safari in Escondido. 

For even more activities, you can go mining for gold, hike, camp, or picnic in the Julian mountains.

Interesting Facts: San Diego County is home to the most missions in the country. Take the mission trail to visit Mission San Diego de Alcala, Mission San Luis Rey, Mission San Antonio de Pala, and Mission Santa Ysabel. 

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located in San Diego County, close to the city of Escondido. It spans 1800 acres and is stocked with 2600 animals from 300 species. It is also home to thousands of plant species, some of which are in a protected preserve. 

The main attraction is a vast open area with free-ranging animals ranging from fierce lions to tame Giraffes. The only way to enjoy this vast flora and fauna is to join a Safari. More on the Safari options later.

Read the full SD Zoo Safari Park article here

La Jolla – Beaches and Hiking

La Jolla ShoresLa Jolla is a small town on the outskirts of San Diego. It has nice beaches, hotels, golf courses, a state park, and the famous University of California, San Diego. 

No one knows for sure where the name originated, but some say it means the place with holes – referring to the many caves and coves on the shoreline. Others say it means the Jewel. In either case, it is a jewel on the beach, and it is full of caves and coves – making it a very interesting place to visit and explore.

Tip: Alcohol is not permitted on any of San Diego beaches. So leave your beer behind.

So spend some time at La Jolla Shores beach or go snorkeling at La Jolla Cove. You can go hiking at Torrey Pines State Preserve or even learn how to Glide at the Glider Port.

Read the full review here.

Where to stay

Hilton Mission BayYour decision on where to stay depends on many factors, such as your plans, budget, and arrival time. 

If you are planning to explore downtown mainly, you should consider one of the hotels in the Gaslamp Quarter or the downtown waterfront. Some of the best choices are the Marriott Marquis Marina, Hilton Bayfront, and Grand Hyatt. You can try Porto Vista, Wyndham Bayside, or Westin for a budget hotel in or close to downtown. 

If your main goal is to visit SeaWorld, try the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa, Hyatt Regency Mission Bay, or the Bahia Resort. Try places like Holiday Inn Express, Wyndham Garden, or Travel Lodge SeaWorld for budget choices.

Read more about where to stay here.

 

 

 

Balboa Park

Balboa Park anaheimer

nullThe city of San Diego and the greater San Diego county are home to beautiful beaches, popular attractions, hiking trails, and many more adventures.

Many people come to the city to enjoy SeaWorld’s exhibits and shows or the world-famous San Diego Zoo, but there is much more to explore around town. 

You can spend days visiting the museums at Balboa Park, take a sunset dinner cruise in the harbor, or climb aboard an Aircraft Carrier. 

Read the full San Diego review here.

nullBalboa Park is a sprawling 1200-acre park full of open spaces, gardens, hiking trails, and lots of museums. The park is also home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo. 

In 1915, the parklands were used to host the San Diego Panama-Pacific International Exposition which celebrated the completion of the Panama Canal and lasted for 2 years. Later many of the park's buildings were recommissioned as museums.  

Interesting Facts: Kate Sessions is known locally as “the mother of Balboa Park”. She designed a lot of the park's landscaping and spent years planting trees.

You can spend a day just walking around and exploring the history and architecture, picnicking in the green zones, riding a mini train, going on a carousel, or visiting the International Village. The park is home to so many Museums, you will need days to explore them all. Some of my favorites are "Air and Space", "Science Center", "Natural History" and "Museum of Art".

nullTo see the full list, go to the official website here.

Each museum requires a full review by itself to describe all its wonders, but I will be covering a few of them in this review.

For young children, several play areas are placed throughout the park. Some are near the museums. The best one is “Pepper Grove Playground” which is a large play area with picnic tables – right next to the Science Center.

Tip: Tuesdays are free admission days to all museums at the park, but only for San Diego residents.

The park is also home to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion – the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ. This unique organ contains 4,725 pipes ranging in length from the size of a pencil to 32 feet.

Tip: A free organ concert is performed every Sunday at 2 PM. The plaza is also host to special summer events. You can find an event calendar here.

Balboa Park - Native American Annual PowwowEvents

The park also hosts many events throughout the year like the Haunted Trail on Halloween, the Ethnic Food Fair, the Chinese New Year Festival, and the Native American Annual Powwow.

On a recent visit, I got to watch energetic Native dances and browse handicrafts and arts on display at the Powwow. 

I also enjoyed some amazing Pipe Organ music at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

San Diego Air & Space Museum

nullAs you approach this museum, you are greeted by the sight of 2 stealth bombers – a good sign of things to come. If you love planes, helicopters, and spaceships, then you must see this place. The curators managed to put together a large collection of aerospace memorabilia and lots of aviation history in one place.

You can start your journey through the history of aviation by viewing the Wright Brothers replicas of the Wright brother's 1901 and 1902 gliders and learning about their wind tunnel experiments. 

Interesting Facts: Charles Lindbergh made history when he flew from San Diego to New York and then non-stop to Paris on the Spirit of St. Louis in 1927.

Then you can witness the advancement of both military and commercial aviation through the decades. Some planes on exhibits are the Memphis Bell, Stealth fighters, the Predator drone, the Spirit of St Luis, the Blue Angels.

Tip: The best way to enjoy San Diego attractions is by getting a Go City Card. You pay one price and get all the attractions you want. Go San Diego Card

For a little interactive fun, you can get into the cockpit of a helicopter and try the weird Cyclic Stick control. The cyclic control changes the pitch of the rotors. 

For space buffs, the museum shows replicas of Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo along with space suits and photo collections.

Tip: as you walk through the exhibits, look up! A lot of aviation’s history is floating above your head. 

nullWhen you have your fill of gawking at planes and spacecraft, you can try to fly one for yourself. Flight simulators rides are available for an additional fee. You can choose between single and multi-rider sims with various mission types. 

During my visit, the Da Vinci exhibit was on display. You have to pay a little extra to get into this area, but it is worth every penny. 

Da Vinci was the ultimate innovator. He explored and worked on so many concepts decades ahead of his time. Many of his inventions were so revolutionary, it was not possible to bring them to fruition during his lifetime.

Browse around to view Da Vinci’s gliders, tanks, robots, helicopters, design drawings, and of course his famous paintings like the Mona Lisa. 

My only regret about this place is that it 95% air and 5% space. It would have been much more engaging if it covered more of the Space Age.

On the way out don’t forget to visit the fountain area at the center of the museum. While relaxing and enjoying the water fountains, you can gaze up at the hanging military planes. 

Reuben H Fleet Science Center

nullI was always fascinated by science and technology. So it was only natural for me to visit this science museum. 

The center has around 12 permanent exhibits and rotating visiting exhibits.  Some of the permanent ones are “So Watt!”, “Look! Touch! Listen!”, "Origins in Space", "San Diego's Water" and “Tinkering Studio”.

Lots to see, so go to the center’s website here and plan your visit.

At the “So Watt!” energy exhibit, you get to investigate where our power comes from. A nice interactive solar power display shows how light is converted into electricity which then drives a floating ping pong ball.

Did you want to know where your water in San Diego comes from? The “San Diego's Water” display shows water sources and how it is delivered to your tap. 

nullYong minds can explore their senses through the “Look! Touch! Listen!” experiments dotting the whole museum floors. In one experiment, one person whispers into a hyperbolic saucer while another listens to the amplified sound reaching across the room to the other end. 

On the other side of the museum, inquisitive minds can try to generate electricity with Jacob’s Ladder or make a ball levitate. 

The “Origins of Space” exhibit currently shows the latest NASA images of deep space. 

At the “Tinkering Studio”, ignite your inner Da Vinci and work with others on projects covering STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics).

During my latest visit, the guest exhibit was “Science Fiction, Science Future” – a great way to connect my childhood fantasies with current and future advances. 

I truly believe that if you can dream it, you can make it happen. Many of the fantasies spawned by science fiction writers became realities - airplanes, space flights to the moon, and solar energy to name a few.

nullIn this exhibit, you can try to move an object with your mind, read your DNA, interact with a robot or play a holographic game. You can also explore the ideas of Teleportation, Wormholes, and Cyborgs.

Finally, a science museum is not complete without an IMAX theater or a planetarium. This one has both. 

The center’s Heikoff Giant Dome Theater is an ideal venue to project the latest IMAX films and digital celestial shows. Some of the amazing shows projected on this dome: Under the Sea, Island of Lemurs, and Aircraft Carrier. For the latest show schedule go here

Tip: Both the Science center and the Natural History museums are on the main pedestrian promenade (El Prado street). In between the two popular museums, there is a nice water fountain – a good place for pictures. If you take a pedestrian bridge in front of the Natural History museum you will end up at a beautiful cactus and rose garden with many photo opportunities.

San Diego Natural History Museum

nullNatural history is the history of our planet and its inhabitants. It is always interesting and informative to learn how the earth formed and how the various plant and animal species evolved.

This museum has 5 floors of permanent and visiting exhibits with 8.2 million artifacts – a lot to see and experience. 

My favorite exhibits are:

Whales - Giants of the Deep: this is a visiting exhibit from New Zealand that lets you get close to the giant whales and learn about their biology. You can also examine fossils of whale ancestors or listen to whale songs. If you dare you can crawl through a giant replica of a whale’s heart. 

nullFossil Mysteries: This is a permanent exhibit that showcases 75 million years of Dinosaurs and Mastodons that used to live in the area. As you enter from the first floor, you will come face to face with a giant T-Rex and a flying Pterodactyl. 

In one area of the exhibit, a photographic and fossil evidence exhibit tells the story of the dinosaur extinction.   

Did you know that San Diego is one of the 35 most biodiverse regions in the world? I didn’t know that. I learned it at the Coast to Cactus exhibit in this museum. Using multimedia exhibits, hands-on experiments, and live animals you get to experience the richness of life in the area.

Build your own discounted San Diego Go Card Here - Multi-attraction Pass.

The fourth level has a photographic gallery with award-winning photos of nature and animals. It is also home to a future library.

Tip: When you take the stair to the upper levels, notice the panoramic view from the stairwell. Looking down, you will see a giant fig tree. This tree was planted 100 years ago (1915) but likes like it is much older.

Finally, don’t miss the giant movie screen at the museum. Admission is included in the ticket and it shows 2D and 3D nature features. You can catch a 3D movie about whales or about the coral reefs. Get the latest showtimes at the museum’s website here.

San Diego Museum of Man

nullThe museum’s building itself is a magnificent piece of architecture. It shows a lot of detail on the façade and an intriguing mix of styles joining Baroque, Churrigueresque, and Rococo to present a unique Spanish colonial style. 

Once you are done admiring the architecture, step inside and admire the collection of artifacts representing early native American cultures. 

The museum showcases ancient American civilizations such as Maya, Hopi, and Kumeyaay with a special exhibit about Ancient Egypt.

nullThe “Footsteps Through Time” exhibit takes the visitor through millions of years of human evolution. Go through the Time Tunnel to experience the 200 most significant human inventions. 

At the “Maya: Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth” exhibit, experience the ancient Mayan civilization through its large monuments and archaeological discoveries.

Interesting Facts: Contrary to common belief, the Mayans are not extinct. Their descendants still live in central and Latin America. Learn about some of the ancient traditions that may have survived today at this museum. 

nullThe Pharos and ancient Egyptian civilization fascinated generations of people across the world. The wealth of monuments and artifacts they left behind is a treasure for archeologists and students who are still trying to understand this culture.

To become an archaeologist for an hour and go through the hieroglyphs, tablets, and mummies and learn about the history. The museum has a large collection of original mummies and artifacts. 

For the kids, there is an area set aside for Egypt-themed kid-friendly activities. 

The San Diego Museum of Art

nullArt lovers must spend some time here. The museum has a large collection of artworks spanning millennia. Some sculptures date back to 5000 BC all the way up to the contemporary period. 

You can experience this collection by geographic location. 

Start with the Asian collection of paintings, ceramics, and metalwork. Learn about the beliefs and traditions of each culture through their art. Most fascinating are the Indian statues and the Persian Islamic calligraphy. 

nullMoving into Europe you will come across masterpieces by Carlo Crivelli, Giorgione, Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Van Gogh – to name a few.

At the Arts of Africa, The Pacific, and the Native Americas, you will experience Hawaiian pendants, native American woven baskets, and a diverse collection of African art.

One of my favorite collections is the Quilts and Colors exhibit. This is a touring exhibit from the Boston Fine Arts Museum that shows the brilliant and vibrant designs that go into each hand-crafted quilts.

To see a full list of collections and to plan your visit, go to the museum’s website here.

