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San Diego

81 expert recommended attractions

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San Diego Zoo

Hillcrest & Balboa Park 96 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

No other local attraction is more synonymous with San Diego than the Zoo, a 90-year-old institution that lives up to its reputation. — Concierge

Balboa Park's—and perhaps the city's—most famous attraction is its 100-acre zoo. — Fodor's

One of the largest, most diverse and most celebrated zoological parks in the world. — Michelin Guide

This justifiably famous zoo is one of SoCal’s biggest attractions, showing more than 3000 animals representing more than 650 species in a beautifully landscaped setting. — Lonely Planet

More than 4,000 creatures reside at this celebrated zoo, started in 1916 and run by the Zoological Society of San Diego. — Frommer's

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

La Jolla 93 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

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. — Concierge

Focusing on work produced since 1950, this museum is internationally recognized for its permanent collection and thought-provoking exhibitions. — Frommer's

Keeps native and visiting culture-vultures satiated with lectures, film series and rotating exhibitions that have included marquee art-world names as well as notable up-and-comers. — Where

La Jolla’s branch of this museum gets changing, world-class exhibitions. — Lonely Planet

California artists figure prominently in the museum's permanent collection of post-1950s art, but the museum also includes examples of every major art movement through the present. — Fodor's

The New Children's Museum

Downtown & Coronado 92 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

Industrial and angular, the museum features ever-changing artworks by local artists that can be climbed on, touched, or interacted with in some way. — Frommer's

The museum is building a state-of-the-art new facility in San Diego's marina district. Projected date of completion is fall 2007. — Michelin Guide

Installations are designed by artists, so tykes can learn principles of movement and physics while simultaneously being exposed to art and working out the ants in their pants. — Lonely Planet

San Diego's art-minded museum has studio space where kids can decorate a 1973 VW Bug. — Travel + Leisure

Designed just for kids, this awesome interactive art/play space downtown is a revolutionary learning environment — Where

Maritime Museum of San Diego

San Diego 91 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

San Diego’s Maritime Museum is world famous for its beautifully preserved historic ships and collection of seafaring memorabilia — Where

A must for anyone with an interest in nautical history. The museum's headquarters are on the Berkeley, an 1898 steam-driven ferryboat. — Fodor's

Three historic ships, two replicas, a submarine and their onboard exhibits form the core of a museum dedicated to the city's maritime history. — Michelin Guide

Look for the 100ft-high masts of the iron-hulled square-rigger Star of India. — Lonely Planet

This flotilla of classic ships is led by the full-rigged merchant vessel Star of India (1863), a National Historic Landmark and the world's oldest sailing ship that still goes to sea. — Frommer's

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Cabrillo National Monument

Ocean Beach, Airport & Point Loma 90 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

Breathtaking views mingle with the history of San Diego, starting with the arrival of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1542. — Frommer's

Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, the first European to set foot on California soil, anchored here and stepped ashore on September 28, 1542. — Michelin Guide

Located at the furthest south point in Point Loma. Pack some binoculars to watch battle ships, cruise ships, and sail boats head out into the open ocean from the bay. — On the Grid

When Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first gazed on San Diego Bay in 1542, he called the area “a very good enclosed port — Where

At the very tip, atop a hill, this is San Diego’s finest locale for history and views. It’s also the best place in town to see the gray-whale migration (January to March) from land. — Lonely Planet

SeaWorld San Diego

Pacific & Mission Beaches 89 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

A big draw for a number of visitors coming to San Diego, the educational pretext of SeaWorld increasingly takes a back seat to slick shows and rides. — Frommer's

This marine-inspired theme park has activities for kids of all ages, including several water rides like Shipwreck Rapids, a tube-style rafting adventure. — Travel + Leisure

SeaWorld is spread over 189 tropically landscaped bay-front acres—and it seems to be expanding into every available square inch of space with new exhibits, shows, and activities. — Fodor's

This waterfront attraction mixes entertainment and education in a venue designed to heighten awareness of conservation issues. — Michelin Guide

One of the west’s most popular theme parks, SeaWorld opened here in 1964, and killer whale Shamu has become an unofficial symbol of the city. — Lonely Planet

Mission San Diego de Alcala

Old Town & Mission Valley 89 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

Mission San Diego is the very first Mission built in what is now the state of California and was built in 1769. — Afar Magazine

Known as "the King of Missions," the San Luis Rey is the largest of California's missions and one of its most beautiful. — Frommer's

California's first mission, with its gleaming white stucco façade and distinctive five-bell campanario. — Michelin Guide

