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San Diego is consistently recognized as one of the leading family vacation destinations worldwide for families with children of all ages. In addition to 70 miles of pristine beaches, near-perfect climate and year-round special events, San Diego is known for popular family attractions including the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, LEGOLAND California, and SeaWorld San Diego. San Diego also offers the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, Birch Aquarium at Scripps, Knott’s Soak City U.S.A., Belmont Park with its Giant Dipper roller coaster, and much more.
Downtown San Diego and the Historic Gaslamp Quarter
Downtown San Diego has evolved into an exciting urban center with new hotels, shopping and entertainment complexes, and continuing renewal of the historic Gaslamp Quarter. In spring 2004, PETCO Park, the San Diego Padres' new baseball stadium, opened in the redeveloping East Village neighborhood. In summer 2004, the USS Midway Museum, a tribute to modern day USS Naval history, also opened in downtown along the picturesque Embarcadero. Upcoming hotel developments include the October 2006 opening of the boutique-style Keating Hotel, designed by Pininfarina, the Italian design firm responsible for the luxury brands Ferrari and Maserati; the November 2006 opening of the historic U.S. Grant Hotel, after a $52 million renovation; and the spring 2007 opening of the cutting-edge Hard Rock Hotel San Diego.
In the historic Gaslamp Quarter, 16½-blocks around Fourth and Fifth Avenues that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, grand Victorian-era buildings are home to more than 100 of the city's finest restaurants, 35 night-clubs and bars, and 100 retail shops. When the sun sets, the area's nightlife sizzles, attracting thousands of diners, shoppers, theatergoers, and nightclub patrons to downtown. The Gaslamp Quarter is of one San Diego's "hottest" neighborhoods.
Featuring a spectacular natural harbor and an abundance of offerings along the Big Bay, San Diego is becoming a major homeport for the U.S. West Coast cruise industry. The number of cruise ships calling in San Diego has tripled in the past five years. Currently, San Diego passenger traffic has doubled since 2003 and is expected to reach an astounding 648,000 this year. San Diego passengers have more than 100 opportunities to cruise round-trip from San Diego, plus additional offerings to take cruises that either begin or end in San Diego Harbor.
Seasonally, San Diego Bay is the homeport for Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America Line as well as an embarkation and debarkation port for Celebrity and Royal Caribbean ships. During the September-May cruise season, ships docking in San Diego offer itineraries that include the sun-drenched Mexican Riviera and Sea of Cortez; the exotic atmosphere of the Hawaiian Islands; breathtaking vistas of the Pacific Coast; and the adventure of the Panama Canal, Central America and Caribbean. Plans are developing for a new cruise ship terminal, along with Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels, to be built within the next five years along the Harbor.
Nature and Nurture
San Diego's great outdoors beckons guests to explore and unwind year-round. The scope of activities are as varied as the topography, from running along the beach and kayaking in a secluded cove to rock climbing in the rustic backcountry and camping in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. San Diego is the place to be carefree and playful and to discover new places, activities and people, including oneself.
In San Diego, Mother Nature's playground is also a sanctuary for the soul, providing a perfect backdrop to find inner peace. Nurturing activities, such as yoga, tai chi and meditation, are enjoyed on the wide green lawns of Balboa Park and the beaches of the sparkling blue Pacific. A great way to achieve harmony of the mind, body and spirit is to indulge the senses at one of San Diego's luxurious spas and resorts, such as Cal-a-Vie, the Golden Door and Rancho la Puerta in neighboring Tecate, Mexico. The Chopra Center for Well Being, founded by Deepak Chopra, is located at the legendary La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad.
Resorts and Spas
From beachfront to inland properties, San Diego is home to a variety of luxurious four-star and four-diamond resorts and hotels that offer a multitude of amenities to pamper their guests. Four San Diego properties are among “the best places to stay in the world” according to the readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine. Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa, Four Seasons Resort Aviara, Rancho Valencia Resort, and The Lodge at Torrey Pines won spots on the magazine's prestigious Gold List published in its January 2006 issue. Other notable San Diego resorts include the legendary La Costa Resort & Spa, Rancho Bernardo Inn, historic Hotel del Coronado, Loews Coronado Bay Resort, L'Auberge Del Mar Resort and Spa, La Casa Del Zorro Desert Resort and the craftsman-style Lodge at Torrey Pines. Opening in mid-2007 is the Grand Del Mar Resort & Spa, a new 261-room resort hotel offering 5-star accommodations, including 19 suites; an 18-hole Tom Fazio-designed golf course; and a full-service, 21,000 sq. ft. luxury spa.
With San Diego's perfect climate and natural beauty, it's not surprising that health, fitness and relaxation enthusiasts are drawn to the region. In fact, the area is home to one of the largest concentration of European-style spa resorts in the United States. From intimate to expansive, San Diego offers a variety of unique facilities including the Golden Door, the Spa at La Costa, Four Seasons Resort Aviara, Sea Spa at Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Cal-A-Vie and Las Rocas Resort & Spa in Rosarito, Mexico.
