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San Diego is fondly known as ‘America’s Finest City’ and for good reason. Aside from year-round excellent weather and more than 70 miles of pristine beaches, it also has a thriving art and cultural scene, fantastic street food and craft beer, a long history of stately naval aviation, a lively nightlife scene kept alive by its young citizens, and world-famous attractions like San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, SeaWorld San Diego, and LEGOLAND California.
For a fun trip to one of America’s coolest cities, book your San Diego car rental in advance with Enjoy Travel. Prices for San Diego car rental start from just $28 per day for a spacious vehicle like a Jeep Compass or similar. You can also rent premium cars such as a Ford Mustang Convertible from just $85 per day.
Guide to San Diego
San Diego is situated along the Pacific Ocean in the U.S. state of California. The city consists of two unequal portions, the larger part extends north and east of San Diego Bay and the smaller one stretches southeastward from the bay to the Mexican border. It has a varied topography of broad mesas, canyons, and wide valleys. The landscape becomes hillier to the north in the La Jolla region and eastward to a range of mountains along the edge of the city. Los Angeles, the famous home of Hollywood, is located 120 miles northwest of San Diego.
Climate in San Diego
San Diego has a Mediterranean climate with hot sunny and dry summers and cool and wet winters. As such, the best times to visit are from March through May or September through November when you can find great travel deals and lesser crowds. Foodies will love to visit in autumn as culinary festivals like Restaurant Week are held in September.
San Diego is commonly referred to as the ‘Birthplace of California’ as it was the first site on the western coast of the USA to be settled by Europeans. The area was originally named ‘San Miguel’ by the explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo before being later renamed as San Diego after a Spanish monk. It was a part of the Mexican Empire in 1821. However, after the Mexican-American War, California became a part of the United States in 1848 and was admitted into the union as a state in 1850.
Today San Diego is widely known as ‘America’s Finest City’ for its miles and miles of picture-perfect white sands and excellent weather, and boasts an incredibly diverse and multicultural population.
Things To Do in San Diego
Visit the largest urban park in the nation
The cultural heart of San Diego, the 1200-acre Balboa Park is a major tourist magnet. It consists of several historical buildings, world-class museums, manicured gardens, and lush green spaces. It is also home to the renowned San Diego Zoo, which houses over 12000 animals of more than 650 species on 100 acres of land inside the premises. Tourists claim that it is one of the best zoos in the world and it is definitely the most visited zoo in the United States. One of the most photographed buildings in Balboa Park and the largest lath structure in the world is the Botanical Building. It displays more than 2100 permanent plants including spectacular collections of tropical plants, orchids, cactus, and roses. There is also a Japanese-style garden and a palm tree canyon. Later, you may want to catch a show at the Tony award-winning Globe Theater or the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater. Another spellbinding exhibit at the park is the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Last but not least, museums like the San Diego Museum of Arts, the Mingei International Museum, the Museum of Man, the Fleet Science Center, or the San Diego Air and Space Museum will keep you enthralled for hours, if not days.
Hike through gorgeous oceanfront trails
A 30-minute drive outside downtown San Diego will take you to the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, a 1750-acre oceanfront reserve spreading across virgin land protecting the distinctive topography and the different species of flora including America’s rarest pine tree, the Torrey Pine. Tourists flock here for the 8 miles of hiking trails through pine forests and sandstone canyons. Do make sure to visit the 4.5-mile Torrey Pines State Beach offers breathtaking views of the ocean. The oceanfront hiking trail is a must if you want to be greeted by colorful wildflowers and catch sight of gray and blue whales during migration season. If you wish to opt for a guided tour, the quaint pueblo-style visitor’s center offers guided walks on weekends and holidays.
Learn about impressive naval aviation feats
One of the most popular attractions in this city is the USS Midway Museum. The museum is actually found within the longest-serving American naval aircraft carrier of the 20th century - called the USS Midway - and it has been permanently moored at San Diego’s Embarcadero since 2004. It served in critical moments in American history like the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm. Inside this 971-feet-long floating museum, you can explore 60 different exhibits including 30 restored aircraft, 8 propeller planes, 14 jet aircraft, and 8 helicopters. The self-guided audio tour will lead you through the gallery, the crew’s sleeping quarters, the engine room, the primary flight control room as well as the ship’s jail. And if you wish you can get hands-on experience testing flight simulators, climbing into cockpits, and experiencing fo’c’sle knot-tying demonstrations. Later, you can catch films documenting the dramatic events of the wars. The museum also hosts around 400 active-duty military events annually which are open to the public including reenlistment, retirement, and change-of-command ceremonies. It is advisable to arrive early to avoid the long ticket queues.
Discover the city’s history
At the southernmost tip of Point Loma, you will find the Cabrillo National Monument which stands in honor of the Portuguese explorer, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, the first European explorer to navigate the West Coast of the United States in 1542. You can learn about his remarkable ‘Voyage of Discovery’ through a collection of displays and exhibits here. A magnificent statue of Cabrillo gazes out over the land he discovered. From the monument, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, the Point Loma naval base below, downtown San Diego, and even the Tijuana Mountains of Mexico on a clear day. Check out the Old Point Loma Lighthouse built in 1858, which has been refurbished and converted into a lighthouse. You can also drive down Cabrillo Road to experience the Point Loma Tide Pools in winter or take the 2.5-mile Bayside Trail that meanders down into the east side of the point and ends right above the bay waters.
Eating Out in San Diego
In the last decade, the dining scene in San Diego has grown exponentially in variety and cuisines. Here we present some of our recent favorites:
Dije Mara offers classic Indonesian fare like beef short rib rendang and nasi goreng. If you are craving for some authentic sushi then Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub is the place to head to. The omakase experience is worth every penny. Super Cocina is a cafeteria-style restaurant that serves a rotating list of specialty dishes like chicken in cilantro sauce and pozole. The Grass Skirt has a delicious multi-cuisine menu and you will relish their pork buns, dan dan noodles, burgers, and kimchi fried rice. Trust Restaurant is a great choice if you are looking for a place for repeat visits. You can trust that everything on their menu is going to be delicious. Check out their ricotta agnolotti and wood-fired lamb meatballs.
San Diego Transport
San Diego is primarily served by San Diego International Airport (SAN), formerly known as San Diego Municipal Airport – Lindbergh Field. It is located 3 miles northwest of downtown San Diego and is the busiest single-runway airport in the world.
Getting Around San Diego
San Diego has an affordable public transit system that includes trolleys, buses, trains, and shuttles. The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, known as The Trolley, runs on three lines and services over 50 areas in and around the city. The city is also bike-friendly and Bayshore Bikeway is a 24-mile path reserved for cyclists.
However, for maximum convenience and flexibility to see the city and the surrounding attractions in The Golden State in your own time, we recommend renting a car instead.