The minute you arrive in San Diego you will more than likely be greeted with sunny blue skies and warm temperatures with frequent cool coastal breezes. It truly is picture perfect. In addition to the gorgeous weather, San Diego also offers many fun family attractions that show off the city’s proud heritage and culture. My family loved San Diego! It was the perfect destination for my son and Dad to hang out together while I had to attend a business meeting. Luckily, I still had some time to join them in the fun. Here are our favorites!
1. Sea World is most probably one of the most popular destinations when visiting San Diego. There was plenty to see and do in this 100 acre marine theme park. We really enjoyed the Shark Encounter through a glass tunnel. My son also liked the stage comedy show where the star was a very talented seal. Of course, rides like Shipwreck Rapids was a hit with him too! He was soaked and loved every minute of getting wet. I on the other hand decided to sport a beautiful whale poncho. I just hope I didn’t look like one! The highlight, no surprise, was the killer whale show. Where else can you see Orcas performing water gymnastics?
2. Hotel del Coronado is one of California’s premier ocean resorts. The circular red roofs and turrets are on one of America’s most finest beaches. We learned that stars like Marilyn Monroe and royalty have stayed at this beautiful wooden castle. We had fun touring the hotel and the grounds and learned that it was nicknamed “The Del” because the hotel had numerous leisure activities for guest. Before moving on, we took in the beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean as we walked along the quiet beach of white sand.
3. The Gaslamp Quarter received its name for the old street lights that decorated the sixteen blocks that were the home of Victorian commercial buildings back in the 19th century. Today the Gaslamp Quarter is a National Historic District with many shops, galleries, theaters, and restaurants. There are walking tours available in this charming neighborhood. We picked up historical tidbits and saw things like the brick firewalls that saved the community from the great fire of 1872.
4. Old Town is the birthplace of San Diego. The center has a collection of restaurants and shops that have a colonial Mexican design. We enjoyed shopping and a great lunch at the Plaza Del Pasado in Old Town San Diego State Park. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, you can catch volunteers roaming the streets in period costumes, and there are ongoing living history activities. Also on Saturdays is the Old Town Market. There is live music at this artisan fair, and it is free.
5. Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial is a beautiful site to honor our country’s veterans. As you will see from the pictures below the view from the mountain top was amazing, not to mention quite serene.
6. The San Diego Zoo was on our must see list since it is listed as one of the “Seven Great Zoos” in Frommer’s 500 places to take your kids before they grow up. With more than eight hundred species of rare and endangered animals, my son and Dad had a lot to see. Moats separated the animals instead of bars and the grounds had many exotic plants which my Dad appreciated since he is a “garden man.” The zoo was so large that my Dad appreciated the availability of the guided bus tour. My son is fascinated with Australia, so he enjoyed seeing Koalas and Kangaroos and shared his excitement with me. He was quick to add that just because he saw a Koala bear didn’t mean that he still didn’t want to go to Australia!
7. The Maritime Museum consist of several ships and submarines. Exhibits for the museum are on a turn of the century riverboat, named the Berkeley. The Berkeley carried refugees from the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 to Oakland. The most famous ship is the fully-restored windjammer named the Star of India. The Star of India has been in the San Diego harbor for seven decades and is the oldest active sailing ship in the world. The Russian Submarine was also a big hit with my son. Visiting the Maritime Museum was an excellent way to spend the day on the waterfront.
8. USS Midway is also on the waterfront and conveniently right next door to the Maritime Museum. This aircraft carrier’s odyssey stretched from the end of WWII to the liberation of Kuwait in 1991. An impressive 47 years! There were more than 60 exhibits and 27 restored aircraft to explore. My son had fun checking out the crew’s sleeping quarters and the ship’s jail. The flight simulators and interactive exhibits like the “Ejection Seat Theater” will excite any kid, big or small!
9. Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, offers a behind the scene guided tour that is great fun for any baseball fan. I had gone to the 1998 World Series when the Yankees scored a victory against the Padres, and I couldn’t wait to take a walk down memory lane with my son. He was allowed to explore the dugout and check out the press box. For baseball fans, this is fabulous ball park to visit. There are not many baseball fields that have a sandy beach and palm trees for a backdrop!
Our trip to San Diego was nothing but delight! I loved that the city was vibrant, but without the attitude. The easygoing nature of the people and the fabulous weather had me considering a move out west. Since that is unlikely, I guess I’ll just have to make another trip. There are still many places that my son and I still need to explore like Presidio Park, Heritage Park and the many museums in Balboa Park. I am sure my son would love to take a thrill ride on the Giant Dipper at Belmont Park in Mission Beach. I also heard that the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is great too, especially their behind the scene tour. It looks like we have an excuse to head back out to San Diego! Have you been to San Diego? Do you have any places we should add to our list?