Los Angeles may have a sunken graffiti Atlantis and a storybook witch’s house, but nearby San Diego has its fair share of fun and quirky attractions too. After strolling around the historic Gaslamp district or seeing the animals at SeaWorld and the world- renowned San Diego Zoo, go beyond the typical tourist attractions of “America’s Finest City.” With a newly revitalized downtown and the weather as beautiful as ever, now is the time to travel off the beaten path and visit these ten lesser known spots, including a mountain with stunning views of the skyline and an underwater park full of wildlife.
1. Centennial Park
Located on Coronado Island, Centennial Park offers an unbeatable view of San Diego’s skyline. Originally home to the San Diego ferry, which transported residents between Coronado Island and San Diego until the construction of the Coronado Bridge in 1969, this park has two gazebos and a rose garden plus many benches for additional seating.
2. Unconditional Surrender Statue
Look familiar? Based on the famous 1945 photograph V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt, this statue was originally a part of a loaner program that housed the sculpture in San Diego between August 2010 and May 2012. A bronze version of the sculpture was purchased and installed in its current location in February 2013.
3. Dog Beach
Everyone loves dogs, and at the original Dog Beach in Ocean Beach both Fido and master feel right at home. Established in 1972, Dog Beach is the only 24-hour beach that gives pets the ability to run, dig, and lounge leash-free while both take in the warm sun and cool breeze of the Pacific Ocean.
4. Mount Soledad
With a stunning 360 degree view of the ocean and city, Mount Soledad is a must visit for anyone in San Diego. Perched atop the La Jolla neighborhood, this popular vantage point is also home to the Mount Soledad cross at the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial.
5. San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park
This park, which spans 6,000 acres of ocean bottom and tidelands, is a popular destination for scuba divers and snorkelers due to its four distinct habitats: rocky reef, kelp bed, sand flats and submarine canyon. This underwater park is also home to two artificial reefs, with the first being constructed in 1964 and the second in 1975. These artificial reefs were built to attract and enhance marine wildlife, which is why this park is a great spot for observing seals, dolphins, birds, and sometimes even whales!
6. Scripps Pier
One of the longest reaching research piers, this non public-use attraction was completed in 1916 to acquire clean seawater for the nearby UC San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography laboratories. Since then, it has undergone multiple renovations and ultimately a complete replacement. Currently extending 1,090 feet into the Pacific Ocean, if you’re lucky you can catch the sunset falling directly in line with the pier!
7. Craft Brew Scene
With 87 licensed craft breweries and 31 more on the way, San Diego takes its unofficial title of “the Craft Beer Capital of America” very seriously. While breweries such as AleSmith Brewing Company and Stone Brewing Co. are consistently ranked among the top breweries in the world, San Diego County’s brewers have pioneered several specialty beer styles, the most notable being the Double IPA, aka the San Diego Pale Ale.
8. Black’s Beach
Resting beneath the bluffs of the world famous Torrey Pines golf course, Black’s Beach is jointly owned between the city of San Diego and the State of California. This joint ownership is an important designation, as Black’s Beach is the only allowed nude beach in the southern part of San Diego County and the largest nude beach in all of the United States.
9. Belmont Park Amusement Park
Consider Belmont Park San Diego’s version of Coney Island! (not to be confused with the Belmont Park Racetrack located in Elmont). With carnival style food, boardwalk games, a roller coaster, and two artificial wave machines, Belmont Park is loaded with fun and history. Dating back to its construction in 1925, the Giant Dipper roller coaster was granted the status of National Historic Landmark on July 4, 1990.
10. Potato Chip Rock
Located at the peak of Mount Woodson in Poway, Potato Chip Rock has quickly become a photo-op favorite amongst travelers and locals alike. Its unique appearance coupled with hikers’ creative imaginations have catapulted Potato Chip Rock into Instagram stardom. But don’t take our word for it—search for #potatochiprock to see for yourself!
Brett Bastello is the Community Outreach Officer at Dannecker & Associates, San Diego’s leading real estate agency, specializing in downtown San Diego condos.