San Diego Area Map
San Diego Neighborhoods
San Diego neighborhoods aren't traditionally defined districts, but they do have distinct personalities and attractions that separate them from each other. Those of you who wish to get a better feel for the city should devote at least a day to visiting San Diego's eclectic neighborhoods.
Downtown & the Gaslamp Quarter
Sitting only a few miles from the airport, Downtown San Diego is a vibrant, bustling area filled with hotels, eateries and shopping venues. Most of Downtown's activity centers around Horton Plaza, a massive pavilion featuring restaurants, shops and nightlife spots. Downtown is also the home of a 16-block stretch known as the Gaslamp Quarter that has recently become popular among tourists for dining, shopping and nightclubs. A few blocks east of Gaslamp is the East Village, home to PETCO Park, the stadium where the San Diego Padres play baseball. North of the Gaslamp Quarter is Little Italy, a busy little neighborhood crowded with authentic Italian eateries and plenty of little boutiques.
Sitting just north of Downtown is the 1,400-acre Balboa Park, which is probably the most visited of the city's neighborhoods. You can spend several days here and not see everything; in addition to being the location of the Old Globe Theatre and the most popular San Diego museums, Balboa Park's beautiful gardens are a perfect for afternoon strolls and family picnics. However, the park's main attraction is the world-famous San Diego Zoo, which is home to some 4,000 animals. Whether or not you're traveling with kids, the zoo is a must.
Old Town & Mission Valley
To experience what San Diego was like in its early years, head northwest from Balboa Park to Old Town. The first European settlement in California is now a well-preserved state historic park, featuring numerous shops and Mexican restaurants pouring tasty margaritas and featuring live mariachi music. For a more complete history lesson, tag along on an Old Town heritage tour, during which costumed guides detail San Diego's founding.
Just north of Old Town is Mission Valley, home to a large number of the city's budget-friendly hotels. This a great place to stay if you're looking to save money without sacrificing location.
Sitting across San Diego Bay from Downtown, Coronado offers luxurious respite from the hustle and bustle of central San Diego. Although residents refer to it as "The Island," Coronado is actually situated at the tip of a peninsula known as the Silver Strand. Here, you'll find the Naval Base Coronado, a base that has been in use since World War I, as well as a respectable stretch of sand. However, the main attraction here is the famous Hotel del Coronado, a luxurious -- and pricey -- lodging favorite.
La Jolla & Del Mar
The quiet upscale La Jolla community is technically within San Diego's city limits, but many consider this area a separate city and destination. Travel writers recommend visiting this area to take in the sunset off of Torrey Pines cliffs. If you're heading up to La Jolla, make sure to take a look around the Museum of Contemporary Art, one of San Diego's top attractions. Similarly, the town of Del Mar is approximately a 20-minute drive up the I-5, but many guidebooks and travelers recommend some of the accommodations and fine dining in this part of town.
San Diego is a relatively safe city, especially compared to Los Angeles. Jaywalking is a common safety violation that is heavily enforced in San Diego. Do not jaywalk anywhere in the city. If caught, police will fine you at least $168.
When at the beach, you should take extra precautions to stay safe. Only swim at beaches with lifeguards and accompany your children in the water. Be especially cautious of San Diego's rip tides, which are notorious for pulling unsuspecting swimmers into danger. If you find yourself caught in a rip tide, do not panic. Swim parallel to shore and, once you feel you are out of the tide, swim toward shore. If you cannot make it to shore, wave your hands and shout toward the lifeguard stand.
The best way to get around San Diego is by car. You'll find that the trolley and bus routes aren't as well-connected as in other cities, so to fully experience everything, you're better off controlling your own mobility. You can rent a car from the San Diego International Airport (SAN) -- located about three miles northwest of central city -- or you can take a taxi for about $10 and then rent a car once you arrive in town. There is also a shuttle that connects the airport to several areas, including downtown and Mission Beach. A one-way trip starts at about $8 per person.Getting To & Around San Diego»
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