Communities for Tourists to Explore in San Diego

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San Diego is truly cosmopolitan. The beautiful climate, scenery, and endless amount of activities attract new residents from around the world. Over half of San Diegans were born outside of California and nearly a quarter are foreign immigrants.

San Diego is a melting pot of cultures with ideas and customs brought from all parts of the globe. Combine this with a varied topography where some communities hug the ocean, others are nestled in the mountains or desert, and many more surround the lively downtown area of San Diego, visitors have many opportunities to expand their horizons by exploring different cultures.

You can get started by exploring the communities shown in pictures above. Another great place to visit are the International Cottages in Balboa Park, which are open to the public on Sundays.

In the days ahead, more communities will be added, including the vibrant and LGBT friendly communities of Hillcrest and North Park, just outside of downtown.

Explore the Activities at San Diego’s Major Parks

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San Diego attracts people who love the outdoors. The Mediterranean climate and the variety of topography from ocean beaches and coastal canyons to the mountains and desert makes for great, year-round hiking, biking, and much more to explore the outdoors.

From Torrey Pines State Park sitting above the beach bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean to one of the largest state parks in the country, Anza-Borrego, located in our desert, San Diego offers a variety of state parks for recreation, camping, and exploration.

From Cabrillo National Monument overlooking San Diego Bay to the Cleveland National Forest in our local mountains, San Diego has something for everyone.

The adventurous love to hike from the mountains down to the desert, explore mud caves, and go scuba diving in deep underwater canyons. The rest of us enjoy meandering along trails full of flowers while looking out over the ocean for passing dolphins, sailing through the calm waters of San Diego Bay, and going for a drive through the mountains of dense forest and desert overlooks.

Start exploring outdoor San Diego by selecting each of the picture tabs above.

Explore San Diego’s Top Museums

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San Diego is usually best associated with its outdoor attractions that take advantage of the great year-round weather. What most tourists don’t realize is San Diego offers a plethora of great museums that are among the best of their kind in the country.

San Diego’s Natural History Museum is one of the oldest museums west of the Mississippi River and has benefited from the fact there is more fossil history representing the last seven million years found in San Diego’s desert than anywhere else.

Our Sports and Model Railroad Museums are the largest of their kind in the country.

The Timken Museum of Art, which houses the works of Old World Masters, is free to the public.

San Diego’s great climate has attracted the world’s best aviators and airplane manufacturers for over 100 years, leaving an aviation history that is unparalleled and represented at several local museums.

Our Fleet Science Center was home to the first IMAX Globe Theater in the country and is now the first to become home to the newest generation of IMAX Globes.

Come visit the unsung heroes of San Diego tourism. Open your eyes to new experiences by selecting each of the picture tabs above or review the summaries of the Most Popular below and explore the museums of San Diego.

Explore the San Diego Mountains and Desert

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What is the best thing about San Diego? You and a friend can go for a walk on the beach in the morning, throw snowballs at each other an hour later while playing under the pine trees in the mountains of the Cleveland National Forest, and then have lunch amidst colorful wildflowers in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Many tourists come to San Diego for the beaches and then try to make time for the most popular attractions like the Zoo or SeaWorld. Once they arrive, they figure out there is a lot more to do in San Diego than they realized. They are also surprised to find we have mountains and desert attractions for them to enjoy as well.

The Eastern Europeans seem to have figured this out. The deeper you go into the mountains and desert, the more the Eastern Europeans outnumber everyone else.

This guide is your opportunity to find out why people love to live in San Diego and why the Eastern Europeans come to the Mountains and Desert of San Diego in large numbers. Start reading about each of the attractions by selecting the pictured tabs above. Enjoy your travels.

Explore Visitor Attractions in North County Inland San Diego

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The wide open land northeast of downtown San Diego provides the space needed for one of the best safari-type experiences outside of Africa and the darkness needed for one of the world’s most powerful telescopes to study the night sky.

The region, better known as the North County Inland, is home to mountains, wildlife institutes, vineyards, Indian reservations, and visitor attractions that lure travelers to the rural areas of San Diego County.

The area first became notable after California’s largest skirmish during the Mexican-American War took place at the San Pasqual Battlefield in 1846.

By the early 1900s, this region of San Diego became known around the world for its gems, and in particular, pink tourmaline, which was a favorite of the Chinese.

During the 1930’s, spectators across the nation flocked to their local railway as the mirror for a 200-inch telescope was transported across the country from New York to its eventual home at the Palomar Observatory.

Today, visitors can still explore the attractions that made this area famous with previous generations. Travelers can also enjoy the Wild Animal Safari Park, local wineries, and Indian casinos on their visit to this part of San Diego.

Start your journey to relive this history by selecting each of the picture tabs above to learn more about the area attractions.

See World Class Attractions in North County Coastal San Diego

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San Diego’s attractions extend well beyond the downtown area. Over the years, many great attractions have been built well north of downtown San Diego to become more accessible to visitors driving from Los Angeles.

One of the earliest attractions built along the northern coastline was the Del Mar Horse Racetrack. Since the founding of the racetrack by Hollywood actors Bing Crosby, Pat O’Brien, and Jimmy Durante, travelers have been pouring into this area of San Diego County ever since.

Visitors now come from all over the world to visit LEGOLAND, the Museum of Music, California’s largest Spanish Mission, miles of beaches, and several other world class attractions and resorts.

