San Diego Tourist Attractions
Location and importanceSan Diego is situated some 120mi/200km south of Los Angeles. The town's southern boundary is also the border with Mexico.
Being on two protected bays, San Diego Bay, which is separated from the sea by Point Loma and by Coronado Island/North Island, and the multi-lobed Mission Bay north of the San Diego River, San Diego has become an important port. It is the biggest American naval base after Norfolk. The equitable warm and dry climate and the beautiful and fertile surrounding countryside (oranges, tomatoes, avocados, fruit and vegetables) make San Diego a popular place in which to live.The town is a favorite center for seminars and conventions, as well as being important in the research sphere (space travel, oceanography, electronics and three universities). This is where the "Atlas" rockets used in space flights were developed.PopulationSan Diego is the oldest town in California and - from its foundation in 1769 - the one where development was the slowest. Early in the Second World War (about 1940) San Diego had barely 150,000 inhabitants. Since then its attractions have increased to such an extent that it has become the second town in California, after Los Angeles, to have a million people.DevelopmentSince 1980 the number of people living in San Diego has increased by 25%. With the exception of Houston in Texas and Phoenix, the capital of Arizona, no other large American town has experienced such a high percentage increase.Making use of leisure timeSan Diego offers the visitor an enchanting natural beauty and a climate with plenty of sunshine: the 1,410 acre/565 hectare Balboa Park, with perhaps the world's finest zoo; more than 68mi/110km of beaches in town and county; countless opportunities for water sports (including sailing and motor-boats); excursions into the nearby wastelands or - by tram - to Mexico. It has more public and private golf courses than any other American town. There are also several stud-farms.ClimateThe weather is exceptional. The sun is nearly always shining, and the drop in temperature extremely small, certainly smaller than anywhere else in California. Average temperatures are 16°C in spring, 21°C in summer, 19°C in autumn and 14°C in winter. Fluctuations from these are rare; very hot summer temperatures occur only now and again, and temperatures below freezing point are unknown. Like everywhere else on the Pacific coast, in the summer months there are sometimes early morning mists and low cloud, and the sun often does not get through before 10 a.m. or noon. There are occasional showers only between November and February.HistoryOriginAs long ago as 1542 a Spanish expedition under Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo had sailed into San Diego Bay and discovered what was later to be known as California. On his voyage along the Californian coast 60 years later Sebastian Vizcaino entered the bay and gave it the name of his flagship, St Didacus de Alcala. Didicus (Diego in Spanish) was a 15th century Franciscan monk who was canonized after his death as a reward for his fantastically strict regime of penitence. In 1769 an expedition came from the governor of Baja California, Don Gaspar de Portola, to Alta California with some Franciscan monks on board, including Father Junipero Serra, beatified in 1988, who started to build the first of 21 mission stations on July 16th 1769 which is also the date when San Diego really came into being. The present-day Mission of San Diego de Alcala is to be found some 6mi/ 10km inland from its original site.19th centuryIt was not until 1820 that a plaza was built, surrounded for the next 20 years by about 40 adobe houses. At that time, no more than 200 Mexicans and Spaniards lived there. The first North Americans came around 1803. However, when in 1846 during the Americo-Mexican war the town was occupied by American marines, there was merely a handful of white men living in the Old Town. San Diego changed owners several times in the following five months; only after the Battle of San Pasqual, east of the present Escondido, did it finally fall into American hands.With the acceptance of the federal state of California into the Union in 1850 San Diego County came into being, and the town was given its charter. At first this did not speed up its development in any way. Only when, in 1885, the Santa Fe Railroad arranged for San Diego to be connected to the transcontinental railway network was there a noticeable upswing. Shortly after the population had increased to 40,000, however, the first crisis occurred and the hoped-for economic boom failed to materialize.Furthermore, the extension of the harbor which was now underway proved insufficient to break the predominance of San Francisco and the new San Pedro Harbor of Los Angeles.First half of the 20th centuryThe town's real upswing began to take place after three major events: first the completion of the Panama Canal in the autumn of 1914; secondly, the Panama-Californian Exhibition held in Balboa Park in 1915/1916, which directed the world's attention towards San Diego; and thirdly, the moving of an army and, in particular, a naval base to San Diego during the First World War.When the town was redeveloped in 1868, Balboa Park was saved - thanks to a far-sighted city father - and this extensive green area still exists today.Present-day expansionThe town is expanding on all sides, and now covers an area of 310sq.miles/800sq.km; in the south it reaches as far as Point Loma and nearly to the Mexican border in the suburb of Chula Vista, in the north to La Jolla, and in the west to La Mesa and El Cajon. Whether, in view of the many facilities offered to residents in the suburbs, the authorities will succeed in