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San Diego See And Do

Balboa Park
San Diego , California
Tel: 619 239 0512
www.balboapark.org

As Central Park is to New York City, Balboa Park is the center of this out-of-doors city: Its 1,200 landscaped acres hosts 85 attractions, including 15 museums, gardens, restaurants, and the Zoo. The best bets are the San Diego Museum of Man (1350 El Prado; 619-239-2001; www.museumofman.org), the IMAX theater at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (1875 El Prado; 619-238-1233; www.rhfleet.org), and the San Diego Museum of Art (1450 El Prado; 619-232-7931; www.sdmart.org). Most Tuesdays, at least one attraction offers free admission.

Beaches
San Diego , California

With 70 miles of coastline, San Diego County is home to more than a dozen beach areas, each with its own distinct personality. Here's a quick look at the sandy highlights from south to north:

Imperial Beach: Bordering Tijuana, Imperial Beach (locals call it IB) is one of the quieter beach towns—except in July, when it hosts the U.S. Open Sand Castle Competition. There's good fishing off the pier, but be careful of powerful surf and the sometimes-polluted waters here.

Coronado: Connected to the city by bridge, Coronado is the closest beach to downtown. Behind the Hotel Del Coronado, there's a family-friendly, wide sandy beach that's good for swimming. For more privacy, head south to Silver Strand State Beach.

Ocean Beach: Known to locals as OB, this is a funky little town still stuck in the '60s. The main drag, Newport Avenue, dead-ends at the pier, where there's good surfing and fishing. Bonfires and alcohol are both allowed on the beach.

Mission Beach/Pacific Beach: During the summer, the beaches of Mission and Pacific are crazy-busy with tourists and the 20-something party crowd, making for some of the best people-watching around. Stroll, Rollerblade, or bike along the sand-side boardwalk from Mission to the edge of PB.

La Jolla Shores: Just north of La Jolla are the broad tan sands of La Jolla Shores. It's a popular family beach and a great spot for novice surfers. Bonfires are allowed in provided containers. The shore arcs and bends to the south, where you'll find breathtaking La Jolla Cove and its tide pools and sea caves.

Black's Beach: Sandwiched between Torrey Pines State Beach and La Jolla Shores is Black's Beach, a top local surf spot and one of California's most famous nude beaches. Its north end is a favorite of the local gay population.

North County: The beaches of North County, including Del Mar, Solana Beach, Cardiff, Encinitas, Leucadia, and Carlsbad, are characterized by steep cliffs that lead down to thin stretches of sand that dwindle even more at high tide. They're popular with experienced surfers and families. Locals know to look for public access stairways that lead to almost-hidden pocket beaches.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club
2260 Jimmy Durante Boulevard
Del Mar , California
Tel: 858 755 1141
www.dmtc.com

Every summer, San Diegans go horse-crazy and flock to Del Mar to bet on thoroughbreds. One of the nation's top horse-racing venues, the historic Del Mar Thoroughbred Club first opened in 1937. Races are presented six days weekly from mid-July through mid-September. On Fridays, a free concert series with big-name rock acts—Flaming Lips, Violent Femmes, Pinback—follows the races.

Golf
San Diego , California

Thanks to the year-round idyllic weather, there are more than 90 public and private golf courses in San Diego county. Topping the must-play list of courses open to the public: Torrey Pines Golf Course, one of the top municipal courses in the country and home of the 2008 U.S. Open (www.torreypinesgolfcourse.com); Poway's Maderas Golf Club, an 18-hole championship course designed by Johnny Miller (www.maderasgolf.com); and Aviara Golf Club, an Arnold Palmer–designed 18-hole, 7,007-yard course at the posh Four Seasons Resort in Carlsbad (www.fourseasons.com/aviara/golf.html).

Kayaking La Jolla Cove
La Jolla
San Diego , California

Kayaking is a good way to explore La Jolla Cove's cliffs and dramatic sea caves. La Jolla Kayak rents tandem and single sit-on-top kayaks and offers guided tours (2199 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla; 858-459-1114; www.lajollakayak.com). Bring snorkel gear (or rent it) and watch for bright orange garibaldi fish, bottlenose dolphin, sea lions, and (harmless) leopard sharks below the waves.

