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This is your destination on AI: San Diego
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This is your destination on AI: San Diego

With idyllic beaches, a vibrant downtown, and endless entertainment options, San Diego entices visitors from around the world to experience its near-perfect weather and laidback SoCal vibe. From exploring world-famous zoos and admiring historic landmarks, to thrill-seeking at aquatic theme parks and unwinding against scenic coastal backdrops, memorable adventures await at these 10 attractions and neighborhoods not to miss. Wander amidst towering palms and Spanish architecture in Balboa Park, observe pandas munching on bamboo at the San Diego Zoo, and traverse the massive decks of the retired USS Midway aircraft carrier museum. Journey into Old Town's early Californian history, then fast forward to modern carnival rides and marine shows at SeaWorld. Instagram the iconic red-roofed Hotel del Coronado, uncover aquatic life while snorkeling at La Jolla Cove, and sample local craft brews throughout the vibrant Gaslamp Quarter downtown. Safari amongst endangered land animals at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, stand at the edge of America gazing west from Cabrillo National Monument, and uncover the very best of Southern California culture and nature at these eclectic attractions.

Balboa Park

This large urban park is home to world-class museums like the San Diego Zoo, museums of art, photography, natural history, as well as beautiful gardens and architecture.

Escape from the bustling city to the lush islands and quiet gardens of the sprawling 1,200 acre urban oasis known as Balboa Park. As the nation’s largest urban cultural park, immerse yourself in over 17 major museums of art, photography, natural history, and science clustered around towering palms and vibrant blossoming flowers. See elaborate costumes and set recreations at the Old Globe Theater, exquisite porcelain vases and jade carvings at The Mingei International Museum of Folk Art, or nod hello to the fierce-faced totems lining the Museum of Man. After refueling on organic sandwiches and fair-trade coffees at the Green Line food court, head towards The Prado to eye Hall of Champions sports memorabilia and to answer the siren call of classic carousel music spinning at the heart of the park. With most institutions open between 10am and 5pm Tuesday through Sunday, one could wander for days and still not uncover all of the hidden cultural treasures tucked into every corner of this National Historic Landmark District.

San Diego Zoo

One of the world's most famous zoos with over 3,500 animals spread across 100 acres. Famous for its giant panda research center.

The magnificent San Diego Zoo promises a whimsical adventure into exotic worlds as you traverse lush forests and arid deserts encountering rare and endangered wildlife. See giant pandas munching on bamboo, polar bears splashing in frigid pools, and colorful birds fluttering through open aviaries at one of the largest zoos in the world spread across 100 wondrous acres. Get nose-to-beak with komodo dragons, laugh at frolicking otters, and gaze thoughtfully into the wise eyes of elephants and chimpanzees. Discover it all along narrated bus tours or on leisurely walks through biodiverse habitats representing every corner of the globe. With animals awake and on display between 9am to 5pm daily, embark on a journey to save species and be enchanted by the amazing creatures that call our wonderful planet home.

SeaWorld San Diego

This marine animal theme park features exciting rides, shows with Shamu killer whales, dolphins and sea lions.

Delve deep into the mysterious ocean realm full of sharks, dolphins and even mythical krakens during an aquatic adventure at SeaWorld San Diego. Get soaked on the heart-pounding Journey to Atlantis flume ride swirling through ancient ruins, then dry off by an underground aquarium hiding playful octopuses, moon jellies and lionfish. Experience the park's world-famous shows as orcas gracefully leap, pilot whales sing underwater tunes, and otters frolic and play tricks much to your delight. Learn how expert animal care specialists at SeaWorld's animal rescue center rehabilitate injured seabirds and turtles back to health before releasing them to local waters, or perhaps witness a dolphin calf swimming alongside its watchful mother for the first time. With new thrills, rides and educational encounters awaiting beyond every turn, immerse yourself in the mysteries of our oceans unlike anywhere else at this marine life theme park open daily.

USS Midway Museum

Located downtown, you can tour the massive retired aircraft carrier and see restored aircraft.

Daring visitors can test their bravery exploring the forsaken decks, sealed corridors, and tight quarters of the famous USS Midway Aircraft Carrier museum docked proudly on San Diego’s Embarcadero. Step back in time wandering 60 exhibits over 9 city blocks and 27 claustrophobic levels to unravel over 225 stories of secret missions and brave pilots during 47 years of worldwide service. Sit in the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat used in Top Gun, touch moon rocks at the Apollo 9 capsule display, and gaze in wonder at 29 restored aircraft parked on the 4 acre teak-wood flight deck soaring 60 feet over the bay. Open from 10am to 5pm daily, the $30 admission grants access to the most unique nautical museum you can tour without getting seasick.

Old Town San Diego

Historic adobe buildings transport you back to San Diego's Mexican and early Californian roots. Great for shopping and Mexican food.

