Beautiful San Diego

Our Beautiful San Diego is a unique environment. The second largest city in California and the eighth largest in the United States, San Diego attracts millions of visitors every year to our sophisticated downtown with its accommodating convention center and a varied surrounding terrain providing hiking, camping, fishing and much more. From the powerful Pacific Ocean to the lazy coastal lagoons, from the verdant Cascade Mountains and the historic mining town of Julian, to the surprising desert flowers in the 600,000-acre Anza Borrego Desert State Park, this bustling, international Pacific Rim city provides ideal climate, 70 miles of beaches and a dazzling array of world-class family attractions. Because this is the home of scientific institutes and military bases, you don't have to look far to see surfing scientists, bike-riding businessmen and motorcycling Marines.

Downtown La Jolla at sunset. Photo by K. Liu

San Diego has 70 miles of open ocean coastline and at least a dozen great surfing spots such as La Jolla Shores, a safe place for beginners, and other more challenging spots such as Black's Beach, usually dependable for good waves, and Point Loma, fringed by rocky reefs. The California Surf Museum in Oceanside, approximately 30 miles north of downtown San Diego, honors and preserves the history of surfing. Current WOW exhibit (Women on Waves) celebrates more than 300 years of women's surfing history.

San Diego County is home to a large agricultural community known for its abundant production of vegetables, fruits and flowers. Surrounding communities are home to more than 90 golf courses, including one that hosts the famous Torrey Pines Open. Luxurious resorts, spas, and tennis courts abound. And from San Diego you can enjoy the cultural diversity of Mexico by visiting the bordering communities of Tijuana and Rosarito.


San Diego is home to some of the most exciting scientific and biotech organizations in the world, all collaborating to develop cutting edge research into life-saving cures:

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, founded by Dr. Jonas Salk, developer of the polio vaccine, is one of the world's preeminent basic research institutions, where internationally renowned faculty probe fundamental life science questions in a unique, collaborative, and creative environment. Focused both on discovery and on mentoring future generations of researchers, Salk scientists make groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of cancer, aging, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and cardiovascular disorders by studying neuroscience, genetics, cell and plant biology, and related disciplines. This is truly Where Cures Begin. The Salk is equally known for the timeless beauty and function of its architecture, recognized by the American Institute of Architects as one of the finest buildings in the world. Dr. Jonas Salk worked closely with Architect Lou Kahn to create an environment that Salk called a "crucible to creativity".

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies.Photo by J. Belcovson

 University of California, San Diego, one of the ten general campuses of UC, consistently ranks high in colleges and universities and is affiliated with several research centers as well as the UC San Diego Medical Center. UC San Diego is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through excellence in education and research at the undergraduate, graduate, professional school and postdoctoral levels. Its academic community of world-renowned faculty, bright students and dedicated staff is characterized by a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation which spans the globe.

Neurosciences Institute is an independent scientific research organization dedicated to furthering knowledge of the biological bases of brain function, particularly its higher functions such as perception, memory, and learning. In addition to thirty-five resident scientists engaged in theoretical and experimental neurobiological research, the Institute serves as host to visiting scientists who pursue their own interests. Acknowledging the special relationship between the arts and the brain, the Neurosciences Institute also serves the community as an outstanding venue for performing arts and community events .

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute is dedicated to discovering the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. Sanford-Burnham, with operations in California and Florida, is one of the fastest-growing research institutes in the country. The Institute utilizes a unique, collaborative approach to medical research and has established major research programs in cancer, neurodegeneration, diabetes, and infectious, inflammatory, and childhood diseases. Sanford-Burnham is especially known for its world-class capabilities in stem cell research and drug discovery technologies.

The Scripps Research Institute, one of the country's largest, private, non-profit research organizations, stands at the forefront of basic biomedical science, a vital segment of medical research seeking to comprehend the most fundamental processes of life. In just three decades the Institute has established a lengthy track record of major contributions to the betterment of health and the human condition. It is internationally recognized for its basic research into immunology, molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, neurosciences, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, virology and synthetic vaccine development. Particularly significant is the Institute's study of the basic structure and design of biological molecules; in this arena TSRI is among a handful of the world's leading centers.