The Prado Restaurant

nullThis award-winning restaurant sits close to the Art Museum and the visitor center at Balboa Park. It offers both indoor and outdoor seating, but you should really try the patio. It is in a garden setting with water fountains and overlooking Japanese Friendship Gardens.

The food is expensive but very high quality. You really can’t go wrong with their large selection of salads, sandwiches, and burgers. I really enjoyed my Grilled 8oz Kobe Cheeseburger which came with seasoned fries.  

Japanese Friendship Gardens

You can find gardens and trails all over Balboa Park, but you can only enjoy the immaculateSan Diego - Japanese Friendship Gardens attention to detail in gardening at the Japanese Friendship Gardens.

Pay the small entrance fee and step into the calm of streams, waterfalls, and exotic plants from Japan. 

The main trail starts from the top viewing area with a commanding view of the whole garden. Pass through a Koi pond and a Bonzi exhibit then start descending to the valley below. 

The trail gently slopes down with plenty of benches to relax on a admire the scenery. 

Depending on the season you will see blooms of Cherry blossoms, Camelia, Iris, 
Dwarf Pomegranate, or Crape Myrtle. See more here

International Cottages 

Intl Cottages - by BrokenSphere - WikipediaThe 39 cottages represent nations from around the world and are a great way to sample international culture. 

While strolling along this lively section of the park, you can visit places like India, Ukraine, Lebanon, Mexico, and Denmark, admire their art and listen to their songs. 

See the full list of cottages here.

Important Information

Park Map

You can find a useful color map of the park here. The map shows the museums, carousel, zoo, iconic buildings, and restaurants. It does not show the hiking trails.

Parking

Parking can be very difficult, especially on weekends and holidays. You will probably end up parking at Inspiration Point parking lot (on the east side of Park Blvd., between Presidents Way and the Balboa Park Activity Center).

Parking is always free and you can ride a free tram from the lots to any of the main destinations. 

Tours

Many tours start from the visitor center which is located at the Hospitality Building on El Prado street (Close to the Museum of Art). 

Some tours are free and offered by various organizations at the park. You can also purchase a one-hour audio tour from the visitor center.

Carlsbad

Carlsbad anaheimer

Carlsbad Flower FieldsCarlsbad, a charming beach town in Southern California, is quickly emerging as a premier tourist destination.

With attractions like Legoland, vibrant flower fields, a water park, an aquarium, and picturesque beaches, it offers a delightful experience for visitors of all ages.

Nestled between Oceanside and San Diego, Carlsbad boasts a long stretch of beaches, creeks, and lagoons, making it an ideal location for a weekend retreat or a stopover during a longer journey.

It is especially popular among families, who often visit to enjoy the array of attractions at Legoland, which is filled with rides and activities inspired by the famous Lego toy brand.

Adjacent to Legoland, visitors can explore the new water park and Sea Life Aquarium, enhancing the adventure.

Interesting Fact: The discovery of mineral springs by Captain John Frazier in 1882 led to the founding of Carlsbad. The mineral water was bottled and sold, turning the city into a haven for health seekers. Despite a fire in 1895 that destroyed the original hotel at the springs, it reopened in 1993 as a spa, and Carlsbad Mineral water continues to be sold for $1 a gallon. Discover more about Carlsbad's history.

Beyond theme parks, Carlsbad offers mesmerizing flower fields for a picturesque stroll, beach walks along the Pacific Coast Highway, and an enriching experience at the Museum of Making Music.

Find activities in and around Carlsbad, CA.

Legoland Theme Parks

Legoland California - CarlsbadLegoland caters to the imagination of younger children while offering attractions for the entire family. Notable is the replica of Washington DC, which is updated to reflect the current president and events.

The park is divided into thematic lands, including Miniland USA, showcasing miniature versions of famous U.S. landmarks, LEGO City, LEGO Kingdoms, LEGO Ninjago World, and THE LEGO MOVIE World, each offering unique rides and experiences.

The LEGO LIFE ZONE provides a creative space for building, while parents can recharge in air-conditioned comfort.

Legoland's water park features innovative rides like the "Build a Raft River," along with traditional water fun for all ages.

The Flower Fields

Carlsbad Flower FieldsThe Carlsbad Flower Fields are a breathtaking sight, with 50 acres dedicated to the colorful "Tecolote Giant Ranunculus." also known as Persian Buttercup.

The blooming season varies yearly, usually from mid-March to mid-April. Check the bloom status and special events here

Tip: For a complimentary high-level view of the flower fields, Armada Drive is the place to be, offering a splendid introduction to the vibrant landscapes.

At peak bloom, the fields become a sea of color. Visitors can explore on foot or enjoy tractor-pulled wagon rides.

The vicinity also hosts an Artist Garden, a maze, Santa’s Playground, and gold panning activities, with concessions available for refreshments.

Interesting Facts: Carlsbad is home to a historical windmill, originally part of Pea Soup Andersen’s, now a conference center.

Before leaving, the Armstrong shop near the main entrance is perfect for garden enthusiasts looking to purchase plants or flowers.

Food Tasting Tour

Carlsbad - Food TastingExploring Carlsbad’s culinary scene through a food-tasting tour offers insights into the city's history, culture, and delicious cuisine.

Carlsbad Food Tours provides an engaging three-hour journey with knowledgeable guides.

Stops include diverse eateries and a winery, each offering unique savory and sweet delights.

Find activities in and around Carlsbad, CA.

Highlights include "The goods donuts," Froglanders crêpes, and a selection of wines at Witch Creek Winery, culminating in a delightful strawberry shortcake.

The tour not only satisfies the palate but also enriches the experience with local art and historical anecdotes.

Interesting Facts: Carlsbad’s name is inspired by the 19th-century spa town of Karlsbad in the former Czech Republic.

The food-tasting tour is a must-do for visitors seeking a comprehensive Carlsbad experience. Learn more about this and other tours here.

The Waterfront

As a beach town, Carlsbad invites visitors to explore its beautiful beaches, hike the Seawall Trail, enjoy state beaches, and discover the wetlands of its lagoons.

Seawall Trail

Carlsbad - Seawall TrailThe Seawall Trail, beginning at Carlsbad Village Dr. and Carlsbad Boulevard, is a scenic route offering beach and ocean views.

With separate paths for different activities, it's a popular spot for both locals and tourists. The upper trail is busy with hikers, bikers, and skaters, especially during weekends and holidays, while the lower trail is reserved for pedestrians, offering a more peaceful walk.

Interesting fact: Carlsbad was home to the world's first skateboard park, a nod to the city's deep-rooted skateboarding culture that began in the 1960s. Today, a modern skate park near the Carlsbad Safety Training Center continues this legacy.

Stretching about 1 mile, the trail ends at Tamarack Beach, featuring amenities like a lifeguard station and restrooms. The journey can be extended beyond the beach, weaving through local streets and neighborhoods before reconnecting with the beachfront.

Carlsbad State Beach

Carlsbad State BeachCarlsbad State Beach, with its long sandy shores, is divided into two main sections: a day-use area and a camping section at South Beach.

The beach welcomes visitors for various activities, including swimming, surfing, and fishing, with convenient access to showers and restrooms.

The campground, perched atop the cliffs, offers stunning views and is equipped with RV hookups, electricity, and Wi-Fi, making it a sought-after location during the summer months.

South Ponto Beach

Carlsbad State Beach - CampgroundSouth Ponto Beach, favored by surfers, is situated on a sandbar that protects the Batiquitos lagoon. This beach is particularly busy during summer, offering surfing lessons at its southern end and attracting beachgoers with its lively atmosphere.

Museum of Making Music

Carlsbad - Museum of Making MusicThe Museum of Making Music houses an impressive collection of over 10,000 musical instruments and artifacts from across the globe. It showcases the evolution of music, from ancient instruments to contemporary genres.

Visitors can explore the history of the guitar, engage with interactive exhibits, and even try their hand at various instruments, making it a fascinating destination for music lovers of all ages.

The museum offers a range of programs, workshops, and concerts, along with resources for educators and students, providing a comprehensive look at the art and culture of music-making.

Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park

Leo Carrillo RanCarlsbad - Carrillo Ranch - by Socalsuz - Wikimediach Historic Park, once the home of actor and conservationist Leo Carrillo, is a 27-acre haven featuring historic buildings, hiking trails, and beautiful gardens. It offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of the 1930s and the legacy of Leo Carrillo, known for his role as Poncho in "The Cisco Kid" and his efforts in environmental conservation.

Hiking Opportunities

Batiquitos Lagoon

Batiquitos Lagoon offers a tranquil escape with its coastal wetlands and a well-maintained trail. Managed by the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation, it features a nature center with wildlife exhibits and provides a picturesque setting for a leisurely hike along the lagoon's shoreline.

Agua Hedionda Lagoon

Agua Hedionda LagoonAnother natural preserve, Agua Hedionda Lagoon, features a discovery center with educational exhibits and a variety of trails that offer an immersive experience into the region’s ecological and cultural history.

Hosp Grove Trails

The Hosp Grove Trails meander through a eucalyptus grove, providing stunning views and a peaceful environment for hikers. They offer a moderate climb and reward visitors with panoramic vistas of the surrounding landscape.

Find activities in and around Carlsbad, CA.

Coastal San Diego Biking

Coastal San Diego Biking anaheimer

San Diego Coastal Bike Ride along the Bird Rock areaSan Diego County's coastline stretches from the Mexican border to Orange County, featuring both expansive sandy beaches and rugged cliffs with breathtaking ocean views.

My wife and I embarked on a four-hour bike ride to explore this stunning coastline, starting our journey in San Diego and aiming for Carlsbad.

We rented electric bikes from Top Jolt Bicycle shop in Point Loma Heights, which boasts a 4.5-star rating on TripAdvisor.

Book your San Diego Activities here.

San Diego Coastal Bike Ride near Crystal PierLeaving the streets behind, we ventured into the Ocean Beach Athletic Area and onto the San Diego River Bikeway, eventually circling around Mission Bay and Sail Bay.

We experienced a minor setback with a loose bike seat, but a friendly local quickly assisted us. We continued our ride through Pacific Beach, La Jolla Hermosa, and reached La Jolla Cove, enjoying the scenic coastline.

La Jolla Cove during our bike rideDespite some crowded trails, we enjoyed a picnic lunch halfway to our destination before starting our return trip.

Our electric bikes were a great help, especially on steep climbs, though we worried about battery levels by the end of our journey.

Curious about other scenic routes in San Diego? Here are some popular bike trails:

  • Bayshore Bikeway: This flat route offers stunning waterside views and starts at the Coronado Ferry Landing. Perfect for all skill levels.
  • Coastal Rail Trail: A gorgeous, laidback stretch from Encinitas to Oceanside along Highway 101, with dedicated bike lanes for a peaceful ride.
  • Mission Bay Bike Loop: An 11-mile loop around Mission Bay, ideal for beginners, featuring flat cement paths and beautiful views.
  • Fiesta Island Trail: A moderate challenge with twists and turns in Mission Bay, great for more adventurous riders.
  • Bike the Coast Event: An event for all levels along historic Highway 101 with various route options and a festive atmosphere at the finish line in Oceanside.

Coronado Island

Coronado Island anaheimer

Exploring Coronado Island

Coronado Island - San Diego SkylineEmbarking on a 2-night, 3-day retreat to Coronado Island, nestled just a few miles from San Diego, CA, we discovered an enchanting world apart from the hustle and bustle of Downtown San Diego. 

The journey began with a scenic drive over a remarkable bridge that spans the bay, offering breathtaking views that promised an unforgettable getaway.

Day 1: Arrival and Exploration

Coronado Island - Pohe’s RestaurantUpon arrival, our first stop was The Ferry Landing, where we dined at Pohe’s. Seated on their open-air porch, we were treated to stunning bay views and the San Diego skyline, setting the tone for our island adventure. We indulged in the Blackened Ahi Tuna Salad and a hearty Clam Chowder paired with a Caesar salad. The food was exceptional, matched only by the impeccable service.

Post-lunch, we strolled around the Ferry Landing, observing the active ferry service connecting Coronado to San Diego at two different stops. 

Tip: Utilize the ferry for a scenic and convenient connection to Downtown San Diego. It's not just aCoronado Island - Ferry Landing mode of transportation but an opportunity to capture picturesque views of the bay. You can get the latest about ferry service here

Our leisurely walk led us past Cold Stone, where we couldn't resist the temptation of delicious, made-to-order ice cream. 

Book your San Diego Activities here.

Checking into the Glorietta Bay Inn, we were impressed by our well-appointed room and the inviting comfort of the king-size bed. 

Coronado Island - Coronado BeachHowever, the allure of Coronado Beach beckoned us outdoors. There, we marveled at the iconic Del Coronado Hotel and the serene beach, watching surfers dance with the waves. 