It's hard to imagine how remote California's earliest mission once must have been; these days, it's accessible by major freeways (I–15 and I–8) and by the San Diego Trolley. — Fodor's

Although the site of the first California mission was on Presidio Hill, in 1774 Padre Junípero Serra moved it about 7 miles upriver to this location, closer to water and more arable land. — Lonely Planet

San Diego Museum of Man

Hillcrest & Balboa Park 89 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

The iconic California Building, with its amazing tiled dome and signature bell tower, is where you will find this museum devoted to anthropology. — Frommer's

El Prado passes under an archway and into an area called the California Quadrangle, with the Classical Revival-style Museum of Man to the north. — Lonely Planet

Past exhibitions have spotlighted everything from ancient Egypt to medieval torture devices. — Where

Inside, exhibits at this highly respected anthropological museum focus on Southwestern, Mexican, and South American cultures. — Fodor's

An extraordinarily ornate museum in San Diego holds wondrous anthropological treasures.  — Atlas Obscura

Mingei International Museum

Hillcrest & Balboa Park 89 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

Featured here are exhibitions that show the skill and craftsmanship of folk artists from around the world. — Afar Magazine

This folk art museum occupies six galleries on two levels of a building known since 1934 as the House of Charm. — Michelin Guide

This excellent collection of folk art, costumes, toys, jewelry, utensils and other handmade objects from traditional cultures from around the world is in the House of Charm. — Lonely Planet

Mingei (which means art of the people) takes center stage at this museum, which showcases a rich collection of handmade folk art, craft and design from all eras and cultures of the world — Where

This captivating museum (pronounced "min-gay," meaning "art of the people" in Japanese) offers changing exhibitions generally describable as folk art. — Frommer's

San Diego Museum of Art

Hillcrest & Balboa Park 88 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

The collection here totals more than 12,000 objects, with particular strengths in Renaissance, Baroque, Asian and American art. — Michelin Guide

Known primarily for its Spanish Baroque and Renaissance paintings, including works by El Greco, Goya, Rubens, and van Ruisdael. — Fodor's

Opened in 1926, this is the oldest and largest art museum in San Diego. — Frommer's

The museum’s diverse collection today includes Italian Renaissance and Spanish Baroque works, 19th- and 20th-century American and European paintings and sculpture and a vast Asian collection. — Where

It was designed by San Diego architect William Templeton Johnson in the 16th-century Spanish plateresque style, so named because it features heavy ornamentation resembling silverwork. — Lonely Planet

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San Diego Air & Space Museum

Hillcrest & Balboa Park 88 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

The round building at the southern end of the plaza houses an excellent museum with an extensive display of aircrafts – originals, replicas, models and Charles Lindbergh memorabilia. — Lonely Planet

This cavernous museum traces the history of human flight, from the earliest contraptions to military jets, all suspended from the ceiling above interactive, educational exhibits. — Where

The other big kid-pleaser of the museums (along with the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center), this popular facility has more than 60 aircraft on display. — Frommer's

By day, the streamlined edifice looks like any other structure in the park; at night, outlined in blue neon, the round building appears—appropriately enough—to be a landed UFO. — Fodor's

In the International Aerospace Hall of Fame, oil portraits and biographical plaques salute notable inventors, industrialists and pilots. — Michelin Guide

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Balboa Park

Hillcrest & Balboa Park 87 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

Balboa Park includes a number of gardens, reflecting different horticultural styles and environments, including Alcazar Garden , a formal, Spanish-style garden. — Lonely Planet

Balboa park is a landscape of arts and culture in San Diego, including museums, such as The Natural History Museum, and the Museum of Photographic Arts. — Afar Magazine

As Central Park is to New York City, Balboa Park is the center of this out-of-doors city. — Concierge

It’s pretty much impossible to get bored at this park. — Condé Nast Traveler

At 1,200 acres, this lush green space overlooking downtown San Diego is the largest urban cultural park in the country, home to more than 17 museums, theaters and other cultural institutions. — Where

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Old Town & Mission Valley 87 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

Take a step back in time in San Diego's historic Old Town district, a state park that re-creates life as it was in 1850s rancho California. — Travel + Leisure

A colorful group of restored and original historic buildings... one of only two California houses certified (by the US Department of Commerce) as being haunted. — Michelin Guide

Dedicated to re-creating the early life of the city from 1821 to 1872, this is where San Diego's Mexican heritage shines brightest. — Frommer's

The six square blocks on the site of San Diego's original pueblo are the heart of Old Town. — Fodor's

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Birch Aquarium at Scripps

San Diego 85 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

With a glorious setting above La Jolla's coastline, the contemporary Mission-style complex encompasses a state-of-the-art aquarium and the largest museum in the nation devoted solely to oceanography. — Michelin Guide