Scripps Health is a nonprofit, community-based health care delivery network in San Diego, California, including: four acute-care hospitals on five campuses, more than 2,600 affiliated physicians, extensive outpatient care network at Scripps Clinic and Scripps Coastal Medical Center, home health care, and associated support service. Scripps Health has a long history in San Diego, dating back to 1924 when Ellen Browning Scripps founded Scripps Memorial Hospital and Scripps Metabolic Clinic in La Jolla. Scripps Mercy Hospital, San Diego's longest established hospital, was founded in 1890 and joined the Scripps Health system in 1995. Scripps Mercy Hospital joined operations with Scripps Memorial Hospital Chula Vista, creating a second Scripps Mercy campus: Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista.

Today, in addition to the two campuses of Scripps Mercy Hospital and Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla (formerly Scripps Memorial Hospital), the Scripps Health acute-care hospital system also includes Scripps Green Hospital and Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas.

The VA San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS) provides a wide range of inpatient and outpatient health services at the medical center in La Jolla, and at six community clinics located throughout San Diego County. VASDHS provides medical, surgical, mental health, geriatric, spinal cord injury, and advanced rehabilitation services. They have 236 hospital beds, including skilled nursing beds, and operate several regional referral programs including cardiovascular surgery and spinal cord injury. VASDHS is affiliated with the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and provide training for 1,437 medical interns, residents and fellows, as well as 64 other teaching affiliations for nursing, pharmacy, dental, and dietetics.

Qualcomm Incorporated is the world leader in next-generation mobile technologies. For 25 years, Qualcomm ideas and inventions have driven the evolution of wireless communications, connecting people more closely to information, entertainment and each other. Today, Qualcomm technologies are powering the convergence of mobile communications and consumer electronics, making wireless devices and services more personal, affordable and accessible to people everywhere.


Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, located 38 miles north of downtown San Diego, is the nation's busiest military base, and covers over 125,000 acres and approximately 200 square miles of terrain. The stretch of shoreline along the base-- 17½ miles -- is the largest undeveloped portion of coastal area left in Southern California. Camp Pendleton provides training facilities for many active-duty and reserve Marines, Army and Navy units, as well as national, state and local agencies. Over 60,000 military and civilian personnel work aboard the base every day.

Naval Base San Diego is the largest base of the United States Navy on the west coast of the United States. It is the principal homeport of the Pacific Fleet, consisting of 54 ships and over 120 tenant commands. The base is composed of 13 piers stretched over 977 acres (3.95 km2) of land and 326 acres (1.32 km2) of water. The total on base population is 20,000 military personnel and 6,000 civilians.

Station San Diego of the United States Coast Guard and U.S. Department of Homeland Security conducts Maritime Law Enforcement, enforcing Federal Law including but not limited to Recreational and Commercial Regulations, Illegal Immigration, and Drug Enforcement from the U.S. border with Mexico to as far north as San Mateo Pt. The Station stands by 24/7 for Search and Rescue, mostly recreation boaters in distress and cruise medevacs. Also, ensuring Homeland Security, the Station escorts each cruise ship and some Navy assets entering and leaving San Diego Bay. Resources include two 41' UTB boats, two 21' RHI boats, one 25' RB-HS and three 25' RBS


The San Diego Zoo is more than a zoo: it is a sanctuary for thousands of animals, a landscape of rare plants from all climates and a living classroom that entertains as well as educates. The new 7.5-acre multispecies habitat features elephants, California condors, jaguars and more and offers guests insight about the Zoo's conservation efforts to protect wildlife from becoming extinct like the mammoth and saber-toothed cat.

A sleeping koala at the San Diego Zoo. Photo by K. Liu The San Diego Zoo has several big cats, including tigers. Photo by K. Liu Many endangered apes are cared for by the San Diego Zoo. Photo by K. Liu Home to five giant pandas in 2010, the San Diego Zoo has had a love affair with giant pandas ever since two of the black-and-white bears came for a short visit in 1987. In 1996 a female named Bai Yun arrived and has given birth to five cubs. One of the San Diego Zoo's giant pandas.Photo by K. Liu

The specially designed viewing areas in the Children's Zoo ensure that even the smallest guests see animals in action. The San Diego Zoo offers a guided bus tour of the grounds, and the Skyfari aerial tram gives guests a bird's-eye view of the 100-acre facility. At the Wegeforth Bowl and Hunte Amphitheatre, guests can watch animals such as sea lions and wolves, that can't be seen anywhere else in the Zoo, show off some of their natural behaviors. The Zoo has an array of restaurants from gourmet to casual as well as a variety of shops.

