Looking forward to after finals: San Diego’s natural and historic landmarks

By James Gosnell

Want fun adventures to look forward to after finals? Here are eight natural and historic landmarks in San Diego to check out during the holiday break.

La Jolla Cove [La Jolla Cove photo above: photo credit Tomas Del Coro via Creative Commons, image cropped to fit design specs.] 

San Diego is well known for its beaches, but La Jolla Cove is a picturesque example of the underwater bathometry of San Diego. Because of its unique underwater beauty, the cove is a common place for swimmers, snorkelers, and scuba divers. Frequently, the visibility of the ocean is greater than 30 feet in the cove. It is part of the greater La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, which ensures marine life safety and regulates recreational fish and wildlife activity in the cove. You will frequently find harbor seals basking in the sun on the small sandy beach. A little known fact is that the cove is one of nine permanent lifeguard stations in San Diego.

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Looking for a fun, local, coastal vibe where you can catch the view of the Ocean? Sunset Cliffs is the spot. It is dubbed Sunset Cliffs for its great views of the last rays of sunshine fading into the Pacific. This park is a designated county open space that inspires us all with its natural beauty.  Sunset Cliffs is currently undergoing a master plan and environmental review this year from the County of San Diego. I encourage you to share how Sunset Cliffs makes San Diego a more vibrant community with the county planning commission.

Balboa Park

In 1868, San Diego’s civic leaders sought to set aside a portion of the city to be free from development and created “City Park.” The city developed the park for the Panama-California exposition in 1916, and it was renamed Balboa Park after Spanish explorer  Vasco Núñez de Balboa. It was further developed in the 1930 for the California Pacific International Exposition. Balboa Park was named a National Historic Landmark in 1977. The park has several museums that are open free to San Diego residents every Tuesday. Balboa Park also hosts a summer nights event, Balboa Park after Dark, annually from May 26 to September 1. If you want to delve into the historical significance of San Diego, Balboa Park is the best place to visit. Especially on Tuesdays.

Mission Bay Park

Mission Bay draws an estimated 15 million people annually to its 27 miles of shoreline. They all come because the grass is just greener down there by the bay. This is a popular place for boating, sailing, walking, and picnics. There are bike paths everywhere in the area, and Fiesta Island is the birthplace of the triathlon.  This is a great place to take a date for tandem kayaking to connect as a couple and attempt to avoid spilling over into the Bay. It is commonly considered by locals a great place to meet during the summer for a group picnic. Mission Bay is a must see for any visitors or relatives who come from out- of-state and want to experience the culture of San Diego.

Old Town Historical District

The Spanish first settled San Diego in 1769, creating a mission and a fort in what is presently known as Old Town. This colorful neighborhood has a vibrant and rich history. Highlights of the area include the fountain at Bazaar del Mundo, the haunted Whaley House, and the Mission San Diego de Alcala. Old Town is renowned for its amazing Mexican tapas restaurants. It’s also a great place to bask in the heritage of San Diego’s rich heritage and experience firsthand the early California ambiance.

Moonlight State Beach

In the early 1900s local residents used to come to this area for midnight picnics. Hence, it was called Moonlight Beach. This beach is the pearl of North San Diego County, offering volleyball courts, tennis courts, and a concession stand that sells ice cream year-round. The wide, sandy beach at low tide offers area for swimming, surfing, and fishing. The designated fire pits are a big hit in the summer, where locals gather to make s’mores and experience the midnight scene that residents first sought out over one hundred years ago.

Torrey Pines State Reserve

Hiking is one of the most fun group activities that individuals of all ages can enjoy. There is no better place to hike in San Diego than the Torrey Pines State Reserve. The scenic 1,500 acres of land overlooking the bluff was originally the home of the Kumeyaay Indians. This natural reserve captures the natural chaparral environment of San Diego, with an emphasis on the preservation of the rare Torrey Pine. If you want to see what San Diego was like before it was developed, as it appeared to the original Spanish settlers, Torrey Pines is the place to visit. Bring a friend and visit the stunning overlooks, peaceful trails, and outdoor beautiful that is Torrey Pines.

Hotel Del Coronado

Along the California Coastline, on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and a privately owned sparkling sandy beach, resides the historical Hotel Del Coronado. Amazingly the Del was built in 1888 and has been a living legend for over 120 years. The Del was named the “best family beach destination in the United States” by the Travel Channel.  A beachside ambiance with several unique opportunities for drinks and dining make this iconic destination a great to visit with friends and family when they come to San Diego.

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