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Dozens of popular sights and attractions are located within a two-mile radius of the San Diego Cruise Ship Terminal, including museums, historic sites, shopping centers, and hip neighborhoods.


San Diego's Embarcadero, a long stretch of downtown bayfront where San Diego's cruise ships dock, is one area that seemingly has it all. If passengers have only a day to explore San Diego, this is a great area to start sightseeing.

  • USS Midway Museum, where you can explore galleys, sleeping quarters, and the engine room of this aircraft carrier, as well as 25 restored aircraft and optional flight simulators, during a self-guided audio tour. Docents include many retired sailors who served on the USS Midway.
  • Maritime Museum of San Diego, including the Star of India, the world's oldest active sailing ship, and a replica of the HMS Surprise, made famous in the film "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World."
  • Seaport Village, a quaint Victorian-style collection of shops and restaurants with a historic Loof Carousel (circa 1890).
  • Embarcadero Marina Park, located adjacent to Seaport Village, where visitors can picnic and watch sailboats drift by in the Bay.
  • Superb signature seafood restaurants, including:

Old Town Trolley Tours/Seal Tours

The trackless Old Town Trolley Tours of San Diego, Inc. offers one of the most thorough, entertaining and convenient tours of San Diego's top tourist spots. Cruise ship passengers can easily hop aboard at a stop in front of the Cruise Ship Terminal and tour at their own pace—getting off and reboarding the trolley as many times as they wish while making one complete loop of the city. If visitors choose not to disembark, the tour lasts approximately two hours. The trolley tours through the following attractions and areas of San Diego:

  • Seaport Village, a quaint Victorian-style collection of shops and restaurants with a historic Loof Carousel (circa 1890).
  • The Gaslamp Quarter, a 16 1/2-block downtown historic district with shops, galleries, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, theatres and museums
  • Westfield Horton Plaza is an outdoor European-style, multi-level shopping and entertainment center known for its award-winning architecture
  • Coronado Island, home of the famous Hotel del Coronado
  • Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in North America, home of 15 museums and the Tony® Award-winning Old Globe Theatre and The world-famous San Diego Zoo.
  • Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, the first European settlement on the U.S. West Coast

Old Town Trolley Tours of San Diego operates a similar city excursion, SEAL Tours, which takes guests on an amphibious vehicle tour of the city plus the scenic waters of San Diego Bay. The 90-minute tour departs daily from the Harbor House Restaurant in Seaport Village.

Gaslamp Quarter

Visitors could easily spend an entire day in downtown's historic Gaslamp Quarter, where classic Victorian buildings are home to 100 retail shops, 100 restaurants and 35 bars and nightclubs.

Visitors interested in discovering the colorful history of downtown San Diego, from the founding of Alonzo Horton's New Town to the Wild West days of Wyatt Earp, have two options:

  • Where You Want to Be Tours offers behind the scenes walking tours of the Gaslamp Quarter beginning at Buster's Beach House in Seaport Village; reservations are required.
  • The William Heath Davis Historic House Museum, the Gaslamp Quarter's oldest surviving structure and home of the Gaslamp Historical Foundation, offers self-guided tours of the museum. On Saturdays at 11:00 am, the Foundation offers an entertaining guided two-hour tour of the Gaslamp.

Coronado, The Crown City

Adjacent to the Cruise Ship Terminal, passengers can board the San Diego Coronado Ferry every hour on the hour from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM (9:00 AM to 10:00 PM, Friday and Saturday) and cruise across San Diego Bay to spend the day in Coronado. Orange Avenue, the city's charming main thoroughfare, was awarded the Great American Main Street Award in 2000, and the village's "downtown" is home to quaint shops, fine dining and the award-winning Lamb's Players Theatre. Fun sights and activities on the island include:

  • Coronado Ferry Landing, a collection of specialty shops, galleries and restaurants on San Diego Bay; bike rentals are available.
  • The famous Hotel del Coronado, a National Historic Landmark and the backdrop for the 1959 film "Some Like it Hot," starring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.
  • Coronado Beach, ranked by the Travel Channel as the nation's #1 beach for families and #2 of "America's Top 10 Beaches."
  • The historic Glorietta Bay Inn, the former mansion of "Sugar Baron" John D. Spreckels.
  • Coronado Touring walking tours, where guests stroll past "the Del," the Duchess of Windsor cottage and the home where Frank L. Baum created the Wizard of Oz, and hear tales and tidbits of more than 100 years of Coronado history. Tours depart from the Glorietta Bay Inn. Reservations are required: 619.435.5993.
  • Museum of History and Art/Coronado Historical Association

Birthplace of California

Visitors can step back in time and experience the rich Spanish and Mexican heritage of San Diego, the birthplace of California, by visiting the following significant historic sites:

  • Cabrillo National Monument, situated on the Point Loma peninsula at the entrance to San Diego Bay, commemorates the first European exploration of the U.S. West Coast by Portuguese navigator Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo; he discovered San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542. Cabrillo National Monument is the third most visited national monument in the U.S. and includes the Old Point Loma Lighthouse.
  • Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, located just north of downtown San Diego, marks the first European settlement on the West Coast. Sights to visit include Old Town Square, Casa de Estudillo, Plaza del Pasado and the Whaley House Museum SOHO, one of only two officially-designated haunted houses in California.
  • Old Town is easily accessible from downtown by the San Diego Trolley's Blue Line. Guests can hop aboard the trolley at the Santa Fe Depot and get off at Old Town station.
  • Presidio Park, on a hill overlooking Old Town, was the site of the first Spanish presidio—a fortress structure that included the original Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala. Founded in 1769, Mission San Diego de Alcala was the first in a chain of 21 missions built in California. Presidio Hill, known as the “Plymouth Rock of the West,” is the home of the Junipero Serra Museum, which contains thousands of artifacts unearthed from this historic site.
  • Mission San Diego de Alcala was relocated to Mission Valley in 1774. There is a convenient Mission San Diego station on the San Diego Trolley's Blue Line. Guests can visit the mission’s original chapel, California’s first church, and the gardens of this national historic landmark.

A Walk in the Park

Balboa Park, located close to downtown—five minutes by taxi from the Cruise Ship Terminal—is the cultural heart of San Diego. Visitors could easily spend an entire day discovering Balboa Park's many cultural delights. Encompassing 1,200 acres, Balboa Park is a magnificent cultural complex second only to the Smithsonian in size (it is often referred to as the “Smithsonian of the West"). The Park is home to 85 cultural institutions, including 15 museums (ranging from anthropology to science, as well as classic and contemporary art), performing arts venues (such as the Tony Award®-winning Old Globe Theatre), art galleries, lush botanical gardens and the San Diego Zoo. Along the Prado walkway, visitors can view grand Spanish Colonial-revival style structures, originally built for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition.

Go Wild

  • Passengers interested in visiting one of San Diego's major attractions can take a walk on the wild side at the San Diego Zoo, a 100-acre tropical oasis located in the middle of Balboa Park. Home to 4,000 animals of 800 rare and exotic species, the Zoo is world-renowned for its bio-climatic exhibits. The Zoo is one of the few facilities in the United States that houses the popular giant pandas, a critically endangered species. Guests can take a guided bus tour for a great overview of the Zoo.
  • SeaWorld San Diego, located just north of downtown San Diego on Mission Bay, also offers close encounters of the animal kind, but in an aquatic setting. SeaWorld San Diego was the first SeaWorld park in the nation and is home to Shamu, the world-famous killer whale. The Park features six major animal shows, dozens of fascinating exhibits containing marine life from around the globe and the thrill ride Journey to Atlantis.

Shop Till You Drop

"Shop-portunities" abound in San Diego. Following are a some of the most popular and conveniently located shopping spots for passengers:

  • Located within a 10 minute walk of the Cruise Ship Terminal, Horton Plaza is a colorful outdoor shopping experience covering seven city blocks in downtown. Known for its M.C. Escher-like architecture, Horton Plaza features more than 140 stores, including Nordstrom and Macy's.
  • San Diego's downtown neighborhoods offer unique shopping experiences. The exciting Gaslamp Quarter has 100 unique retail shops to explore. Little Italy, a lively old-fashioned neighborhood located northeast of the Embarcadero, is filled with art galleries, home décor shops, patio cafes, traditional Italian restaurants and pubs; Little Italy's main thoroughfares are India Street and Kettner Blvd.
  • Hillcrest, San Diego's eclectic uptown neighborhood, is located just a short taxi ride away from downtown. Its main thoroughfares, University and Fifth Avenues, are lined with dozens of novelty stores, thrift shops, bookstores and the like, as well as cafes and restaurants serving everything from California to Thai cuisine.
  • Nearby Balboa Park has a multitude of museum shops filled with one-of-a-kind gifts.
  • Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is home to dozens of little shops selling imported Mexican items; souvenir hunters love the variety of curios. Fiesta de Reyes, located on Old Town Square, is a festive international marketplace filled with colorful arts and craft shops. Old Town Marketplace, located at the entrance to the State Park, features merchant carts and artisans.
  • Fashion Valley, San Diego's finest collection of stores, includes five department stores (Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy's, and JC Penney) and more than 40 stores that are exclusive to the area, including Tiffany & Co., M.A.C., Louis Vuitton, A/X Armani Exchange, Max Studio and more. Fashion Valley is easily accessible by the San Diego Trolley's Blue Line; riders board at the Santa Fe Depot and get off at the Fashion Valley Transit Center.
  • Ocean Beach Antique District, located northwest of downtown in the beach community of Ocean Beach, is the place for antique buffs to find all sorts of treasures from yesteryear; the main thoroughfare is Newport Avenue

South of the Border

San Diego is well known for its close proximity to Tijuana, Mexico, one of the world's most visited cities. Tijuana is conveniently located 17 miles from downtown San Diego - a perfect day trip for guests looking for an affordable international adventure. The border city bustles with activity day and night, offering duty-free shopping, authentic Mexican cuisine, dog racing, arts and culture, nightlife and more. The rich and colorful culture of Tijuana can be discovered on Avenida Revolucion, the city's lively main thoroughfare, where shopping opportunities abound in festive outdoor bazaars and plazas.

The easiest way to visit Tijuana is via the San Diego Trolley's Blue Line, which runs from downtown San Diego to the U.S./Mexico border. The total ride time one-way is approximately 40 minutes.

Have more than one day to play in San Diego? Check out a suggested 2-day and 3-day San Diego itinerary.

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