Arts and Culture
San Diego is a leading theater producing town with San Diego productions making it to the Great White Way nearly annually. Recent Broadway shows that originated in San Diego include the 2005 Tony Award ®-winner “Jersey Boys,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” the 2004 Tony Award ®-winners “Thoroughly Modern Millie and “I Am My Own Wife,” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” The Old Globe's artistic director Jack O'Brien won the 2004 Tony Award ® for directing "Henry IV" and the 2003 Tony Award ® for directing the hit musical "Hairspray," and is the current toast of the theater world.
The San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park is gearing up for its exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, on display from July through December 2007. For the first time ever, the Israel Antiquities Authority is partnering with the museum to bring a select number of these scrolls, the oldest discovered copies of biblical manuscripts, to San Diego. San Diego’s rich interest in arts and culture is showcased in some 90 museums, historic sites and monuments, with Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in the United States, featuring 15 museums, numerous art galleries and five theaters, including the Tony Award ®-winning Old Globe Theatre.
San Diego is also home to the Tony Award ®-winning La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego Opera, San Diego Symphony, and a kaleidoscope of theater, dance, music, street festivals, visual arts, and an exciting calendar of special events throughout the year. For a complete guide to San Diego's arts and cultural offerings, visit the San Diego Art + Sol Web site, www.sandiegoartandsol.com.
The New York Times raved that San Diego is "now home to a sophisticated restaurant scene." Other notable publications, such as Food Arts, Food & Wine and Gourmet, also featured San Diego's exciting culinary offerings. Dining in San Diego’s more than 100 distinct neighborhoods has evolved due to an influx of world-class culinary talent. Many award-winning chefs who traveled the globe and worked in the world’s finest kitchens now make the city’s many colorful communities their home.
San Diego offers approximately 6,700 restaurants countywide, from the borders of Mexico to the quaint coastal towns of San Diego's North County. Within the region food lovers can find the unique culinary neighborhoods of downtown’s historic Gaslamp Quarter, emerging East Village and Little Italy as well as uptown’s hip Hillcrest and the posh retreats of La Jolla, Del Mar and Rancho Santa Fe. Fresh ingredients handpicked from the area’s many local farmers’ markets and the bounties of the Pacific Ocean define San Diego’s menus.
With more than 100 neighborhoods in San Diego, shopping enthusiasts can spend hours exploring the region’s unique retail districts. Guests seeking hip urban boutiques and the latest in hot new fashions can find plenty of options in the historic Gaslamp Quarter and it’s downtown neighbors, eclectic Hillcrest and up-and-coming Little Italy. Between the laid-back Ocean Beach Antique District and Solana Beach’s modern Cedros Design District, there is no shortage of home décor in San Diego. For serious shoppers and the dreamer in everyone, San Diego’s luxury locales, La Jolla and Del Mar, stock sophisticated designer labels, exquisite fine jewelry of magnificent and brilliant gems, and original artwork. San Diego shopping is sure to delight visitors whether choosing to stroll through the many neighborhoods or checking out the major malls and unrivaled bargain shopping in the region’s popular outlet centers and neighboring Mexico.
The true character and color of every region can be found in its neighborhoods, and the variety and diversity of San Diego's 100 neighborhoods can paint a striking portrait of California's second largest city. From the pristine gardens of Coronado's home fronts to the urban setting of San Diego's downtown to the hip and trendy offerings of Hillcrest, San Diego is a multi-faceted metropolitan city. San Diego's colorful neighborhoods and communities include the historic Gaslamp Quarter, downtown's East Village and Little Italy, Old Town, Coronado Hillcrest, Mission Hills, La Jolla, Ocean Beach, Normal Heights, University Heights, Kensington, Mission and Pacific Beaches, North Park, Barrio Logan, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Escondido, La Mesa, and Chula Vista.
This Mediterranean-style village, curved along the blue Pacific, is considered the “jewel” of San Diego. One of the most sought-after vacation destinations in Southern California, La Jolla offers luxurious and historic hotels and resorts; fine dining with breathtaking ocean views; retail shopping that rivals northern neighbors Rodeo Drive and South Coast Plaza; sophisticated, world-class arts and culture, and a strikingly-beautiful setting complemented by endless outdoor recreational activities. La Jolla also offers a rich history with numerous famous residents, from Gregory Peck to Ted Giesel (aka Dr. Seuss), and some of the nation’s leading scientific research centers, including the internationally renowned Salk Institute and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.
In June 2004, the much-anticipated USS Midway Museum opened along San Diego Bay in downtown San Diego. Visitors can also share in San Diego's rich military history at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Museum, Commemorative Air Force¾Air Group One, the Maritime Museum of San Diego and more. San Diego's Navy and Marine Corps form the largest military complex in the world. San Diego and the Navy-Marine Corps team have a long and proud heritage beginning in 1846; today, more than 130,000 active duty military and defense personnel are stationed in the region, plus another 30,000 Department of Defense civilians who support the Armed Forces.