Interesting fact: Glorietta Bay Inn and the Del Coronado Hotel were linked during their construction phases. The architect behind both iconic establishments, Mr. Spreckels, designed a convenient route to seamlessly transition between the two.

Coronado Island - Dunes BeachA detour through the rolling dunes onto the wet sand allowed us to fully embrace the coastal beauty as the sun dipped below the horizon.

Dinner at Miguel’s Mexican Cocina inside the Cordova Inn concluded our day with a feast of Enchiladas Suizas and La Combinacion Del Jefe, leaving us with delicious leftovers for the next day. A delightful coconut flan served as the perfect end to our meal. 

Day 2: Adventures Beyond and Return

Coronado Island - Serea in the Del Coronado Hotel Our second day began with a hotel breakfast, offering a spread of American breakfast staples and ample coffee. 

We then ventured off-island for a whale-watching cruise and a visit to Balboa Park, immersing ourselves in the diverse attractions San Diego offers.

Returning to Coronado for the evening, we savored a sophisticated dinner at Serea in the Del Coronado Hotel.

Opting for outdoor seating allowed us to enjoy our meal—the Serea Mezze and a sumptuous half-roasted chicken with Risotto—against the backdrop of a stunning sunset.

The Merlot and a hibiscus spice margarita added a delightful touch to our dining experience.Coronado Island - Serea dinner at sunset

Coronado Island proved to be a remarkable escape, blending leisure and adventure against a backdrop of stunning landscapes and culinary delights. 

Whether you're drawn to the serene beaches, the historical charm, or the vibrant dining scene, Coronado invites exploration and relaxation in equal measure.

Book your San Diego Activities here.

Food Safari in San Diego

Food Safari in San Diego anaheimer

San Diego Gaslamp Quarter - entrance from the waterfront - WikipediaMy wife and I recently ventured through the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego to sample the local delicacies and learn a few things about its history.

We discovered some great places and learned that the downtown area used to be a haven for drunken sailors and houses of ill repute. Thankfully, it is now a place for the whole family to stroll around, shop, and enjoy world cuisines and delicious treats.

San Diego Gaslamp Quarter - Royal IndiaWe started our journey at the Royal India restaurant around lunchtime. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the fanciful decorations, authentic statues, and pottery. But I soon forgot about the ambiance as I browsed through the mouth-watering buffet choices.

I usually avoid buffets, but in this case, it was a nice way to sample different dishes. Everything I tried was flavorful and fresh, but my favorite was the Chicken Tikka Masala and Samosa. The kheer (rice pudding) was a great way to end the meal.

We knew we still had a lot of places to visit on this tour, so we tried hard not to stuff ourselves, but it was a losing battle.

Book your San Diego Activities here.

After this great beginning, we walked towards our next stop, Berkeley Pizza. Along San Diego Gaslamp Quarter - Berkeley Pizzathe way, we learned some interesting facts about the area. It all started when, in 1867, Alonzo Horton, known as the father of downtown, purchased some land and developed “New Town” to the south of the established Old Town. The city later added 50 gas lamps to light up the streets, giving the area its current name.

“The Gaslamp Quarter is a dynamic urban playground that brings together Victorian-era buildings, modern skyscrapers, and a vibrant nightlife scene. It’s a perfect blend of history and modernity.”

New Town quickly filled up with gambling halls, saloons, and brothels and became a thriving red-light district. But in 1912, the city cleared the area in preparation for the Panama-California Exposition.

After this quick history lesson, we entered Berkeley Pizza to try their deep-dish Chicago-style pizza. The place is very small and always crowded, which I thought was a good sign—the pizza must be phenomenal. However, I was disappointed. The slices had way too much tomato sauce, and the pepperoni was too greasy. The crust and cheese were very good, so maybe I was just unlucky with my choice.

San Diego Gaslamp Quarter - Le Parfait ParisOur next stop made up for the disappointment. We headed towards Le Parfait Paris, a French bakery.

Along the way, we stopped at the Gaslamp Museum. This small museum is a nice way to learn about San Diego and its main founder, Horton. The garden outside the museum overlooks several historic buildings and has a statue of Bum, the dog who led many parades and ran with the fire brigade.

At Le Parfait Paris, we delighted our eyes and our palettes with the large selection of pastries and desserts. It was hard to choose our treat, but we ended up with 2 flavors of macaroons - the best macaroons ever. We liked this place so much we went back the next day for breakfast. They actually offer much more than dessert. You can order Crepes, Quiche, and Panini.

Book your San Diego Activities here.

After that delectable interlude, we started walking towards El Chingon. This San Diego Gaslamp Quarter - El Chingonrestaurant has multiple personalities. You can sit outside and enjoy your meal while gawking at people walking by, or you can sit inside with the noisy sports bar as your background music. We went for the third option, a quiet second floor overlooking the bar below.

“El Chingon is known for its vibrant atmosphere and delicious Mexican street food. It's a perfect spot to unwind after exploring the city.”

While sitting on our secluded balcony, we were served homemade chips and salsa. They brought a tray with several bottles of house salsa.

We tried their “Al Pastor,” the slow-cooked pork taco, along with the chips and salsa. It was very rich, tasty, and full of meat. Our only disappointment was when we ordered the house margaritas. We had to wait a very long time for our orders, and they weren't that special.

San Diego Gaslamp Quarter - Horton Plaza - WikipediaAfter this pork and margaritas stop, I was glad we had a long walk ahead of us. We needed to digest all this food.

Our destination was the Little Italy neighborhood, but we also visited Horton Plaza Mall, the US Grant Hotel, and Spreckels Theater.

“Horton Plaza is known for its unconventional architecture and vibrant colors, making it a fun and unique shopping experience in downtown San Diego.”

Horton Plaza is an outdoor 5-level shopping and dining mall right in downtown San Diego. Its bright colors and tricky architecture make it a unique place to visit. Stairways and pathways between the various sections and floors don't connect, so you must browse to find the next section.

The Plaza has large anchor stores like Macy’s and Forever 21 and plenty of small stores. It is not considered a major mall but is within walking distance of downtown hotels and the waterfront.

The US Grant Hotel is historic, with 11 stories and 270 guest rooms. The hotel was built by Ulysses S. Grant, Jr., son of President Ulysses S. Grant, who named the hotel after his father.

The hotel is infamous for its restaurant, the “Grant Grill”. Women were not permitted at this place before 3 pm until a group of women in 1969 staged a sit-in. After the bad publicity, the restaurant was forced to abandon its men-only policy.

San Diego Gaslamp Quarter - Little ItalyThe Spreckels Theater is another historic place in downtown San Diego. It started as a live performance theater, but now, it can show movies. Spreckels is a well-known name in town. John Spreckels was responsible for building the Hotel Coronado and financing the San Diego-Arizona railway.

After this long detour, we arrived at Little Italy, which has busy streets, festive shops, and restaurants. This little neighborhood started as a fishing town with immigrants from Italy founding Tuna fishing fleets and a large canary. All canneries closed by the 1980s, but the neighborhood transformed itself into a shopping and dining destination.

“Little Italy is a lively neighborhood with a rich history and vibrant community. It's a must-visit for anyone who loves good food and a festive atmosphere.”

We ended our food safari at Davanti Enoteca in Little Italy. This restaurant serves traditional Italian dishes with a few American standards. We were already stuffed by the time we arrived here, so we only had a dessert. We tried their tasty focaccia with cow cheese and topped with honey – a sweet and sour delight.

We were guided through this food tour by Eric from “Bite San Diego,” who was very knowledgeable and friendly. Ask them for their Downtown Walking Tour if you want a similar food tour.

Other great dining experiences in San Diego:

Over the years, I enjoyed various cuisines in San Diego. Some of my favorites are listed below:

Full Moon Sushi

Embargo Grill, San DiegoA great place for Sushi lovers with unique Rolls, Sushi, and Sashimi, along with a full hot-dish menu and bar.

Embargo Grill

A small place in a strip mall next to SeaWorld that offers great Caribbean dishes. Try the "Key West" - a grilled marinated chicken with curry and Rum Cranberries. You can also build your own dish by picking your meat, sides, and sauces.

The Donut Bar

Yes, it is a donut place, but its creations are huge and delicious. The menu changes daily depending on the availability of fresh ingredients.

Ramaki Japanese Restaurant

A small hole-in-the-wall restaurant offering fresh Poke and traditional Japanese dishes. You can build your Poke bowl yourself from the Poke Bar.

Read the full San Diego Guide here.

 

Historic Trolley Tour

Historic Trolley Tour anaheimer

Historic Trolley Tour in San DiegoOne of the best ways to explore San Diego is by taking the historic trolley tour. You can jump on and off the trolley at any of the 10 stops throughout the day. Along the way, the driver will share interesting San Diego history and tips about places to see and things to do.

The city of San Diego and the greater San Diego county are home to beautiful beaches, popular attractions, hiking trails, and many more adventures.

Many people come to the city to enjoy SeaWorld’s exhibits and shows or the world-famous San Diego Zoo, but there is much more to explore around town.

You can spend days visiting the museums at Balboa Park, take a sunset dinner cruise in the harbor, or climb aboard an Aircraft Carrier. Read the full San Diego guide here.

Historic Old Town in San Diego

You can start your tour at any of the 10 stops along the route, but the main starting point is at Old Town San Diego.

This State Park is a collection of protected historic buildings that have been turned into a living museum of San Diego life in the 1800s.

While in Old Town, you can enjoy visits to Spanish Adobe style homes, buy souvenirs from stores, or dine at one of the unique restaurants. Casa de Estudillo is especially interesting with its unique style and interior courtyard.

Book your San Diego Activities here.

Tip: Many hotels have shuttles to Old Town. Ask your concierge for schedules and make sure you can get back to Old Town before the last shuttle. You can also find a list here.

USS Midway Museum in San DiegoThe second stop is at the Embarcadero, where you can find attractions like the USS Midway, Harbor Cruises, and Whale Watching excursions. From here, you can walk to the next stop or hop back on the trolley.

Interesting Fact: In San Diego, it’s illegal to shoot jackrabbits from the back of a streetcar. I wonder why they had to make this law.

Stop number three is at Seaport Village, where you can spend time shopping, dining, or enjoying the street artists. Seaport Village is also home to some interesting art galleries and a candle shop.

The fourth stop is at the Marriott, close to the convention center. The marina right at the Marriott is an interesting destination by itself. But from there, you can take the little ones to the Children’s Museum for some hands-on fun.

Horton Plaza in San DiegoThe next stop is at Horton Plaza and the Gaslamp Quarter. Spend some time at the mall or walk around the quarter for some unique shops and dining experiences. Also, in the area, you can find a movie theater, House of Blues, and Michael J. Wolf Fine Arts.

Tip: When you board the trolley for the first time, you will get a sticker to place on your clothes. This is your ticket to hop on and off the trolley. The stickers do not stick to some materials. You can place the sticker on any piece of paper or on a credit card to avoid losing it.

Gaslamp Quarter in San DiegoStop six is also at the Gaslamp Quarter, closer to the waterfront. This site has destinations like the historic district, the Chinese historic district, and the Altitude Sky Lounge at the Marriott. The lounge is a good place to dine, dance, and enjoy the views.

Book your San Diego Activities here.

Stop seven gets you to the Hilton Bayfront, which is at the south end of the convention center. From this stop, you can walk to Petco Park baseball stadium and the Ferry to Coronado Island.

Interesting Fact: The first driver across the Coronado Bridge when it first opened was Ronald Reagan in 1969.

Coronado Bridge in San DiegoThe eighth stop takes you to Coronado Island, close to the beach and the famous Hotel Del Coronado.

The ride from stop seven to stop eight takes you over the Coronado Bridge, which offers amazing views of the bay, downtown San Diego, and the island. The bridge connects downtown San Diego to Coronado Island and crosses over the SD Bay.

Interesting Fact: The Hotel Del Coronado is the country’s largest wooden structure.

Balboa Park in San DiegoStop Nine takes you to the heart of Balboa Park, where you can find many nature walks, museums, gardens, restaurants, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

The last stop is at the Little Italy neighborhood. This area has a lot of history and is full of boutique shops and Italian restaurants.

Interesting Fact: From the early 1930s to the late 1970s, San Diego was the tuna capital of the world.

While here, you can visit the Piazza Basilone Memorial, a tribute to the neighborhood’s soldiers who died during the Korean War. The Piazza has tables, benches, and water fountains, where you can relax and have a picnic.

If you happen to be here on a Saturday, you can enjoy the farmers market.

