The Gaslamp Quarter
The Gaslamp Quarter (bordered by Broadway, Harbor Dr., Third St. and Sixth St.) was named after the gas lamps that can still be found on its streets, and is without a doubt San Diego's best-known neighbourhood. This historic area was developed during the 1870s, and features some of the city's finest examples of Victorian-style architecture.
The Port of San Diego
The Maritime Museum (1492 N. Harbor Dr., tel. 619-234-9153, www.sdmaritime.com) features several ships, including the Star of India (1863), the Medea steam yacht (1904) and the Berkeley ferryboat (1898). Visitors can cross from one ship to the next and learn more about the region's maritime history.
Seaport Village (849 W. Harbor Dr., tel. 619-235- 4014, www.seaportvillage.com) is a very pleasant marketplace that features shops, restaurants and entertainment. It includes 28 buildings whose architecture was inspired by traditional fishing villages and features various stores as well as a superb 19th-century carousel.
Rich in history and blessed with a superb setting, the city of Coronado truly deserves its "Crown City" nickname. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay, this lovely maritime town is linked to San Diego by the imposing San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge.
You'll discover the Ferry Landing Market Place (1201 First St., corner B Ave., tel. 619-435-8895) as soon as you step off the ferry. The Ferry Landing Market Place is actually a group of restaurants and shops that was made to look like a seaside resort.
Hotel Del Coronado (1500 Orange Ave., tel.800-468-3533) is definitely Coronado Island's main attraction. This fabulous hotel is easily recognizable thanks to its white facade and red octagonal roof.
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park (at the corner of San Diego Ave. and Twiggs St., tel. 858-220-5422, www.parks.ca.gov) provides a glimpse of 19th-century San Diego life, spanning both the city's Mexican and American periods. The park covers six blocks and features some 20 reconstructed or renovated historic buildings. Many of these homes used to belong to rich, influential Mexicans. Today, they house museums, shops and restaurants.
One San Diego activity that should not be missed is the Old Town Trolley City Tour (tel. 619-298-8687, www.historictours.com). Visitors climb aboard an old trolley that was converted into a bus, and the driver provides the narration as they delve into the city's history. The trolley makes eight stops along the way, including Old Town, Seaport Village, Horton Plaza, Coronado Island, San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park. This is a pleasant way for visitors to get a general overview of the city and its history.
A cross between an entertainment centre and a science museum, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (El Prado, tel. 619-238-1233, www.rhfleet.org) offers a stimulating high-tech environment. The centre will appeal to young and old visitors alike, and its new SciTours Simulator Ride provides a highly realistic simulation of a space journey.
Nearly half a million visitors come to the San Diego Museum of Art (1450 El Prado, tel. 619-232-7931, www.sdmart.org) every year. Dedicated to art from the Italian Renaissance period, as well as Spanish and Dutch Baroque art, the museum also showcases contemporary paintings and sculptures.
The San Diego Zoo (2920 Zoo Dr., tel. 619231-1515, www.sandiegozoo.org) was founded in 1916. Home to barely 50 animals when it first opened, the zoo now covers 40ha and is home to more than 4,000 animals representing more than 800 species.
Mission Bay Park
SeaWorld (500 SeaWorld Dr., tel.800-257-4268, www.seaworld.com) is a truly unique amusement park. Whether or not you're travelling with your family, if you can only visit one of San Diego's many attractions, SeaWorld is the one to choose. Dedicated to the sea and marine life, this site offers an unforgettable whirlwind of sensations. The Shark Encounter, for instance, allows visitors to get a close look at sharks thanks to its underwater glass tunnel. Chills guaranteed!
Areas around San Diego
Created by Danish toy maker Lego, Legoland (1 Legoland Dr., Carlsbad, tel. 760-918-5346, www.legoland.com) is the only park of its kind in the United States. This 50ha playground was designed to stimulate children's imaginations and offers a great time and many surprises for all. Some 30 million Lego blocks were used to build the more than 1,000 miniature models that are featured here.
Though it is owned by the same group as the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Wild Animal Park (15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd., Escondido, tel.760-747-8702, www.wildanimalpark.org) is much more vast and offers a completely different experience with its exotic animals living in incredibly faithful reproductions of their natural Asian and African habitats.