Guests can get up-close views of U.S. Navy ships on San Diego Bay tours. The popular Old Town Trolley Tours offers the “Tour of Patriotism,” where visitors receive a fully narrated history of all military services in San Diego, from the Spanish conquest through the present day. One of San Diego's most notable annual events is the patriotic Fleet Week celebration, occurring every fall.
San Diego County’s cultural and ethnic diversity includes the largest concentration of Native American tribes (18 total) of any county in the United States. Of this group of more than 20,000, one-quarter of the people live on tribal land, which amounts to more than 126,000 acres spread across the county. Eight Native American Indian tribes that own reservation land—the Barona, Campo, Pala and Pechanga Bands of Mission Indians, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, the Rincon San Luiseno Band of Mission Indians, and the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians—center their activities around bustling casinos. These casinos offer fun and entertainment with a familiar Vegas-style action that is open to the public and all within a 30- to 45-minute drive from downtown San Diego. Many of these casinos offer luxury accommodations, world-class golf, spa facilities, outlet shopping and popular year-round entertainment.
Sports Town USA
San Diego is a sportsman's paradise. For sheer numbers of participants, diversity of pursuits and intensity of involvement, many regard San Diego as the sports and fitness capital of the United States. The region offers a wide range of activities for sporting enthusiasts, such as sailing, swimming, surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, water-skiing, wind surfing, biking, mountain biking, tennis, golf, camping, rock climbing, running, in-line skating, skateboarding and much more.
Spectator sports are also a major feature of the San Diego lifestyle. San Diego is home to the Padres (baseball), Chargers (football), as well as the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and San Diego Polo Club. Annual sporting events include the Buick Invitational of California, Annual San Diego Crew Classic, Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, Acura Classic, Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, and much more. The San Diego Padres' new downtown baseball stadium, PETCO Park, opened in April 2004, and is a centerpiece of downtown redevelopment and excitement.
San Diego offers 92 golf courses in every conceivable setting, from the ocean to the mountains to the desert. The courses feature designs from a “Who’s Who” of golf course architects, such as Arnold Palmer, Alister Mackenzie, Ted Robinson, Robert Trent Jones, and many more. The region is also home to internationally recognized golf tournaments like the annual Buick Invitational of California, played every January.
The Buick Invitational of California is played at the Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, which was chosen as the site for the prestigious 2008 U.S. Open. Additionally, San Diego is home to approximately 20 golf manufacturers, including the nationally recognized names Callaway Golf Company, Taylor Made Golf Company and Ashworth Incorporated.
San Diego features the novelty of a two-nation vacation destination with Tijuana, Mexico located 17 miles from downtown San Diego. Tijuana is one of the most visited cities in the world, boasting more than 60 million border crossings each year. The San Diego Trolley provides a safe and convenient way to visit Tijuana and its wide array of offerings, including nightlife, shopping, dining, entertain-ment and fiestas. The lure of Mexico also extends farther south to resorts well within weekending distance of the United States. A favorite getaway of Hollywood stars in the 1930s and 1940s, Rosarito is known for its beaches, while Ensenada’s attractions tend more toward nightlife and sport fishing.
San Diego’s Diversity
Bordered by Mexico in the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the vast Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in the east and the wine country to the north, San Diego County offers visitors a panoramic variety of things to see and do. Hidden jewels include the turn-of-century mining town, Julian, and Borrego Springs, a desert town of 3,000 residents and no traffic lights! For adventure travelers, the region offers diving in Wreck Alley, shark diving adventures, coastal kayaking, sky sailing, hot air ballooning, desert jeep tours, thrilling rides in vintage WWII combat aircraft and much more.
Throughout the year, San Diego plays host to a variety of annual special events, ranging from the Buick Invitational of California every winter to Street Scene in summer to Balboa Park December Nights every holiday season. With a year-round Mediterranean climate, San Diego can host popular outdoor and indoor special events that appeal to every taste and interest. Some of San Diego's most notable and unique special events include the annual migration of the California gray whale, Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp Quarter, the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition, Julian Fall Apple Harvest, Fleet Week, Pacific Life Holiday Bowl and Parade, the Little Italy Precious Festa and Chalk La Strada, and more.
The San Diego region is rich in multicultural offerings from the historic murals in Chicano Park to the Malcolm X Library in East San Diego to the Chinese Historic District in downtown San Diego. San Diego's festivals and celebrations, neighborhoods, theatres, museums and dining opportunities reflect diverse cultures and lifestyles, including African-American, Asian-American, Latino-American, Italian, Native American, gay and lesbian, Jewish and more. Notable multicultural festivals and celebrations include the Little Italy Art Walk, Martin Luther King Jr. Festival and Parade, San Diego LGBT Pride Celebration, Pacific Islander Festival, San Diego Jewish Film Festival, Nations of San Diego International Dance Festival, Cinco de Mayo, San Diego American Indian Cultural Days and others.