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The San Diego Zoo
The world's greatest zoo is a must-see, over and over. This 100-acre, lushly landscaped facility is what all zoos in the world measure up to. Bio-climatic exhibits such as Tiger River, Polar Bear Plunge, and Ituri Forest simulate habitats that allow native animals to roam and intermingle. And of course, one mustn't miss the Pacific Bell Giant Panda Research Station, home to Shi Shi, Bai Yun and homegrown celebrity Hua Mei.
Home of Shamu, Sea World brings ocean life right before your eyes. From entertaining and educational shows featuring Shamu the killer whale, dolphin interaction, shark and penguin encounters, as well as amusement rides like Shipwreck Rapids, Sea World has something to entertain any age.
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park recreates life in the Mexican and early American periods of 1821 to 1872. Five original adobes are part of the complex, which includes shops, restaurants and a museum. La Casa de Estudillo is a mansion built around a garden courtyard. La Casa de Machado y Stewart is full of artifacts that reflect ordinary life of the period. Other historic buildings include a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, San Diego's first newspaper office, and a stable with a carriage collection. (San Diego became California's first Spanish settlement when a mission and fort were established in 1769.)
San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park
This giant, 1,800 acre animal facility, located about 40-minutes north of San Diego, is not your father's zoo. In fact, it's more like an wildlife preserve, with exotic animals roaming free in huge enclosures replicating native habitats in Asia and Africa. Take the Wgasa Bush Line Railway to get a taste of the scope of this place, and then roam Nairobi Village and the Heart of Africa, where you get up close views of cheetahs, giraffes and okapi. Open Daily.
Natural History Museum
The San Diego Society of Natural History has engaged in scientific field work and systematics research since 1874. The extensive scientific collections of the Biodiversity Research Center of the Californias represent a permanent record of our natural heritage. They contain materials that support the research of many scientific disciplines, including those working to define and preserve biodiversity and monitor global change. Scientific collections are a continuing investment by society in the effort to understand the natural world. In the face of disappearing habitats, species extinctions, and the destruction of geological and paleontological sites, the specimens in our collections have become nonrenewable resources.
San Diego Balboa Park
Home to many of the city's museums and cultural attractions, Balboa Park is the crown jewel of San Diego. This enormous greenbelt in the middle of the city is the community's gathering place. Catch a first-class play at the renown Old Globe Theatre, observe the works of master artists at the San Diego Museum of Art and the Museum of Photographic Arts, salute local sports heroes at the Hall of Champions, gain some knowledge at the Fleet Science Center and Museum of Natural History, or just enjoy the beautifully landscaped open space. Balboa Park has something for everyone.
The newest addition to San Diego's amusement parks, LegoLand, located in Carlsbad, just north of San Diego, is just what its name implies. Based on the hugely popular interactive toy blocks everyone played with as kids, LegoLand brings it all to life with interactive rides and amusements for the younger set, especially those who are toddlers to preteens. But adults will enjoy LegoLand as well, especially the fascinating and impressive replications of famous cities using Legos.
It's what San Diego is all about. San Diego's Embarcadero is a place of great scenic views and is the essence of San Diego. Start at the foot of Broadway in downtown. Stroll north where you'll see cruise ships in port, the historic Star of India sailing ship, and the handsome County Administration Building across the street. South from Broadway pier, you might see a Navy ship or two docked, and farther down, you'll end up at Seaport Village, a popular shopping and dining complex on the waterfront. Also, at the Broadway pier, you can catch the ferry to Coronado across the bay. Take a walking tour of the downtown waterfront.
Scenic. That's how best to describe San Diego's beaches. And each one has its own flavor and personality. From the funkiness of Ocean Beach, to the seclusion of Black's Beach, there's just about a beach to match your own mood for the day. Oh, yeah, did we mention the scenery?
