When planning a trip to California, you might as well spend a good portion of it in San Diego. This city, while famous for its trolley and being the home of the world's most crooked road, offers more than just curiosities. Take the time to explore and it's guaranteed to be a trip well worth the time. Here are just some places to get you started.
San Diego Zoo
The world-famous San Diego Zoo began as a collection of plants and animals from the Panama-American Exposition back in the early 1900s. Today, it is a world-class research facility and home to several endangered species, all the while still a fun place for families to go to on vacation.
With such wide acreage, going through the entire zoo will take more than just a day trip. Fortunately, there are several benches all over the zoo to give rest tired feet a rest. Mei Sheng, the panda, is a tourist favorite and the queue can take as long as an hour during peak season. Zoo mascots are around for photo ops with children (and adults, if they'd like too!).
You can get there by car, bus or bike and the parking is free. You can enter via Zoo Place just off Park Boulevard, which is located in Balboa Park, close to downtown San Diego.
Balboa Park lies northeast of downtown San Diego. The park boasts of hiking and biking trails as well as play and picnic grounds. The Sixth Avenue and Laurel Street entrance has a bridge you can cross, which will lead you to what is left of the Panama-American Exposition held in 1915 to 1916. The buildings in the park are quaint and house gift shops, cafes and restaurants. The bigger and finer museums of San Diego are located here as well.
Along with San Diego Zoo, Sea World is the most popular tourist spot in san Diego. What was started in the 1960s is now a very popular theme park with Shamu, the killer whale, as practically the city's unofficial symbol.
The great thing about Sea World is how it allows a high level of interaction between the animals and their human visitors. For example, the Dolphin Interaction Program allows direct contact with dolphin after being educated about the sea mammal and its habitat. To culminate the activity, access to holding tanks are granted where participants can touch and hold the dolphin with supervision from the caretakers. The cost for the program is about $150 per person but many claim it is well worth every penny. Reservations should be made as early as possible as this gets fully booked very quickly.
Old Town San Diego
If a stroll and the occasional shopping is more your speed, Old Town can give you just that. The buildings that house shops and museums in Old Town take to the architecture of the period of California's beginnings. And to keep with the tradition of laying back and taking in the scenery, it is best to set aside a day to just explore and enjoy the town. Old Town can be reached using the San Diego Trolley that are marked red or take 10 short minutes from the Gaslamp Quarter.
What used to be an area you didn't want to be in after dark is now a safe and fun place to spend both the day AND night. The Gaslamp Quarter is the result of San Diego City taking charge and saving a community from being run down. Now even the San Diego Repertory Theater calls this part of the city home.
Enjoy the place by just walking around and taking in the local color. You can even take a horse-drawn carriage or ride the San Diego Trolley. If you are in the area some time September, then you might want to check out the "Street Scene" which is a music, food and drinking festival that lasts for three days.
If nature tripping is your kind of vacation, then by all means visit La Jolla (pronounced La Hoya). The rarest pine trees in the country call this place, just 30 minutes from downtown San Diego, home sweet home.
Hikers and trekkers will enjoy the path that takes them up cliffs and down the beaches. The village offers fine art museums and galleries as well as fine dining and shopping. A hike up Mt. Soledad will give you a panoramic view of San Diego City down below.
As you can see, San Diego has everything for everyone. Young or old, nature-lover or shopaholic, everyone who finds him or herself in this city will find some place he or she can and will enjoy. The happy experiences and memories are just some of the things you can bring home with you along with the ever-reliable souvenir T-shirt.