Old Town State Park enables visitors to travel back in time and experience life during San Diego’s Mexican and early American period between 1821 and 1872. Visit restored and recreated historic buildings where you can view exhibits featuring a wide range of artifacts. Costumed interpreters relay fascinating stories and little-known facts about the rich culture of San Diego.
San Diego is a thriving city constantly welcoming visitors from around the globe. With its endless sunshine, ocean waves, countless trails and picturesque shoreline, visitors flock to America’s finest city for relaxation, reinvigoration and rest. Some come for the laid-back atmosphere while others come for the outdoor activities. Some come for those destination celebrations while others come to check out the sights. Many bring their special someone to share in their joy.
Flagship Harbor Cruises are the most beautiful way to enjoy the best of San Diego. Take in the sights, sounds and stories of the bay on a relaxing cruise with a unique perspective on San Diego that you can only get from the water. Your professional guide will share entertaining facts and history that helped to shape our city’s distinctive waterfront. Our luxury ships feature three levels with comfortable indoor and outdoor seating, 360-degree views, and an on-board bar serving snacks, sodas, beer and wine. Each of our 1-hour North Harbor and South Harbor tours provides up-close access to scenic waterfront architecture, military crafts, historical landmarks, natural sea life and spectacular photo opportunities. Can’t decide? You don’t have to. Choose the 2-hour combined tour for just a few dollars more and see it all!
Honoring the slain civil rights leader, the tree-lined Martin Luther King, Jr. Promenade features sculptures like the stainless steel “Breaking of the Chains” by renowned artist Melvin Edwards. There is also a fountain and a hedge maze. Located across from the convention center, the promenade runs adjacent to Harbor Boulevard with its wide assortment of shops and restaurants. The esplanade connects several popular sites along the city’s waterfront. It is the setting for the annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration, which includes food, music, various activities and other entertainment.
Hello, I’m David Thornton, General Manager of Old Town Trolley of San Diego and CASTmember since 2001. As you explore the scenic coastal landscape, you’ll learn why San Diego is called “America’s Finest City.” Since 1989, Old Town Trolley Tours has provided sightseeing tours highlighting the best of San Diego. Hop aboard one of our trolleys and you’ll experience Transportainment, a delightful combination of transportation and entertainment.
Known as “America’s Finest City”, San Diego offers a wide array of things to do and see for visitors of all ages. Let Old Town Trolley show you California’s second largest city, where blue skies, exciting attractions and 70 miles of beaches come together to create a vacationer’s paradise. For over 25 years, Old Town Trolley Tours has been providing sightseeing tours highlighting the best San Diego attractions. Hop aboard one of our trolleys and you’ll experience Transportainment, a delightful combination of transportation and entertainment. The Attraction that takes you to the attractions, Old Town Trolley Tours is the best way to see the city, highlighting the best of San Diego.
Did you know that San Diego has 70 miles of pristine coastline? Add that to year-round sunshine and mild temperatures, and you have a California coastal city with some of the best beaches in the world. With 70 miles along the Pacific Ocean, San Diego (California’s second largest city) is divided into six beach regions including Coronado, La Jolla, Mission Bay and Beaches, North County Coastal, South Bay and Point Loma, Harbor Island and Shelter Island.
Philanthropists John and Adolph Spreckels donated a large pipe organ to be part of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Harrison Albright designed the semi-circular Italian Renaissance-style pavilion housing the musical instrument. A self-taught architect from Los Angeles, Albright also designed downtown San Diego’s U.S. Grant Hotel. The ornate vaulted pavilion features highly embellished gables. Located in Balboa Park, the building faces north to protect the 80 ranks of more than 5,000 pipes from the sun’s UV radiation. It is the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ. The pavilion hosts free concerts Sunday afternoon and other concerts throughout the year.
Pandas, penguins and rare plant life are just a hint of what you’ll see when you visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Throughout its 100 acres, you’ll feel as if you’ve traveled around the world as you see some of the most intriguing and rarely-seen animals lounge in their natural, expansive habitats. With more than 4,000 animals representing 800 species, the San Diego Zoo stands out among other zoos for its diverse wildlife citizens.
