With more than 70 miles of coastline for surfing and surf-watching, San Diego County, California, offers visitors a year-round paradise of sun and fun.
San Diego is the second-largest city in the state and is known for its sunny weather, popular zoo, museums and military presence.
On the water
Getting out on the water is the best way to see the skyline and learn about the city, the military and the sea lions. Taking a boat tour of the bay area will allow for visitors to get a handle on the extensiveness of the bases, helicopter divisions, Navy ships and more. While cruising — or anytime in viewing the water — travelers can see Navy ships, submarines or maybe a Marine helicopter skimming the water.
Hornblower Cruises offers a variety of excursion, from a one-hour harbor and sea lion cruise to whale watching and dinner cruises. Make sure your cameras are ready. Visit hornblower.com/san-diego for information.
All hands on deck
The USS Midway Museum is on the bay and is one of the most popular and interesting sites to take in. The museum, aboard the mighty aircraft carrier, offers visitors a trip back through the ship’s nearly 50 years of service. The self-guided audio tour allows for travelers to spend as many hours as they would like to explore all the nooks and crannies and learn about the brave men and women who served below the deck. Climb in a cockpit, get a look at the skies from a flight simulator, and see a bird’s eye view of the naval station, bay and the city from the deck of the ship. Visit midway.org for hours and cost. Suggestions: Wear comfortable walking shoes, dress for adventure and climbing ladders, and bring your own headsets for the audio tour.
Also seen from the Midway’s deck and from land is the 25-foot-tall “kissing statue,” which stands above the harbor in Tuna Harbor Park. The sculpture by Seward Johnson is named “Unconditional Surrender” and was created to commemorate the iconic Alfred Eisenstaedt photo that appeared on the cover of Life magazine in 1945, of a sailor kissing a nurse celebrating the announcement of the victory over Japan, the end of WWII. Visit kissingstatue.com.
Museums and history
Visitors can spend days in 1,200-acre Balboa Park, often referred to as the Smithsonian of the West. It is the largest urban park in the United States that includes cultural institutions, with 17 museums that address art, aviation, history, science and technology. Visitors stroll through beautiful gardens between museums. Visit one museum or all: One-day and multi-day passes are available. The famous San Diego Zoo is in the park, and attractions include carousel rides, a mini railroad and other family-friendly things to do, including IMAX films and interactive exhibits. The park offers something for everyone: live entertainment, theaters, gardens, hiking, golf, picnic areas, restaurants, dog parks and more. Visit balboapark.org for the full schedule of events and hours for all attractions.
The city is loaded with museums. Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is considered to be the birthplace of California and offers a deep look into colonial times from 1821 to 1872. The area has more than 100 shops and a large variety of restaurants and free museums. See the original stagecoach for Wells Fargo at the Wells Fargo Museum.
Other military-focused museums include the floating Maritime Museum, Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum, San Diego Air and Space Museum and Veterans Museum.
An easy way to get the lay of the land and see many attractions is a hop-on, hop-off all day tour on Old Town Trolley. The trolley travels through San Diego and Coronado with the opportunity to visit more than 100 points of interest. The trip is narrated, helping visitors decide what to see and do. Visit trolleytours.com/san-diego.
For more information on San Diego, tickets, discounts, hotels, restaurants and things to do visit www.sandiego.org