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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Top 10 Reasons to Visit San Diego

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San Diego is a popular Southern California destination with diverse offerings, ranging from 112 kilometers of beaches and year-round outdoor recreational activities to enjoy, to a rich early California history and colorful neighborhoods to be discovered. Here are the top 10 reasons why visitors should vacation in San Diego.


ARTS AND CULTURE AND EARLY CALIFORNIA HISTORY

San Diego is not only California's birthplace, but it is also the state's historic soul. Visitors can travel to San Diego for a thorough lesson on California's beginnings. Whether it is visiting Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma where California was first discovered in 1542, or exploring a gold mine from the Southern California gold rush days of 1869 in the historic mountain town of Julian, San Diego is steep in historical journeys from corner to corner.

Notable historic settings include Mission San Diego de Alcala and Mission San Luis Rey, the first and largest of California's missions, respectively. Old Town San Diego State Historic Park represents San Diego's rich Hispanic heritage from 1821 to 1872, and downtown's historic Gaslamp Quarter was an infamous “red light” district during the Wild West days of the late 1800s. Popular historic tours occur year-round and are complemented by annual historical events like the Festival of the Bells every July at the Mission San Diego de Alcala and the Cabrillo Festival every September at Cabrillo National Monument.

San Diego's rich interest in arts and culture is showcased in some 90 museums, historic sites and monuments. The 1,200-acre Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in the United States, is often referred to as the “Smithsonian of the West” and is home to 15 museums, numerous art galleries, striking Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, five theaters and 16 beautiful gardens. In 2015, Balboa Park will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition which initially developed the park's stunning gardens and striking architecture.

Home of the Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse and The Old Globe theatre, San Diego is a leading theater producing town with World Premiere productions making it to Broadway almost annually. Broadway shows that originated in San Diego include many award winners likeMemphis and Jersey Boys.

San Diego is also home to the San Diego Opera, San Diego Symphony and a kaleidoscope of theater, dance, music, street festivals and visual art events that are held throughout the year.

BEACHES, GOLF AND OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES GALORE

San Diego offers 112 kilometers of beautiful coastline and over 30 unique beaches, from the white sandy shores of Coronado Beach, rated the #1 family beach in the U.S. in 2012, to clothing- optional Black's Beach, set against dramatic sandstone cliffs just north of La Jolla. San Diego is also home to picturesque San Diego Bay and Mission Bay Park, a 4,600-acre aquatic playground that is the largest facility of its kind in the world. Water enthusiasts can sail, swim, surf, snorkel, scuba dive, water-ski, jet-ski, wind surf, paddle board and kite surf along San Diego's beautiful coastline.

San Diego also offers 93 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 like Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Ted Robinson and more. San Diego is also home to approximately 20 golf manufacturers including the nationally recognized names Callaway, TaylorMade and Titliest Golf.

San Diego's great outdoors beckons visitors and sports enthusiasts to exercise 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 Cuyamaca Mountains and camping in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. For adventure seekers, the region offers diving in Wreck Alley, paragliding above the Pacific, sky sailing, hot air ballooning, desert jeep tours, and much more.

CRAFT BEER AND FARM-FRESH FOOD

The New York Times named San Diego as a top travel destination in 2012 for its craft beer culture. Industry leaders like Karl Strauss and Stone Brewing Co. make their homes in San Diego, and the region boasts more than 70 craft breweries and a wide variety of pubs and restaurants catering to those who enjoy unique, locally crafted beers.

In recent years, innovative San Diego breweries like Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey, Ballast Point and Green Flash Brewing Co. have brought home major awards at top international competitions, including the World Beer Cup, beating out traditional brewing destinations like Germany and Belgium. Every November, San Diego hosts San Diego Beer Week, an annual 10-day-long craft beer celebration throughout the county.

Due to a diverse landscape and mild temperatures year-round, San Diego is a farmer's paradise. With more than 6,000 farmers in San Diego County, the region boasts more small family farms than any other county in the U.S. and grows some of the country's most sought-after produce.

Embracing the fruits of the land, top chef talent and restaurateurs focus on local culture over trends and offer a wealth of multifaceted and multicultural culinary experiences. The region's 6,700+ eateries encompass everything from sophisticated temples of haute cuisine to casual, surfside taco and burger shacks, all sharing a commitment to fresh ingredients that are the heart and soul of the San Diego dining tradition.

DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO AND THE HISTORIC GASLAMP QUARTER

Downtown San Diego is a dynamic urban center with trendy new restaurants, nightclubs and retail shops opening throughout the year. Downtown is composed of eight distinct neighborhoods, including the historic Gaslamp Quarter, colorful Little Italy and trendy East Village, each with a distinct personality and allure.

In the historic Gaslamp Quarter, the 16½-blocks listed on the National Register of Historic Places, grand Victorian-era buildings from the late 1800s are home to more than 100 of the city's finest restaurants, 40 nightclubs and bars and 100 retail shops. When the sun sets, the area's nightlife sizzles, attracting thousands of diners, theatergoers and nightclub patrons.

Once home to generations of Italian families who made their living in the local tuna fishing industry, charming Little Italy is a quaint and lively neighborhood filled with outdoor patio cafes, restaurants, pubs, art galleries, boutique shops and the beautiful Amici Park. The revitalization of East Village, a former warehouse district, was ignited in 2004 with the opening of Petro Park, the San Diego Padres' baseball stadium. Today, visitors can enjoy trendy hotels, fashionable restaurants and cafes, rooftop bars, boutique shops and live music venues scattered throughout the area.

EAST AND NORTH COUNTIES

A different world unfolds as one leaves San Diego's coast and travels east to the majestic Cuyamaca Mountains and 640,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. In San Diego's rural East County, a rugged landscape surrounds historic highways and provides scenic backdrops for numerous outdoor recreational offerings, early Native American history and quaint communities like the historic gold mining town of Julian and the desert oasis of Borrego Springs.

Charming country inns, hidden wineries, world-class golf courses, popular casinos, western-themed museums and a vast outdoor playground for hiking, fishing and camping are just a few of East County's year-round offerings. Notable special events include the Julian Fall Apple Harvest and the spring desert wildflower display when the dry, rugged landscape of the Anza-Borrego Desert is transformed by winter rains into a kaleidoscope of colorful wildflowers.

With majestic sandstone cliffs covered in towering pine trees and expansive sandy beaches along the sparkling Pacific, San Diego's North County coastline offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the nation. Visitors can drive along Historic Highway 101 from luxurious Del Mar to laid-back Oceanside and enjoy numerous sites en route, along with diverse and vibrant communities that capture the true essence of Southern California.

Highlights include the Del Mar Racetrack where the “turf meets the surf” at one of the country's most scenic racetracks. The Cedros Design District in Solana Beach is a seaside niche of artist studios, galleries and boutique shops specializing in everything from clothing and wearable art to imported hand-crafted items. The iconic Swami's break in Encinitas is rated one the best surf spots in the nation and was made famous by the Beach Boys' hit song “Surfin' U.S.A.” Oceanside is home to the longest wooden pier on the West Coast and the California Surf Museum.

FAMILY DESTINATION

San Diego is consistently recognized as one of the leading family destinations worldwide for families with children of all ages. In addition to 112 kilometers of pristine beaches, nearly perfect climate and popular year-round special events, San Diego is known for world-class family attractions including the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, LEGOLAND California Resort, SeaWorld San Diego and Balboa Park. San Diego also offers the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the new Aquatica SeaWorld San Diego, Belmont Park with is historic Giant Dipper rollercoaster, and so much more.

During the entire month of October, families with children can enjoy special deals at San Diego hotels, restaurants, attractions, museums and transportation companies during “Kids Free San Diego” Month. Providing families an opportunity to save during budget-conscious times, “Kids Free San Diego” Month offers a variety of “kids free” incentives ranging from complimentary meals and attraction admission to welcome amenities at area hotels.

LUXURY RESORTS AND WORLD-CLASS SPAS

From beachfront to inland properties, San Diego is home to a variety of luxurious resorts and hotels that offer a multitude of amenities to pamper their guests. Top-rated properties are the Five Diamond Lodge at Torrey Pines, set above the blue Pacific in La Jolla, and the award-winning Grand Del Mar, nestled amidst the serene Los Panesquitos Canyon Preserve. Other notable San Diego accommodation properties include the landmark Hotel del Coronado, THE US GRANT in downtown San Diego, Loews Coronado Bay Resort, La Valencia Hotel, the Rancho Bernardo Inn and Spa and many more.

