San Diego Charms With Annual Events and Beloved Neighborhoods
No matter where I go in the world, people always brighten up when they hear my hometown is San Diego, California. The comments that follow are usually, “I’d love to go there some day,” or “I’ve been there; it’s such a beautiful city.” Spanning 4,526 square miles, San Diego is a city full of so many different things to see and do. Let me introduce you to a few of my favorites.
In the East County of San Diego, in the Cuyamaca (Quee ah MOCK ah) Mountains there is a small town called Julian, home of the best apple pie you’ve ever tasted and the annual Julian Apple Days Festival. For 106 years, Julian has celebrated its award-winning apples. Today, the streets are lined with people enjoying all things apple: candied apples, apple pie, apple cider, apple ice cream, etc.
Another East County favorite, the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is perfect for those who love the outdoors. The hiking and trail riding is outstanding, with more than 500 miles of dirt roads to explore and usually glorious weather. The wildflowers and wildlife are also great reasons to visit this area of San Diego.
Mission Valley and Old Town San Diego
Mission Valley is centrally located in San Diego. It’s a great place to stay if you’re really looking to see the whole city during your visit and want to get in a little retail therapy.
Old Town San Diego is said to be the birthplace of California. The Spanish missionaries settled in the San Diego River Valley, and Father Junipero Serra built the first of 21 missions in California here in 1769. The mission is still serving its community today. There are museums, historic buildings including San Diego’s first schoolhouse, and living history demonstrations in Old Town as well as some of the best Mexican food you’ll find statewide.
San Diego’s Coast North to South
Starting in San Diego’s North County, Del Mar is a shining star with its gorgeous beaches and the Del Mar Racetrack and fairgrounds. For decades, people have flocked to Del Mar for a summer of fun and excitement during the annual county fair. Soon after the fair ends on July 4, the Del Mar races begin. Opening Day parties, local celebrities, movie stars, and San Diegans all converge to see the horses run. It’s really a spectacular sight.
A little farther down the coast is La Jolla. Locals and visitors alike enjoy shopping, hitting the beach along La Jolla Shores, or watching the seals in La Jolla Cove. Scripps Aquarium is a great place to experience when in town, as is having a cocktail or two in the longstanding and iconic La Valencia Hotel.
Pacific Beach and Mission Beach both offer something special for visitors. Aside from the beachfront path that stretches from beach city to beach city, there are copious amounts of boutique shops, restaurants, pubs, and other sights. Renting a bike is highly recommended; cruising the path up and down the coast makes for a very fun day at the beach. Along this stretch of coastline visitors can also go to SeaWorld, one of San Diego’s animal attraction parks.
As you drive down the coastline approaching Downtown San Diego you’ll see Point Loma, home of the Leo Cabrillo National Monument and National Park. The park gets its name from Portugese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who was the first European explorer to navigate what is now the California coast. Within the park there stands Point Loma’s Old Lighthouse, tide pools, and Fort Rosecrans.
Point Loma is also home to Shelter Island, a popular place for locals to spend the 4th of July. From the shoreline, barges carrying fireworks displays can be viewed unobstructed in all their glory. It’s truly something to see. We also recommend staying at the Kona Kai Resort and Spa, the last hotel on Shelter Island Drive. It’s a great value for the money and also offers amazing views off either side of the resort.
Coronado Island is a really fun place to spend your time when visiting San Diego. It’s home to San Diego’s Navy Seal Training Program and the world famous Hotel Del Coronado, where Marilyn Monroe filmed “Some Like it Hot.” Coronado is absolutely a must-see place and one of my most treasured spots in San Diego.
Downtown San Diego
Downtown San Diego is one of my favorite places to take friends from out of town. I love the architecture and beauty of the Gaslamp Quarter at night and the illuminated neighborhood signs to the city’s bay-front areas including Petco Park, where the San Diego Padres play, and Seaport Village, with great dining and shopping options. From here, you can also access wonderful areas including Balboa Park and the world famous San Diego Zoo. It’s hard to decide where to start and easy to spend a couple of days just in the downtown area.
San Diego really does offer so much for visitors. I love my hometown, and if you’ve been or are planning to go, I guarantee you’ll love it, too.