Venture south of the border for a taste of Mexico at lively Old Town San Diego Historic Park. Stroll cobblestone paths past vibrantly painted adobe cottages, historic landmarks, and living history displays dating back to the first European settlement of California in 1769. Peruse handmade pottery, woven blankets, and colorful clothing in replica gift shops, or dine on sizzling fajitas and flaky churros at one of several family-owned Mexican restaurants and cafes. Wander the tree-shaded plaza to discover Saint Serra’s mission church, haunted Mason street schoolhouse, and the first newspaper press and court house west of the Rockies. Open from 10am to 5pm daily, experience early Californian and Mexican history come alive at this free state park.

Coronado Beach

This beautiful stretch of beach on Coronado island features sparkling white sand, great swimming and views of downtown.

Bask in the laidback coastal vibes along Coronado Beach, an oceanfront oasis just across the graceful arches of an iconic high-level bridge from downtown San Diego. Enjoy postcard views of undeveloped Point Loma and city skyscrapers while cooling off in calm waves lapping at the soft white sands of this protected cove. Search for colorful seashells, beach glass and sand dollars along tide pools carved into weathered sandstone, or rent a boogie board and test your balance riding swells gentle enough for kids. Unwind by erecting an umbrella and beach chair near iconic red-roofed Hotel del Coronado, a turreted National Historic Landmark once home to Marilyn Monroe that now hosts culinary and wellness indulgences at its oceanview restaurants and spa. With ample paid parking lining Ocean Ave open to the public dawn through dusk daily, Coronado Beach offers convenient access to a quintessential SoCal coastal escape.

La Jolla Cove

This stunning natural cove features sea caves, cliffs and tidal pools filled with marine life. Adjacent beach perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

Discover a protected aquatic wonderland filled with playful sea lions, vibrant reef fish and towering sea arches just steps from La Jolla Village at La Jolla Cove. Descend the steep coastal path to sunbathe alongside barking harbor seals or explore the rocky outcroppings and ecologically-rich tide pools of this ecological reserve stretching over 600 acres along the San Diego coastline. Peer into another world along the rippling surface hiding Garibaldi damselfish, swaying kelp beds and the rare California state marine fish – the Garibaldi. Watch kayakers navigating surge channels and listen to the soothing sounds of waves rushing into secret caves carved by the endless tides. The gateway into this underwater utopia lies behind Ellen Browning Scripps Park, open daily to the public dawn until dusk year-round.

Gaslamp Quarter

Downtown's vibrant historic district filled with restaurants, shops, galleries, clubs and bars. Great nightlife.

Savor the vibrant sights, sounds and flavors of the largest National Historic District in California – the 16 block neighborhood known as the Gaslamp Quarter. Cobblestone streets wink under strands of twinkling lights and colorful Victorian-era buildings house swanky rooftop bars, 4-star restaurants run by celebrity chefs and trendy boutiques filled with the latest fashions. Catch an independent film screening or avant-garde opera at the Balboa Theater, an ornate 5-story playhouse first opened in 1924, or perhaps take in the Padres slugging homeruns during a rowdy baseball game at the downtown ballpark. As the day winds down, lively gastropubs and stylish lounges pour specialty cocktails late into the night as DJs spin and dancers shimmy to the beat of local bands rocking outdoor concert venues. The fun never stops in the historic heart of downtown San Diego.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Safari style park where you can get up close views of lions, tigers, rhinos and more roaming in expansive enclosures.

Safari into the wild frontier of inland San Diego within expansive enclosures housing some of the world’s most endangered land animals like the regal yet vulnerable white rhino. Escape reality exploring the dry plains, grasslands and wooded bluffs of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, an 1,800 acre protected habitat dedicated to conservation and breeding where herds of zebras, giraffes and antelope roam across vast stretches of wide open terrain. Observe a pride of lions napping under acacia trees or a crash of rhinos wallowing in mud baths from elevated trams that whisk you across this ultimate animal kingdom. Get closer still by hiking nature trails winding through habitats specially designed to mimic native environments down to the smallest details that trick exotic creatures into displaying natural behaviors rarely observable behind bars or barriers. Open from 9am until sunset with hundreds of unique species to encounter, this sanctuary ensures the survival of threatened wildlife at home on the range.

Point Loma & Cabrillo National Monument

Dramatic coastal views, whale watching, history and hiking at the western edge of San Diego on Point Loma peninsula.

Stand at Land’s End amid crashing waves, fragrant sagebrush and the wide Pacific at the wind-carved tip of Point Loma’s Cabrillo National Monument. This history-steeped park first discovered in 1542 by Spanish conquistador Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo commemorates the first contact between European explorers and western US native cultures. Today a towering sculpture gazing west symbolizes Cabrillo looking towards the unknown, while a visitor center highlights the intertwined histories of the Spanish, Mexicans, indigenous tribes and Americans who eventually called this land home. After picking up a park map, embark on scenic coastal hikes past the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and scramble over bayside tide pools, or take in panoramas stretching across downtown San Diego and south into Mexico from exhibit trailers detailing naval battles staged in the Pacific during World War II. However you explore this multi-faceted and culturally-rich landmark, prepare to be awed by the diverse beauty of land’s end.

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