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San Diego

84 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 →

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

It's world-famous for a reason. Visitors can get up close and personal with more than 4,000 creatures from nearly every corner of the world. — Where

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

The expansive “habitats” include a tropical rainforest filled with gorillas, a recreated Arctic tundra with polar bears and reindeer, and a Giant Panda Research Station. — Travel + Leisure

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

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

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

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

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

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

Established in 1941, San Diego's premier venue for contemporary art occupies Ellen Browning Scripps' remodeled and restored home (1916). — Michelin Guide

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

The New Children's Museum

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

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

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

Maritime Museum of San Diego

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 →

This 160-acre preserve marks the site of the first European visit to San Diego, made by 16th-century explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. — Fodor's

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

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

SeaWorld San Diego

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

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

With San Diego’s connection to the Pacific Ocean, SeaWorld—which is celebrating its 50th anniversary—remains the signature theme park of America’s Finest City — Where

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

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

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 →

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

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

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

Founded by Father Junípero Serra in 1769, Mission San Diego de Alcala has served as a historic monument and a working Catholic parish — Where

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

San Diego Museum of Man

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

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

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

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

A collection of more than 70,000 objects, arranged to explore evolution, anthropology, ancient history and indigigenous cultures. — Michelin Guide

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 →

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

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

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

All ages can enjoy the Mingei's colorful and creative exhibits of folk art, featuring toys, pottery, textiles, costumes, jewelry, and curios from around the globe. — Fodor's

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

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 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

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

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 →

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

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

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

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

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

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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 →

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

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

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

Besides trails, dog parks, and play areas, the historic Balboa Park is home to such attractions as the world-famous San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Museum of Art. — Travel + Leisure

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

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

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

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

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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 →

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

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

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

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

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

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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 →

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 →

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

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

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

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

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    16 parks, gardens and outdoor attractions
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