San Diego Travel Review

San Diego Images/Photos
Images of San Diego

Did you know:  San Diego-Tijuana is the busiest international border crossing in the world with 60 million crossings per year.

Did you know: San Diego is the oldest city in California.

San Diego Map

Is there a place, not far away, where the weather is nearly perfect, the scenery beautiful, the food varied and wonderful and the outdoor activities almost limitless? Yes- it's name is San Diego, the southwestern city on the Pacific coast which attracts thousands of new residents every year along with millions of tourists. After living there for ten years (1988-98) and exploring the many wonderful spots, great food, numerous activities and nearly endless number of things to enjoy- I can say that it is one of the best places to live in the U.S. (especially if you're under 35). With close to perfect weather (less than nine inches of rain a year and over 300 days of sunshine), proximity to the mountains, the desert and Mexico, great restaurants and entertainment, it is a truly wonderful place to visit.

San Diego History

San Diego SeaportThe southwestern history of the U.S. begins with the people of the Pacific Rim, who likely crossed the land bridge about 12,000 -15,000 years ago during the last Ice Age when sea levels were lower, allowing a link of Russia with the Aleutian chain off Alaska. From the Pacific Northwest, they traveled down toward what is now the western United States and settled in areas which allowed them to have a source of water and a way to graze off the land. Indian culture is really a misnomer. Columbus named them Indians due to his incorrect assumption that he had reached India, but the name stuck. Indian culture developed and thrived throughout the southwest and native peoples in what is now California, New Mexico and Arizona lived for hundreds of years before being overwhelmed with European diseases and warfare with the new settlers of the region. Spanish explorers and missionaries were key in integrating the cultures of the southwest with the new European cultures and Father Junipera Sera founded a series of missions throughout California to bring Christianity to what were then believed to be Godless heathens (despite the fact that these native Americans had their own Earth-inspired religion and devotion to higher powers).

San Diego Old TownPoint Loma near San Diego is the spot on the coast where the Spanish explorer Cabrillo touched down in the late 16th century- but there are many native American (and Mexican-related) sites to explore. Old Town is the best spot near downtown to experience both the Mexican history and great food. If you travel East into the mountains, you'll see the historic mining town of Julian, which offers wonderful apple pie, jams and preserves during their annual Apple Festival amidst the rustic environment of a late 1800's mining district. The Gaslamp District in San Diego was formerly a seedy industrial area in the 1950's and 1960's- but it is now the home of dozens of shops, restaurants, pubs and other establishments. The Spanish influence in the region is pervasive, as the city of La Jolla ("the jewel" in Spanish) to the North up I-5 offers beautiful views, great restaurants, shopping and night life all with a touch of the Spanish explorers ingrained among the many tourist attractions. More San Diego history...

San Diego Restaurants

San Diego and vicinity have established themselves as great places to dine on the West Coast. Mexican and seafood dominate due to their geographic proximity, with spots like the Old Town Mexican Cafe (where they make fresh tortillas on the grill right in front of you as you walk in the door), Casa de Bandini, Jake's, Croce's, George's At the Cove (in Del Mar) and Mister A's downtown (which has spectacular views of the harbor and downtown from their observation deck), in addition to Laurel, Candelas, Donovan's Steakhouse, Trattoria, La Strada, De Medici and the Dakota Grill offering fine food and wine along with local ambience. For oceanfront views, try Island Prime for a casual atmosphere and Happy Hour fun. There is no shortage of wonderful food to enjoy along the waterfront (The Green Flash on the water in Pacific Beach has great breakfasts), up in the hills or at a swank cafe or pub nestled into the heart of downtown. For some beers and funky tunes, you can wander over to the Kansas City Barbecue, where the bar scene in the Tom Cruise movie "Top Gun" was filmed. More San Diego restaurants...

San Diego Clubs and Music

San Diego Gaslamp DistrictCanes Bar and Grill is a good place to start if you want to sample some of the upbeat tempos of southern California musicians. Perhaps the best known place downtown for music and fun in the historic Gaslamp District is Croce's Restaurant and Jazz Bar- named after the famous singer/songwriter Jim Croce who died in a plane crash in the mid-1970's. His widow Ingrid Croce has taken the baton and turned his dream of good music into the best place to enjoy great food (mixed grill, pasta, seafood), people watch out on the patio and hear live jazz or enjoy the piano bar while sipping cocktails. Next door, Ingrid's Cantina offers wonderful Mexican food and live rhythm and blues. For more sophisticated tastes, the San Diego Symphony has established a solid reputation under Music Director Jahja Ling and offers a wide variety of concerts and theme specials, some along the waterfront for special occasions downtown. Lyric Opera San Diego brings more upscale culture for opera lovers and venues like Humphrey's, The Casbah and the Belly Up Tavern (in Solana Beach) bring younger sounds for audiences under 35. More clubs and music...

San Diego Area Attractions

San Diego Balboa ParkNo visit to San Diego would be complete without stops at Sea World (the home of Shamu, the Killer Whale), the world famous San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park. The first two need no further description- but Balboa Park is a little-known gem with over 15 museums interspersed with lovely fountains and year-round flowers, outdoor lighting and greenery which make it a great place to stroll and enjoy the nation's best weather. For those who love to see animals in nearly their identical outdoor native environment, a drive North to the Wild Animal park in Escondido ("hidden" in Spanish) is well worth the time.

San Diego Hotel del CoronadoIf you like sweeping panoramas of the San Diego skyline and the coastline both North and South, you have two choices- a drive up Mount Soledad (where the cross is still being disputed and fought over by anti-religious zealots) or a cruise over the Bay Bridge to Coronado. A must-see is the famous Hotel del Coronado, on the National Register of Historic Places as the largest wooden hotel structure in America- and the location where the Marilyn Monroe/Jack Lemmon classic "Some Like It Hot" was filmed. Visit the tavern downstairs after strolling through the historic lobby (decorated wonderfully at Christmas time) and then wander past the tennis courts out on the terrace to the beautiful beach stretching ahead. For military buffs, the Coronado Peninsula is the home to the Navy Seal Training Center down on the Silver Strand and the Marine Core Recruiting Depot (MCRD) is not far to the Northeast of town. Camp Pendleton up the coast is off limits to the public, but the drive there gives you wonderful views of the Pacific. Mission Bay to the North of downtown is a great place to walk, bike, water ski, play football and soak up some rays. Pacific Beach, Mission Beach and Ocean Beach are all hangout spots for the under-35 crowd, where bikini-clad rollerbladers and tan-conscious bathers gather almost ten months out of the year. The coastline is dotted with lovely towns with their own charm, as Del Mar, Encinitas, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Beach and other spots offer great sights and sounds as well as fine bars and restaurants.

San Diego SurfingIf you don't mind the drive, many worthwhile spots are within a 2-4 hour trek from downtown San Diego, including the original Disneyland near Anaheim (many people now focus on its successor Disney World in Orlando, but this theme park is wonderful in its original form, largely unchanged since the 1950's). The Mount Palomar Observatory is a place where astronomers explore distant galaxies while great dining and casual, inexpensive shopping await the traveler in Tijuana across the border. The farther you drive down the coast in Baja, the more beautiful the views become- as many beaches are literally empty, with no signs of human activity and breathtaking vistas. San Felipe on the inner coast (Sea of Cortez) is about a four hour drive, but worth it for the great fresh seafood and Mexican artifacts and artistries. The Dos Equis Brewery is along the way and you may just want to take a drive out past San Diego State University to the East into the desert to explore the rugged beauty and natural wonders of the countryside the way the native Indians and Mexicans knew it hundreds of years ago. More San Diego attractions...