With San Diego's perfect climate and natural beauty, it is not surprising that health, fitness and relaxation enthusiasts are drawn to the region. San Diego is home to a large selection of award-winning day spas, destination spas and resort spas including the award-winning Spa at Rancho Bernardo Inn and The Spa at The Grand Del Mar. From intimate to expansive, San Diego offers a wide variety of unique facilities from the Sea Spa at Loews Coronado Bay Resort to the Rock Spa at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego.

In San Diego, Mother Nature's playground is also a sanctuary for the soul providing a perfect backdrop to find inner peace. Nurturing activities like yoga, tai chi and meditation are enjoyed on the wide green lawns of Balboa Park, the beaches of the sparkling blue Pacific, and the lush gardens of the Self-Realization Fellowship Temple and Ashram Center in Encinitas.

NEIGHBORHOODS INCLUDING LA JOLLA AND CORONADO

The true character and color of San Diego can be found in its neighborhoods, and the variety and diversity of the city's 100+ neighborhoods paint a striking portrait of California's second largest city. From the popular outdoor cafes and Italian eateries of Little Italy, to the hip and trendy offerings of East Village, Hillcrest and North Park, and to the laidback 60's attitude of Ocean Beach, San Diego is a multi-faceted metropolis.

The Mediterranean-style village of La Jolla, 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 hotels and resorts, fine dining with breathtaking ocean views, lush shopping and sophisticated, world-class arts and culture. La Jolla's strikingly beautiful setting is complemented by endless outdoor recreational activities including diving, kayaking, surfing, paragliding and golf. Notable special events include the Farmers Insurance Open in January, the La Jolla Concours D'Elegance Motor Car Classic in April and the Annual La Jolla Festival of the Arts and Food Faire in June.

Situated a bridge across from downtown San Diego, Coronado offers a rich, romantic history, the nation's top family beach according to Dr. Beach of the travel Channel, and an idyllic seaside paradise for visitors to enjoy throughout the year. The “Crown City” also offers intimate B&Bs and luxury resorts like the landmark Hotel del Coronado, beautiful gardens, elegant mansions, a charming 1950's-style downtown and an all-American small-town quaintness. Notable special events include the Coronado Flower Show Weekend in April, the largest Independence Day celebration on the West Coast in July and a festive holiday celebration and parade in December.

Visitors can mingle with the locals at many colorful and unique neighborhood events held annually throughout the year. Most popular neighborhood events are the Roots Fest on Adams Park every spring, the Ocean Beach Street Fair and Chili Cook Off and the Hillcrest Cityfest every summer, and the Adams Avenue Street Fair and La Jolla Art & Wine Festival every fall.

SHOPPING

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 downtown's Gaslamp Quarter, East Village and Little Italy and their trendy neighbors Hillcrest and North Park. Between the laid-back Ocean Beach Antique District and Solana Beach's modern Cedros Design District, there is no shortage of home d├ęcor offerings in San Diego.

For the dreamer in everyone, luxury locales like La Jolla and Del Mar stock sophisticated designer labels, exquisite fine jewelry and original artwork. San Diego's major outdoor malls like Fashion Valley and Westin Horton Plaza and the unrivaled bargain shopping in three popular outlet centers are sure to delight the most serious shoppers.

SPECIAL AND MULTICULTURAL EVENTS

Throughout the year, San Diego plays host to a variety of annual special events, ranging from the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition every 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, Comic-Con, Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp Quarter, the Julian Fall Apple Harvest, Fallbrook Avocado Festival, Mission Federal Artwalk, Fleet Week, and many more.

San Diego 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. The region's annual festivals and celebrations, neighborhoods, theatres, museums and dining opportunities reflect diverse cultures and lifestyles, including African-American, Asian-American, Italian, Jewish, Latino-American, LGBT, Native American and more.

Notable multicultural festivals and celebrations include the Annual Little Italy FESTA and Annual Sicilian Festival, San Diego LGBT Pride, Rally and Festival, the Pacific Islander Festival, Old Town Fiesta Cinco de Mayo, Annual Sycuan Pow Wow, Octoberfest in La Mesa and many others.

Happiness is calling in San Diego. For more information on San Diego's offerings, visit the San Diego Tourism Authority's website at www.sandiego.org.
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