We created this page to help guests plan a great celebration while visiting the San Diego area. We’ll offer you some local tips on the best places to watch the fireworks and celebrate America’s Birthday!
Balboa Park is where the arts, culture and history of San Diego come together to create a 1,200 acre wonderland filled with unforgettable experiences for people of every age. Thriving botanical beauty flourishes throughout and surrounds 15 museums, a variety of performing arts and musical theaters, exotic gardens, fabulous restaurants, upscale shopping, the San Diego Zoo and exquisite Spanish Moor architecture. Known as America’s largest urban cultural park, more than 500,000 visitors come each year to delight in the beauty and amazing attractions of Balboa Park.
Just steps away from the Hotel del Coronado is the exquisite Coronado Beach. Located on the ocean side of Coronado Island, it’s the ideal setting to surf, swim or snooze in the sun. Voted the # 2 beach in America and the # 1 family beach, the pretty white sands and refreshing ocean waters attract both locals and tourists. It’s a great place to relax, play and watch the sun as it sets over the Pacific. There’s much to do, from beach volleyball to whale watching in the winter months. And because of its location, views of San Diego are panoramic.
A small island town in San Diego Bay, Coronado is known for its fascinating beginnings, its idyllic setting and of course, its beautiful beach resorts. The founders of Coronado Island were visionaries, building an entire community around the idea of drawing tourists from around the globe. They did it knowing that people from all walks of life would come. They would come to soak in the San Diego sun and to see the stunning sights of the San Diego Bay. And they couldn’t have been more correct. Throughout its more than 120-year history, millions of visitors have traveled to Coronado to enjoy the waterfront ambiance, dine at the fabulous restaurants, shop at the upscale boutiques and view the many historic buildings. They also came to be spoiled by the lavish amenities of the world-Famous Hotel del Coronado.
Eat, shop and enjoy at Little Italy Mercato every Saturday, year round, 9 am to 1:30 pm. The Little Italy Mercato is the city market for downtown San Diego residents and visitors with more than 70 booths lining Date Street from Kettner to Union offering farm fresh produce, artisan foods and specialty items.
With tables and chairs, benches and stoops, with a fountain constantly gurgling a serene background noise and the bay just within eyesight, this urban piazza in the heart of Little Italy is just amazing. Enjoy a coffee, a rendezvous or a book while you bask in a sunlit day with a cool bay breeze. This memorial to neighborhood soldiers who died during the Korean War is a beautiful monument to these heroes. It serves as a tranquil oasis in the middle of one of the busiest blocks in the city.
Throughout the nation, Little Italy neighborhoods symbolize the tremendous contribution that Italians have made to the culture and history of the United States. Covering a gorgeous and walkable 48-square-block area of northwest downtown San Diego, this ethnic enclave is the largest of its kind in the country. Hosting several festivals throughout the year, the neighborhood boasts street-side cafes, art galleries and a beautiful urban park.
Children of all ages are in for a real treat when visiting the Fleet Science Center. From virtual reality to interactive exhibits and the world’s first IMAX Dome Theater, most folks are having too much fun to realize they’re learning! In the IMAX Theater, see the biggest films on the planet and feel the sensation of floating in space. Travel from outer space to under the ocean and see the planetarium shows. Then, tour the more than 100 touchable, try-able exhibits in five different galleries. There’s even a special area just for kids under six.
The San Diego Natural History Museum is the second oldest scientific institution in Southern California and home to a variety of intriguing exhibits. Watch in wonder how the Foucault pendulum swings back and forth, knocking over different dominoes throughout the day, signifying the Earth’s rotation. Invented in 1851 by French physicist Jean Foucault, observers enjoy learning how the pendulum works.
Just a short, scenic 15 minute sightseeing trip across San Diego Bay takes you to The Ferry Landing Marketplace, Coronado’s specialty shopping and dining center. Browse through unique shops and galleries. Dine at Peohe’s, Coronado’s premier waterfront seafood restaurant. Enjoy casual California cuisine at Bay Beach Cafe. Grab a quick bite at a fun food eatery. Rent a bicycle. Experience magnificent city views.
