From Cabrillo to a Modern American City: A Visitor’s Guide to San Diego

Juan Rodiquez Cabrillo of Portugal was the first European explorer to visit the San Diego area, but the city was founded by Spanish missionaries. The city’s name, which means “Saint James” in English, gives witness to this Spanish influence. The city was part of Mexico until the Mexican War in the 1840s. Even today, the city is only 20 from Mexico, but it’s an all-American city. San Diego, the second-largest city in California, is the eight largest city in the US. If you visit San Diego, here’s a must-see list.

Sea World Adventure Park: Like its sister parks in San Antonio TX and Orlando FL, this park brings together marine animals and amusement park rides. The main attraction is the world-famous killer whale Shamu, but you’ll also want to take off on the “Ride to Atlantis” Water Coaster and the Wild Arctic Exploration.

San Diego Zoo: This is perhaps the most famous zoo in the world. It’s collection boasts rare animals like giant pandas, southern white rhinos and koala bears. Set aside a full day or two to see everything. Consider one of the guided tours.

Balboa Park: With 1,200 acres of “urban cultural park” space, this park hosts gardens, museums, theatres and the San Diego Zoo. No one would want to miss the pipe organ pavilion with its culturally rich performances.

Mission Beach: If you love the beach, but hate strong waves, the white sand of Mission Beach is perfect for you. With lots of green space, it’s also an ideal setting for a picnic.

Gaslamp Quarter: These 16-blocks of sumptuous dining, high-end shopping and great entertainment options will please the adventure lover in you.

Old Town: This state park (no entry fee) commemorates where Father Junipero Serra placed his first California mission. It has tremendous restaurants, shops and street performers. Visit in the evening to experience the full ambiance.

Little Italy: It may not be New York’s Little Italy, but don’t tell the locals. The food and wine are perfect. This area features all things Italian, from pasta to boutiques. The October festivals attract visitors from around globe.

Miramar Air Show: More planes than you’ll probably ever see in any other single place–hundreds of planes of all types are on display. Flight simulators and air shows will thrill children and grown-ups alike.

Belmont Park: This park has San Diego’s best wooden roller coaster. The classic amusement park also offers amusements ranging from bumper cars to wave machines as well as great shopping. Belmont Park now also boasts the Wave House where you’ll find non-stop entertainment. With four unique restaurants, multiple bars, FlowRider wave machines and a jam-packed event schedule, you won’t find a better beach party around!

Cabrillo National Monument: Take in a little history and visit the place where Cabrillo first set foot in San Diego. This is San Diego’s only national park or monument. The views of San Diego Bay are great and admission is very inexpensive.

With so much beauty, culture and entertainment San Diego is a must see for any traveler.

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