You don’t have to fly hours to the South Pacific to feel warm ocean breezes, see swaying palm trees and wiggle your toes in soft white sand beaches while enjoying spectacular crimson sunsets.
Mission Bay, a 4,600-acre aquatic playground just north of downtown San Diego, features all that and much more: SeaWorld San Diego (celebrating its 50th anniversary), beachside resorts and restaurants, boating and recreational facilities…even luaus!
Mission Bay was first discovered in 1542 by explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who named it “False Bay” because of its shallow lagoons and saltwater marshes. Dredging in the late 1940s through the ’60s created what we see today: the largest man-made aquatic park in the United States!
An early historian envisioned Mission Bay would become the Venice of America. Well, it didn’t quite become a gondolier’s dream, but rather a tropical retreat better suited to its sparkling location on the Pacific.
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To experience a little slice of vacation paradise, look no further than these scenic spots on Mission Bay:
Paradise Point Resort & Spa
Paradise Point Resort, a tropical oasis on Mission Bay!
The name says it all! For over half a century this oasis on a private peninsula has lured travelers looking for a dreamy island escape.
Many travelers think of the East Coast as the home of U.S. history, but there’s plenty for history buffs to discover in San Diego, too! If you’re traveling with an eye to the past, try this three-day itinerary for stepping back in time to explore San Diego’s vibrant heritage.
Day 1: California’s Birthplace
Did you know that the first European explorer to discover California touched down in San Diego? The Cabrillo National Monument marks the site where explorer Juan Rodrguez Cabrillo first set foot in the state. A visit to the site is rewarded with panoramic views of the city, ocean and mountains.
A trip to the Cabrillo National Monument is worth it for the views alone.
From California’s birthplace, head to the first permanent settlement on the West Coast, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. This historic site is often referred to as San Diego’s first “downtown.” The park’s past comes alive every Wednesday and Saturday with Living History activities, including blacksmith demonstrations, quilting, soap making and other period-specific crafts.
Other Can’t-Miss Old Town experiences:
Stop by the historic Cosmopolitan Hotel and enjoy a drink at the bar that once belonged to Wyatt Earp.
Explore San Diego’s early days by heading to the historic Gaslamp Quarter, featuring 16 blocks of Victorian-era buildings. Make a stop at the William Heath Davis Historic House Museum, the Gaslamp Quarter’s oldest surviving structure. Built in 1850, the house is now home to the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation, where you can learn all about the district’s past.
The William Heath Davis House welcomes guests, both normal and paranormal (legend says it’s haunted!).
Being a city on the bay, the military and maritime industries have played a big role in San Diego’s history. Begin your exploration of maritime life at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, one of the world’s finest collections of historic ships, including the famous Star of India – the world’s oldest active tall ship.
The Star of India is one of the ships featured at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
After seeing the tall ships, head next door and step aboard the USS Midway, the longest-serving aircraft carrier in U.S. Navy history, is now home to a floating museum. See how hundreds of men lived below the decks, jump in a flight simulator or get up close to military aircraft aboard the ship’s flight deck.
The USS Midway is an aircraft carrier turned museum.
Close out your day of maritime exploration with a trip to NTC at Liberty Station, a former Naval Training Center that is now a flagship civic, arts, and culture district. The “The Life of a Naval Training Center Recruit” and Point Loma Legacy exhibits offer one last learning opportunity before you relax with a beer at the nearby Stone Brewing Co. World Bistro & Gardens.
With so much history to explore in San Diego, you may need more than 3 days! But no matter what you choose to see while in town, there’s something for everyone to love in San Diego.
San Diego is full of rich history. In fact, the history of California began in San Diego when explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed into San Diego Bay under the Spanish flag and was the first European to discover California.
Centuries later, on October 14, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson reserved a half-acre of Fort Rosecrans on the tip of Point Loma in where Cabrillo first landed for “The Order of Panama … to construct a heroic statue of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo.” Now encompassing 160 acres, the Cabrillo National Monument celebrates 100 years of history with exhibitors from many of Southern California’s federal, state and local agencies, and non-profit organizations during a three-day celebration weekend from Oct. 12 -14, 2013.
But the Cabrillo National Monument isn’t the only other site in San Diego celebrating an anniversary in 2013. Several of San Diego iconic hotels, museums and attractions mark milestones this year.
Century-Old Historic Hotels
The Grande Colonial Hotel in La Jolla; the famous Hotel del Coronado
Grande Colonial Hotel
Amidst the pristine beaches and bluffs of San Diego’s beautiful coastal village of La Jolla, the luxurious Grande Colonial Hotel celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2013. Completely modernized, yet faithful to its storied past, this intimate boutique hotel harkens back to a quieter, more dignified era. Throughout 2013, the Grande Colonial marks the 100th anniversary of its grand opening in February 1913 with special packages, old-fashioned cocktails and more.
