About This Place
Established in 1769 by the Spanish to protect their claim to “Alta California” from Russian explorers, San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the country by population. The city, situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Cuyamaca and Laguna Mountains, enjoys year-round temperatures that hover in the 70s. San Diego’s beautiful setting, ample culture and hot nightlife draw newcomers and visitors.
Climate and geography are not the only charms of this culturally rich mecca. Diverse museum collections hold treasures that appeal to many interests. The San Diego Natural History Museum, in operation since 1874, is the third-oldest scientific institution in the Western U.S. Art lovers can spend days at the San Diego Museum of Art and the Timken Museum of Art, as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, with its two locations in La Jolla and downtown. The focus of other area museums ranges from sports to science and from railroads to firefighting. Naval history buffs enjoy wandering the decks of the U.S.S. Midway, an aircraft carrier decommissioned in 1991.
The world-renowned San Diego Zoo is one of the top attractions locally. More than 4,000 animals representing 800 species live on the 100-acre site. The zoo’s 700,000 plants contribute to its natural feel. Nine zones allow guests to experience African savannas, Arctic tundra and the Australian Outback. The zoo also operates its 1,800-acre Safari Park, where animals wander freely in larger enclosures. Visitors can choose among options such as the “Africa Tram Safari” and a “Behind-the-Scenes Safari.”
More than 100 restaurants populate San Diego’s “Gaslamp Quarter,” a 16-square-block district in the heart of the city. Here, al fresco dining marks the perfect way to take in the sights and sounds of urban nightlife. Whether looking for live jazz at a trendy club or taking in the blend of Victorian architecture and modern skyscrapers, visitors delight to the magic of San Diego at night.
Mission San Diego de Alcala was the first of California’s 21 missions built by Franciscan Christians. This whitewashed adobe complex offers guests a glimpse into the struggles of the early colonists as they suffered from war, disease, and food and water shortages. Native Americans burned the mission in 1775, but Father Junipero Serra rebuilt it as a fortress. Today the mission serves as an active Catholic parish as well as a historical attraction.
About a two-hour drive to the east of the Cuyamaca and Laguna Mountains lies Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the largest state preserve in California. Adventurers can experience the desert first-hand via miles of trails in 12 wilderness areas. Roadrunners, iguanas and bighorn sheep number among the locals.
Perfect weather and dramatic topography combine to make San Diego a key golf destination. Cliff-side Torrey Pines Golf Course, another of the top attractions in San Diego, hosted the 2008 U.S. Open. Torrey Pines is just one of the city’s 93 courses, some of which were designed by such notables as Gary Player and Tom Fazio.