It's been touted as America's Finest City. One look outside, and it's easy to see why: sunny and 75 degrees, blue skies and even deeper blue water. But San Diego is so much more than beautiful bays, beaches and near-perfect weather.It's a big city (the eighth-largest in the nation) with
It's been touted as America's Finest City. One look outside, and it's easy to see why: sunny and 75 degrees, blue skies and even deeper blue water. But San Diego is so much more than beautiful bays, beaches and near-perfect weather.
It's a big city (the eighth-largest in the nation) with a small-town heart; the birthplace of Naval aviation, the modern triathlon and the craft beer movement is also home to the oldest church in California and the country's largest urban cultural park. Oh, and it's located just 20 miles north of Mexico: ¡Hola!
Sure, you came for the game. But now that you're here, why not stay awhile? Not sure what to do first? Tom Cruise raced his Kawasaki Ninja 900 along our streets in Top Gun, and baseball fan Will Ferrell battled a bear at our zoo in Anchorman. Take a closer look at some of the beautiful sights and scenes that San Diego has to offer in this photo gallery. And after you're done looking at snapshots, here is a detailed list of 10 local spots to make your visit unforgettable.
Founded in 1769, the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá was the first church in California and is the oldest of the state's 21 missions. She is known as the "Mother of the Missions," and her site also marks the beginning of Christianity and Catholicism in the West. Walk the verdant grounds and learn more about the church's interesting history. Traditional masses are offered daily. On the weekend of July 16 and 17, the Mission will celebrate its annual Festival of the Bells, the only time of the year when all five bells atop the main church ring in unison.
This formerly active Navy aircraft carrier served in the Cold War; today the USS Midway has been converted into a museum as a visible reminder of San Diego's rich military history. Explore the carrier's galley, engine room, jail, flight simulators and more. There are also more than 29 aircraft on display, and the view from the flight deck is one of the best in the city.
Another treasure among San Diego's fleet of famous ships is the Star of India, the world's oldest active sailing ship, dating back to 1863. This iron-sided beauty is docked just down the street from the Midway, and also worth a visit.
Movie buffs should grab a bite at the nearby Kansas City Barbeque, which appeared in the piano scene in Top Gun. It's a touristy spot to be sure, but don't let that shake your nerves or rattle your brain!
The eight miles of hiking trails at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve are among San Diego's most popular and scenic. The park is named after the rare Pinus torreyana, a tree found in just two places in the world: La Jolla and Santa Rosa Island, off the Santa Barbara coast. Pay $10-$15 to park in the lot on North Torrey Pines Road and expect a challenging start, but those sweeping ocean views are well worth the sweat.
The nearby Torrey Pines Golf Course is arguably San Diego's most famous set of greens and the site of the PGA's annual Farmers Insurance Open. Both the north and south courses are open to the public. Tee off between the stately pines and crashing surf; many holes border dramatic seaside cliffs. The adjacent Lodge at Torrey Pines is home to executive chef Jeff Jackson's fine-dining establishment, A.R. Valentien. Reservations are a must.
Balboa Park is the country's largest urban cultural park, with 15 museums, manicured gardens, and the Tony Award-winning Old Globe Theater. But it is perhaps best known as the home of the world famous San Diego Zoo, which is celebrating its centennial this year. One of the zoo's biggest draws is its super cute trio of Giant Pandas, on loan from China. Observe them munching on bamboo ("Panda Watch!") and prepare to fall in love.
The grounds outside the zoo are equally as impressive. Walk over to the main area by the museums and admire the park's 100-year-old Spanish Colonial architecture, including the Spreckels Organ Pavilion (which houses the world's largest outdoor pipe organ) and The California Building. As of last year, the public is allowed to climb the building's tower, which had been off-limits for 80 years. Make a reservation and don't forget your camera: The observation deck offers 360-degree views. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Mexico.
Mission Bay offers an idyllic setting for a casual stroll, bike ride or run. Its calm waters also make it a great place to try the latest fad in watersports, espoused by Padres pitcher Tyson Ross: stand-up paddle boarding (a.k.a. "SUP"). Rentals are available at Mission Bay Aquatic Center, where water lovers can also procure kayaks, wet suits, catamarans and more.
Later, cruise down Mission Boulevard to the Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park. This rickety ride opened in 1925, but was closed for a number of years during the '70s and '80s. It reopened to the public in 1990 and has been thrilling daredevils ever since.
La Jolla Cove is a nice spot to feel the sand between your toes, and with lifeguards on duty, an even nicer spot for an open ocean swim. Look for the quarter- and half-mile buoys, and then head back. Experienced swimmers can challenge themselves to complete a full mile. Post-swim, browse the shops along Girard Avenue and Prospect Street. Indulge in a Whaler cocktail at La Valencia Hotel, known to locals as "La V" or "The Pink Lady." The hotel's signature boozy milkshake is served at Café La Rue on the first floor and offers a sweet excuse to treat yourself.
The newish, bustling neighborhood known as Liberty Station at the former Naval Training Center boasts a number of hot destinations. The just-opened Liberty Public Market houses various food vendors (think gourmet cheese, fresh seafood and deluxe coffee) in a covered market setting. Sample exclusive beers from one of San Diego's original and biggest craft breweries at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, located in a former U.S. Navy mess hall. Even if you've already visited the Stone Brewing rooftop beer garden at Petco Park, it's worth grabbing a table at the brewery itself, outside under the charming string lights and beside the fish pond or bocce ball courts. Cheers!
The Point Loma peninsula offers stunning bay and ocean vistas. Cabrillo National Monument, located at the peninsula's southern tip, commemorates the voyage of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European to set foot on what is now the West Coast of the United States. Pay $10 to park and hike down to the tide pools on the Pacific side. Back up at the top of the hill stands the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, refurbished to resemble its original 1880s interior.
Shelter Island, a 15-minute drive from the monument, offers two fun spots to grab a meal and a drink. Fathom Bistro, Bait & Tackle is located on the fishing pier in an actual bait and tackle shop. The tiny shack serves gourmet hot dogs and beer straight from kegs chilled in the bay. The Bali Hai menu spans traditional Polynesian fare, but it's the famously potent Mai Tais that keep the locals coming back. Go ahead and Tai one -- your vacation starts now.
Summertime in San Diego signifies a return of the Del Mar horse races. Opening day is July 15, and the party to mark the occasion usually attracts massive crowds of outrageous hat-wearing fans; any other day (through Sept. 5) should be easier to manage. For those who like to wager, minimum bets start at $2. When in doubt, pick the gray horse! Drown your losses in -- or spend your winnings on -- one of the track's famed Del Margaritas.
Take the ferry from downtown across the bay (departing hourly), or drive over the Coronado Bridge. Because it's mostly flat, the area is a great place to ride bikes. Rentals are available at Bikes & Beyond at the Ferry Landing. Pedal along the path and take in the gorgeous views of San Diego's skyline and Petco Park. The bike path runs under the bridge and past the municipal golf course, which offers some of the best rates in the city, before merging onto Glorietta Boulevard and eventually coming to a fork. On the right is the storied Hotel del Coronado; on the left is Coronado's City Hall and the Silver Strand. Head down the Strand for a view of the Navy SEAL training grounds on the beach, just past the tall white condos.
Finish your day back at the Ferry Landing. Roam along Orange Avenue's stretch of small-town Americana cafes and shops before heading back to the mainland to cap off a truly incredible trip.
This article appears in the MLB Official All-Star Game Program. Click here to purchase a copy, and read more features on allstargame.com.
Kimberly Cunningham is a senior editor at San Diego Magazine.