At the end of your epic tour of San Diego, jump back on the trolley and head back to Old Town to complete the circle.

I loved this tour and would recommend it to everyone exploring San Diego. Just leave your car behind and enjoy the sights. Most major hotels offer shuttle service to Old Town or are a few steps away from a trolley stop.

Historic Trolley Tours offers another tour to the beaches and La Jolla. I did not try it, but I plan to do it during my next trip to San Diego.

You can find an interactive route map here.

 

La Jolla Village

La Jolla Village anaheimer

La Jolla Pano

La Jolla, a charming town on the outskirts of San Diego, boasts pristine sandy beaches, stunning coastal cliffs, luxury hotels, and world-class golf courses. It's also home to the renowned University of California, San Diego, the picturesque La Jolla Cove, and mysterious caverns.

The broader San Diego area offers an array of attractions, from beautiful beaches and hiking trails to popular tourist sites. Read the full San Diego review here.

The origin of La Jolla's name remains uncertain, with some suggesting it means "the place with holes"—a nod to its many caves and coves. Others believe it translates to "the Jewel," a fitting description for this gem along the coastline, rich in natural beauty and fascinating geological formations.

Interesting Fact: The Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla is one of the largest oceanographic museums in the United States.

Book your San Diego Activities here.

La Jolla Cove

Scenic view of La Jolla CoveLa Jolla Cove features a beautiful beach and path, perfect for walking and enjoying the scenic views of the ocean and sea lions basking on the rocks.

Adjacent to the cove is an underwater park known for its clear waters and abundant sea life, making it a haven for snorkelers and divers.

The area surrounding the cove offers spectacular scenery. From the parking lot, a path leads you past breathtaking ocean views. La Jolla Cove Pathway

Tip: Parking is limited near the Cove and the nearby Cave Store. An early arrival is recommended to secure a spot, or consider using the nearby parking structure.

Seals and seagulls are often seen along the park's cliffs, and paths allow visitors to get a closer look at these marine animals.

The Cave Store offers exclusive access to La Jolla Cave. For a small fee, visitors can descend via a steep stairway to sea level, where the sounds of surf provide a dramatic backdrop.

Tip: For a unique experience, rent a bike and explore the paved trails around La Jolla Cove.

La Jolla Coastal TrailAfter visiting the cave, extend your journey by taking a trail that starts behind the store. The trail winds up the cliffs and offers stunning ocean vistas and colorful vegetation.

Nearby, numerous hotels, shops, and eateries line the streets. George's Ocean Terrace and Brockton Villa Restaurant are notable for their exquisite dining experiences and panoramic views.

La Jolla Shores

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La Jolla Shores BeachLa Jolla Shores is a bustling one-mile stretch of sandy beach favored by sun worshippers, swimmers, and kayakers.

Services such as bike rentals are available to enhance your beach experience.

Tip: Alcohol is prohibited on all San Diego beaches, including La Jolla Shores.

Attractions near the south end include the La Jolla Underwater Park, a popular spot for divers. In contrast, the north end hosts the Scripps Institute's Birch Aquarium and the Torrey Pines State Natural Preserve, including the famous Black’s Beach.

Torrey Pines State Natural Preserve

Torrey Pines State PreserveThis 2,000-acre preserve features coastal cliffs and a lagoon, offering spectacular ocean views and challenging hiking trails.

Adjacent to the preserve is the Torrey Pines Gliderport, a prime location for paragliding lessons and aerial views of the cliffs and waves.

The preserve's trails range from the strenuous to the more accessible, such as the Guy Fleming Trail, which is less than a mile long and features mostly level terrain with stunning overlooks.

Black’s Beach

Black's BeachA secluded beach beneath the Torrey Pines cliffs, Black’s Beach offers a private escape, famous for its surfing and natural beauty. The northern end is managed by the state and allows nudity, while the southern end, managed by the city, adheres to a strict no-nudity policy.

Accessing the beach involves descending steep ramps or stairs, which may be challenging but rewarding with less crowded sands and excellent surf conditions.

Book your San Diego Activities here.

Maritime Museum

Maritime Museum anaheimer

San Diego Maritime Museum - Star of IndiaI passed by this place many times without giving it a second glance. It is in Downtown San Diego’s Embarcadero and right in front of the waterfront park.

During this last visit I decided to venture inside and I was pleasantly surprised. At first glance, it looks to be very small with few exhibits indoors, but the real value is outside with several ships and submarines on display.

The museum hosts a collection of 11 vessels with the main building being a converted ferryboat. Some of those ships are active and provide short cruises for visitors.

San Salvador

San Diego Maritime Museum The newest addition to this collection is a replica of the San Salvador. The ship was built in full public view (2011 to 2015) at the Spanish Landing Park in San Diego. It was a great opportunity for everyone to witness how a tall ship is constructed.

Star of India

This majestic ship rests at the harbor with all of its sails proudly unfurled and melding with the San Diego skyline. Before this resting place, it suffered a tumulus history.

San Diego Maritime Museum This fully-rigged iron windjammer started its life as the Euterpe with a collision and a mutiny. A year later it was caught in a gale and lost its mast.

After this rough start, the ship spent many years ferrying immigrants to New Zealand. Before settling in San Diego as a museum piece, the ship spent time carrying fishermen to Alaska as the Star of India.

Find your San Diego attractions here.

USS Dolphin Sub

Descending into this submarine and walking through the very narrow hatches and hallways, I wondered how a group of sailors could live for extended periods under the sea in those cramped conditions.

This class of subs is known for its extreme-deep diving capability. This particular one set a depth record of 3000 feet in 1968 and launched the first torpedo at that depth.  

B-39 Sub

This submarine has an intriguing and colorful history. It was a Soviet-era sub that stalked US ships and subs during the Cold War and was involved in the historical events at the Bay of Pigs near Cuba.

As you traverse this huge sub, you will relive events that shaped world history during the Cuban Crisis. One Russian navy officer, Vasili Arkhipov, is credited with saving the world from the brink of nuclear war.

Although the crew of this sub is considered heroes to history, they were faced with inquiries and humiliation upon their return to port.

More Info

The museum’s website is full of information about exhibits, hours, and admission prices

You can also find important information on Wikipedia.  

 

 

 

San Diego Bike Tour

San Diego Bike Tour anaheimer

Old Town San Diego - Flickr - by Jasperdo After enjoying a great e-bike ride through Santa Barbara, we decided to do the same in San Diego. We booked a tour with “Another Side Of San Diego”. This tour operator offers many private and group tours. See their offerings here.

We selected the “Old Town & Balboa Park eBike Tour”. We have visited both places in the past but thought it would be fun to go at a more leisurely pace.

This tour starts from their location near Old Town. Jeff, our tour guide, began by explaining how to use the e-bike and gave us some time to practice. This is important because e-bikes can differ in handling and operation.

After we mastered our bikes, we passed by Old Town and learned about the historic buildings. Unfortunately, we could not enter due to park regulations.

Tip: The bikes do not have a basket for belongings or water. Jeff was willing to carry our stuff, but I would have preferred to hold my own water, camera, and phone. So bring a backpack or a waist bag.

Find your San Diego attractions here.

Jeff regaled us with the town’s history and important buildings. We quickly learned that Old  Town is not San Diego's real birthplace. It actually started as a settlement on the hill with the Presidio Fort. Later, a mission was established close to the fort. This location was chosen due to the commanding view over the San Diego harbor.

Even though it is not the real first settlement, the Old Town Historic Park is still worth visiting. It represents early period San Diego well with its adobe buildings, museums, and shops.

San Diego Presidio Park - by - MARELBU - WikimediaOur next stop was Presidio Hill, an important historical site. It was the location of the first European settlement on the Pacific Coast. Established on July 1, 1769, by Governor Gaspar de Portolá, the San Diego Presidio served as a military post and base for Spanish colonization in California. The hill provided strategic oversight of the area, which included the mission and the fort, offering protection from potential threats.

Over time, as the mission moved and the need for a military presence diminished, Presidio Hill fell into disrepair.

Find your San Diego attractions here.

By 1835, it was largely abandoned. During the Mexican-American War, American forces briefly revived it as Fort Stockton. In 1929, George Marston, a local philanthropist, established Presidio Park to preserve the historic site. Today, the park includes the Junípero Serra Museum, which showcases artifacts from the early history of San Diego and provides educational programs about the region's Spanish, Mexican, and indigenous heritage.

Interesting Fact: Presidio Park, spanning 40 acres, offers panoramic views of San Diego, Mission Valley, and the Pacific Ocean. It includes several distinct areas such as Inspiration Point, Palm Canyon, Padre Cross, and The Arbor.

To get to Presidio Hill, we had to pedal up a steep incline. Thankfully, the e-bike's pedal assist came in handy. We still had a workout, but it was more manageable.

San Diego - Balboa Park On our way to Balboa Park, we had to pass through some busy city streets. This part of the tour was not very enjoyable, but there is no avoiding it. It is a major city, after all. Next time, I will try The La Jolla Coastal Bike Tour. We will probably encounter less traffic and enjoy the ocean views.

The best part of this tour is entering Balboa Park and enjoying the long stretch of trails with no cars. The park's 1,200 acres are full of open space areas, natural vegetation zones, green belts, gardens, walking trails, museums, theaters, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

Interesting Fact: Balboa Park is one of the oldest public recreation sites in the United States, dating back to 1868.

You can learn more about Balboa Park and the Zoo by following the links.

Heading back, the ride was mostly straight or downhill. We still had to pass through some busy streets, but it was more relaxed and a good ending to our tour.

More about San Diego here.

 

 

 

San Diego Botanic Gardens

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Scenic view at San Diego Botanic Gardens The Botanic Gardens, located north of San Diego, offer a wonderful opportunity for families to spend time exploring an array of plants from various global environments and learning about the ecosystems they inhabit.

Recently, after the gardens reopened post the Covid-19 shutdown, I visited with my family on a Saturday. Although not all exhibits were open, the reduced crowd made our visit more pleasant.

Spanning 37 acres and home to over 5000 plant species across 31 distinct areas, the gardens are vast. It's unlikely to see everything in one visit, so planning ahead to focus on areas of interest is advisable.

Book your San Diego Adventure here.

Pond at San Diego Botanic Gardens For families with young children, the Hamilton Children's Garden and the Seeds of Wonder Children's Garden are must-visits, offering activities like climbing treehouses, playing in streams, and exploring a dinosaur-themed area.

The gardens also feature immersive environments such as the Bamboo Forest, Subtropical Fruit Garden, and the Mediterranean Garden.

Bamboo Garden at San Diego Botanic Gardens A favorite spot of mine is the tranquil pond adorned with floating lilies in the Bamboo forest. There are other serene ponds located in the Native Plants Garden and the Rain Forest.

Another highlight is the waterfall that leads to the overlook, offering a panoramic view of the area and a distant glimpse of the ocean.

The botanical gardens feature a shop where visitors can purchase souvenirs and plants.

300 Quail Gardens Dr, Encinitas, CA 92024

https://www.sdbgarden.org/

 

 

 

San Diego Dining

San Diego Dining anaheimer

San Diego - Full Moon SushiOver the years I frequented many restaurants around the city of San Diego and SD county in general. Here is a compilation of my favorite eateries:

Downtown

Full Moon

A great place for Sushi lovers with unique Rolls, Sushi and Sashimi along with a full hot-dish menu and bar.

I tried the Full Moon and New Moon rolls. Both were very tasty and filling. I also enjoyed a flight of Sake with a good variety of flavor and texture.

Full Moon is on 5th street in the Gaslamp Quarter.

Royal India

San Diego Gaslamp Quarter - Royal IndiaThe first thing that grabbed my attention was the fanciful decorations and authentic statues and pottery. But I soon forgot about the ambiance as I browsed through the mouth-watering buffet choices.

I usually avoid buffets, but in this case, it was a nice way to sample different dishes. Everything I tried was very flavorful and fresh, but my favorite was the Chicken Tikka Masala and Samosa. The kheer (rice pudding) was a great way to end the meal.

Royal India is on Market Street in the Gaslamp Quarter.

Meze Greek Fusion

San Diego - Full Moon Sushi on sixth street. This restaurant offers authentic Greek cuisine with a California flair. Meze means small plates, but the menu offers full meals for every appetite. For starters, you must try the Lentil Soup, Baba Ghanosh, Dolma or Fiery Fetta Dip. For the main meal try the Lamb Chops or traditional Greek favorites like Falafel or Gyro plates. And finally, don’t skip the Baklava for dessert.

Meze is on 6th street in the Gaslamp Quarter.

Tapas and Beer

San Diego - Tapas and Beer - by Ryan M.This little place specializes in small plates - Spanish style and a large selection of beers. The menu also includes full-sized dishes.

