Things to Do in San Diego - page 2
From the collection of Harley Davidson motorcycles and exhibit on Steve McQueen, to the famous, 1947 Louis Mattar Cadillac that drove 6,300 miles without stopping, the San Diego Automotive Museum is a cache of classic cars. Here you’ll find a permanent collection of classic American cars, as well as a rotating display of historic cars that define automotive nostalgia. In addition to the collection of nearly 80 cars, there’s a section on general automotive history, a look at the historic “Plank Road” that led to San Diego’s growth, and a scavenger hunt for kids to find the facts about different cars. Visiting the museum takes approximately an hour—unless of course you’re a mechanic or racer—in which case you could spend the better part of the day in this sanctuary of horsepower and design.
It’s been said that hands-on, experiential learning enhances education, and if that’s the case, then the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center is helping to educate every person who walks in the building’s door. Especially enjoyable for families with children, this interactive science center has permanent exhibits on everything from energy to California’s water to the journey of cells in our body. Work with your hands at the “Tinkering Studio” inspired by famous inventors, or watch one of the live experiments conducted by the center’s staff. Learn about genetics and DNA and what’s inside of an atom, or channel your inner architect with the collection of 15,000 building blocks. The biggest treat, however, is the enormous IMAX domed theater with movies on everything from Humpback whales to the most mysterious corners of our Universe. This is the only domed IMAX theater in Southern California, and the movies displayed provide visitors of all ages with an enthralling visual feast.
Before you even walk in the door of the San Diego Museum of Art, you’re already looking at the piece of art that’s the building’s soaring façade. With heavy influence from the cathedrals and universities of cities in central Spain, the ornamented building is like a slice of Europe in the middle of Balboa Park. On the museum’s interior, the artwork continues with an extensive collection that spans over 7,000 years, from classic paintings by European masters to an array of South Asian art. Compare the style of Francisco de Goya with El Greco or Henri Matisse, or peruse the fascinating global collections from Quebec, Mexico, or China. There’s an entire section of native artwork from the Americas and across the Pacific, as well as gripping photography from some of the world’s original photojournalists. It’s the oldest and largest museum of its kind in the entire surrounding region, and since the temporary exhibits are always changing.
Built in 1850, the William Heath Davis House is the oldest house in San Diego’s Historic Gaslamp Quarter. It was owned by, you guessed it William Heath Davis, but he didn’t build it in San Diego. The pre-fabricated house was shipped to town from Portland, Maine by boat via Cape Horn.
It was Davis’ dream to build a city near San Diego Bay. New Town as it was called, included a wharf, store, park and several houses, but there was no potable water. When Davis lost his fortune he gave up on the city that would later become the Gaslamp District. The William Heath Davis House is also the home to the nonprofit Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation.
If walls could talk, the Whaley House could fill history books. Completed in the 1857, it served as the home of the Whaley Family, Mr. Whaley's general store, San Diego's first commercial theater, and the second county courthouse. All aspects of the home have been restored and today it is open to the public as a historic house museum.
On the basic tour, visitors explore on their own, but docents are available to answer questions about the house’s history and ghost stories. Rumor has it the house has been haunted since it was built. The Whaleys reportedly believed the spirit of Yankee Jim Robinson haunted the house. Robinson was hanged on the property before the house was built. According to legend, there is a list of ghosts that roam the house, including the Whaley’s daughter Violet, who committed suicide in 1885.
Lying along the east side of San Diego Bay, the Embarcadero will appeal to fans of the historic maritime vessels and all things associated with the sea. The many attractions here include the Maritime Museum, U.S.S. Midway Museum, the Seaport Village, and Embarcadero Marina Park. The well-manicured waterfront promenades stretch along Harbor Drive and are perfect for strolling or jogging.