Wild Animal Park is a zoo in the San Pasqual Valley area of San Diego near the town of Escondido. It is one of the largest tourist attractions in the county and Southern California. The park houses a large array of wild and endangered animals including species from the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Australia. It is in a semi-arid environment and one of its most notable features is the Journey into Africa tram which explores the expansive African exhibits. These free-range enclosures house such animals as cheetahs, antelopes, lions, giraffes, okapis, elephants, zebras, Przewalski's horses, rhinos, and bonobos. The park is also noted for its California condor breeding program, the most successful such program in the country.

SeaWorld San Diego, an animal theme park, oceanarium, and marine mammal park, is part of a unique collection of 10 parks, among the most beautiful and best-known family-oriented theme parks in the world. SeaWorld provides authentic, inspiring "real world" experiences with up-close exotic animal encounters, the best roller coasters and thrill rides and the most innovative and exciting shows and attractions. Features include the Bayside Skyride, a 1967 Vonroll type 101 traveling over Mission Bay, which is the only Vonroll skyride that goes over a body of salt water and Cirque de la Mer, a show combining acrobatics, special effects and music. Since 1965, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment have rescued more than 17,000 stranded, sick or injured animals including endangered and threatened species. Lauded for their conservation programs, SeaWorld awards scholarships to qualifying young individuals and groups.

Legoland California is a theme park located in Carlsbad, in North San Diego County. The park opened March 20, 1999, and is split into nine sections which are The Beginning, Dino Island, Explore Village, Fun Town, Knight's Kingdom, Miniland USA, Imagination Zone, Pirate Shores, and Land of Adventure. The parks rides are Lego-themed and many of the activities feature fun-based learning.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps brings to life the exciting discoveries of world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography. For more than a century, the aquarium has inspired visitors with the wonders of the ocean -- sharks, seahorses, living coral reefs, a stunning variety of Pacific marine life in more than 60 habitats. Exhibits showcase the cutting-edge discoveries of Scripps Oceanography explorers through hands-on displays and multimedia. During its 4th Annual Green Flash Concert Series, the Birch Aquarium offers a unique summertime experience with live music and spectacular ocean sunsets. The concert series occurs on May 19, June 16, July 21, August 18 and September 15. Set on the aquarium's stunning outdoor tide-pool plaza, concerts offer food, drinks and a sophisticated mix of national performers. Green Flash Concerts take place 6 – 9 p.m. and are for guests ages 21 years and older.

Balboa Park is one of the most widely photographed destinations in San Diego. Created in 1868 as a 1,200 acre overlook of the ambitious project that relocated San Diego's business and political center to its current location, the lush landscaped beauty, with its art and cultural institutions and green-space is the largest urban cultural park in the United States and often referred to as the "Smithsonian of the West".

The 1915 Panama-California Exposition commemorated the opening of the Panama Canal and created many of the park's cultural institutions, built in a stunning Spanish-Renaissance architecture. It was one of the first times this highly ornamental architectural style had been used in the United States, which is now characteristic of most of the arts organizations housed along Balboa Park's famous El Prado pedestrian walkway. With 15 museums and 9 theatres and performing arts centers, Balboa Park is San Diego's cultural heart.


The Old Globe, Located in Balboa Park, is an internationally-acclaimed, Tony® Award-winning theater and one of the most renowned regional theatres in the country. The Old Globe produces a year-round season of 15 plays and musicals on its three stages, including its highly-regarded Shakespeare festival. It has become a gathering place for leading theatre artists from around the world, such as Tom Stoppard, Daniel Sullivan, and Chita Rivera, among many others. Numerous Broadway-bound premieres and revivals, such as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Full Monty, and Damn Yankees have been developed at The Old Globe and have gone on to enjoy highly successful runs in New York and at regional theatres across the country. The Old Globe Theatre was built in 1935 for the presentation of abridged versions of Shakespeare's plays as part of the California Pacific International Exposition. At the conclusion of the exposition in 1937, a non-profit producing corporation, the San Diego Community Theatre, leased the theater and adjacent buildings from the City of San Diego (an arrangement that continues today) and renovated the theater for ongoing use.

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is the region's foremost forum devoted to the exploration and presentation of the art of our time, presenting works across all media created since 1950. Located in the heart of downtown San Diego and in the coastal community of La Jolla, MCASD provides an unprecedented variety of exhibition spaces and experiences for the community, showcasing an internationally recognized collection and a dynamic schedule of exhibitions and public programs.