During our visit, we tried the Buffalo Chicken Wings, Tacos (Shrimp and Chicken), Garlic Shrimp, and Crostinis. 

For drinks, we tried several IPAs and an Apple Cider. Food, drinks, and service were excellent. 

Taka Suhsi

Taka 555 Sushi - Flickr - by Kimberly VardemanTaka is more than a Sush restaurant. They have a full menu of authentic Japanse cousine. Although other items on the menu were very tempting, we went for the Sushi. We ordered Salamon Sashimi, Shrimp Tempora handrolls, Rainbow roll, and Spicy Tuna roll.

We loved all the rolls, but we were pleasently surprised with the 2 desserts we ordered. Green Tee Creme Brule and Black Seasame Creme Brule.

Ramaki

This little hole in the wall restaurant is understated, but a great place for Japanese cuisine lovers. Stop at here to get some great Raman, Poke, and Sushi.

Located on the edge of the Gaslamp Quarter on 6th street.  

Breakfast at the HyattSan Diego - Seaview restaurant - Buffett breakfast

I love breakfast, so I am always on the lookout for great breakfast restaurants. I found this gem inside the Grand Hyatt downtown San Diego. The Hyatt is right on the edge of Seaport Village.

The Seaview restaurant offers a daily breakfast Buffett with a large selection of favorite dishes and an omelet station. The omelets are cooked to order with a wide selection of fillings. 

The Buffett tables are full of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pastries, and fruits. To end the meal you can enjoy fluffy pancakes. 

The price is a little on the high side, but it is expected at a place like this. 

Le Parfait Paris

San Diego Gaslamp Quarter - Le Parfait ParisThis French bakery offers a large selection of pastries and desserts. It was hard to choose our treat, but we ended up with 2 flavors of macaroons - best macaroons ever.

We liked this place so much, we went back the next day for breakfast. They actually offer much more than dessert. You can order Crepes, Quiche and Panini.

You can find this Gem on G street in the Gaslamp Quarter.

Ghirardelli

For a dessert or a snack, you must try Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop. Their ice-cream flavors on waffle cones are to die for.

Once you are done with your dessert, you can go shopping for a collection of chocolates for your family and friends – or indulge yourself.

Ghirardelli is on 5th street in the Gaslamp Quarter

El Chingon

San Diego Gaslamp Quarter - El ChingonThis San Diego Gaslamp Quarter multiple personalities. You can sit outside and enjoy your meal while gawking at people walking by or you can sit inside with the noisy sports bar as your background music. We went for the third option, a quiet second floor that overlooks the bar below.

While sitting in our secluded balcony, we were served home-made chips and salsa. They bring a tray with several flavors of house salsa in bottles.

Along with the chips and salsa, we tried their “Al Pastor”, the slow-cooked pork taco. It was very rich and tasty and full of meat. Our only disappointment was when we ordered the house margaritas. We had to wait a very long time for our orders and they weren't anything special.

You can visit El Chingon on 5th street in the Gaslamp Quarter.

Davanti Enoteca

This restaurant serves traditional Italian dishes with a few American standards. I especially like their tasty focaccia with cow cheese and topped with honey – a sweet and sour delight.

Greystone

You can’t go wrong with any of the meats. Try the New York Steak or Filet Mignon. If you are hungry, try the short ribs tacos for starters. The place is a little pricey, but if you go during happy hour, you will get to try different cuts at reduced prices.

You can find this place on 5th street in the Gaslamp Quarter.

Outside of Downtown

Embargo Grill

Embargo Grill, San Diego A small place in a strip mall next to SeaWorld that offers great Caribbean dishes. Try the "Key West" - a grilled marinated chicken with curry and Rum Cranberries. You can also build your own dish by picking your meat, sides and sauces.

On West Point Loma Blvd in Diego.

The Donut Bar

Yes, it is a donut place, but their creations and huge and delicious. The menu changes daily depending on available fresh ingredients.

On “B” street in Diego

Mendocino Farm

A unique place for gourmet sandwiches. All ingredients are sourced from local farms. I had their farm club sandwich. It was filled with layers of turkey, bacon and veggies. Other choices are tuna melt, the hot Italian and Enlightened Falafel Wrap.

Two Locations in La Jolla Village and Del Mar.

Sea Salt Bistro

This restaurant has a large patio overlooks the Peñasquitos Marsh next to Torrey Pines State Reserve. It is a nice stop after a day of hiking.

During my last visit, I enjoyed their Salmon Burger with fries. It was delicious and filling. You can also order Crab Cakes, Coconut Shrimp, Fish Tacos or Pasta.

The view from the patio makes the meal feel like a campout.

Located on Carmel Valley Rd in the city of Del Mar.

Dini’s Bistro

Carlsbad Seawall - view from Dini'sThis oceanfront restaurant is a perfect place to watch the sunset while sipping drinks and enjoying dinner.

Its location on Carlsbad’s busy waterfront makes a great place to start or end the day while visiting the Flower Fields or Lego Land.

During a recent visit, we tried the Reuben Sandwich, Salmon Sandwich, and Avocado Toast. All 3 selections were very tasty and filling.

Located on Carlsbad Blvd in the City of Carlsbad.

Chart Hour at Cardiff by the Sea

Chart House Cardiff by the Sea - San DiegoEnjoy a great meal right at the beach - the only thing separating you from the sand and surf is a thin screen window. Feel the breeze as you sip your drinks or partake in the unique menu items. 

Along with the delicious taste, feast your eyes on the presentation too. 

During our last visit, we tried the Coconut Crunch Shrimp, French Dip, Fish Tacos, and the Fish and Chips - and we completed our lunch with the Key Lime Pie. 

Chart House is part of the Landry's Select group. Make sure to get a Landry's membership before you go for good dining rewards. 

2588 S Coast Hwy 101, Cardiff, CA 92007

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo anaheimer

San Diego Zoo - Rex's Roar - Wikipedia - by Jim1138Visiting the zoo is always a delightful adventure for the entire family, and the San Diego Zoo offers an unparalleled open-air animal exhibit and interaction experience.

Located in the expansive Balboa Park, this world-renowned zoo spans about 100 acres and features 18 unique zones with a vast array of habitats. You'll find yourself returning multiple times to fully experience everything on offer.

Prepare for plenty of walking across various hills and valleys within the park.

Balboa Park itself is a massive complex comprising parks, museums, and sports venues. Learn more about Balboa Park here.

Tip: To navigate the zoo's numerous attractions, planning your visit using the official park website is advisable. Decide which areas you wish to explore in advance to optimize your visit.

Although you might encounter many intriguing distractions, maintaining a clear objective will enhance your experience.

Book your San Diego Activities here.

Here are some highlights and recommended activities at the Zoo:

Guided Bus Tour

Guided Bus Tour - Wikipedia - by ray_exploresThe guided bus tour covers 75% of the park and includes informative commentary from your guide. It's included with your admission ticket and is a perfect introduction for first-time visitors.

For a more tailored experience, consider the Discovery Cart Tour. This private cart accommodates up to six people for a detailed exploration with an expert guide.

Skyfari Aerial Tram

San Diego Zoo Skyfari Gondolas - Wikipedia - by CburnettThe Skyfari cable car offers a scenic ride from one end of the park to the other, saving you a long walk. It begins at Oasis Outpost near the entrance and concludes near the Polar Bear exhibit.

Discovery Outpost

Starting your walk at the park's left entrance and moving clockwise, you'll first encounter the Discovery Outpost. This area showcases various reptile species ranging from green iguanas to large Chinese alligators and Galápagos tortoises.

Lost Forest

Okapi - Flickr - by - Don DeBoldThe Lost Forest is a highlight featuring tigers, monkeys, and pygmy hippos. Follow the Tiger Trail for an up-close look at tigers, tapirs, fishing cats, and milky storks.

On the Hippo Trail, encounter both hippos and pygmy hippos, as well as the unique okapi, which resembles a cross between a zebra and a giraffe.

The Cripss Aviary, situated between the Hippo and Monkey Trails, is a lush rainforest setting with ponds, a waterfall, and an array of African birds.

The Monkey Trail offers ground-level views of gorillas and bonobos in their rocky habitats, while a canopy-level trail allows for observing various monkey species in the trees.

Book your San Diego Activities here.

Kangaroo Bus

The Kangaroo Bus provides convenient transportation around the park with four stops, allowing you to hop on and off as needed. Note that it does not service the Discovery Outpost or the Lost Forest.

Panda Trek

Red Panda - Flickr - by ray_exploresWhile the Giant Pandas have been repatriated to China, the adorable Red Pandas have replaced them. Though not related to Giant Pandas, these creatures share a similar bamboo diet and are equally charming.

Northern Frontier

San Diego Zoo - Polar BearThe Northern Frontier is home to creatures like the Polar Bear and Arctic Fox. The polar bear habitat offers a view of these majestic animals enjoying their summer-like Arctic environment.

Dining Options

Albert's Cafe from Skyfari - Flickr - by Tim EvansonWhile numerous snack options are available throughout the park, Albert's in the Lost Forest offers a full-service dining experience with an open-air deck overlooking a private waterfall or indoor seating with views of the Treehouse gardens.

Food quality and pricing are typical for an amusement park, with standout dishes like Tandoori Grilled Chicken and Seared Ahi, alongside more average offerings such as Fish Tacos.

For dining outside the park, Balboa Park is just an 8-minute walk away and features several excellent options, including Prado next to the Railroad Museum, which boasts a beautiful garden terrace and stunning views. Discover more dining options here.

Membership

If you reside nearby or simply wish to support the zoo, consider becoming a member. Membership options range from annual passes starting at over $100 to exclusive donor club memberships costing thousands of dollars. Explore all membership options here.

Book your San Diego Activities here.

SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego anaheimer

SeaWorld San Diego - Dolphin DaysSeaWorld is the only park in which you can get up close and personal with sea creatures while getting an education and having fun. You can meet the Orcas (killer whales), watch the Dolphins play their tricks, visit the sharks in their natural habitat, go to the North Pole on an icy safari and peek at the Penguins – and you get all that fun for a bargain.

You can add “experiences” to your visit, like the Dolphin Interaction Program or the Beluga Interaction Program.

The park also offers a large variety of dining options, and the prices are much more reasonable than other theme parks.

Tip: As usual, it pays to plan ahead. Go to SeaWorld's website and browse the various activities and show times.

Shows that you shouldn’t miss are Orca Encounter, Sea Lions Live, Dolphin Days, a trip to SeaWorld SD - Dolphin DaysWild Arctic, Shark Encounter, and Sea Lion Rescue.

For thrill-seekers, try one of the rides: Journey to Atlantis, Manta, Electric Eel, Shipwreck Rapids, and Wild Arctic (the ride).

All those shows, exhibits, and rides will be described below in more detail. Also, see special Christmas and Lunar Year celebration details at the end of this article.

Watch the video at the bottom of this article for an overview of the park.

Explorer's Reef

Explorer's Reef family touching sharksAs you enter the park, you will immediately be greeted by an into the world of sea creatures.

Find your San Diego attractions here..

Explorer’s Reef is a covered but open exhibit that allows visitors to interact with a variety of fish, mantas, and sharks. Young children especially enjoy petting mantas, cleaner fish, and bamboo sharks.

Right next to the reef, you can explore the newest souvenir store, The SeaWorld Store. You probably should refrain from taking the kids there as you enter the park. Otherwise, you will be carrying their souvenirs all day long.

Orca Encounter

Orca EncounterIn this revamped show, the killer whales (Orcas) show off their natural behavior as they interact with their trainers. The show used to be called One Ocean but was upgraded to the current show recently.

Tip: The old One Ocean show was replaced recently with this new toned-down encounter with Orca whales. The trainers try to show the Orcas' natural behavior instead of forcing them into unnatural tricks. To many, this made the show slow and boring, but the reasons for the change are commendable. It is safer for the whales and the trainers.

Expect to be dazzled by high-flying tricks, music, multimedia presentations, new fountains, and the playfulness of the whales.

The show is about 25 minutes, but the pre-show is part of the experience. You will be presented with video clips about our planet and oceans during your wait. The clips will educate you and inspire you to care for our environment better. Also, while waiting, you and your kids can use the SeaWorld App to interact with the sea creatures.

Tip: You will get enough warnings about this one, but here is my warning too: If you sit in the first 8 to 12 rows you are guaranteed to get wet. The Orcas really enjoy drenching the audience. You can always buy a plastic poncho and brave the tidal waves.

You can get closer to the whales at the back of the Orca stadium. The glass window viewing area provides an amazing view of the whales playing or feeding.

