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Jon Sullivan/PDPhoto.org

La Jolla Cove, north of San Diego, is ideal for beachcombers and snorkelers


Top Destinations  ·  Southern California  ·  San Diego Area

San Diego - La Jolla - Coronado - Escondito

Why visit San Diego? San Diego has more than 30 beaches, 50 public golf courses, a world famous zoo and many, many museums and theme parks – so planning a vacation is easy. San Diego is California’s second largest city but it does not feel crowded. With 70 miles of beaches in San Diego County, you’ll always find a prime spot for your towel.

Local Cities & Towns

Jon Sullivan/PDPhoto.org

San Diego's glowing skyline at dusk

San Diego boasts near-perennial summer, a huge stock of accommodations from budget to luxury for vacations with no limits. Head to the Gaslamp Quarter for nightly entertainment, pubs and restaurants. Go east to Julian or the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Or, head north to La Jolla and Del Mar. Our scenic drives show you the way.
Some of the highlights of this destination include:

Attractions: San Diego Zoo, San Diego Wild Animal Park, Old Town San Diego, Sea World San Diego, Cabrillo National Monument, Horton Plaza, Legoland, Belmont Park, Maritime Museum, Seaport Village, Crystal Pier, Mission Bay Park, La Jolla Cove and many more.

Towns: San Diego, La Jolla, Del Mar, Coronado, Escondito, Imperial Beach, La Mesa

Beaches: Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, Black’s Beach, Windansea Beach, Ocean Beach, La Jolla Shores Beach, Torrey Pines State Beach

State Parks: Torrey Pines State Reserve

San Diego Scenic Drives

Scenic Drive
San Diego
Destination Index Print/Zoom

SCENICE DRIVES: San Diego is loaded with great sights and activities – too many for a single drive. The map shows three drives, allowing for time to get out and stick your toes in the sand, enjoy a meal, tour a ship or a museum...whatever "vacation" means to you.

Tour 1: Seaport Village to Point Loma to Old Town

Start at Seaport Village near downtown San Diego on the Bay for a relaxing place to walk, dine and shop. Head north on Harbor to the Maritime Museum with three historic vessels (a tall ship, a ferry and a yacht). Next, head west to Point Loma and the Cabrillo National Monument for great views of the Pacific Ocean. December through February is the season for spotting whales but the tidepools are interesting year-round.

Backtrack north to Sunset Cliffs for more gorgeous views, stopping at Ocean Beach if you have time. Otherwise, turn right on W. Point Loma, right on Midway and left on Rosecrans to find Old Town, the state historic park. The park showcases the first European settlement in California with historic buildings amid shops, restaurants and tours.  

End the day by taking I-5 south to 6th Ave where you head south to the Gaslamp Quarter, the main restaurant, theatre and entertainment district on the edge of downtown.   

Tour 2: Horton Plaza to Balboa Park to Coronado

Horton Plaza is a fun place to start your next San Diego day – right in the center of downtown, these colorful shops and restaurants are great to explore and do some people-watching, especially on a sunny day. Parking nearby. Head north on 1st to the Hillcrest neighborhood for a more laid back, funky version of San Diego life away from skyscrapers and sand.

Take Washington St. to 163 and head south into Balboa Park, a destination known worldwide. There is plenty of parking for visitors.  The Park is home to the famous San Diego Zoo and a long list of other attractions like the Aerospace Museum, the Museum of Man, Model Railroad Museum, Museum of Art...and many more. There are fountains, gardens, historic buildings – more things to see and do in a day so plan ahead.

Take I-5 out of the Balboa Park to the Coronado Bridge for a scenic crossing to Coronado (perhaps for sunset on the beach). Don’t miss the landmark Hotel del Coronado, a historic Victorian hotel right on the water. Enjoy the beach, a cocktail or a bike ride and backtrack on the Bridge to return to San Diego.

SIDETRIP: Continue south on Silver Strand Blvd. to Imperial Beach or even further south to Tijuana, Mexico.

Tour 3: Sea World – Beaches – La Jolla

Start in Mission Bay Park where the large Sea World complex attracts crowds with open-air shows, rides and demonstrations. Head north on Ingraham, left on Grand Ave. to enjoy the coast. Crystal Pier and Pacific Beach areas are quintessential San Diego beaches with sunbathers, continuous volleyball games, skaters, snack shops, surf shops and, right on the Pier, a motel!

Continue north along the rugged coast to La Jolla, a wealthy town with a nice shopping/restauarant district on Prospect. The main attraction is the Cove where sea lions and pelicans dominate the scene. Great beachcombing nearby.

SIDETRIP: Continue northward to visit Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute or Torrey Pines State Reserve.  

SIDETRIP: If you continue northward to Carlsbad, watch the hillsides to spot the huge fields of brilliant colors (a major source for millions of annual flower plants). It is also the location of Legoland, a popular theme park for young children.

Make a loop around La Jolla on Torrey Pines Rd. to return southward but first make a left onto Nautilus for another scenic view from the hills. At the top, stop at Soledad Natural Park before continuing south. At Garnet, turn right to head back to the beach where you will turn left near Crystal Pier. Follow Mission Blvd to Mission Beach and Belmont Park where you can ride a restored 1925 wooden roller coaster at the water’s edge.


Jon Sullivan/PDPhoto.org
Colorful Horton Plaza offers six blocks of shopping in downtown San Diego

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