It's fair to say that San Diego embodies the SoCal lifestyle, blending the futuristic with a rich history and culture at a chilled pace. Limiting ourselves to 9 reasons to visit the City in Motion was a challenge, so we're giving you some pointers. Consider yourself forewarned; a week may not be near enough time to get your fair share of all that San Diego offers.
9 Things We Love About San Diego
Beaches And Climate
Thanks to a Mediterranean climate, San Diego's average annual high temperature is 69.8; January's is 65 while August's reaches 76. Rain falls only 43 days in a year – mostly January to February – totaling just 10 inches. Meanwhile, sunshine glitters on endless miles of white sand, from traditional Mission Beach, its boardwalk and Belmont Park to top-rated Coronado Beach and its iconic Hotel del Coronado, silver-mica sand, tide pools, fire rings and Glorietta Bay. Whether you want to sail, surf, snorkel, skimboard, stroll, run, roller-blade, eat, shop, revel in a sunset or tie the knot, there's a beach for that! Just don't forget La Jolla Cove, San Diego's most-photographed beach.
California's acknowledged birthplace, San Diego (and its trolley) can transport you back to the late-18th century with Presidio Park, Old Town State Historic Park or the snapping sails on the Star of India. Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the "Mother of the Missions" and California's first Christian religious community was founded in 1769. Nearby, the Old Town complex has historic homes like Casa de Estudillo, El Campo Santo Cemetery, the Old Adobe Chapel and the Wells Fargo Museum. The Point Loma area is also full of history, with Ballast Point, the Whaling Station Site and a lighthouse as well as historic mansions, estates and museums. By the way, the USS Midway is here, too!
If you're a professional baseball fan, you can take in a Padres game or tour Petco Park's press box, dugout, palm trees and beach beyond right field. If it's football season, check out one last Chargers game at Qualcomm Stadium. At Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, visit the aquarium's seahorses and other creatures, or sign up for off-site gray-whale watching, tide pooling, snorkeling at La Jolla, grunion runs or full-moon pier walks. SeaWorld is here, too, with its exhibits, Journey to Atlantis and Shipwreck Rapids rides, and assorted shows and encounters. For foodies and craft beverage apprecianados, you couldn't pick a better place – Little Italy, for starters – to savor it all in your setting of choice.
Balboa Park embodies past, present and future for America's Finest City and its role as an enlightened patron of the arts and sciences. Begun in 1868 as City Park, Balboa Park lays claim to 17 museums, including science, air and space, railroads and art. It also has nine performing arts venues, including ballet, puppets, theater, and a youth symphony as well as nine attractions, including a carousel, miniature railroad and the unparalleled San Diego Zoo. For gardens, it boasts 19, ranging from cactus to Japanese to rose. Amid it all are 12 more opportunities for recreation, including walking and biking trails, lawn bowling, a golf complex and even a samba school.
"Where California wine began," the queen of microclimates has coast, canyon, mountain and desert; 115 wineries; and at least 60 grape varieties. For family-friendly experiences, Bernardo Winery is San Diego's oldest operation, with its own mini-village. For two more, try Orfila Vineyards and Winery or Cordiano Winery; breathtaking views, bocce, picnics or chocolate – what's not to enjoy? For full-tour treatment, check out San Diego Beer and Wine Tours via foot, limo or train. Eclipse Chocolate offers easy-on-the-wallet date nights, but don't forget Groupon deals for touring, wining or dining.
Visit in spring for desert wildflowers! Set amid six mountain ranges, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is California's largest state park – 600,000 acres – offering 12 wilderness areas and more than 500 miles of Jeep, bicycle and hiking trails. Definitely start with the visitor's center before exploring palm oases, waterfalls, slot canyons, spectacular washes, calcite badlands, snow-capped high country, and wind and mud caves. Discover fossils, native rock art, bighorn sheep, golden eagles, roadrunners and chuckwallas. Camp and stargaze, but ditch strollers for a carrier backpack. Best of all, it's free!
The City in Motion has spectacular Coronado Bridge and others – one in motion, one interactive and all high! Stringing them together in a walking tour incorporates food, sights and play. Cabrillo Bridge was California's first multiple-arched cantilever bridge. First Avenue Bridge is San Diego's only steel-arch bridge while Quince Street Bridge is a wooden pedestrian trestle. Be prepared for jiggly heights at Spruce Street Suspension Bridge. Calm racing hearts with Vermont Street Pedestrian Bridge's inspirational quotes. 25th Street's Musical Bridge railings sound "Crab Carillon," and historic Georgia Street Bridge is set for reconstruction in 2016.
One of the most significant wetlands in the world, San Diego National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) has four major conservation areas. The San Diego Bay NWR includes Sweetwater Marsh, with its Living Coast Discovery Center, and South San Diego Bay's 4,000 acres. The Tijuana Slough NWR's wetlands are vital nesting habitat, as is less accessible Seal Beach. San Diego NWR claims an additional 44,000 acres inland, between the Chula Vista-Otay Mesa area and Cleveland National Forest. Try hiking with a ranger, pedaling Bayshore Bikeway or joining an Audobon tour at this international flyway.
West Coast cuisine plus San Diego je ne sais quo creates a sensory universe incorporating gourmet food trucks packed with craft coffee, Baja fish tacos or handmade pierogies as easily as cliffside entrees of salmon tartar or the sweet sin of baklava gelato. There's no reason to eat anything that's not fresh. San Diego has more small farms than any other U.S. county, so weekends are prime time for Saturday's Little Italy Mercato and Sunday's Hillcrest Farmers Market. Embodying fusion, San Diego cuisine serves every wallet and palate, from falafel, empanadas or jerk chicken to masala dosa, sashimi or risotto.
American Airlines, United, Delta and many other airlines run flights to San Diego from major U.S. cities. That means you can use the miles you've collected through your frequent flyer programs (by using an airline credit card, for example) to get you there for less. It's also worth noting that if you get your timing right (the first full weekend of every month) and happen to be a Bank of America credit card holder, you can enjoy free entry to the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps and the San Diego Museum of Art through the Museums on Us® benefit. All you have to do is show your card, and some form of ID.