On the north end of the Embarcadero is the Maritime Museum, the highlight of which is the Star of India, a historic 19th century vessel. South of the museum, The U.S.S. Midway Museum - a museum housed in a Navy battleship - has loads of exhibits and a stellar collection of fighter planes. South of the Midway is Seaport Village, which has a collection of novelty shops and restaurants. Embarcadero Marina Park, with its public fishing pier and open-air amphitheater, lies to the south.
Ghostly legends abound in sunny San Diego, so spooky stories associated with an old cemetery shouldn’t come as a big surprise.
El Campo Santo Cemetery was used in the mid-to-late 1800s. Some of the city’s early pioneers and infamous figures are buried at El Campo Santo Cemetery. One of the most famous grave sites belongs to Yankee Jim Robinson, who was hung at the site of the historic Whaley House, a couple blocks away. Some say his ghost has haunted the Whaley House since it was built in 1857. As San Diego grew, the cemetery was reduced in size. As a result some graves now lie beneath San Diego Avenue and Linwood Street. Tales of car trouble, chills and misty figures have been reported.
Long a mainstay for the college crowd and those looking to get out and have a little bit of fun in the sun, the little neighborhood of Pacific Beach is a California-lover’s dream. Bikinis and board shorts, bike paths and boardwalks, and of course miles of pristine beach, Pacific Beach is what many picture as idealized southern California living. From tasty beer taverns to sunny California shacks serving fish tacos, Pacific Beach is an ideal choice for getting out and seeing the young and fit crowd do its thing. North Pacific Beach tends to be quieter and cater to more of a family ambiance, while Tourmaline Beach is a surfing-only beach great for long low waves that are perfect for beginners.
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In the 18th century, when Spanish settlers arrived here on San Diego’s shores, a band of Kumeyaay Native Americans already inhabited the coast. Though little remains of their settlements today, one of the best places to learn about the Kumeyaay is here at the Museum of Man. Here in San Diego’s only museum devoted entirely to anthropology, artifacts from many of the of the world’s ancient cultures are intriguingly displayed inside. Look at mummies that have been removed from their tombs in the sandy deserts of Egypt, or artwork and pottery from Mayan tribes from modern day Guatemala. Learn about the brutal history of torture and tools of the morbid trade, or peruse a collection of thousands of skulls that date to the origins of man. Some exhibits—like the history of beer—are only on temporary display, whereas collections on the Maya, Egyptians, and Kumeyaay are permanent exhibitions. When finished reading about Mayan monuments and hieroglyphic writing.
Heritage County Park provides a view into San Diego’s colorful past. Almost eight acres in size, the park contains several restored Victorian homes and San Diego’s first synagogue, Temple Beth Israel.
It all began after World War II when San Diego’s downtown started to boom. Expansion threatened the buildings with demolition, so private and public funds were used to relocate and restore them. Some of the structures, like the Temple Beth Israel, are open to the public. The first service was held at Temple Beth Israel on Sept. 25, 1889, today it is open daily from 9am to 5pm, unless a private event is scheduled. Built in 1896, the Senlis Cottage is also open daily from 9am to 5pm. The McConaughy House was built in 1887 and is now home to the Old Town Gift Emporium, a store that specializes in Victorian porcelain dolls. It is open Thursday through Tuesday, from 10am to 5pm.
There’s no cost for admission. You pay as you go, buying tickets or unlimited ride wrist bands. Along with rides and attractions expect beach boardwalk style grub like ice cream, burgers and pizza. If your visit to Belmont Park includes some time at the beach, you can rent everything you’ll need, from surfboards and wetsuits to beach chairs and umbrellas. Belmont Park is also home to a FlowRider® wave machine and the onlyFlowBarrel® in the United States. Pumping 100,000 gallons of water per minute, the FlowBarrel® wave machine creates an endless 10 foot wave.