Hotel Del Coronado
Opened in 1888 and designed to be “the talk of the Western world,” the landmark Hotel del Coronado is celebrating its 125th anniversary. Throughout its rich history, The Del has played host to presidents, royalty and Hollywood’s elite and was the glamorous setting for Billy Wilder’s comedy classic Some Like It Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. The Del celebrates this milestone year with a series of dining and spa specials, guest packages, community events, charitable promotions and the release of a new history book.
Celebrating Science in San Diego
The Salk Institute, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, and Air & Space Museum
Jonas Salk Institute for Biological Studies
In 1963, Jonas Salk established the Jonas Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla. Adjacent to the University of California, San Diego, the institute is world-renowned for its medical research and is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The 26-acre campus, designed by world-renowned architect Louis I. Kahn, overlooks the Pacific Ocean on Torrey Pines Mesa and offers free public tours.
Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
40 years ago, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park opened its doors and brought interactive exhibits and the world’s first IMAX® Dome Theater to San Diego. Today, the Fleet inspires minds and connects individuals to science and technology through more than 100 hands-on exhibits for all ages, IMAX films and planetarium shows in the recently renovated Heikoff Giant Dome Theater.
San Diego Air & Space Museum
The San Diego Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park celebrates its 50th anniversary. The museum first opened its doors in Balboa Park in 1963. When a fire destroyed the museum and its contents in 1978, the San Diego community came together to rebuild, and the museum moved into the historic Ford Building in 1980, where it resides today. The museum is California’s official Air and Space Museum, one of the largest aviation and space museums and home to the third largest aviation archives and library in the country.
The Museum of Photographic Arts and the Mingei International Museum
Museum of Photographic Arts
The Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) in Balboa Park celebrates 30 years dedicated to exhibiting photography, film and video. Since its founding in 1983, MOPA has presented dynamic world-class photography exhibitions in San Diego and built a world-class photography collection. The anniversary exhibition 30x: Three Decades highlights one acquisition from each of MOPA’s 30 years and showcases a selection of influential figures in the history of photography, including works by Alexander Rodchenko, Loretta Lux, Thomas Struth, Lee Friedlander, Robert Adams, Marian Drew and many others.
Mingei International Museum
The Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2013 with a broad range of signature exhibitions, events and programs. In May 1978, the Mingei International Museum of World Folk Art opened with the mission to further the understanding of art of the people (mingei) from all cultures of the world. Thirty-five years later, the museum continues to offer unique exhibitions and events highlighting the arts, crafts and traditions of cultures from around the world.
Speaking of anniversaries, let us know if you have ever celebrated one in San Diego in the comments below.
For the 49th year, San Diego will celebrate the day in 1542 when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed on the shore that is now San Diego. On September 29th and 30th, visitors can learn more about San Diego’s early history at this fun event for the whole family.
Lederhosen, Beer, Bratwurst and Family Fun at the Authentic Oktoberfest in El Cajon.
Head east and partake in authentic German food, beers and liquors at the annual Oktoberfest in El Cajon. Visitors will enjoy traditional folk dancing performances, games and contests, vendor and craft booths and a Kids’ Zone. The fun kicks off September 28th.
Get a taste of the western life as professional rodeo cowboys from all over the country compete at the annual Poway Rodeo. This rodeo has everything including, bareback riding, tie down roping, a clown act, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, barrel racing and bull riding. Break out your dancing boots for the Rodeo Dances on both nights. Rodeo runs Friday, September 28-Saturday, September 29.
Music, Food, Rides and More at the Adams Avenue Street Fair
Southern California’s largest free music festival features arts and crafts, carnival rides, food, circus acts and musical acts on six outdoor stages. Festivities take place September 29-30 from 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM on Saturday and 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Sunday.
Discover Unconventional Dance Spaces during the 2012 Trolley Dances. Photo by Yvonne M. Portra.
Hop on board and travel to six stops along the MTS Trolley line featuring site-specific dance. New work to be performed by 50 of San Diego’s most adventurous dancers. As an added twist, this year’s event will present WillyGood, a French circus duo. Tickets includes a free all day Trolley Pass with advance purchase.
San Diego has a long and proud seafaring tradition that continues today. Luckily for locals and visitors alike there is always a ship, from the recreation of Cabrillo”s 1542 San Salvador, to the longest-serving aircraft carrier now permanently docked in San Diego”s harbor, the USS Midway, ready to sail you through San Diego”s honorable maritime history.
On April 15, 1912, Titanic, the world”s largest ship of its time, sank after colliding with an iceberg, claiming more than 1,500 lives and shaking the world’s confidence in the infallibility of modern technology. One hundred years later, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, which nbso online casino reviews showcases 200 artifacts retrieved from the wreck site of Titanic, arrives at theNAT.
The Maritime Museum of San Diego is building a full-sized, fully functional and historically accurate replica of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo”s San Salvador capitana or flagship of the Spanish expedition which first explored what is now the West Coast of the United States. Volunteers are constructing the vessel in full public view allowing visitors the opportunity to watch history come to life before their eyes. After construction, San Salvador will become part of the Museum”s fleet of historic and replica ships and will travel along the California coast as an ambassador for San Diego.