You can also dine with the killer whales. This restaurant is right at the huge whale habitat. You grab food from the buffet-style counters and take it to the outdoor tables.

Dolphin Days

Dolphin DaysThis show used to be called "Blue Horizons" and some time ago, "Dolphin Discovery."

The Dolphins are always the main actors, and they still like to show off their flying tricks and enjoy splashing the audience.

Along with dolphins, you will see appearances by pilot whales who like to play with the Dolphins.

The show is about 23 minutes. As usual, get there early to get good seats.

Tip: You can buy the Quick Queue with reserved seating. Then you can arrive a few minutes before the show and get one of the best seats in the stadium.

Dolphin Point

It used to be called Rocky Point Preserve. Here, you can meet Bottlenose Dolphins up close and personal. You can touch and feed the dolphins (only fish purchased at the nearby stand). You can also peek at the dolphins through the underwater viewing glass while listening to educational information.

Due to the popularity of this encounter and dolphin diet requirements, SeaWorld set specific times for feeding them. Check the times on the map/schedule and get there early. You may have to wait in line for a while to get to feed the dolphins.

Tip: Watch out for seagulls trying to steal the feed fish from your hands.

You can also watch Otters play or feed nearby.

Sea Lions Live

Sea Lions LiveWatch the sea lions spoof some of the most popular TV shows and movies like CSI, Idol, and Dancing with the Stars. And don’t miss the pre-show. Show duration is about 20 minutes.

Penguin Encounter

Take a peek at the lives and times of 300 cold-weather Penguins in their natural habitat. You will encounter many species of penguins, including Emperor, King, Adelie, Gentoo, and Macaroni. Watch them above water on the snow and then as they dive into their underwater habitat.

Tip: The temperature is very cold inside this exhibit, so make sure you are prepared. Also, the exhibit tries to mimic the natural Antarctic environment so expect the exhibit to be very dark during summer (Antarctic winter).

You can enjoy this exhibit in two ways: Go on the conveyor belt and be guided through the habitat, or go up the stairs and stroll at your own pace. The upstairs viewing deck has benches and TV screens for educational programs about the Penguins.

Tip: As you step out of the exhibit, make a sharp left and enjoy the warm weather Penguins playing in their small garden and pond.

Shark Encounter

Shark EncounterCome face to face with sharks of all shapes and sizes as you walk through their habitat.

Tip: Sharks lose their teeth all the time. If you look closely along the edges of the tunnel you will find some shark teeth.

The highlight of the exhibit is a 57 ft. acrylic underwater walkway.

You will see sharks swimming all around you. Some of the species you will encounter are Sand Tiger, Bonnethead, Black Tip, and White Tip sharks.

Sesame Street Bay of Play

Sesame Street Bay of PlayIf you have kids, make sure to schedule a stop at this play area for kids of all ages. This will allow the adults to relax and the kids to let loose.

This Sesame Street-inspired area is full of rides, games, and interaction with characters. It replaced the long-running Shamu's Happy Harbor, which is a big improvement. New rides include Abby's Sea Star Spin, Elmo's Flying Fish, and Oscar's Rockin' Fish.

Activities left over from the old play area are the cargo nets, slides, bouncers, and water play area. You can join the kids climbing the nets and going down the slides for a little workout.

Wild Arctic

Wild ArcticWild Arctic is a way to explore the North Pole without venturing into cold weather. You start your Arctic exploration by riding in a jet helicopter, which is a motion simulator.

The chopper takes you on a wild ride to a remote research station. Along the way, you will see the breathtaking icy wilderness and encounter a few mishaps.

Tip: Riders who prefer a smoother ride, select the middle seats of the helicopter.

If you don’t like simulator rides, there is an alternate route that takes you directly to the observation area. You can watch the same scenery – from the helicopter point of view – on a giant screen and then head to the research station on foot.

Wild ArcticOnce you land at the research station, you can observe polar bears, white beluga whales, walruses, and seals. Your observation starts from above the ice and water and gradually takes you underwater. Along the way, you will pass through an ice tunnel with a 25-foot-long ice wall.

Find your San Diego attractions here.

Tip: Put your hand on the ice, see your hand sinking in the ice and making a print, and find out how long you can last.

The gift shop at the exhibit's end contains cute stuffed polar bears and beluga whales.

Tip: The weather in Arctic is freezing cold, so make sure you have a jacket or sweater.

Shipwreck Rapids

Shipwreck RapidsGet ready to be very wet. This is your typical water ride that twists and turns between shipwrecks, live turtle habitats, and waterfalls.

Tip: For people who don’t like to stay wet, SeaWorld provides drying booths near the exit of the ride.

Ride the tube rafts and start your whitewater rafting adventure. You will get splashed a little along the way, but you are guaranteed to be drenched by the end of your ride.

Tip: If you skip the ride because the line is too long, you can take your revenge and have some fun. Use one of the water cannons along the path from Shipwreck Rapids to Cirque del la Mar to drench the raft riders.

Manta

MantaThis is one of the newest attractions at SeaWorld. It is a high-speed rollercoaster ride with many twists and turns, but it never goes upside-down.

The ride starts deceptively slow and relaxed. You will first go through an underwater tunnel. Using giant HD screens, sound effects, and slow rocking motion, you will feel like you are really underwater – with great views of mantas and sea creatures. Then all of a sudden a door opens and you are launched onto the high-flying adventure. This rollercoaster has a lot of twists and turns but no 360 loops. The ride lasts close to 2 minutes.

Once you are done with the ride, head over to the new Manta aquarium, where you can pet the mantas or see them in action through large acrylic windows.

Journey to Atlantis

Journey to AtlantisAtlantis is a water ride and rollercoaster for thrill-seekers. You start your ride with a 60-foot plunge into the water. Then you go through a calm period with your boat floating through a river.

Along the way, you will encounter evidence of the lost civilization of Atlantis, and you will come face to face with sea creatures.

At the end of the calm boat ride, you are lifted up and then dropped onto a winding rollercoaster.

Tip: This is a busy ride. Expect long waits. Best time to visit is when the park opens or when the big shows are in session (Whales and Dolphins).

Electric Eel

Electric EelThis is one of SeaWorld's newest thrill rides, featuring multiple launches, upside-down spins, steep drops, and backward acceleration.

It is not for the faint of heart. With speeds of up to 60 miles an hour and climbs up to 150 feet, prepare for many screams.

The Electric Eel is part of a new park area called "Ocean Explorer." You can explore eels, mantas, and octopi at the entrance in their natural habitats.

Emperor

SeaWorld Emperor RideAre you ready to dive like an Emperor Penguin into the icy waters of the Antarctic? This crazy rollercoaster promises to be the most terrifying ride you ever attempt.

The ride takes you up a 14-story vertical drop and then hurtles you down at 60 mph with various loops and inversions.

Full disclosure: When I saw the vertical drop, I chickened out. Do you dare to try it?

SeaWorld Sky Tower

SeaWorld Sky TowerIt's a 320-foot tower with a climbing, rotating cabin. While spinning around at a very leisurely speed, you can enjoy commanding views of San Diego and the bay. The ride has a totally different flavor depending on the time of day. Try a ride around sunset and a nighttime ride. I have only one regret about this ride: I wish the viewing windows were kept spotless so I could take better pictures.

Where to Eat

SeaWorld still lacks high-end dining, but a few good options for snacks and main meals exist.

Tip: The park offers an all-day dining package. Unless you are planning to stay the whole day and take advantage of several meals, it is not worth the money.

Mama Stella's Pizza Kitchen

If you love Italian food, this place is for you. You can find all the favorite pizzas and pasta or get sandwiches and salads.

The restaurant has several seating areas. While sitting in the covered outdoor areas, watch out for hungry seagulls.

Explorer's Cafe

This cafe is close to the main entrance and offers American favorites like cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, and salads. It also has a beer station with many draft beers.

This restaurant has plenty of tables indoors and outdoors.

SeaWorld San Diego - Shipwreck CafeThe food was above average. We enjoyed our cheeseburger and chicken combos - with fries and a Caesar salad.

Shipwreck Reef Cafe

Shipwreck Reef Cafe is my favorite dining experience at SeaWorld. The place offers fruit, salads, chicken strips, quarter-leg chicken, and beef ribs.

For sides, make sure to order the waffle fries. For dessert, you must try carrot cake, cheesecake, or chocolate cake.

With popularity comes the crowds. Expect to wait in long lines before you can order.

Chinese Lunar New Year

SeaWorld adds a few Far East touches during the Lunar New Year celebrations with shows and demonstrations.

Close to the main entrance, a group shows off their skills with Japanese drums. But the real treat is the SeaWorld San Diego - Chinese AcrobatsChinese Acrobats show at the Mission Bay Theater.

The 25-minute show dazzles with amazing feats of contortion, acrobatics, plate spinning, and hoop diving.

The show was well-choreographed and performed with high energy.

SeaWorld Christmas Celebration

SeaWorld turns into a winter wonderland during the holidays. Christmas decorations adorn every corner, and some of the sea creatures are celebrating too. Just walking around between attractions will put you in a festive mood and fill you with the holiday spirit.

As you enter the park, you will be greeted with an amazing tall Christmas tree festooned with beautiful ornaments and lights. Your favorite characters, like Shamu, will be on hand to take pictures with your family.

Some of the must-see holiday attractions are Polar Express 4D, Snow World, Shamu Christmas Show, Clyde and Seamore Christmas Show, and Christmas Tails (Pets).

Polar Express 4D is a special version of the popular movie of the same name. The 3D effects will put you inside the action, but the added dimension of special effects tricks your senses into believing. There are a few surprises that I don’t want to spoil for you, but a warning too:

Tip: Do not sit in the front seats. Try to find a place in the middle rows and right in the middle of the row you select. Obviously, you have to get in early to be choosy. We were late getting in and had to settle for the 2nd row. We still enjoyed the show, but we had to strain our eyes and necks to see everything. We also missed an amazing special effect that did not reach the front rows.

Snow WorldSnow World is an area set aside for snow play – with real snow and a sledding area. Kids of all ages can play with the snow and have snowball fights, but the sledding area is reserved for kids 12 and under. Also, expect to see falling snow along the path to Snow World.

The Otter Show: Santa gets held up and can’t deliver the Christmas gifts. “Biff” fills in for him and finds out that OP makes the naughty list again. OP and his accomplices “borrow” the list to make changes. The whole team looks for the list, but OP sneaks it back to its place – just in time for the gift deliveries.

Clyde, Seamore, and OP Otter have a new story to tell at the Sea Lion and Otter Amphitheater.

We missed the last Christmas Tails show (at 3:15), but I heard from many people – especially young children – that they loved it. The basic storyline is that the dogs, cats, and birds throw a big holiday party.

Overall, it was a great way to celebrate the holiday for the whole family.

Halloween Spooktacular

A nice and safe way to celebrate Halloween with the kids. The kids can dress in their favorite costumes and line up for treats around the park.

Some rides and shows were also dressed up for the event. At night, you can enjoy the Sesame Street Parade.

Unlike the huge scary event at Knott's Berry Farm, this one is low-key and targets the young crowd.

SeaWorld San Diego
500 SeaWorld Drive
San Diego, CA 92109
(800) 257-4268

 

 

 

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park anaheimer

Exploring the Majestic Sunset Cliffs Natural Park 

Sd Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Rugged CliffsMy wife and I love to discover new hiking places and visit some of the most breathtaking destinations around the world. However, few places have captivated my heart and imagination quite like Sunset Cliffs Natural Park in San Diego, California. This stunning coastal park, known for its rugged cliffs and awe-inspiring ocean views, especially at sunset, is a must-visit for anyone seeking a blend of adventure and natural beauty.

The Allure of Sunset

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park at Sunset - by Tuxyso - WikimediaThe park's name, Sunset Cliffs, is no misnomer. As the sun begins its descent, the sky transforms into a canvas of fiery oranges, pinks, and purples, casting a magical glow over the Pacific Ocean. This natural spectacle draws crowds who gather along the cliff tops, each vying for the perfect spot to witness the day's grand finale. The experience is nothing short of mesmerizing, making it a favorite among photographers and romantics alike.

If you are lucky enough to snag one of the benches facing the ocean, you can enjoy a relaxing evening while waiting for the sun to descend beyond the horizon. 

Tide Pool Treasures

Sd Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Tide Pools Discovering the tide pools at Sunset Cliffs offers a special adventure for those curious and adventurous. These pools, naturally carved into the rocky shore, unveil themselves at low tide, exposing a secret marine world teeming with life.

Starfish, anemones, crabs, and various small fish can be seen in these miniature ecosystems. It's a reminder of the diverse life that thrives along this rugged coastline. 

