12 Best Hotels in San Diego, United States - Jan 2019
Your Travel Guide to San Diego
San Diego was originally a Spanish military outpost, as well as a mission. It fell under Mexican control when Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1822, and was later annexed by the United States in 1848 after the Mexican-American War. Even today, you can find aspects of San Diego that reflect the times it was inhabited by Native Americans, as a Spanish or Mexican settlement, and finally as an American port city and a business hub.
But nowadays, San Diego has become famous for its wildlife reserves, zoos, and aquariums. The San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld San Diego are well-known--but there is much more to see once you scratch the surface. Set aside a few days to take it all in!
What are the Must-Do-s and See-s in San Diego?
Balboa Park is the main park in San Diego--it includes over 16 unique museums and attractions. In fact, in its 1200 acres, it has so much, it will probably take you several days just to cover it all! A couple of hotels that are near the park’s south side include the Hotel Indigo and the Manchester Grand Hyatt. Besides museums, there are also dance performances, live music, theater, and more. If you just want to take it all in in 90 minutes, there is also a Balboa Park Highlights Tour.
But, if you want greater detail, here are a few of the more noteworthy museums, even though we can’t treat them all:
San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is world-famous, and not only for its large collection of species--over 3700 animals in an area of 100 acres! It allows you to see the animals in their natural habitat, as much as is possible in the middle of a city. There is a rainforest for monkeys and gorillas, an aviary for viewing birds, an outback for Australian animals (“Koalafornia”), and the Polar Plunge for arctic animals. It is also famous for its conservation efforts in raising endangered species, and has an “Inside Look” Tour that teaches about how they take care of animals. There is a gondola lift called “The Skyfari” that gives you an aerial view of the zoo’s layout, and a tour bus that lets you cover the zoo’s exhibits.
The San Diego Zoo also runs a much larger San Diego Zoo Safari Park. It is on the outskirts of San Diego County, around 32 miles northeast of the San Diego Zoo. Most of the veterinary services and conservation efforts are performed here. The safari park is 1800 acres, and its landscape has been made to recreate the natural habitats of the animals, even if they originate from Asia or Africa: Asian savannah, African plains, forest, jungle, garden, and more.
San Diego Air and Space Museum
Another main attraction at Balboa Park is the San Diego Air and Space Museum, one of the largest aviation museums of its kind. It has originals and reproductions of a number of aircraft, such as the Wright Brothers’ gliders, German WWI aircraft, fighter jets, the Apollo IX space module, and more. There are also flight simulators and an interactive area, where you can feel what it’s like to loop, roll, or spin your plane!
Fleet Science Center
The Fleet Science Center houses a science museum and planetarium. It also has a Mythbusters interactive exhibit, as well as breathtaking IMAX shows and hands-on displays for kids to learn about science.
Museum of Man and California Tower
The Museum of Man consists of four buildings of exhibits. It has collections related to anthropology and natural history, with displays of ancient civilizations, the different races of mankind, as well as studies of human psychology. One noteworthy building is the California Tower, which rises to 462 feet above sea level. The observation deck is on the 8th floor, at 357 feet above sea level. It offers a 360-degree view of the entire city.
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
In the Old Town neighborhood of San Diego, you’ll find the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. It is a small neighborhood maintained to have the look of San Diego in the mid-1800s. It is comprised of a number of original adobe houses from the early 1800s, as well as reconstructed houses that are given the 19th-century appearance, that operate as museums. There are even demonstrations by craftsmen, such as woodworkers, blacksmiths, wheelwrights (a craftsman that repairs wagon wheels!), and more. Good Nite Inn is conveniently located near Old Town.
Mission Bay Park and SeaWorld San Diego
Mission Bay Park is a large, man-made aquatic park, stretching over 4235 acres. The park itself has areas for all sorts of recreation: water-skiing, windsurfing, boating, and more. It has wildlife refuges for many types of endangered aquatic species, where you can view wildlife first-hand: Perez Cove, Mariner’s Point, Fiesta Island, and the Kendall-Frost Reserve. Two noteworthy hotels in the area are The Dana and the Hyatt Regency.
Within the confines of the park, you can find SeaWorld San Diego. Besides the amusement park rides (for example, “Journey to Atlantis”, “Manta”, and the “Skytower”), there are also areas to encounter dolphins, sea lions, otters, sharks, sea turtles, and more. The Howard Johnson Inn is an affordable hotel in the area.
Near Mission Bay, you’ll find the Tecolote Canyon Natural Park and Nature Center, a nature reserve with areas for hiking, as well as opportunities to view wildlife.
For a more scientific tour of aquatic life, explore the Birch Aquarium of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in the La Jolla neighborhood of north San Diego. The Birch Aquarium has a number of exhibits of marine life, including 3000 different marine life specimens, including sections where you can even touch them! There are a number of hotels in the La Jolla neighborhood: The Hilton and Estancia on Torrey Pines Road, as well as Embassy Suites, the Marriott, and La Jolla Cove Suites.
USS Midway Museum
A little south of Balboa Park, at the Navy Pier, you can find the USS Midway Museum. The USS Midway was an aircraft carrier built after WWII, which saw action during the Vietnam War and Gulf War. It was decommissioned in 1992, and serves as museum since 2004. There are a number of exhibits of what it’s like in the hangar, the flight deck, and below deck. You can also enjoy flight simulators and guided tours.
Getting Around in San Diego
San Diego International Airport
International flights will usually enter California via Los Angeles’ or San Francisco’s airport. San Diego International Airport receives mostly domestic flights, as well as flights from Canada and Mexico. It’s advised to arrange your flight itinerary such so as to include a Los Angeles-San Diego flight in advance. There is a shuttle service taking passengers from the airport to downtown San Diego, for a flat fee per passenger. The Hilton San Diego Airport on Harbor Island is near the airport.
Amtrak and Coaster Commuter Rail
The Amtrak and Coaster Commuter Rail connect San Diego with Los Angeles and Orange County, as well as lines to Arizona, Nevada, and the rest of the United States.
San Diego Metropolitan Transit System
The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System runs a bus, trolley, and “Rapid Route” system that connect the airport to the city center, and allow you access to all of the noteworthy sites: the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, Seaport Village, and more.
San Diego Trolley
The San Diego Trolley is the local light rail system, which runs four lines: Blue, Orange, Silver, and Green. The four lines interconnect in a diamond-shaped pattern in the city center, allowing you to switch between train lines with ease.