Over 1,000,000 annual visitors to the USS Midway Museum enter a floating city at sea and walk in the footsteps of 225,000 Midway sailors who served our country and upheld the American ideals of strength, freedom and peace. The USS Midway Museum is an unforgettable adventure for the entire family. Guests can spend the day exploring more than 60 exhibits with a collection of 25 restored aircraft. The self-guided audio tour, narrated by Midway sailors, brings the carrier”s history to life. Those who dare can “take to the sky” aboard one of three flight simulators.
Want to sail through history? Comment below for a chance to win 2 tickets to TITANIC: The Artifact Exhibition, at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Two winners will be chosen at random at 10:00 am on Thursday, June 7, 2012.Do you have a favorite ship in San Diego?
Ask five locals to name their favorite picnic spot and you’ll get five different answers. Got kids and want a playground? Prefer a romantic oceanfront perch? How about a great spot for watching fireworks? Want music with your bread and cheese? San Diego has so many great spots for picnicking that choosing a site is purely subjective. Given that, here are several suggestions:
My favorite spot is on the grassy bluff overlooking the surf at Coast Boulevard Park, just south of the backside of the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. My husband and I picnic there year round; it’s where he proposed all those years ago – and where we opt to renew our contract each year on the anniversary of that date. At low tide, some take their picnics to a wide patch of bluff closer to the surf. From any vantage point, the view is breathtaking.
For a more serene Pacific view, consider spreading picnic fixings in the bunker just beyond the lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument. Take beach chairs to enjoy comfy views of the wide Pacific. And don’t forget a jacket; it’s breezy out there. (Admission to the monument costs $5 per car.)
Want entertainment with your picnic? Check out parks throughout the county where free concerts will be staged this summer. We blogged about them last month.
Prime spots for picnics with fireworks viewing include Rose Marie Starns South Shores Park on Mission Bay. The sandy beach has fire rings – and a perfect sight-line for watching SeaWorld fireworks.
Balboa Park is filled with great picnic spots. After visiting a museum or two, generations of local families have picnicked at Pepper Grove, south of The Fleet along Park Boulevard. The big draping pepper trees remain – and there’s a large playground and 15 picnic tables.
In East County, Santee Lakes is a 190-acre recreation preserve with seven lakes, a 300-space RV campground, cabins for rent – and plenty of fun for picnickers. Go fishing. Rent a pedal boat, rowboat, canoe or kayak ($11-$15 per hour). Kiddies can romp at five playgrounds (each geared for specific ages). The “Sprayground” is wet and wild fun for kids up to 13 years old. (Pay $2 at the front gate for a wristband and get soaked all day long.) Technically admission to the park is free, but parking costs $5 on weekends, $3 weekdays.
Want to extend your picnic? The park has 10 new cabins for rent – including three floating units. Each has an equipped kitchen and can accommodate up to six – but you’ll have to bring your own linens. Rates start at $100 per night midweek for lakefront units and go to $145 a night for a floating cabin on weekends and holidays. There are two swimming pools and a whirlpool spa exclusively for overnighters – including the many snowbirds who rent RV spaces by the month.
Santee Lake's Sprayground
You have a favorite picnic spot we haven’t included here? Please tell us about it.
Wow it’s going to be a great weekend in San Diego! With the weather forecasted to be in the 70’s, get outside and head to the beach, or do something a little different. From a multi-cultural festival to a Whale Watching Festival, San Diego has no shortage of fun things to do! Which one sounds fun to you?
Stephen Strasburg 5k Walk with Tony Gwynn: Come join Stephen Strasburg and Tony Gwynn in a 5k walk and fun run benefiting the Aztec Baseball program. This is a family-friendly event that will include games, live music and fun for everyone.
13th Annual San Diego Multi-Cultural Festival: Cultures come together in celebration at this free, family-friendly fun festival with cultural entertainers, food, vendors, global villages and an education fair. The fair will take place Saturday, January 15 from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. along Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade downtown.
24th Annual Whale Watch and Intertidal Life Festival: Cabrillo’s annual Whale Watch Weekend kicks off tomorrow and Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and features presentations, exhibits and films. Rangers will be on hand all weekend to help visitor’s spot whales in the ocean and explore the park’s magnificent tide pools.
San Diego Restaurant Week: Restaurant Week kicks off Sunday, January 16th! Diners can choose from over 160 of San Diego’s best restaurants and enjoy a fixed price, three-course dinner for $20, $30 or $40 per person. Whether you crave seafood, organic, American or ethnic, there is something for everyone during San Diego Restaurant Week! Be sure to check out our foodie blogger Kate as she highlights some great spots to check out during Restaurant Week.
Underwater Parks Day at SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium: On January 15th, young ocean enthusiasts at SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium will learn about Marine Protected Areas or “Underwater Parks” during the Aquarium’s 3rd Annual Underwater Parks Day. Underwater Parks Day is an effort by Southern California aquariums to explain the need for Marine Protected Areas that replenish fish populations and restore the health of coastal waters.