Landmarks and Locations in San Diego

Latest update:
Oct, 2008

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Parks - - - - - -Golf Courses - - Colleges- - - - - - -
Theme Parks - Airports --------Defense Bases
Map of Central San Diego   1. Montgomery Field
  2. SDCCD computer laboratories
  3. Mesa College
  4. Pacific Beach & Mission Beach
  5. Mission Bay Aquatic Park
  6. Belmont Park
  7. University of San Diego
  8. Sea World
  9. Ocean Beach State Park
10. Sports Arena
11. Old Town State Park
12. Cabrillo Bridge & West Gate
13. San Diego Zoo
14. Balboa Park
15. San Diego International Airport
16. Star of India & Maritime Museum
16a. Aircraft Carrier MIDWAY
17. San Diego City College
18. City Hall & Horton Plaza
19. Gaslamp Quarter
20. Seaport Village
21. Convention Center
22. Coronado
23. San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge
24. Hotel Del Coronado
25. Cabrillo National Monument

1. Montgomery Field - In 1883, John J. Montgomery flew a glider 600 feet here in San Diego. It was the first controlled-wing glider flight in history. Today Montgomery Field, one of the City of San Diego's two airports, is a hub for private aviation.   RETURN TO TOP. 

2. SDCCD computer Laboratories - Here you find a number of PC and Mac laboratories together at the SDCCD North City Center. More information at the web site: Classes4Free.    RETURN TO TOP. 

4. Pacific Beach & Mission Beach - These beaches form a stretch of sandy shore several miles long.    RETURN TO TOP. 

5. Mission Bay Aquatic Park - In 1542, when Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo found this area to be a swampy labyrinth of bays, he was disappointed and called it Bahía Falsa (False Bay). The current park was constructed in the mid 1960's. Here is an authoritative history of this park.   RETURN TO TOP. 

6. Belmont Park - You can spot this park in the distance by the highly-visible roller coaster. This wooden-framed coaster is truly historic having achieved National-Landmark status.    RETURN TO TOP. 

Orcas jump for joy! 8. Sea World- This large park of aquatic animals is very well-known for its numerous shows. For a whale of a time, prepare to spend the entire day there, but, when you go to the orca show, don't sit close unless you haven't bathed in a while and need a shower! My sister Karen hooked this one, no doubt, in raincoat and umbrella. It's the Universal Studios or Disneyland of sea life in San Diego.    RETURN TO TOP.

10. San Diego Sports Arena -The sports arena offers San Diego Gulls hockey and many stage productions by popular performers such as Bette Midler or Ricky Martin. Just recently there was a group of men performing a show called "Solo para Mujeres" (Only for Women). I passed this one by!    RETURN TO TOP.

11. Old Town San Diego State Historic Park - In 1602, the Spanish colonizer Sebastián Vizcaíno gave the town a new name: San Diego de Alcalá. Today we only use the "San Diego" part, of course. The settlement, however, remained with the native Americans for another century and a half until Junípero Serra came overland from Mexico (then called New Spain) to found the first mission in California. This mission (Misión San Diego de Alcalá) and its surrounding settlement were the beginning of the city of San Diego: today it is Old Town. For more information and brilliant color photographs of sights in Old Town, here is another way to Go There.

Near the original (1769) mission site, there is the Junípero Serra Museum. Below you see the covered walkway attached to this museum.

Covered walk of museum

The mission itself was moved in 1774 for lack of water to its present location at 10818 San Diego Mission Road just northeast of the intersection of I-8 and Rte15 and just off my map. There are anthropological excavations being conducted at both sites to try to learn more about how the people lived in these early days. In all, the Spanish built 21 missions in California from San Diego to north of San Francisco. If you are interested, here is a reference to the history of the California missions.

In Old Town, you can see some of the first buildings in San Diego; in addition, you can dine in touristy spots and shop in numerous gift shops. It's guaranteed that in many stores there: "Se habla español"! A big draw here is the Old Town Trolley which is really a bus designed to look like an old trolley. For a good overview of the city, take this trolley's tour of San Diego (departures every half hour during the day). You'll see many of the sites listed on this page on this two-hour tour that includes nine stops where you can disembark for independent exploring then reboard a later trolley to continue your tour. You might want to spend the entire day at this.    RETURN TO TOP. 