PETCO Park is spectacular in every way, combining the best sight lines in baseball with breathtaking views of San Diego. Architecturally magnificent, it celebrates the sea, the sky, the natural beauty, cultural diversity and unique spirit of our region. Innovative design features evoke the timeless traditions of baseball in an intimate setting, with state-of-the-art fan amenities to suit every taste and budget.
The San Diego Asian Pacific Historic District, San Diego’s historic Chinatown, is an eight-block district adjacent to and in part overlapping with the Gaslamp Quarter Historic District. The San Diego Chinatown is bounded by Market Street on the north, 2nd Ave. on the west, 6th ave. on the east and J st. on the south. 22 structures are considered historically contributing.
Stained glass windows, moldings, carvings, columns and railings are just a part of the fantastic masterpieces that line the streets in the historic Gaslamp Quarter. Equipped with today’s gaslamps, brick sidewalks, landscaping, galleries, theaters, boutiques and shops, more than 100 restaurants, bars and nightclubs, the Gaslamp Quarter is where San Diego’s amazing history still thrives. Visited by millions of travelers each year, the area pulsates with activity from morning until the late night hours.
Located in the Marina District near the Gaslamp Quarter, the San Diego Convention Center was designed by Arthur Erickson, a Canadian architect. Boasting more than 600,000 square feet of exhibition space, it is the 24th largest facility of its kind in North America. The roof of the Sails Pavilion is the building’s most distinctive feature. The Teflon-coated fiberglass panels summon images of ship sails and reflect the maritime history of the city. Another unique feature is the outdoor, inclined elevator. Completed in 1989 and expanded 12 years later, the convention center hosts major political, business and entertainment events like the annual Comic-Con Convention.
Due to the Port of San Diego’s construction of the Shelter Island boat ramp, the seaward leg of our tour has been rerouted to splash down in nearby Mission Bay.
Splash into San Diego’s most unique sightseeing adventure! Both tour bus and boat, the San Diego SEAL Tour journeys through San Diego by sea AND land. Our unique “Hydra-Terra” amphibious vehicles are Coast Guard approved, ensuring you a safe, one of a kind experience. Your fully narrated tour will depart from San Diego’s Seaport Village on Harbor Drive or Embarcadero, and will tour the historic streets of San Diego before making its way into San Diego’s Big Bay.
The world-renown Maritime Museum of San Diego was founded in 1948 by a group of local historians and maritime experts. Here visitors from around the globe come to walk the decks of the magnificent Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship. Built in 1863, the Star of India made her first voyage on November 14 of that year. The ship sailed for many years from Great Britain to India and then to New Zealand. After many difficult journeys, the ship became a salmon hauler from Alaska to California. Once retired, the Star of India was acquired by maritime enthusiasts and is now an official National Historic Landmark. Fully restored, the Star of India is lovingly maintained and sailed at least once a year.
San Diego’s history dates back centuries. Seen as the entrance point for control of the west by Europeans, Presidio Park remains a place of history amidst the city of San Diego. Interpreting the entire site for guests is the Junipero Serra Museum which houses many artifacts dealing with Spanish and Mexican heritage, colonization, the beginnings of customs within California and showcasing the lives of those who began it all. The presidio, first built to protect colonists from attack, later took on roles as military headquarters and a central outdoor space to remember history.
As a testament to the foundational beginnings of California, heralding exploration by Spain and Mexico, this national historic landmark reminds all who visit of the obstacles, successes and struggles of the long period of colonization.As a testament to the foundational beginnings of California, heralding exploration by Spain and Mexico, this national historic landmark reminds all who visit of the obstacles, successes and struggles of the long period of colonization.
Located in Old Town, second oldest cemetery in San Diego had burials from 1849 to 1880. In 1933, the San Diego Historical Society restored in the cemetery based on descriptions and photographs, but over the years some of the boundaries have been moved to accommodate for city development. In 1889 a horse-drawn streetcar line was built through part of the cemetery, which later became San Diego Avenue. In 1942 it was paved over, leaving as many as 18 graves under the street and sidewalk. The Ghosts and Gravestones San Diego Tour takes visitors on an intimate nighttime journey through the cemetery to explain the haunted history of this Old Town landmark.