Legoland California
One LEGOLAND Drive
Carlsbad , California
Tel: 760 918 5364
www.legoland.com

This 128-acre theme park, made up of 15,000 LEGO models built from more than 30 million LEGO bricks, sounds kitschy, but it's actually pretty cool. The rides, shows, and waterpark playgrounds are best for families with children aged 2 to 12. There are also a few roller coaster–style attractions to keep teenagers from dragging their feet.

Mexico

Less than a half-hour drive from downtown, Tijuana (abbreviated to TJ by locals), especially the area around Avenida Revolución, is dirty, loud, cheesy, and touristy to the extreme, but it can be entertaining. More upscale dining and nightlife can be found at Plaza Fiesta in the heart of TJ's Zona Rio (www.tijuanaonline.org). Giving Tijuana a run for its tourist money is the small, casual resort town of Rosarito, 17 miles farther south via the Rosarito–Tijuana toll road (www.rosarito.org). Slightly farther still is Puerto Nuevo, a tiny fishing village that's famous for its local lobsters served with beans, rice, and fresh tortillas. Driving across the border can be daunting, so take the San Diego Trolley to the border at TJ, then catch a shuttle from there straight to Rosarito Beach Hotel (www.mexicoach.com). If you do decide to drive, make sure you buy Mexican auto insurance, either from your rental car company or one of the many agencies near the border, before leaving the U.S.; then stick to the toll road and try not to do much driving after dark.

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
700 Prospect Street
La Jolla , California
92037
Tel: 858 454 3541
www.mcasd.org/

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) features art from 1950 to the present day in two locations, one on the beautiful coastline of La Jolla, the other in downtown San Diego in a converted loft (formerly the Santa Fe Depot baggage building). The galleries show edgy rolling exhibitions and include pieces from their collection of more than 4,000 works by the likes of Robert Irwin and Yoshitomo Nara. The La Jolla gallery is worth a visit for the dramatic cliff-side setting alone. While there, check out MCASD's X Store and stop off at the organic café.

Open Thursdays through Tuesdays 11 am to 5 pm, third Thursday of the month 11 am to 7 pm.

Old Globe
1363 Old Globe Way
San Diego , California
Tel: 619 234 5623
www.theoldglobe.org

Built during the 1935 California Exposition in Balboa Park, the Old Globe is a Tony Award–winning theater that puts on world-class shows, some (like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Full Monty) before they hit Broadway. A season of 14 plays and musicals are presented year-round on three stages. It also hosts the highly regarded Shakespeare festival every summer.

Petco Park
100 Park Boulevard
San Diego , California
Tel: 877 374 2784 (tickets); 619 795 5011 (tours)
sandiego.padres.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/sd/ballpark/index.jsp

You don't have to be a baseball fan to appreciate San Diego's new PETCO Park, a state-of-the-art baseball stadium in the newly revitalized East Village that holds 42,445 people and has seven restaurants. It was inaugurated by the San Diego Padres in the 2004 season. To avoid traffic on game day, park in Old Town and take the trolley to the game.

San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Drive
San Diego , California
Tel: 619 231 1515
www.sandiegozoo.org

No other local attraction is more synonymous with San Diego than the Zoo, a 90-year-old institution that lives up to its reputation. One hundred acres of lush habitats are home to more than 4,000 rare and endangered animals, representing over 800 species and subspecies. Among the crowd favorites are the koalas and giant panda cubs. In October, admission is free for children 11 and under. Less well-known is the Wild Animal Park, the Zoo's sister attraction. This wildlife sanctuary is built on 1,800 acres in the San Pasqual Valley near Escondido, some 35 miles north of downtown. More like an African safari than a zoo, many of the Park's more than 3,500 animals are housed together in huge shared enclosures to better simulate their real-life habitats (15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd., Escondido; 760-747-8702; www.sandiegozoo.org/wap).

Torrey Pines Gliderport
2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Drive
La Jolla
San Diego , California
Tel: 858 452 9858
www.flytorrey.com

Situated on a cliff high above Black's Beach, the Gliderport is a mecca for hang gliding and paragliding. Though it's entertaining to watch the action as the experts take off from the cliffs and land, it's infinitely cooler to try it yourself. Beginners can start with a 20- to 30-minute tandem flight with an instructor.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.