San Diego, California’s second largest city, really has something for everyone. Today a city of 1.3 million, San Diego was just a fraction of its current size when U.S. Highway 80 was routed here in 1927. But this land of idyllic climate – where the temperature is always mild and rainfall less than ten inches a year – had been inhabited for thousands of years by Native Americans.Europeans first reached the area in 1542, when Portuguese-born explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo claimed the bay for Spain.Sixty years later Sebastian Vizcaino, a map-maker sent from Spain to chart the California coast, chose the name “San Diego” in honor of Spanish Franciscan St. Didacus, better known as San Diego.
The original town was at the foot of Presidio Hill, today’s 29-acre OldTownSan DiegoStateHistoricPark.Now on the National Register of Historic Places, it preserves the past from the Mexican War of Independence in 1821 through the early 1870s.Attractions include the 1827 adobe house of settler Jose Estudillo; the historic Whaley House (now a museum and said to be haunted); a schoolhouse; blacksmith shop; San Diego’s first newspaper office; a stable with carriage collection and others.
Another of San Diego’s many popular attractions is the MaritimeMuseum, with an impressive collection of historic vessels and replicas. Nearby is 1,200-acre BalboaPark, named for Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa. A park since 1835, it’s one of the oldest in the country, and home to museums, theaters, gardens, shops, restaurants and the 100-acre San Diego Zoo, with more than 4,000 animals of some 800 species. The park is also home to the San Diego Art Institute, Natural History Museum, San Diego Historical Society, ReubenH.FleetScienceCenter, Timken Museum of Art, the San DiegoAutomotiveMuseum and the Old Globe Theatre, a replica of the historic London theater and part of the SimonEdisonCenter for the Performing Arts.
Southwest of Balboa Park is scenic Seaport Village, a popular attraction on the bay that features over 50 unique and eclectic shops, 17 restaurants, a vintage 1895 carousel, sidewalk artists, live music, horse drawn carriage rides and a boardwalk along San Diego Bay.
San Diego is also rich in parks and nature preserves, among them Torrey Pines State Reserve, with eight miles of trails and guided nature walks, and 5800-acre Mission Trails Regional Park, established in 1974 as the largest municipal park in California. BorderFieldState Park is a refuge for migrating waterfowl and resident wading birds.
For more information about these attractions and others contact the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau, 619-232-3101, sandiego.org; the San Diego Visitor Information Center, 619-276-8200; and San Diego East Visitors Bureau, 619-445-0180, 800-463-0668.