Where is Julian?: Julian is 60 miles northeast of San Diego situated between the northern end of the Cuyamaca Mountains and the southern slope of Volcan Mountain, west the Anza Borrego desert. Depending on traffic and which route you take, it is about a 60-90 minute drive from central San Diego. Why is it an attraction?: Julian is a quaint mountain town that offers San Diegans (and Southern Californians) a taste of the rural, mountain lifestyle that we aren't usually exposed to. For those of us used to surf, sand and palm trees, it gives us a chance to experience oak and pine forests and fresh mountain air.
Fashion Valley Center
The class of San Diego malls, Fashion Valley has arguably the best of the upscale stores. Nordstrom, JC Penney, Macy's, Nieman Marcus and Robinson's May anchor this well appointed two-level outdoor mall. Where else will you find a Tiffany store? Good restaurants and an AMC multiplex make this a place to go beyond shopping. Tidbit: Parking is easiest in the south-side parking structures.
Horton Plaza's construction in the mid-80s jump-started the Gaslamp renaissance. Its multi-level, somewhat confusing whimsical architecture is a must-see for any San Diego visitor. Nordstrom, Macy's and a wide array of shops and eateries make this the noontime stop for downtown workers. Tidbit: The parking structures can be confusing for first-timers. They are designated by vegetables and fruits.
Viejas Outlet Center
Not a shopping mall in the traditional sense, the Viejas Factory Outlet, opposite the Viejas Casino, is actually very pleasant. Not your typical outlet center, Viejas follows a Native American theme, with meandering walkways with water features. A wide array of well-known outlet stores (Nike, Hilfiger) is made for the bargain hunter. Tidbit
University Town Center
One of the many Westfield Shoppingtown entities, UTC is your typical outdoor mall. Located in the Golden Triangle area, it caters to the yuppie/soccer mom crowd. The well-used ice skating rink distinguishes the mall from others of Westfield's homogenous stable. Nordstrom, Sears, Robinson's May and Macy's are the majors. Tidbit: The ice rink is the place to stay cool on hot days.
North County Fair
Another Westfield Shopping Town, North County Fair serves the North County bedroom communities. This large, two-level indoor mall has your usual allotment of department stores and shops. As an indoor mall, it has a generic, unexciting quality. Not bad, but not all that impressive. Tidbit: North County Fair has a mall walkers program - perfect for hot or rainy days.
Yet another Westfield mall, Parkway Plaza is the regional mall serving East County. This indoor, single level mall is a necessity in scorching El Cajon. Malls tend to reflect their clientele, and Parkway serves the unpretentious, middle America of East County. Young adult shops, a Regal Cinema and a food court make this the area's teen hangout. Tidbit: Parkway was the county's first indoor mall.
Plaza Camino Real
Another generic, indoor Westfield mall, Plaza Camino Real serves the North County Coastal area (Encinitas, Carlsbad, Oceanside). Two-level, with the usual assortment of stores, Plaza Camino is as undistinguished as North County Fair, except they have a Cinema Plaza Theater. Tidbit: The mall has a Playtown area for kids.
Located in the South County area, Plaza Bonita is the Westfield indoor, two-level counterpart to Plaza Camino Real. In fact, other than the more ethnically diverse makeup of the Chula Vista, National City area shoppers (Hispanic, Filipino), you wouldn't know if you were in Plaza Camino, North County or Plaza Bonita. Tidbit: The '80s era mall is undergoing a refurbishing.
This quaint mall in La Mesa is the shopping center that time forgot. It's a cozy, well-maintained outdoor mall in La Mesa that is lacking in pizazz and choices - in fact, it's a bit dull. But in the world of mega-malls, sometimes dull is OK. Anchored by a two-story Target and a smallish Macy's, Grossmont also has a Pacific Cinema. Tidbit: There's a surprsingly good choice of sitdown restaurants.
Mission Valley Shopping Center
This Westfield center doesn't have the homogenous quality of the others. In fact, large Mission Valley Center is kind of a mess. Its layout is a mess (a remnant of the '60s) and it's the most downscale of the are shopping malls. The selection of shops and the gigantic AMC multiplex suggest a catering to the teen and young adult crowd. Tidbit: Serious shoppers go a mile west to Fashion Valley.