San Diego is known for its animal attractions, including the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld, however, there is much to see and do in the surrounding communities as well. Located in Southern California, this region is full of activity, from specialty shops to beaches to art galleries, all of which offer an alternative to the bustle of the big city. One such example is Carlsbad, which boasts the Carlsbad Mineral Water Spa and several golf courses, ideal for a day in the country.
Spend some time on the coastline near La Jolla where the Scripps Institution of Oceanography calls home. Operating in conjunction with the local University of California San Diego, this institute has gained a reputation as a leader in oceanographic research. Further north of San Diego is Oceanside, which, as the name implies, offers a range of aquatic activities of fishing, boating and sunbathing and is considered to be the gateway between Los Angeles and San Diego.
Located just north of San Diego, Carlsbad offers a coastal escape with a quieter pace than its southern neighbor. Visitors can enjoy the resort-like atmosphere of this quiet town by visiting the Carlsbad Mineral Water Spa or taking in a round at one of the local golf courses. For a memorable experience, take an airplane tour in a biplane or a combat aircraft with Barnstorming Adventures.
Ever the family destination, Carlsbad is home to the amusements and plastic sculptures of Legoland California. In the spring, spectacular gardens bloom in a rainbow of colors at the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch. All flavors of cuisine are found in Carlsbad, ranging from Mexican to seafood to Japanese, and many others. Some time during any trip to Carlsbad should be designated for visiting the area’s beaches, which include the South Carlsbad State Beach and the Carlsbad City Beach.
La Jolla is Spanish for The Jewel, a name that this California town strives to live up to with an abundance of recreation and scenic areas. Located 15 minutes from downtown San Diego, La Jolla features a unique and picturesque coastline and is favored as a travel destination for its beaches, restaurants and art galleries.
Home to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), a marine research institute that promotes marine ecology projects around the world, and the University of California San Diego, the town emanates a lively, college feel. The Museum of Contemporary Art is just one of the many art galleries that are based out of La Jolla, allowing visitors to experience an array of artistic expression while visiting this coastal town. Families can make a visit to the Birch Aquarium, which is affiliated with the SIO and features a range of educational programs and interactive displays.
Considered the gateway to San Diego, the city of Oceanside is a large beach community just south of Orange County, California. Like many of its Southern California counterparts, the city boasts its share of sun, sand, and surf. Its beaches regularly host the international Beach Soccer Championships—a festival and competition that is one of the largest of its kind—and its waves have held the X Games surfing competition.
Surfing enthusiasts can also visit the California Surf Museum, drop in from Oceanside Harbor Beach or watch the action from the Oceanside Pier. The historic pier—one of the longest wooden piers on the West Coast—is an area landmark, as is Oceanside Harbor with its New England-style harbor village and marina that is home to water sport tours and rentals, as well as restaurants, shops, and the annual Harbor Days festival.
Away from the waves, the Mission San Luis Rey is a National Historic Landmark and is a fine example of Spanish mission architecture. And just north of Oceanside, Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base is a massive military training base that encompasses more than 125,000 acres (50,585 ha) of beaches, bluffs, canyons, and mountains, making it the largest undeveloped portion of coastline in Southern California.
Situated beside the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, San Diego boasts an ideal climate and numerous attractions, attracting travelers from around the world. Some of the must-sees include the popular SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo. Those desiring to learn some history can visit one of many museums, including the Museum of Man, the Natural History Museum and the Maritime Museum.
Drawing back to its Latin roots, the city boasts destinations such as Old Town San Diego, as well as Mexican cuisine at one of the many area restaurants. Recreational opportunities are plentiful, with activities such as golfing, hot air ballooning, kayaking, and shopping readily available. Surfing is another popular pastime of the city and visitors searching for surf, sand, and sun are often drawn to Mission Beach and other local beaches to try their luck at the sport or to relax on the sandy shoreline.
Sights & Attractions
California Surf Museum
The California Surf Museum chronicles the history of the sport of surfing.
Carlsbad Mineral Water Spa
Experience a rejuvenated body at the Carlsbad Mineral Water Spa. Enjoy mineral baths, body wraps, massages, facials, and aromatherapy either individually or grouped in spa packages.
Address: 2802 Carlsbad Boulevard | Carlsbad, CA | 92008
Known to locals as the Strand, Mission Beach is one of the most frequented beaches in San Diego. Spanning more than 2 mi (3.2 km) in length, the beach welcomes sunbathers, swimmers, and surfers to its sandy shoreline. Lifeguards are on duty all year round. Address: Mission Blvd. & West Mission Bay Drive | San Diego, CA
Mission Bay Beaches
The beaches here rest in the Mission Bay Park with its 4,235 acres (17 sq km). There is just over 27 mi (45 km) of coastline, 19 (31 km) of which being sandy. Lifeguards are on duty here and they even have fire pits, washrooms, and showers to rinse off the brine after a dip in the ocean. Address: Mission Bay | San Diego, CA
Museum of Making Music
Carlsbad’s Museum of Making Music presents numerous exhibits that allow visitors to interact with the innovations that shaped popular music, from player pianos to digital instruments.
Museum of Contemporary Art-La Jolla
The Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla features more than 3,000 works of art including paintings, drawings, photos and sculptures.
Old Town Square
Situated in San Diego’s Old Town, this square is home to several old-fashioned shops and businesses, as well as several restaurants offering authentic Mexican cuisine. Address: Old Town | San Diego, CA
Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
This museum has many hands-on exhibits along with an IMAX theater. Hours of operation: Monday & Tuesday 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 9:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. Address: 1875 El Prado, | San Diego,, CA | 92163-3303
Salk Institute for Biological Sciences
The Salk Institute for Biological Sciences is named for Jonas Salk, who discovered the cure for polio in the early 1950s. Today, the institute employs over 850 scientists who focus on biological research.
Address: 10010 North Torrey Pines Road | La Jolla, CA | 92037
San Diego Historical Society
The San Diego Historical Society Museum chronicles the history of the city with exhibits and displays from years gone by. Located on El Prado in San Diego, CA. Address: 1649 El Prado | San Diego, CA | 92101
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Scripps Institution of Oceanography is one of the oldest marine research centers in the United States. Located on La Jolla Shores Drive in La Jolla, CA. Address: La Jolla Shores Drive | La Jolla, CA | 92037
San Diego Maritime Museum
This museum attempts to document naval enterprises stretching far back into history. They have a great collection of boats ranging from only years old to vessels originating well-over 100 years ago. They offer permanent exhibits including Age of Sail, Age of Steam, Charting the Sea, Harvesting the Ocean and San Diego’s Navy. They also have temporary events showcasing other marine-themed exhibits. Address: 1492 N Harbor Dr | San Diego, CA | 92101
Serra Museum is a 1929 mission-style building located in Presidio Park. The museum houses a wide range of historic artifacts, including a cannon, all of which range from the Native American, Spanish, Mexican and American periods. Address: 2727 Presidio Dr. | San Diego, CA | 92103
The Villa Montezuma is a Victorian mansion built in 1887 to accommodate Jesse Shepherd, an international author and musician. This nationally recognized historic site offers an assortment of activities including Victorian teas, musicales, poetry readings and interpretive educational programs. Address: 1925 K St | San Diego, CA | 92102