As a major port and hub of the U.S. Navy, it’s no surprise that one of the city’s most important commercial districts is a former naval base. Once a military barracks and training center, Liberty Station is a cultural hub with a celebrated food market. The many food stalls, small shops, and even art galleries bring together some of the best of each in San Diego and represent the city’s diverse influences. The Liberty Public Market is a food hall comprised of artisan food, beer, wine, cocktails, and the city’s top local flavors.
Spread out over 28 acres, the Liberty Station architecture showcases San Diego’s historically Spanish roots. Many of the historic buildings have been tastefully converted into modern businesses and venues, many stretching along its main promenade. It’s also a major arts district, home to museums, dance companies, music halls, and a popular monthly art walk.
Two locations make it even easier to fit a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art into your San Diego itinerary. The museum's collection includes more than 4,000 works of art created since 1950.
The La Jolla location is perched on nearly three acres of oceanfront property and includes the scenic and colorful Edwards Sculpture Garden. More than a dozen sculptures and installations are on display throughout the museum grounds. The Sculpture Garden is a nice option for families and artists. Pencil sketching is permitted. The downtown location is more historic, set in the former Santa Fe Depot baggage building. Public tours are offered (free with admission) at both locations. Downtown tours begin at 2pm on Saturdays. La Jolla tours are held on Sundays at 2pm. Tours are also held at 5:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at both locations. No reservations are necessary.
Somewhat of a park inside of a park, the Japanese Friendship Garden is a sanctuary of calm inside busy Balboa Park. Symbolic of the friendship between San Diego and the Japanese city of Yokohama, this 20-acre garden has over 200 cherry trees that dot the manicured landscape. In keeping with the tradition of Japanese gardens, the landscape here is methodically arranged so the stones, water, trees, and plants have a natural and calming energy. It’s a place for serene, inward reflection, and also a place where visitors can experience traditional Japanese culture. Stop for a drink at the tea museum and gaze out over the ponds, or wander through gardens that are meticulously planted in traditional Japanese herbs. On weekends, there can be classes in everything from Japanese language to the art of fine calligraphy, as well as a festival for the cherry blossom bloom that takes place every March.
Ever since 1874, when this Natural History Museum became Southern California’s first scientific institution, researchers have tirelessly been working to showcase the tales of the world around us. In this highly interactive, highly educational, natural history museum, visitors can learn everything from the mysteries of fossils to the saga of California’s water. Go deep inside an Egyptian tomb to see the buried treasures of King Tut, or explore the astounding biodiversity of the greater San Diego region. Sit back and enjoy a film inside the enormous 3D theater, or compare the shapes of over 200 skulls from a wide assortment of animals. The scientists and researchers who work with the museum are some of the top in their field, and who have dedicated their lives to explaining and learning the secrets of the natural world. Whether it’s trying to figure out why whales breach in the nearby waters offshore, or dissecting the facts about everything from penguins to coffee.
San Diego County is home to more than 90 museums, but the New Children’s Museum (NCM) downtown is a top choice among many families. Every visit brings the opportunity for kids to create something different. With three floors of hands-on activities, craft projects, and play areas, art is constantly being created. Kids are encouraged to roll of their sleeves and create a masterpiece.
In addition to performances and seasonal events, NCM runs a number of regular continuing programs including Toddler Time on the second Friday of the month and Finger Painting Friday on the fourth Friday of the month. NCM is across the street from Children’s Park, offering easy access to a nice spot for kids to run around and let off some steam.
This amusement park is a popular stop for locals and San Diego visitors, especially if you have kids in tow. Speedsters will want to race on the track strapped in to one of Boomers go karts. If you’re looking for fun that comes with a slower speed, you can test you swing on the miniature golf course. The family-friendly course comes with water and windmills to keep the game interesting. Little ones will also enjoy the Kid’s County Fair. The miniature amusement park has a Ferris wheel and an assortment of other rides and attractions just for them.
Batting cages serve up pitches just the right speed, but if you’d rather set sail, bumper boats are the way to travel. Climb aboard ready to soak up some fun. Every boat is equipped with a water cannon.
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