breathing life back into the town center and avoid what has happened in Los Angeles, remains a fateful question for San Diego.Economy and cultureEconomyAfter the Japanese attack on the Pacific naval base in Honolulu in December 1941 when the United States were considering a new base, the choice fell on San Diego. Since then the 11th Naval Squadron has been stationed here; it is also the headquarters of the Pacific Fleet. This military presence is of the greatest importance to San Diego's economy. The second most important economic factor is the aircraft industry (the Convair works are the biggest employers), and the third is tourism. The building of space-rockets, oceanic and bio-medical research, electronics and higher education (especially the University of California at San Diego in La Jolla) also play a decisive role in the town's economy.CultureUnfortunately San Diego's cultural development has lagged behind its economic progress. One of the main reasons is that potential patrons of the arts were somewhat late in deciding to settle in the town. As public subsidies are rare, the town's cultural pursuits depend mainly upon private sponsorship. As a result, San Diego has no adequate museum and is outclassed by San Francisco and Los Angeles in the musical sphere as well. Only the theater has recently gained in importance.TransportAirportSan Diego can be the beginning or the end of a trip through California. Its airport, only a few miles from the center of town (Lindbergh Field), is to be moved further out into the county in the foreseeable future. It serves thirteen airlines, including American, American West, Continental, Delta, TWA and United Airlines, with direct flights from the east coast.RoutesWhen coming from the north by car along the U.S. 5 or 15 and the CA 163 turn-off past the Miramar Naval Air Force Base, you drive straight into town. Another road which leads through the town from north to south is the U.S. 805. You approach from the east along the U.S. 8, CA 125 (east of La Mesa) and CA 94, which then merges with the U.S. 5. Greyhound and Trailway buses operate a service to downtown San Diego.It is worth taking the two and a half hour train ride from Los Angeles to San Diego or vice-versa; Amtrak Station in San Diego is situated on Broadway and Kettner Boulevard.Tips for the car driverIn San Diego - like almost anywhere in the U.S. - the car is the best form of transport. Most of the places of interest described in this book will be found quite near to the freeways, and there is generally adequate parking space. If you come by car you should, whenever possible, choose a motel or hotel with an underground garage. You should also note that most streets in the town center are one-way.The speed limit on the freeways is 55mph (80kmph) and 35mph (55kmph) in town.Public TransportPublic transport (buses and trams) are normally time-consuming for the tourist because they go all round the town, do not use the freeways and stop frequently. (Time-table information from the San Diego Transit Company.)
The huge Balboa Park is a beautiful green area with lovely architecture. Spanish-Mexican style buildings, built for the Panama California Exhibition of 1915/1916, now house some of the city's best museums.
San Diego's Old Town contains some old adobe homes, and historic sites. The area has been marketed to attract tourists, with shops, restaurants, and hotels.
Mission Bay is a port and the largest naval base in the USA with the exception of Norfolk.
San Diego Trolley
The San Diego Trolley was opened in 1981. It is a light rail with two lines and stations on 48 mile of track. Trains run every 15 to 30 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes in the evening. The San Diego Trolley serves such areas as Old Town, as well as Mission Valley, Fashion Valley, and Qualcomm Stadium at Jack Murphy Field.
Kobey's Swap Meet
Kobey's Swap Meet is an open-air market that began in 1976 and moved to the Sports Arena in 1979. Shoppers will find items such as furniture, clothing, antiques, crafts, electronics, sporting goods, tools, and fresh produce.
National Comedy Theatre
The National Comedy Theatre is improv comedy performed from audience suggestions. The audience picks the games and decides the winner for the evening.
San Diego Coaster
The Coast Express Rail offers rail transportation between Oceanside and San Diego with stops in Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Sorrento Valley and Old Town.
Address: 810 Mission Avenue, San Diego, CA 92054, United States
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Memorial Day - USA (last Monday, May), American Independance Day (Jul 4), Labor Day - USA (1st Monday, Sep), Thanksgiving - USA (4th Thursday, Nov), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
San Diego Golfing
Golf is a year-round activity in the San Diego area with many public and private courses. San Diego and surrounding area feature over 80 golf courses.
La Jolla - Torrey Pines Golf Course
Torrey Pines Golf Course is a premier municipal seaside golf course in La Jolla. The Torrey Pines Tree is indigenous to this area. The golf course is the home to the Buick Invitational, a charity tournament with proceeds donated to youth groups in the San Diego area.
Coronado Municipal Golf Course
Balboa Park Golf Course
This 18-hole municipal golf course offers golfers a view of the skyline and beyond to the Coronado Bridge and Pacific.
Tecolote Canyon Golf Course
Tecolote Canyon Golf Course has four par-4 holes ranging from 299 to 339 yards. The course was designed by Sam Snead and Robert Trent Jones Sr.
Mission Bay Golf Course
This night-lighted course also features a driving range and miniature golf.
More San Diego Pictures
Map of San Diego Attractions