At MCASD downtown, experience contemporary art in an historic setting - the Jacobs Building, formerly the Santa Fe Depot baggage building - and view site-specific installations by artists Jenny Holzer and Richard Serra. At MCASD in La Jolla, take in the fabulous ocean view from the Edwards Garden Gallery, or lunch on the patio at the Museum Cafe. The La Jolla location also houses the Museum's X Store, filled with a selection of contemporary art books, apparel, and innovative design objects.

New Children's Museum, is the latest edition to the downtown San Diego's art scene. A visual feast for the eyes and the imagination, this award-winning, environmentally-friendly building houses several stories brimming with hands-on exhibits and activities, and works by established and emerging artists designed to engage both children and adults alike. Located in the Mariana District, the environmentally sustainable building designed by architect Rob Wellington Quigley, provides a dynamic, playful public space and community center for children and families – a place to experience exciting art exhibitions, hands-on studio projects, performances, birthday parties, in-depth classes, camps and educational programs. Across the street from the new building is a beautiful park, extending the museum visit outdoors with space for running, climbing, family picnics and a view of the trains and trolley going by.

The La Jolla Playhouse, a Tony® Award-winning theatre, presents bold and innovative productions from May through November on the UCSD campus in the San Diego coastal suburb of La Jolla, California. Its mission is to advance theatre as an art form and as a vital social, moral and political platform by providing unfettered creative opportunities for the leading artists of today and tomorrow. The Playhouse has received more than 300 awards for theatre excellence, including the 1993 Tony Award as America's Outstanding Regional Theatre. La Jolla Playhouse is nationally acclaimed for its innovative productions of classics, new plays and musicals. Led by Artistic Director Christopher Ashley and Managing Director Michael S. Rosenberg, the Playhouse was founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer.

Scores of Playhouse productions have moved to Broadway, garnering a total of 29 Tony Awards, including Big River, The Who's Tommy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, A Walk in the Woods, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Dracula, Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays, the Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife, fostered as part of the Playhouse's Page To Stage New Play Development Program and the Tony Award winners Jersey Boys and Memphis.

Diversionary Theatre, one of the oldest LGBT theatres in the country, produces edgy dramatic productions and playful musicals with gay, lesbian and bisexual themes, located in University Heights. Founded in 1986, the mission of the theatre is to produce plays with gay, lesbian and bisexual themes portraying characters in their complexity and diversity both historically and contemporarily. The goal of the theatre is to continue telling the story of the LGBT community, while providing a home and venue for the remarkable talents of the San Diego's theater professionals.

The San Diego Symphony Orchestra presents world-class orchestral works year-round, including a popular outdoor Summer Pops series. In the 99 years since its inception, San Diego Symphony has become one of the leading orchestras in the United States. Through a rich mixture of innovative and educational programming designed to appeal to all ages and cultures, the Symphony makes music an integral part of the cultural and intellectual fabric of the San Diego region, valued by and relevant to all its residents.

On January 14, 2002, the San Diego Symphony celebrated the announcement of the single largest pledged bequest ever made to a Symphony Orchestra, totaling $120 million. The pledged gift, generously given by Joan and Irwin Jacobs, launched the Symphony's New World Endowment Campaign, designed to ensure the future stability of the orchestra.

Historic Copley Symphony Hall, home of the San Diego Symphony, is regarded as one of the finest classical music venues on the West Coast. Originally built in 1929 as a premiere movie house (known then as The Fox Theater), this lush, French Rococo/ Spanish Colonial blend-style hall was conferred to the Symphony in 1984. The beauty and majesty of this historic hall has added to the stature and artistic growth of San Diego Symphony.

The San Diego Opera, Southern California's longest established opera company, presents the world's finest talent in lavish productions at the San Diego Civic Theatre in downtown San Diego. Ranked by OPERA AMERICA as one of the top 10 opera companies in the United States, San Diego Opera is a widely respected member of the international opera community and an invaluable cultural resource to the San Diego community. The Company is both a national and regional model for all arts organizations in terms of artistic product, impact of community education and outreach and consistently sure-footed fiscal management. In light of these qualities, San Diego Opera was recently honored as one of 13 "Cornerstone Arts Organizations" by the prestigious James Irvine Foundation.