San Diego is California's second largest city. It has a population of just 1.2 million and shares a border with Tijuana. The two cities grew together during the 1880s land boom. Visitors get a buzz out of visiting two countries in one day, particularly as the contrast between them is like chalk and cheese.
San Diego is a good comfortable city to explore. It has a beautiful coastline with loads of beaches to be enjoyed in a near-perfect climate. Downtown streets are in grid form and the main road, Broadway, runs from the waterfront through the middle of town. The massive Horton Plaza is the centrepiece of the city's urban development and the renovated Gaslamp Quarter is the place to go for ambience and entertainment.
There are museums, zoos and animal parks laid on, and Balboa Park is America's largest urban cultural park. It is home to 15 museums, performing arts venues, architectural wonders, beautiful gardens and a world-famous zoo.
SeaWorld is a chain of marine mammal parks in the United States. There are over 20,000 aquatic creatures there, including killer whales, sea lions and dolphin shows, and zoological displays featuring other marine animals.
You have the chance to meet animals up close and enjoy your visit below the surface and above the waves. Rides to have fun on include Shipwreck Rapids, Wild Arctic, Skyride, Skytower and Journey to Atlantis.
The park's biggest drawcard is Shamu, the killer whale. The Shamu adventure, Believe is performed in a 26 million-litre stadium. The behaviour of Shamu and friends instils a newfound appreciation for both whales and trainers. The show blends themes of conservation with humour, highlighting the delicate balance of the sea and its creatures.
March 31, 2007, will see the arrival of Shamu Rocks, a 20-minute freewheeling musical journey through fantastic natural settings. Four LED moving and rotating screens will capture Shamu's voyage through killer whale playgrounds around the world. Whale and trainers will wow the crowd with free-flowing behaviours, while on-screen images morph into a kaleidoscope of images, complemented by classic and contemporary songs.
Other attractions are Shipwreck Rapids, Wild Arctic, Skyride, Skytower and Journey to Atlantis.
San Diego Zoo is home to over 4000 rare and endangered animals, representing over 800 species and sub-species. There are exhibits highlighting monkeys, pandas, polar bears, sun bears, flamingos, koalas, reptiles and rainforests.
Just a half hour away is their other big attraction San Diego Wild Animal Park, nestled among the hills of the San Pasqual Valley. There, animals enjoy even freer conditions than those at the zoo. Some are regularly swapped between the two locales to give them a change of scenery.
It is a refuge for wildlife and a safe harbour for species of the plant kingdom. Towering acacias, lofty conifers, prickly desert plants and all things green and leafy and beautiful to behold.
The 730 hectares was pretty much bare dirt and the daunting task was to turn it into a paradise within months, and it was achieved. The semi-arid environment's design was based around a Kenyan village. One of its most notable features is the large Wgasa Railway. Designing, planting 500,000 trees, shrubs, flowering plants and ground covers, landscaping and irrigating was done with great fervour and it opened in May 1972.
The Park people worked closely with local garden clubs, botanical societies, specialty nurseries, as well as importing plant specimens, and the result represents geographical areas from all around the world.
It has a wonderful array of wild and endangered animals from Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America and Australia. Cheetahs, antelopes, lions, giraffes, okapis, elephants, zebras, Przewalski's horses, rhinos and bonobos. It has a successful California condor breeding program, and an impressive collection of rare hornbills.
Tower 23 Hotel is San Diego's only luxury lifestyle hotel on the beach. Named for Lifeguard Tower 23 on Pacific Beach in front of the hotel, its location is superb. The resort community of La Jolla is just north of the hotel and has wonderful shops and restaurants.
California's south coast.
San Diego Zoo entry is around $42 for adults and around $28 for children.
San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park entry is around $36 for adults and $22 for children. Photo Caravan Safari Tours are around $90 per person. Cheetah Run Safaris are around $69 per person, eight years and older. They run on weekends only. Balloon Safaris are around $15 per person for a 15-minute ride.
Two Park ticket is around $75 for adults and $50 for children. One visit per location is valid for five days after first visit.
SeaWorld San Diego is around $71 for 10 years and older and $59 for three to nine year olds.
Wild Arctic Interaction with beluga whales is around $205 per person after admission for 10 years and over.
Dolphin Interaction Program is around $190 per person after admission for six years and over.
Dine With Shamu starts at around $43 after admission for 10 years and over and $20 for younger children.
Three-for-one Pass (Zoo, Park and SeaWorld) is around $136 for adults and $98 for children. Unlimited admission for up to five consecutive days.
Tower 23 rooms start at around $240 a night.
San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Drive
San Diego CA 92112-0551
Ph: 0011 1 619 222 6362
San Diego Wild Animal Park
15500 San Pasqual Valley Road
Escondido CA 92027-7017
Ph: 0011 1 760 747 8702
Seaworld Adventure Park
500 SeaWorld Drive
San Diego CA 92109
Ph: 0011 1 619 224 3371
Tower 23 Hotel
4551 Ocean Blvd
San Diego CA 92109
Ph: 0011 1 858 270-5736