However, this coastal region has still been able to preserve enough agricultural land to help make San Diego County the #1 producer of floriculture in the nation. The San Diego Botanic Gardens, Carlsbad Flower Fields and other local nurseries open their doors for travelers to see the beauty that comes from being able to grow flowers year-round in our Mediterranean climate. (Did you know 75% of all Poinsettia plants sold during the Winter Holidays nationwide are originated in this area of San Diego?)

Come see what attracts people to the the northern coastal areas of San Diego by selecting each of the picture tabs above or view the full list of North County Coastal Attractions.

Explore Nature Attractions & More in San Diego’s South Bay

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Only 20 miles lies between downtown San Diego and the border with Tijuana, Mexico. Despite being surrounded by two major international cities, South Bay San Diego is home to large swaths of protected habitat known as the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

The Chula Vista Nature Center and Tijuana River Estuary Visitor Center highlight the unique biodiversity of the San Diego area. (San Diego County is home to more endangered species of animals, plants, and fish than any other county in the United States.)

The open lands farther to the east house the only year-round U.S. Olympic Training Training Center, Knott’s Soak City, and other visitor attractions.

Often overlooked, the attractions in the South Bay area of San Diego are worthy of a visit. Learn more by selecting each of the picture tabs above. Enjoy your travels.

Panoramic Views from Mount Helix Lookout

Location: La Mesa (16 Miles / 20 Minutes East of Downtown San Diego)

Open Daily: Sunrise to Sunset

Cost: Free

Features: Magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean to the West and Peninsular Mountain Ranges to the East.

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Explore the Western Frontier in East County San Diego

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Traveling towards San Diego’s backcountry, better known locally as East County, takes visitors into a picturesque area of rolling hills and winding roads. The farther out you drive, the hills become mountains and the winding roads become an escape from everyday life.

The hillsides are a beautiful green after the winter rains but soon begin to dry and become what local real estate agents call, the California golden hills. Whether you decide to call them golden hills is irrelevant to the fact the vast panoramic views you encounter as you round a corner on a mountain top lure you to drive even deeper into the backcountry.

Before you reach the rural areas of San Diego’s East County, there are handful of tourist attractions worth visiting. Among them is the factory for the world-famous Taylor Guitars. You can join a daily tour that takes visitors through the production line and explains why the world’s top musicians prefer the guitars built here in San Diego. After visiting the Taylor Guitar Factory, you might as well drive just a couple miles away to see aircraft that have been or will be placed on display at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

Once you continue into the rural areas of East County, enjoy the drive. See what life was like on the old frontier by visiting an antique railroad museum, truck museum, and stone museum, which highlights the cavalry units that used to call this backcountry home.

Start your adventure by reading about one of the attractions displayed in the pictures above or view the summary of all East County attractions.

Attractions Near Downtown San Diego

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San Diego offers a number of attractions that are not located within the traditional tourist hot spots but are within a very short drive or trolley ride from the major vacation hotels in downtown San Diego, Hotel Circle, Old Town, and Mission Bay.

One nearby attraction that is often missed by travelers is Cabrillo National Monument, where the Spanish Conquistadors first discovered San Diego Bay in 1542. (San Francisco Bay was not discovered for another 227 years!) This is one of the more picturesque National Monuments in the United States as visitors get to enjoy 360 degree views looking out over the Pacific Ocean, San Diego Bay, Coronado, and downtown San Diego. Inside the National Park Visitor Center, guests can view displays and watch films about the early explorers of California’s coastline.

Visitors will find more history at Mission de Alcala, which is where California’s first Spanish Mission was moved to in search of fertile ground for the growing community of Spanish pioneers and native Indians.

The Marine Corps Command Museum is another excellent attraction that often goes unnoticed because it is located on a military base. Just show the guard a valid driver’s license and proof of car insurance and you will soon find yourself spending a few hours browsing through the exhibits detailing life as a Marine Corp Recruit and the history of the wars in which the Marines have played a major role.

Start looking for nearby San Diego attractions by selecting the pictures above.

Harbor Island

Location: Harbor Island (2 Miles West of Downtown San Diego; Across the Street from the San Diego Airport)

Features: Great place to relax or go for a walk before or after a plane flight; charter a boat; take an exhilirating ride on a RIB Boat; dine at two fine establishments with city skyline views.

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Play In and Around San Diego’s Mission Bay

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Are you seeking a place for fun and sun? If you are young at heart and like people-watching, water sports, big beaches, bars, and restaurants, then Mission Bay is the place for you.

The communities of Mission Beach and Pacific Beach surround the extensive Mission Bay Park. This area is popular with college students and the young at heart who take advantage of the local bars, restaurants, and laid-back beach culture.

Visitors can choose to sit back and relax on the calm bay-facing beaches or they can join in on the hoopla along the ocean-facing beaches.

The Mission Bay facing beaches offer quieter, meandering trails for walking, biking, and rollerblading and plenty of sand for those that like to have some space around them.

The beaches along the Pacific offer a boardwalk, bars and restaurants, beach volleyball courts, an amusement park and larger crowds for those who want to see and be seen.

Get started on finding the best spot for you to enjoy a San Diego beach vacation by selecting one of the tabs above or get an overview of Mission Bay Park.