12. Cabrillo Bridge - My favorite way to enter Balboa Park is to go east along Laurel Street over this bridge and enter through the park's West Gate. Just below you see a view of 5 of the 7 arches of the bridge looking south from California Route163.
5 of the 7 arches of the Cabrillo Bridge.
This bridge was constructed to serve as the main entrance to the 1915-16 exposition in Balboa Park, but see #14 below for more details and links. To plan this bridge, New York architect Bertram Goodhue offered a 3-arch design modeled after the "Puente de Alcántara" (Alcántara Bridge) (JPG: 40K) in Toledo, Spain. Ultimately the existing 7-arch bridge was built at lower cost using Frank P. Allen, Jr's design patterned after the famous "Puente Nuevo" (New Bridge) (JPG: 46K). in Ronda, Spain.    RETURN TO TOP.


13. San Diego Zoo - Many of you are already familiar with our zoo from the numerous times that Joan Embery has chaperoned zoo animals to NBC's Tonight Show. Panda (on loan from China)
The inspiration to create a zoo here came from the live-animal exhibit at the Panama-California Exposition of 1915-16. From this small beginning it has grown and now shelters more than 800 species of rare and endangered animals. The pandas like the one shown on the right are on loan from China. Additionally, in 1972, the zoo opened the affiliated San Diego Wild Animal Park a short distance north of the city. Here the animals roam in almost the wide open spaces, and you really have to ride the monorail to get the overall view. There are several animal shows included in the price of admission.   RETURN TO TOP.

14. Balboa Park - Our big-city park with many buildings stemming from the Panama-California Exposition (1915-16) that celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal through which my sister, Karen, and I sailed on our big trip in 1996. Why was this exposition here? San Diego was the closest American city to the Pacific terminus of the canal. My favorite way of going to Balboa Park is to drive (or walk) east across the Cabrillo Bridge entering through the West Gate. Balboa Park is noted for its museums and theaters set in buildings of Spanish architecture, but among the very old and the traditional, the park harbors the very modern Reuben Fleet Space Theater: always a good show on its large-domed Imax screen. For the music lover, there is the Speckles Organ Pavilion, at 5,000 tubes perhaps the largest open-air pipe organ in the world, where free Sunday concerts are offered year-round.    RETURN TO TOP.


The airliner seems to skim the trees. 15. San Diego International Airport - Lindbergh Field, named after the famous aviator, gives you the unique experience of landing right inside a great city. Lindbergh's plane, the Spirit of St Louis, was constructed in San Diego right at the airport by Claude Ryan. The company is still located there: Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical .

The peaceful scene shown here in the west end of Balboa Park is occasionally interrupted by big birds like this approaching the runway at Lindbergh.    RETURN TO TOP.


16. Star of India - This vessel is the oldest steel-hulled, square-rigged tall ship in the United States still capable of sailing. (I trust that the recommissioned Constitution is a slightly different make.) The view seen when you click the thumbnail at the the left was taken from a Hornblower cruiser just starting a San Diego Bay cruise.

The Star of India together with the ferryboat Berkeley, that transported refugees from the scene of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the yacht Medea and two other ships make up the San Diego Maritime Museum. And here is an overview of the whole "fleet". Lastly you can learn more by visiting the museum's official website.

Also in port for an extended visit and open to the public while docked between the Star of India and the Berkeley is the HMS Surprise (also known as the HMS Rose) (to left see the photo taken from that same bay cruise), a replica of an 18th-century British warship. This ship was seen as the "HMS Surprise" in the at-sea portions of the Fox movie Master and Commander: Far Side of the World starring Russell Crowe. But visit the Rose's own website for more information and pictures.    RETURN TO TOP.

16a. Starting in June, 2004, the aircraft carrier Midway is open for all to tour. The Midway, named after the decisive Battle of Midway in WWII and built during that war, has been retired to be The San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum. Located at 910 Harbor Drive, San Diego, she is moored alongside Navy Pier in San Diego. What you see when you click my thumbnail at the right will be about half of the ship that is more than three football-fields long. For more great pictures of this ship than you would ever believe, go to the photo galleries of the MidwaySailor site.    RETURN TO TOP.

18. City Hall & Horton Plaza - The City Hall speaks for itself: to where all payments for our water bills are mailed. In 1867, Alonzo Horton bought a large tract downtown for $260 and began to plan the city and the business district. Today Horton Plaza, in the center of downtown San Diego, is a large downtown shopping center. The architecture is breezy, and there are also theaters, restaurants, a fountain, as well as, of course, a large variety of stores. It's worth the trip!    RETURN TO TOP.

'Gaslamp Quarter' sign arches over street 19. Gaslamp Quarter - Part of Alonzo Horton's vision was that San Diego have a dynamic financial district. This century after a long period of deterioration, the district was revitalized in the 1970's and now it sports a refreshing mix of theaters, galleries, shops and restaurants. It gets its name today because in the beginning it was lighted by gas lamps.    RETURN TO TOP.