One of the world’s largest marine research institutions. It is now a part of UCSD, and its pier is a landmark. — Lonely Planet

This beautiful facility is both an aquarium and a museum, operated as the interpretive arm of the world-famous Scripps Institution of Oceanography. — Frommer's

Educational and entertaining, the aquarium features an eye-popping assortment of Pacific marine life and lots of creative, hands-on exhibits highlighting the ongoing research and discoveries. — Where

Affiliated with the world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography, this excellent aquarium... and has sweeping views of La Jolla. — Fodor's

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Belmont Park

Pacific & Mission Beaches 84 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

This old-style family amusement park at the southern end of Mission Beach has been here since 1925. — Lonely Planet

Belmont Park is right on Mission Beach and is a little amusement park with a wooden roller coaster. — Afar Magazine

There are a variety of carnie-style rides at Belmont Park, but something more unique awaits next door at the Wave House. — Frommer's

Located right on Mission Beach, Belmont Park offers nostalgic summertime fun and modern entertainment for the whole family — Where

The once-abandoned amusement park between the bay and Mission Beach Boardwalk is now a shopping, dining, and recreation complex. — Fodor's

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Mission Bay Park

San Diego 84 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

This 4,200-acre panorama of San Diego at play fills with families and friends most weekends. — Frommer's

An extraordinary combination of civic vision and coastal engineering turned the swamp into a 7-sq-mile playground. — Lonely Planet

Mission Bay park is the largest man-made aquatic park in the United States. — Afar Magazine

On man-made Mission Bay— part of 4,600-acre Mission Bay Park—kayaks, Jet Skis, sailboats and catamarans ply the calm water as bikers, joggers and skaters cruise along the bayside paths. — Where

San Diego's monument to sports and fitness, this 4,600-acre aquatic park has 27 miles of shoreline including 19 miles of sandy beaches. — Fodor's

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San Diego Model Railroad Museum

Hillcrest & Balboa Park 84 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

Okay, so it's not exactly high culture, but this museum is worth your time, especially if you have kids in tow. — Frommer's

Your(inner) four-year-old boy will love this railroad museum, one of the largest in the world. — Lonely Planet

North America's largest accredited model railroad museum.  — Atlas Obscura

Houses one of the largest operating model railroad displays in North America. — Michelin Guide

When the impressive exhibits at this 27,000-square-foot museum are in operation, you can hear the sounds of chugging engines, screeching brakes, and shrill whistles. — Fodor's

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Timken Museum of Art

Hillcrest & Balboa Park 84 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

Distinctive for not being in imitation Spanish style, this museum, built in 1965, houses the Putnam collection, a small but impressive group of paintings. — Lonely Planet

Though somewhat out of place architecturally, this small and modern structure, made of travertine imported from Italy, is a jewelbox. — Fodor's

The Timken houses the Putnam Foundation's collection of 19th-century American paintings and works by European old masters, as well as a worthy display of Russian icons. — Frommer's

Home to the Putnam Foundation Collection of European Old Masters, Russian Icons and American art, the Timken features San Diego’s only permanent painting by Dutch artist Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn. — Where

The Putnam Foundation Collection, a trove of art spanning 600 years, as well as high-qualty traveling exhibitions. — Michelin Guide

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Spreckels Organ Pavilion

San Diego 84 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

You can’t miss the circle of seating and the curved colonnade... housing the organ said to be the world’s largest outdoor musical instrument. — Lonely Planet

Sunday concerts, regularly performed by civic organist Carol Williams and guest artists—a highlight of a visit to Balboa Park. — Fodor's

The ornate, curved pavilion houses a magnificent organ with 4,518 individual pipes... making it one of the largest outdoor organs in the world. — Frommer's

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USS Midway Museum

Downtown & Coronado 84 The TripExpert score is determined by calculating the general consensus of expert reviewers. Learn more →

This aircraft carrier had a 47-year military history that began a week after the Japanese surrender of World War II in 1945. — Frommer's

After 47 years of worldwide service, the retired USS Midway began a new tour of duty on the south side of the Navy pier in 2004. — Fodor's

The USS Midway is the first aircraft carrier to be built after World War II and is now a museum dedicated to this massive ship and other military aircraft. — Travel + Leisure

As the world’s largest floating naval-aviation museum, the USS Midway showcases restored airplanes and interactive exhibits — Where

The giant aircraft carrier USS Midway was one of the navy’s flagships from 1945 to 1991, last playing a combat role in the first Gulf War. — Lonely Planet

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