Remember, the best time to explore these pools is during low tide, as the high tide can make the area inaccessible and dangerous.

Navigating the Trails

Sd Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Rock Scramble Sunset Cliffs Natural Park boasts a network of trails that cater to all levels of hikers. From leisurely walks along the cliff tops to more challenging treks that descend to the beach, there's something for everyone. However, visitors should be cautious, as some trails can be treacherous. The paths leading down from the cliffs to the beach are not for the faint-hearted and require a good level of fitness and sturdy footwear.

Warning: Caution is advised along this rugged coastline, where numerous signs warn of "Unstable Cliffs – Stay Back." It's important to take these warnings seriously. Should you choose to venture down any of the more perilous trails, please be aware that you do so at your own risk.

Beginning at the parking area located at 4022-4052 Lomaland Drive in San Diego, CA, there's a trail that meanders through coastal brush, leading towards the beach. 

Along this path, you'll encounter a charming swing, thoughtfully strung up on tall trees, adding a whimsical touch to the journey. The trail requires some scrambling over rocks, so it's a bit of an adventure. 

If you find yourself unsure of the route, keep an eye out for surfers with their boards – they're often reliable guides to the best paths down to the surf.  

The Descent to the Shore

Sd Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Stairs to tide pools One of the park's most notable features is the long metal staircase that leads down to a rocky shore, dotted with natural caves. 

This descent is an adventure in itself, offering stunning views of the ocean and the cliffs. The stairs, while sturdy, can be daunting for some, but the reward at the end is worth the effort. 

The rocky shore below is a world away from the bustling city, offering a sense of solitude and connection with nature.

A Word of Caution

Sd Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Wing While Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is a beautiful and exhilarating place to visit, safety should always be a priority. The cliffs are prone to erosion, and visitors should stay on designated trails and avoid getting too close to the edge. Additionally, the ocean currents can be strong, and swimming is not recommended unless you are an experienced swimmer familiar with the local conditions.

Preserving the Beauty

As with any natural site, it's crucial to practice responsible tourism. This means staying on marked paths, not disturbing the wildlife, especially in the tide pools, and taking all trash with you. Preserving the pristine condition of Sunset Cliffs Natural Park ensures that future generations can also enjoy its unspoiled beauty.

Torrey Pines State Reserve

Torrey Pines State Reserve anaheimer

Torrey Pines State Reserve - Guy Fleming TrailNestled just before the bustling city of San Diego, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve offers a tranquil retreat amidst coastal pines and dramatic cliffs.

The park, which spans over 2,000 acres in La Jolla Village, near Del Mar, preserves the unique beauty of this coastal region.

Home to an array of wildlife and plant species, including bobcats, foxes, coyotes, rabbits, cacti, and coastal chaparral, the park's most famed resident is the rare Torrey pine.

Interesting Fact: The reserve is a haven for birdwatching, offering sights of red-tailed hawks and California quails, among other species. Mammals and reptiles, although more elusive, contribute to the rich biodiversity of the area.

With 8 miles of scenic trails, Torrey Pines is a beloved destination for hikers of all levels. Visitors are drawn to the hiking challenges and breathtaking ocean vistas.

The secluded beach below beckons swimmers and surfers with its inviting waves.

Tip: The entrance fee for vehicles is $20. Upon entering, you'll find two main parking lots - one near the beach and another by the Visitor Center, situated higher up and closer to the trails. For easier trail access, try to park at the top lot.

Choosing the lower parking lot means preparing for a steep climb to reach the first trailhead.

Exploring the Trails

The reserve boasts eight distinct trails, each offering unique scenery and varying degrees of difficulty.

Interesting Fact: The reserve's name, "Torrey Pines," commemorates Dr. John Torrey, a botanist whose work contributed to the understanding and appreciation of this unique pine species

Guy Fleming Trail

Torrey Pines State Reserve - Guy Fleming TrailKnown for its ease and beauty, the Guy Fleming Trail is a 0.75-mile loop showcasing stunning coastal views, unique rock formations, and the iconic Torrey pines perched atop cliffs.

Along this gentle hike, visitors are treated to panoramic beach views and photo-worthy spots, with La Jolla Village visible in the distance.

An enveloping fog often adds a mystical ambiance to the highest points of this trail, enhancing its natural beauty.

Razor Point Trail

Torrey Pines State Reserve - Razor Point TrailThis 1.5-mile trail starts near the visitor's center and offers a deeper exploration of the park's rugged terrain, including deep ravines and striking badlands.

Lacking dense pine coverage, it's crucial to come prepared with sunscreen and plenty of water to stay hydrated under the sun.

Tip: As a natural reserve, Torrey Pines prioritizes protection and restoration. Regulations include no dogs, and food or drinks are restricted to water above the beach area.

Enjoy the vibrant wildflowers, observe the local wildlife, and rest at one of the many benches dotting the trail, offering magnificent views.

Beach Trail

Torrey Pines State Reserve - Beach TrailLeading directly to a picturesque beach, this 0.75-mile trail winds through diverse terrain, including rocky hills adorned with native flora.

Be mindful of the tide as the beach path to the lower lot becomes impassable at high tide.

This sun-drenched route offers minimal shade, emphasizing the need for sun protection and hydration.

The Visitor Center

Torrey Pines State Reserve - Visitor CenterOnce a restaurant, the Visitor Center now serves as a museum and ranger station, offering insights into the reserve’s diverse ecosystems.

Its balcony and theater, showing a film about the park, are visitor highlights.

For a comprehensive guide to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, including trail updates and visitor information, visit the official website or explore its Wikipedia page.

Visitors often praise the serene beauty of the reserve, a sanctuary of coastal wilderness and marine biodiversity. Birdwatching is a favored activity, especially in spring when the area bursts into wildflower blooms.

Tip: For the best experience, visit in the early morning or late afternoon for softer light, cooler temperatures, and potential whale sightings during migration seasons.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a precious natural haven offering peaceful hikes and educational opportunities.

Tip: Enhance your visit with free guided walks available on weekends and holidays, providing educational insights into the reserve's ecology and history

Support the park by joining the Torrey Pines Docent Society, which provides guided tours and educational programs. Your involvement helps preserve this natural wonder for generations to come.

 

 

Where to Stay in San Diego

Where to Stay in San Diego anaheimer

Hilton Mission Bay in San DiegoChoosing where to stay in San Diego hinges on several factors such as your planned activities, budget, and time of arrival. 

Tip: For a unique experience, consider staying in a hotel with a view of the San Diego skyline or the Pacific Ocean.

If your itinerary revolves around downtown exploration, hotels in the Gaslamp Quarter or along the downtown waterfront are ideal.

Top picks include the Marriott Marquis Marina, Hilton Bayfront, and Grand Hyatt.

Budget-friendly options near downtown include Porto Vista, Wyndham Bayside, or Westin. 

For SeaWorld enthusiasts, consider the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa, Hyatt Regency Mission Bay, or the Bahia Resort. More economical choices in the vicinity are Holiday Inn Express, Wyndham Garden, or Travel Lodge SeaWorld.

Hilton San Diego Resort & SpaMy recent Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa stay was thoroughly enjoyable. This bayfront resort offers a blend of fun and relaxation.

The room with two queen beds offered a splendid garden and beach view. On-site amenities include a heated pool, multiple Jacuzzis, and water sports activities.

The nightly SeaWorld fireworks are visible from the balcony or waterfront. See the full review here.  

Interesting Fact: San Diego was ranked as the fifth-best place to live in the United States by MONEY Magazine in 2006.

The Grand Hyatt at San Diego Bay is another excellent choice, conveniently located near Seaport Village, the Headquarters, USS Midway, and the Gaslamp Quarter.

The rooms offer comfortable beds and stunning views of the harbor and downtown. See the full review here.  

Humphreys Half Moon Inn in San DiegoDuring my last visit, I stayed at Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn. While slightly removed from major attractions, it's an idyllic spot for a staycation.

The hotel boasts a variety of entertainment options and amenities, including a large swimming pool, acclaimed restaurants, an outdoor theater, and complimentary bike rentals. See the full review here.

Tip: For a different kind of San Diego experience, consider camping at the Koa Campground, known for its excellent facilities and family-friendly environment.

Camping in San Diego is also a delightful option. The Koa Campground offers tent and RV sites, along with 1 and 2-bedroom cabins. It features clean bathrooms, hot showers, and numerous activities. Read more about KOA campground here.  

Camping at KOA San Diego

Camping at KOA San Diego anaheimer

nullWe love visiting San Diego, so we end up going there several times a year. We like SeaWorld, the Zoo, Balboa Park, Old Town, Downtown, La Jolla and Seaport Village – to name a few.

We usually drive to San Diego and back the same day. Occasionally we stay overnight at a hotel. Some of our favorite hotels are the Manchester Grand Hyatt or Comfort Inn and Suites (kid’s room). Read more about San Diego here.

This year we decided to try something new: Camping at the KOA San Diego Metro, located in Chula Vista. The location is close to many area attractions and shopping which makes it ideal for our base camp.

nullThe camp itself is beautifully landscaped with lots of trees and clean bathrooms and showers. Sites are available for tent or RV camping. The camp also offers 1 and 2 room cabins. We stayed at the 1 room cabin. The cabin was cramped with a twin bed and 1 set of bunks for the kids, a small table with one chair, hooks, windows, inside and outside lights. Outside the cabin, we had a small porch with a swing chair, a picnic table, barbeque and a large lawn. The best feature was lots of shade trees that hid the scorching sun in the afternoon. The office also delivers a fire ring and firewood on request. We definitely ordered ours for the traditional s'mores.

Tip: A big chain grocery store (Food for Less) is located right next to the KOA camp. To avoid carrying a lot of groceries with you on the road, you can plan on buying most of your needs at this store. I wish I knew that before I packed my SUV full of groceries.

nullTo avoid the heat, we took advantage of the large refreshing swimming pool next to the office. The water temperature was just right for summer with lots of lounge chairs and some shade. Next to the pool, there is a small park with a playground. This is usually the location for many of the camp activities.

Related Books:

Some of the activities were: Make your own Tie-dye shirt; All you can eat pancake breakfast; Make your own ice cream sundae; Bingo nights; Movie nights with free popcorn; Family Games. My kids made great looking Tie-dye shirts that they can actually wear. The pancakes at the Sunday breakfast were delicious. We skipped the other activities in favor of running around town.

nullThe camp also offers: Bike rental, coffee shop and barbeque stand. The kids took advantage of the 3 wheel bikes and had fun exploring the camp on their own.

Tip: As with most camping spots, we had to deal with a lot of bugs. Bring your favorite bug repellents and sprays. You will need them. Also if you are going in the summer, consider bringing a portable fan.

From this base camp we visited the following attractions:

nullCabrillo National Monument: A monument to explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who was the first to set foot on the west coast of North America. This park offers museums, tide-pool exploration and a stunning view of San Diego from a high vantage point. If you are interested in the tide-pools, make sure to check the low tide schedule. See http://www.nps.gov/cabr/index.htm for more details.

SeaWorld Summer Nights: SeaWorld has too many rides, shows and exhibits for one day. We usually buy the annual pass and enjoy it over many days. During summer nights the park is transformed into a rocking party of sights and sounds. The whales and Dolphins perform their tricks to great music and Pyrotechnics and acrobats perform their amazing feats to the beat of music near the main gate.
We also enjoyed a great view from the top of the sky cabin and a trip to the Wild Arctic on a Helicopter simulator. See more details about the rides in the SeaWorld page here or go to http://www.seaworld.com for more details.

Mission Bay: We explored the Mission Bay Park area. The kids liked the playground. We were also planning on renting bikes and riding around the long bike trails, but the weather was too warm for such activity. See http://www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/parks/missionbay for more details.

nullBalboa Park: It is located on 1000 acres of land and offers several great museums, Science center, San Diego Zoo, Carousel and Spanish Village Art Center, hiking and biking trails – to list a few. See http://www.balboapark.org for more details and visit the Balboa Park page here.

Old Town San Diego: This is a state park that is dedicated to capturing the history of the area. Old Town San Diego is considered the "birthplace" of California. San Diego is the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement in California. It contains several historic buildings, shops, trolley tours and museums. See http://www.oldtownsandiegoguide.com for more details.

111 Nnorth 2nd Ave
Chula Vista CA 91910
(800) 562-9877

Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa

Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa anaheimer

Hilton San Diego Resort & SpaSan Diego and its surrounding county boast stunning beaches, sought-after attractions, scenic hiking trails, and a plethora of adventures.

While the allure of SeaWorld and the renowned San Diego Zoo draws crowds, the city has much more to offer its visitors.