Elegant horse-drawn carriage 20. Seaport Village - This quaint downtown park-like shopping center right on the bay contains more than 75 stores and restaurants. This is a popular spot to relax and dine or just have a coffee and contemplate the aircraft carriers moored directly opposite, the bay bridge to the south and other things. Between about 1980 and 2004, there was the Broadway Flying Horses Carousel which had been carefully restored to its former 1890's splendor. The carousel was sold at auction in 2004. But there are old-fashioned horse-drawn carriages like the one pictured at the right to give you a regal look at everything nearby. If you choose to pass on this, here is a good picture tour  (about 230 K for 13 3.5x4.5 photos on one page) of Seaport Village. And on the same page you will have the option of choosing to download a 360-degree picture showing some shops and the waterfront. If you have enough memory, try it!   RETURN TO TOP.

21. Convention Center - The place for all the big conventions, of course, but what you'll notice most from afar is the white gracefully undulating roof elements. It looks as if it just landed or is about to take flight! I just want to mention the "insignificant" high-rise building seen over the roof of the Convention Center to left: one of the two mirror-image Harbor Towers, an unscale condonminium complex priced at 400K to well over one million per unit.
San Diego Convention Center RETURN TO TOP.   

22. Coronado Island- The space between North Island and Coronado was filled in for national defense during WWII. Today the western part of this land mass holds the North Island Naval Air Station and eastern part is the separate municipality of Coronado, a narrow isthmus connecting this land mass to the mainland (but see #24 below). Coronado is an upscale community with a low crime rate. That's why you've never heard of it, right?    RETURN TO TOP.

23.San Diego's answer to the GREAT WALL OF CHINA San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge (1969) - This is the most conspicuous symbol on the San Diego skyline: think of the St. Louis Arch, the pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China - well, perhaps I went overboard on those last two! A picture of this bridge is featured in nearly every San Diego tourist guide and can be seen at the start of Simon & Simon reruns.

The view of the bridge shown here was taken from the isthmus just southeast of the Hotel Del Coronado (#24 below). The bridge was designed to be easily dismantled in case of national emergency so that large ships can pass underneath. It is 240 feet high at the highest point and 2.2 miles long. The views as you cross are excellent for all but the driver! But why didn't they construct it straight across the bay? The answer is that the bay wasn't wide enough to give the required gentle slope to allow cars to climb up if a straight bridge had been built.    RETURN TO TOP.

24. Hotel del Coronado - Constructed in 1887, it cost $1M to build what originally was a 399-room, wooden hotel. To transport the needed construction materials, a narrow isthmus had to be filled in to connect the island to the mainland: ergo, it's not an island any more, but people still call it that. Today the hotel stands as the largest wooden building in the country. The story that I reported here previously about Edison, himself, throwing the switch in 1888 on his newly installed electric-lighting system appears to have been a myth, according to a story on the the front page of the San Diego Union Tribune (Dec. 21, 1997), a myth perpeturated apparantly by Larry Lawrence, the former owner, to agrandize the hotel's legends. But, I believe, that the hotel was still the first in the west to enter the age of electricity.

Hotel del Coronado

Here you see the WHOLE hotel as seen from the beach. You'll want to stop at the "Del", as it is affectionately called, to explore the history of the hotel as told by pictures lining many of the hallways and to explore the gift shops if that's your bag. There used to be a coat-of-arms store where you could order your very own personal emblem as a beautifully finished plaque. No doubt your last name is in the proprietor's book - mine is! However, the last time I was at the hotel, I didn't see this store and was told that it had moved to Seaport Village if you're interested.There are legends of ghosts inhabiting the hotel, perhaps with good reason, for the hotel, after being taken over by the Traveler's Group in 1996, was sold in 1997, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune (Aug 29, 1997) for the truly spooky price of $330 million to Lowe Enterprises, Inc.   RETURN TO TOP.

25. Cabrillo National Monument - This is a memorial to the first sighting (September 28, 1542) of San Diego Bay by Europeans (Spanish, in this case) led by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, a Portuguez navigator exploring for the Spanish Crown. He claimed it for Spain and gave it the name San Miguel . You can listen to the story of this discovery in any one of a half-dozen languages at stations near the monument. From the same spot, you can also get good views of the ocean, the bay and Coronado (Spanish, meaning "crowned"). On Coronado, the Hotel Del Coronado is easily visible with its large red roofs.     RETURN TO TOP.

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All designs, texts & graphics of this website are JSP Schwarz, San Diego, California, United States of America. Permission is granted to reproduce anything within this website as long as it is not-for-profit & proper credit is given for the source.