Balboa Park in San Diego, California.
Ian White

Best of San Diego: 17 Favorite Moments

If you think San Diego is just about wiggling your toes in the sand or cooing over cuddly panda bears, think again. Combining big-city style with small-town heart, this seaside destination offers an embarrassment of riches: stunning natural beauty, high-octane nightlife, world-class cultural organizations, family-friendly attractions, and sophisticated dining. Oh, did I mention it has the country's best weather as well? San Diego is also perched on the world's busiest international border, with the sights, sounds, and tastes of Mexico just a Chihuahua's length away.

Photo Caption: Balboa Park in San Diego, California.
Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego, California.
Ian White
Escaping to Torrey Pines State Reserve
Dramatically set atop 300-foot (91m) cliffs overlooking the Pacific, the Torrey Pines State Reserve is home to the rarest pine tree in North America. Short trails crisscross the delicate landscape, which also incorporates one of San Diego's best beaches.

Photo Caption: Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego, California.
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Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, California.
Ian White
Taking in the City's Best Panorama
Cabrillo National Monument not only offers a whirlwind history tour, beginning with San Diego's European discovery in 1542, it also provides unsurpassed 360-degree views of downtown and beyond. From its location at the tip of Point Loma - and at 422 feet (129m) above sea level - it's also a great vantage point from which to watch migrating Pacific gray whales in the winter.

Photo Caption: Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, California.
Seals at the Children's Pool in La Jolla, California.
Ian White
Communing with Seals and Sea Lions
The Children's Pool, a picturesque cove in La Jolla, was named for the toddlers who could safely frolic behind its protective, man-made sea wall. A colony of pinnipeds came to like it equally, and now the beach is shared - sometimes a little uneasily - between humans and seals.

Photo Caption: Seals at the Children's Pool in La Jolla, California.
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The Coronado Bay Bridge in San Diego, California.
Ian White
Zipping across the San Diego
Roll down the windows, put the top down, and let the wind blow through your hair as you cruise along the graceful San Diego
Tijuana, Mexico.
Marc van der Chijs
Making a Run for the Border
What a difference a line makes. Once you cross it, you're instantly immersed in the chaotic vibrancy of Mexico's fourth-largest city. Just a 20-minute drive from downtown, Tijuana has a raucous tourist zone with plentiful shopping, as well as an array of cultural and culinary delights.

Photo Caption: Tijuana, Mexico.
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Balboa Park in San Diego, California.
Ian White
Spending an Idyllic Day in Balboa Park
Balboa Park is one of the world's great urban cultural parks, home to more than a dozen of the city's top museums. There are dazzling gardens, glorious Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo as well. Balboa Park is San Diego's crown jewel.

Photo Caption: Balboa Park in San Diego, California.
Wine vineyards in Temecula, California.
michellewedeking27
Toasting the Good Life
Just across the county line in Temecula, about 60 miles (97km) north of downtown San Diego, are some two-dozen wineries. They range from mom-and-pop operations with minimal amenities to slick commercial ventures with fancy tasting rooms, retail boutiques, and restaurants. Cheers.

Photo Caption: Wine vineyards in Temecula, California.
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The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park in San Diego, California.
Ian White
Being a Groundling
You won't have to stand like they did in William Shakespeare's day, but you can see the Bard's works alfresco at the Old Globe Theatre's summer Shakespeare Festival. The Tony Award
La Jolla Underwater Park in La Jolla, California.
Ian White
Paddling with the Fishes
The calm and clear waters off San Diego's sister town La Jolla are perfect for kayaking. 
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Home of Major League Baseball's San Diego Padres, Petco Park
Jeffrey Liu
Buying Some Peanuts and Cracker Jacks
San Diego's Major League Baseball team, the Padres, play at PETCO Park, a state-of-theart ballpark that opened in 2004. Incorporating seven buildings that date as far back as 1909, PETCO's clever design and downtown location have made it a fan favorite.

Photo Caption: Home of Major League Baseball's San Diego Padres, Petco Park
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Photo by <a href="http://www.frommers.com/community/user_gallery_detail.html?plckPhotoID=380fa970-9ac7-4e87-bd48-7766e44960a1&plckGalleryID=c0482941-0d2d-4cca-b8c4-809ee9e20c72" target="_blank">GreggPasterick/Frommers.com Community</a>
Frommers.com Community
Witnessing the Desert's Spring Fling
For a period of several weeks - usually late February through March - Anza-Borrego Desert State Park magically comes alive with a carpet of blooming wildflowers. A brilliant palette of pink, lavender, red, orange, and yellow transforms the rugged landscape into a colorful oasis.

Photo Caption: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
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Julian Café & Bakery is famous for its apple pie in Julian, California.
Ian White
Getting in Touch with your Pioneer Spirit
The mountain hamlet of Julian was founded as a gold-mining town in the 1860s, but it gained fame for another mother lode: apples. Today, this rustic community has a distinctly Victorian, Old West charm, redolent of hot apple pies.

Photo Caption: Julian Café & Bakery is famous for its apple pie in Julian, California.
The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla, California.
Ian White
Challenging your Perception
The city's most important museum is the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD). With a flagship space in La Jolla and two downtown annexes, this internationally prominent museum offers ongoing exhibitions of cutting-edge art, as well as a roster of special events. A visit to any of MCASD's facilities is guaranteed to be a thought-provoking experience.

Photo Caption: The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla, California.
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The Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego, California.
Ian White
Strolling the Gaslamp Quarter
For dining, shopping, dancing, drinking, or just soaking up some local flavor, the Gaslamp Quarter is the place to be. People-watching opportunities abound - if you can manage to take your eyes off the exquisitely restored Victorian commercial buildings in this 161/2-block district.

Photo Caption: The Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego, California.
Watching for gray whales in San Diego, California.
tomcio77
Scouting for Whales
Every year, from December through March, Pacific gray whales pass through San Diego waters, making their way to and from breeding lagoons in Mexico. There are ample opportunities to observe these gentle giants from both land and sea as they undertake one of the longest migrations of any mammal.

Photo Caption: Watching for gray whales in San Diego, California.
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Manchester Grand Hyatt and Marriott San Diego Hotel & Marina, Embarcadero.
Brett Shoaf
Watching for the Green Flash
There's no better place to watch for the storied "green flash" - which occurs when the sun sinks beneath the horizon - than the Top of the Hyatt. This luxe lounge is located 40 stories above the Embarcadero in the West Coast's tallest waterfront building.

Photo Caption: Manchester Grand Hyatt and Marriott San Diego Hotel & Marina, Embarcadero.
San Diego Bay, downtown San Diego. Photo by <a href="http://www.frommers.com/community/user_gallery_detail.html?plckPhotoID=18f30039-74a0-4b98-a630-f3ba00f4c05f&plckGalleryID=c0482941-0d2d-4cca-b8c4-809ee9e20c72" target="_blank">Rwest/Frommers.com Community</a>.
Frommers.com Community
Cruising the Bay
Whether it's a weekend-brunch sightseeing tour, a chartered sailboat excursion, or just a water-taxi ride to Coronado, don't miss an opportunity to spend some time on San Diego Bay. Spanish conquistador Sebastián Vizcaíno described it in 1602 as "a port which must be the best to be found in all the South Sea." Discover it for yourself.

Photo Caption: San Diego Bay, downtown San Diego.
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