Balboa Park, Cabrillo Monument Rank Among San Diego's Must-See Sites

Visitors to San Diego have the chance to experience more than surfing and sun. The seaside, southern California city is home to a world-famous zoo, a thriving arts and culture scene and a rich history. Here are three San Diego must-see sites.

Balboa Park - With more than 1,000 acres and 15 museums, San Diego’s Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in the United States. It is also the location of the San Diego Zoo, which is home to more than 4,000 animals that represent more than 800 species and subspecies. Famous for its giant pandas and conservation efforts, the zoo also has an extensive safari park

Balboa Park has at least one museum that will pique your interest. Perhaps it will be the San Diego Museum of Art, which is the oldest and largest art museum in the region. The anthropological San Diego Museum of Man and the out-of-this-world San Diego Air & Space Museum are just two more of your many options. If you are looking to get a glimpse of the city’s sports legacy, check out the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum, which is the largest multi-sport museum in the nation. Get in touch with nature at one of the park’s gardens and trails.

View a puppet show at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater, or see the Old Globe regional theater. The Balboa Park website boasts a complete list of museums, activities and attractions

USS Midway - If you are looking for an educational, historical and interactive experience, visit the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier. The Navy used the ship during the Vietnam War and the First Persian Gulf War, as well as for humanitarian efforts. The USS Midway, which was named after the decisive United States World War II naval victory, is the length of three football fields and comparable in height to a 20-story building. She could carry up to 80 planes when she was active. On board the floating ship museum, you can see 60 exhibits, like the sleeping quarters and ship’s post office, and 25 restored airplanes. For an additional fee, you can try out one of three different kinds of flight simulators. The museum admission price also includes a self-guided audio tour that is narrated by sailors who lived or worked on the ship.

Cabrillo National Monument - Cabrillo National Monument was established in 1913 in honor of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the leader of the first European expedition to what is now the West Coast of the United States. Today, you can see Cabrillo’s statue watching over the bay. While at Cabrillo National Monument, you can visit the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. Though it serves as a reminder of the nautical life of the mid-to-late-19th century, the lighthouse was only in use for 36 years amid frequent fog. New Point Loma Lighthouse took its place in 1891.

If you visit Cabrillo National Monument in the winter, try to catch a glimpse of the Pacific gray whales during their migration to the warm waters of Baja California. Take a hike along the two-mile long Bayside Trail for what is said to be an unparalleled view of San Diego and the bay.