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San Diego

San Diego is a big city with a small-town feel. San Diego County covers a vast area, encompassing 342 square miles and extending from the coast to mile-high mountains to a point near sea level in the desert, but central San DieSan Diego at Sunsetgo is delightfully urban and accessible.  San Diego was incorporated in 1850, and now houses a population of about 1.3 million people, making it the second largest city in California.  As you might expect, San Diego has a large ethnic population, with nearly 25% of the population being of Hispanic descent, and nearly 45% of the total population being of ethnic background.

The city conducts most of its financial business in a single neighborhood, the downtown district fronting San Diego Bay, in this way resembling New York more than Los Angeles. San Diego has set some of its most prestigious scientific facilities on the water-Scripps Institution of Oceanography, as well as the Salk Institute. Jonas Salk didn't need the Pacific marine environment for his research, but his regular morning runs along Torrey Pines State Beach no doubt cleared his head.

San Diego has the ocean to thank for its near-perfect weather. An almost perpetual high-pressure system from the North Pacific is responsible for the city's sunshine and dry air; moderating breezes off the sea (caused by the water warming and cooling more slowly than the land) keep the summers relatively cool and the San Diego Skylinewinters warm and help clear the air of pollution. In the late spring and early summer the difference between the earth and water temperatures generates coastal fogs.  For the most part, any time of the year is the right time for a trip to San Diego. The climate is generally close to perfect. Typical days are sunny and mild, with low humidity--ideal for sightseeing and for almost any sport that does not require snow and ice. From mid-December through mid-March gray whales can be seen migrating along the coast. And in early spring wildflowers transform the desert into a rainbow of colors.  The annual high temperature averages 70F with a low of 55F, and the annual rainfall is usually less than 10 inches. Most of the rain occurs in January and February, but precipitation usually lasts for only part of the day or for a day or two at most.

Exploring San Diego may be an endless adventure, but there are limitations, especially if you don't have a Balboa Parkcar. San Diego is more a chain of separate communities than a cohesive city. Many of the major attractions are separated by some distance from one another. The streets are fun for getting an up-close look at how San Diegans live, but true southern Californians use the freeways, which crisscross the county in a sensible fashion. Interstate 5 runs a direct north-south route through the county's coastal communities from Orange County in the north to the Mexican border. Interstates 805 and 15 do much the same inland, with Interstate 8 as the main east-west route. State Highways 163, 52, and 94 serve as connectors.

Unless you're on the freeway, it's hard not to find a scenic drive in San Diego, but an officially designated 52-mi Scenic Drive over much of central San Diego begins at the foot of Broadway. Road signs with a white seagull on a yellow-and-blue background direct the way through the Embarcadero to Harbor and Shelter islands, Point Loma and Cabrillo Monument, Mission Bay, Old Town, Balboa Park, Mount Soledad, and La Jolla. It's best to take this three-hour drive, outlined on some local maps, on the weekend, when the commuters are off the road. Always study your maps before you hit the road. The freeways are convenient and fast most of the time, but if you miss your turnoff or get caught in commuter traffic, you'll experience a none-too-pleasurable hallmark of southern California living--freeway madness.Natural History Museum

If you stick with public transportation, plan on taking your time. The San Diego Trolley has expanded into Old Town; a commuter line called the Coaster runs from Oceanside into downtown; and the bus system covers almost all the county--but making the connections necessary to see the various sights is time-consuming. Fashion Valley Shopping Center in Mission Valley is one of the three major bus transfer points--downtown and Old Town are the others--but because many of the city's major attractions are clustered along the coast, you'll be best off staying there. Some buses have bicycle racks in the back. A bike is a great mode of transportation here; the bike-path system is extensive and well marked. With the large distances between sights, taxis can be expensive and are best used for getting around once you're in a given area.

Our experience with San Diego was a good one.  We thought the climate was wonderful, and the streets were beautiful (especially upscale La Jolla).  The setting over the bay is magical.  We only visited the city briefly, long enough to visit Sea World, but we hope to return one day and check it out a little more. 

For more information on San Diego, check out our pages:

San Diego Directory - Links to all the information you could want about San Diego.

San Diego Photo Gallery - Photos of our trip to Sea World.


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