Scenic drive sign in San Diego — Photo courtesy of Katie Dillon
One of the best ways to see San Diego is by taking advantage of the organized 59-Mile Scenic Drive. It's marked for easy reference every quarter of a mile by blue and yellow signage that includes a while seagull in the center.
Purchase a map outlining the drive (for 50 cents) at the International Visitor Information Center near the first stop. Stick to the map, as it's possible seagull signs are missing or don't catch your eye at crucial turns.
The drive takes about three hours, though some people take a day or two to complete it. Studying the 27 stops below in advance will help you determine where you'd like to spend time:
Balboa Park — Photo courtesy of Okayryan
1. Embarcardero: The 59-mile-long drive starts in downtown San Diego near the famous Embarcardero waterfront, where the Maritime Museum and USS Midway are located. Here, those not on a tight schedule can also ferry across the harbor to Coronado.
2. Harbor Island: Heading toward the San Diego Airport, take the Harbor Island exit for panoramic views of Point Loma, the San Diego Bay and downtown.
3. Spanish Landing and Shelter Island: See where the fishing boats are and visit the Yokohama Friendship Bell, named for San Diego's sister city in Japan. Dine on seafood while you're here.
4. Point Loma: Drive through this popular neighborhood to the Fort Rosecrans Cemetary, as you head toward stop five.
5. Cabrillo National Monument: Take stunning photographs, a ranger walk, a stroll through tide pools and more at this picturesque National Park.
6. Ocean Beach: It's popular for antique shopping and its funky vibe.
7. Mission Bay Aquatic Park: Near SeaWorld, this area on the bay has 27 miles of beaches and lots of green space.
8. Soledad Mountain: Mt. Soledad Memorial is here.
9. UCSD Campus: At this point, you'll begin to head south again using a different route.
10. Birch Aquarium at Scripps and Salk Institute: Stop at the aquarium if you have kids in tow.
11. La Jolla Cove Park and La Jolla Cave: Check out the seals that have invaded the cove.
12. Prospect Street and La Jolla Visitor Center: Shop or stop into the visitor center with questions.
13. La Jolla Residential Area: This is one of San Diego's most affluent neighborhoods.
14. Pacific Beach: Go people watching, sunbathing or surfing in this college area.
15. Mission Beach: Stop to ride the roller coaster at Belmont Park.
16. Sports Arena: Kobey's Swap Meet happens on the weekends for bargain shoppers and treasure hunters.
17. Old Town State Historic Park: Old town is considered the birthplace of California, with a number of Mexican food options.
18. Serra Museum: Learn about the early days of San Diego.
19. Hillcrest: The area is popular with the LGBT community and also for trendy shopping and dining.
20. Balboa Park: The nation's largest urban cultural park is home to 16 museums and a number of public gardens.
21. San Diego Zoo: This world-famous zoo is our most popular attraction.
22. Museums, Spreckels Organ Pavilion and House of Pacific Relations International Cottages: The world's largest outdoor pipe organ is near cottages that occasionally host entertainment.
23. Financial District: Bertrand at Mr. A's is located here.
24. Seaport Village: This touristy shopping area is on the waterfront and near the USS Midway.
25. Convention Center and Embarcadero Marina Park: COMIC-CON takes place here annually.
26. Gaslamp Quarter: Find the city's best nightlife and dining in the restored Gaslamp Quarter.
27. Horton Plaza: This is an outdoor shopping mall that is anchored by Nordstrom and famous for its architecture.
After this, you are back almost where you started in downtown San Diego. There is a lot to see, but this scenic drive is a great way for new residents and tourists to understand the lay of the land, as San Diego is quite spread out.