The best way to see the Big Bay, as it is referred to by the locals in San Diego, is hopping on board a Harbor Cruise. While cruising in the North Bay, visitors will hear an informative narrative about the San Diego bay and experience picturesque views along with historic sights like the North Island Naval Air Station, the United States Naval Submarine Base and Point Loma.
Those that choose the South Bay cruise get the opportunity to see the Coronado Bay Bridge, the bustling Navy Shipyards and the surface fleet.
Completed in 1917, the Immaculate Conception Church traces its history back to the first Catholic Mass celebrated in California. Captain Sebastian Vizcaino had a tent hastily erected so that three Catholic priests accompanying his Spanish expedition could celebrate a mass of gratitude for a safe voyage Nov. 12, 1602. The current house of worship replaced an adobe structure built in 1851. The bell tower houses one of the two original bells from the San Diego Mission. The other is located at the Mission San Diego de Alcala.
The USS Midway Aircraft Carrier sits in San Diego at the Navy Pier welcoming and enriching guests from around the world. Its patriotic service and military operations are brought to life throughout this interactive museum. Relive the legacy of the longest-serving aircraft carrier in U.S. Naval history-47 years! “Midway Magic” became a recognized term describing the amazing tenacity of the Midway and its crew. When other ships broke down or headed for port, the Midway continued to respond, to perform from the end of WWII all the way through Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
A visit to the San Diego Harbor is not complete without a stroll through the Embarcadero Marina Park. Surrounded by the bay on three sides, the Embarcadero Marina provides an authentic San Diego experience complete with scenic views and fresh sea air. Visitors also get a chance to discover the loyalty and courage of many of our Naval Military personnel through various memorials and statues including the Aircraft Carrier Memorial, The Homecoming Statue, and the USS San Diego Memorial.
San Diego, known as America’s finest city, is a year-round waterfront destination. With many days of sunshine, this southern California haven attracts visitors from across the globe yearning for ocean air, sandy feet and access to vitamin D 365 days a year. Situated in the southwest corner of the United States, San Diego is filled with people living active lifestyles, spending time outside and enjoying the salty sea air. Whether it’s the Pacific Ocean or the bay front, locals and visitors flock to the water. Although the coastline sees its fair share of action, downtown San Diego’s Seaport Village is a hub for locals and travelers alike. Throughout the year, thousands stroll along the San Diego Bay taking in the sights. Be it a beautiful exercise route, trendy retail shop, caricature drawing, or tourist souvenir you’re looking for – Seaport Village has it all!
The Children’s Museum is an environmentally sustainable building that provides a dynamic, playful public space and community center for children and families – a place to experience exciting art exhibitions, hands-on studio projects, performances, birthday parties, in-depth classes, camps and educational programs. Across the street from the new building is a beautiful park, extending the museum visit outdoors with space for running, climbing, family picnics and a view of the trains and trolleys going by.
Serving with distinction during the Mexican-American War, the volunteer Mormon Battalion was the only religiously based unit in U.S. military history. Commanded by Regular Army officers, the unit made a grueling overland march along the Santa Fe Trail from Council Bluffs, Iowa to San Diego. The hands-on exhibits and other resources of the Mormon Battalion Historic Site chronicle the history of this unique military unit and the role that it played in the country’s westward expansion. Located at 2510 Juan Street in Old Town San Diego, the free museum is open seven days a week. Docents lead a 45-minute tour while attired in period dress.
Its stately Greek Revival architecture is an impressive sight, while its mysterious past and mystical reputation cause quite a stir among visitors from all over the world. It is here that the spirits of many original Old Town San Diego citizens are said to roam from room to room and through many of the hallways. Known as the Most Haunted House in America, the Whaley House was the family home of Thomas Whaley.
Join us for free, historic storytelling, shows and entertainment every day of the week. Shop in our 40 unique gift stores, watch working artisans, or enjoy a bite to eat. Learn about the rich history of Old Town San Diego in our free museum. We invite you to visit our Festival Marketplace and experience Old Town San Diego, the Birthplace of California.
Old Town State Park is known as the birthplace of California. In 1821, when Mexico gained independence from Spain, a small group of Mexican settlers began building homes at the foot of the hillside below the first mission and Presidio. Because wood was scarce at the time, sun-dried adobe bricks were used. Thus, the buildings had a different look, a brownish-red color and rough exterior.