Immerse yourself in the cultural treasures of Balboa Park's museums, enjoy a sunset dinner cruise along the harbor, or explore the decks of an Aircraft Carrier.

Discover more about San Diego in our comprehensive review.

During our recent visit, we opted for a stay at the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa, enjoying a two-night retreat that exceeded our expectations.

Positioned directly on the bay, the resort offers a blend of entertainment and relaxation amenities.

The Room

Comfortable room with beach view at Hilton San Diego Resort & SpaOur room, fitted with two queen beds, provided both comfort and a picturesque view of the garden and beach beyond.

The beds, with their perfect firmness, plush comforters, and an array of fluffy pillows, coupled with large quilted headboards, ensured a cozy sitting experience.

A breakfast nook housing a fridge, microwave, and coffeemaker, complemented by straw furniture, offered a serene spot to enjoy morning coffee with views of the patio, garden, and beach.

Tip: Maximize your San Diego experience with a Go City Card, offering unlimited access to the city's top attractions for a single price. Learn more about the Go San Diego Card

The room boasted ample lighting, numerous outlets for electronic devices, a small desk, chairs, a closet, and a bathroom stocked with essentials. The large flat-screen TV provided a wide selection of digital channels for our entertainment.

Book your San Diego Activities here.

The courtyard of our building, featuring pools, waterfalls, and a family of ducks, offered a delightful end to our days with its secluded Jacuzzi and towel service.

A well-kept garden and an enchanting gazebo adorned with vibrant flowers, set against the bay, provided an idyllic setting for romantic photos.

The Resort

Resort amenities at Hilton San Diego Resort & SpaOn-site, guests can enjoy a heated pool, multiple Jacuzzis, and a variety of watersports. The resort's location allows for a spectacular view of SeaWorld’s fireworks from the comfort of your patio or the waterfront.

With a spacious main pool area equipped with a heated pool, lounge chairs, cabanas, a fire pit, and a Jacuzzi, relaxation is just a few steps away. Fresco's Bar & Grill offers poolside snacks and drinks, and family movie nights by the pool are a summer highlight.

The resort's bayfront location is perfect for leisurely strolls on the boardwalk or bike rentals from the “Sand Box” shop, which stocks a variety of bikes and beach gear.

Watersport enthusiasts will find plenty to enjoy, from power boats to paddle boards and Jet Skis.

The fully equipped fitness center includes lockers and showers, with state-of-the-art machines to keep you active during your stay.

A store located next to the lobby sells essentials, souvenirs, and quick snacks, offering everything you might need, including swimsuits and toiletries, at reasonable prices.

Dining

Dining options at Hilton San Diego Resort & SpaThe resort hosts several dining venues, including poolside options at Fresco's Bar & Grill and upscale meals at Acqua California Bistro.

Our dining experiences at Acqua, both for breakfast and dinner, were delightful. Patio seating and scenic bay views enhanced our dining experience.

The breakfast buffet offered a vast selection of favorites, while dinner options catered to all tastes with expertly prepared dishes.

Room service provided a convenient and satisfying option for our first night, with the BLT sandwiches proving to be both delicious and more than ample.

Location, Location, Location

Prime location of Hilton San Diego Resort & SpaThe resort itself is a prime destination, offering a comprehensive vacation experience with its array of on-site amenities.

While the resort offers plenty, exploring beyond its confines is highly recommended. Nearby attractions include Coronado Island, USS Midway, and the vibrant Gaslamp Quarter.

Take advantage of the historic Trolley Tours for an immersive exploration of San Diego, with shuttle services available to the first trolley stop.

Book your San Diego Activities here.

Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn

Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn anaheimer

Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn - San DiegoI stayed at Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn on several occasions and loved every stay. 

The location is a little isolated from the main attractions, but it is a beautiful resort with many activities and entertainment options. 

If you stay here, you should plan on spending most of your time at the hotel and the surrounding area. 

Shelter Island San DiegoIt is very easy to do so because the hotel offers many entertainment choices and amenities like a large swimming pool, highly rated restaurants, an outdoor theater, and free bike rentals, to name a few.

The resort is on Shelter Island, a small island in the San Diego Bay, and is connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land. 

Dancing at Humphrey’s Half Moon InnThere are several Marinas, hotels, restaurants, parks, and public boat ramps on this small island. 

While staying at Humphrey’s, you can explore this island on foot or by bike. 1-hour free bike rental is available at the hotel.

At the resort, you enjoy swimming in the tropical landscaped pool, pamper yourself with a massage, attending a concert, dancing, or having a nice dinner. 

Dining at Humphrey’s Half Moon InnRooms are spacious and comfortable, with great views of the bay and the marina. 

One way to enjoy this resort is to get the dinner and concert package. The package includes Dinner at Humphreys Restaurant with Soup or Salad, Entree & Non-alcoholic beverage, and a Choice of dessert and Priority Seating.

Marriott Marquis Marina

Marriott Marquis Marina anaheimer

Marriott Marquis Marina - two towersWhen visiting San Diego, I always return to this waterfront Marriott resort for comfort and amenities.

The hotel is a short walk away from the Gaslamp Quarter, Convention Center, Seaport Village, and excellent waterfront dining and destinations. 

Marriott Marquis Marina - room with a viewThe most important part of a hotel is the rooms, and they don't disappoint. The beds are comfortable with a couch and a desk, and the bathroom is well-appointed with fluffy towels, the TV is excellent, a coffee maker, a fridge, and the WiFi is dependable. What more can you ask for.

Well, the amenities, of course! And this hotel has a lot to offer, from a large heated pool to a garden with comfortable seats and firepits for relaxation to a full SPA and gym. 

Marriott Marquis Marina - Pool and GardenThe pool area has a kids' pool and an accessible jacuzzi. Also, next to the pool and overlooking the Marina, you will find Roy's Hawaiian restaurant. 

We enjoyed a buffet-style breakfast at the Marina Kitchen, which included an omelet station, pastries, fruit, and a waffle maker.  

Back in the room, the view was amazing. We could see the Marina, bay, and Coronado bridge from the large windows.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego Zoo Safari Park anaheimer

San Diego Zoo Safari Park Someday, I would love to go on a real African Safari and come face to face with a lion or a tiger – but until that day comes, I can visit the next best place right here in California.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located in San Diego County, close to the city of Escondido. Spanning 1,800 acres, it is home to 2,600 animals from 300 species, along with thousands of plant species, some in a protected preserve. The main attraction is a vast open area with free-ranging animals, from fierce lions to tame giraffes. The only way to enjoy this extensive flora and fauna is to join a Safari. More on Safari options later.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park The Safari Park and the Zoo in San Diego are run by the non-profit organization “San Diego Zoo Global,” which also operates a research institute dedicated to the reproduction, protection, and exhibition of animals, plants, and their habitats.

So, what is the best way to enjoy the Safari Park? It all depends on how much you are willing to spend on your experience.

Options range from a single-day ticket for approximately $70, which includes the Africa Tram Safari, to the $710 Ultimate Safari. The Ultimate Safari offers access to exclusive areas, close wildlife interactions, and top-notch personalized service.

Tip: The best way to enjoy San Diego attractions is by getting a Go City Card. You pay one price and get access to multiple attractions. Go San Diego Card

If this is your first visit and you are not sure what to do, I suggest starting with the included African Tram Safari tour. Once inside, you can decide whether you want to pay extra for additional Safaris.

Find your Wild Animal Safari here.

Before or After the Safari

San Diego Zoo Safari Park As you walk to and from your Safari experience, you can enjoy several shows and exhibits along the way.

Near the park entrance, stop at “WINGS OF THE WORLD” to view various wild and rare birds. In this exhibit, you actually enter the enclosure with the birds and can view them in their simulated natural habitat.

As you exit “WINGS OF THE WORLD,” you will pass “NAIROBI VILLAGE,” a large lagoon with a Congo River fishing village. In and around the lagoon, you will find a variety of bird species, including pelicans, storks, shoebills, ducks, herons, and egrets. The most impressive are the pelicans with their graceful one-footed stands and the huge storks. For a bird's-eye view, climb to the top of the wooden tower.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park As you walk to your Safari station, you will pass a large glass viewing area overlooking the Lions' habitat (Lions Camp). The area resembles a battered Safari camp overrun by lions. There are always a few lions milling about or napping. During our visit, one lion walked right up to the glass window, providing a great photo opportunity.

Remember to visit the Lorikeet feeding area. These tiny, colorful birds are very friendly. Hold a cup of nectar, and they will land on you and drink right from your hand. It’s an amazing experience—not to be missed.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park If you are lucky and arrive during the seasonal Butterfly Jungle exhibit, be sure to visit. When buying your tickets, you will receive an allotted time for your visit. Once inside, you will be surrounded by thousands of butterflies from various species. Some will land on your clothes or hats. One even landed on my cheek and tickled me with its wings and antennae – a unique experience caught on camera.

Safari Options

The park offers many ways to interact with the animals, some more up close and personal than others. The only drawback is that you have to pay extra for each additional Safari.

Some Safaris sell out early, so it is advisable to make a reservation. For example, if you want to join the Caravan Safari, you must book it in advance.

Find your Wild Animal Safari here.

Africa Tram Safari

San Diego Zoo Safari Park This Safari is included in most admission passes. It is a guided tram ride through the African Plains.

When you first board the tram, try to find a seat on the left side (the side facing the animal habitats). This site offers the best views and pictures. If you sit on the right side, you will still enjoy the Safari, but your photos may include other passengers or tram poles.

The guides/drivers are very knowledgeable and passionate about wildlife and conservation. They provide a steady stream of information about the various animals and habitats. If you have heard it all before, bring your electronic device with you.

Some of the most famous inhabitants of this area include herds of curious giraffes, massive rhinos, graceful gazelles, impressively horned antelope, ostriches, and African crowned cranes. We especially enjoyed watching a herd of giraffes feeding from the trees.

Tip: You can go on the tram tour as many times as you like.

Wildlife Safari

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The Wildlife Safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park offers an immersive experience in a savanna habitat, allowing visitors to get up-close views of a variety of birds and mammals, including newborns.

Participants ride in a covered, open-air safari truck with an expert guide, making it an ideal adventure for ages 3 and up.

The safari is available daily and costs $92 and up per person, plus admission. It is a one-hour tour that promises exciting photo opportunities and educational insights.

For more details, visit Wildlife Safari.

Flight-line Safari (Zipline)

This is a great experience for adventure seekers. You will first receive lessons and gear, and before you go on your zipline adventure, you get to practice on a scaled-down run.

Once ready, you ride a truck to the upper launch area. Your harness is hooked to the line, you are comfortably seated, and then you start your long slide above the rhinos, deer, and other animals.

This Safari costs around $81 + entrance fee.

Cart Safari

San Diego Zoo Safari Park Riding a small cart with an experienced guide through the park offers a more personalized tour of the African or Asian animals. The guides provide a lot of information about the animals’ characteristics, feeding habits, and habitats. You will also get to watch as the guide offers treats to the animals.

This Safari costs around $60 + entrance.

Behind the Scenes Safari

Are you curious about what it takes to run such a huge wild animal park? How do they care for and train the animals? If so, the behind-the-scenes safari is for you.

Go to places off-limits to the general public: Visit a lion or tiger bedroom, feed some rare animals, visit the veterinary hospital or the research labs.

This Safari costs around $92 + entrance.

Roar and Snore Safari

When you are on an African Safari, you will likely spend several nights in a campground between expeditions. If you love camping close to the animals, you can enjoy this experience at the Safari Park. Several accommodation options and activities are available. Some programs are for adults only (21 and over), while others are for families with kids 6 and older. The campground overlooks the African Plains, offering great views of the animals in their natural habitat.

Depending on the option you choose, expect to pay from $160 and up.

The Ultimate Safari

San Diego Zoo Safari Park This Safari option allows you to design the Safari of your dreams. The professionals at the park will guide you through the various options that meet your needs and interests. Do you want to spend more time interacting with wild animals or visiting exhibits? Do you prefer an adventurous or a more relaxed visit?

You need to plan this experience ahead of time. Once you arrive, a private tour guide will be assigned to you, spending 5 or 8 hours with you, depending on your chosen option. The tour includes one meal.

Expect to pay $710 per person for a 5-hour experience. They also offer an 8-hour experience for more.

Other places to try: Thorntree Terrace for sandwiches, paninis, salads, and burgers; Mombasa Island Cooker for BBQ favorites, burgers, vegetable skewers, and entree salads.

If you prefer, you can bring your own food and eat at the shaded picnic area.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

15500 San Pasqual Valley Road

Escondido, CA 92027-7017