When one thinks of Southern California one probably think of Los Angeles, or even Orange County. But what would you get if you were to make a hybrid of the two? The answer is San Diego, a big city that’s not quite as urban as Los Angeles, nor as suburban as Orange County. San Diego is a city of parks, and a “best kept secret” for many international tourists. It hosts one of the most famous conventions in the world, let alone some of the most famous zoos. There are countless reasons to visit San Diego, let alone sites to see. Below you’ll find just a few of them.
The San Diego Comic-Con International… or, as it’s more colloquially known, “Comic-Con”. This is it, the big one, the largest comic book convention in the western hemisphere, and the second largest in the world. If you haven’t heard of comic-con then hand over every ounce of geek-cred you’ve ever acquired. Comic-con is a veritable Mecca for comic book, sci-fi, fantasy, television, film, and RPG geeks throughout the United States. The convention has been going on since 1974 when it began as an almost quaint convention for a few comic book fans. How many people attended that first full convention? 300. Today, the convention sells out to a crowd of 125,000, with as many as 140,000 actually trying to get in. Controversy currently surrounds the convention however, as it has largely outgrown the considerable capacity of the San Diego convention center. There have been talks of moving the convention to either Anaheim, Los Angeles, or even Las Vegas. Most likely though, it will remain in San Diego for the far foreseeable future.
This is where SeaWorld started, SeaWorld San Diego. Opened in 1964, the park will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in a short time. SeaWorld is a marine mammal zoo, as well as an oceanarium, and an animal theme park with various rides. Seven orcas call SeaWorld home, as do three pilot whales, and three beluga whales. Various Walruses, sea lions, otters, and over 300 penguins also live at the park. SeaWorld San Diego is also only one of two places in the world where Emperor Penguins are kept in captivity. SeaWorld, of course, brings controversy due to those who disagree with keeping marine mammals in captivity. To be fair, there are strong arguments on either side. Either way though, SeaWorld is still a fabulous place to bring the family.
One of the most famous zoos in the world, and also one of the most respected. Thanks to San Diego’s Southern California location, almost all major exhibits are open air, the only exception being the reptile house. The zoo also serves as an arboretum, growing 40 varieties of bamboo for its pandas, and 18 varieties of eucalyptus for its Koalas. A number of endangered species are actively bred at the zoo as part of an ongoing effort to save them from extinction. Such animals include African Black Rhinos, Tigers, California Condors, and Pandas. The park has been in existence since 1915, and despite its relatively small size (107 acres), it comfortably houses 4000 animals of some 950 species. One a side-note, the San Diego Zoo also plays a role in internet history. The very first video uploaded YouTube was a clip of YouTube founder Jawed Karim visiting the zoo’s elephants.
Make no mistake, there is indeed a second entirely separate park some 32 miles away from the San Diego Zoo, that is also run by the San Diego Zoological Society. Whereas the San Diego Zoo is only 107 acres in size, however, the San Diego Wild Animal Park is a massive 1800 acres. The world’s largest veterinary hospital is housed adjacent to the park as well as the San Diego Zoological Societies “Frozen Zoo” (filled with countless frozen biological specimens). The park is what’s known as a “natural habitat zoo”, featuring open range enclosures representing the Asian plains, North Africa, an Asian Waterhole, Southern Africa, a mountain habitat, as well as East Africa, which is the largest of the enclosures. The East Africa area alone is larger than the San Diego zoo as a whole.
If one is looking to stay at a historic hotel in San Diego, then the Hotel del Coronado is without equal. When the hotel opened in 1888, it was the largest hotel in the world, and one of the first to feature electrical lighting. If that’s not impressive enough, the hotel to this day is widely considered to be one of the absolute best hotels in the world. Despite passing through numerous owners, the hotel has undergone improvements throughout most of its 120+ year history. Notable guests include L. Frank Baum, author of “The Wizard of Oz” who is believed to have done much of his writing here. Other guests have been Thomas Edison, Charlie Chaplin, and nearly every President of the United States for the past century.
It sounds dull doesn’t it? An Aircraft Carrier Museum. Well… it’s not. Why? Because this museum isn’t just about aircraft carriers… it is an aircraft carrier, the USS Midway. Commissioned right after the end of World War II, the USS Midway is an amazing ship. Not decommissioned until 1992, the USS Midway served within the United States navy for almost 50 years. The ship took part in several conflicts including the Vietnam War and all the way up to Desert Storm. In June of 2004, the USS Midway was finally docked at it’s navy pier in downtown San Diego. Today, as a museum, civilians can tour the ship and see for themselves the flight deck, hangar deck, bridge, sickbay, mess deck, various quarters, and other features throughout the ship.
As you can see, if you’re into parks, animals, the military and comic books, San Diego just might be the city for you. It’s family friendly, clean, safe, and like we said, a little less urban than Los Angeles, and a little more urban than Orange County. Enjoy!