6 places to visit in San Diego when you’re not at SDCC


As millions of people converge on San Diego for Comic Con, the convention center isn’t the only place to visit. These six places offer a break from the convention mayhem.

Heading to San Diego for Comic Con? Sure, the convention will be filled with celebrities, panels and all the announcements, but the city has much more to offer. From theme parks to historic locations, San Diego has so many attractions to visit.

Here are six places to visit when you need something a little different to pass the time.

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Balboa Park

With a tag line like “Where Beauty Blooms,” Balboa Park combines nature, culture, and experiences in one impressive location. Named after the Spanish explorer, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the park is considered a National Historic Landmark. Home to 16 museums, performance spaces and restaurants, the 1,200-acre area can take a while to explore.

Over the years, Balboa Park has been featured in movies, video games and was even the subject of a Bruce Springsteen song. It is home to the San Diego Pride Festival, Earth Day celebrations, and weekly free concerts. Whether you’re wandering through the gardens, viewing the architecture, or even people watching, a visit to Balboa Park is a must when visiting San Diego.

LPGA player In-Kyung Kim smiles during a feature photo shoot at the San Diego Zoo on August 16, 2010 in San Diego, California. Via Getty Images

San Diego Zoo

Considered the number one zoo in the world, San Diego Zoo is a must visit for all ages. Located in Balboa Park, this zoo has topped many people’s lists of the best attractions the city has to offer. From special experiences to just a general admission experience, these animal exhibits are quite memorable. As the pioneer of re-creating natural animal habitats, the guests feel better about viewing animals in a cageless, more natural habitat.

With the zoo open from 9 until 9, the whole day can be filled with animal fun. Whether you explore via the guided bus tour, on the gondola, or by foot, this animal adventure will take some time. Maybe you can find see the similarities between those real animals and some of your favorite movie characters.

Sea World San Diego, Orca 360, photo provided by Sea World San Diego

Sea World San Diego

For the thrill seekers, Sea World San Diego can be quite a diversion from the SDCC chaos. From big thrills on roller coasters like Manta to animal encounters, Sea World San Diego is a fun adventure. Putting aside the controversies, Sea World does have many positive contributions to animal conservation and education.

One of the newer attractions is the DeepSEE VR: Orca 360. This virtual reality experience brings guests into the orca world. It has guests feeling what it is like to be in the ocean and truly get a glimpse of its beauty and power. While most of us will never experience a deep water dive with an orca, this VR version offers a unique perspective on what it can feel like.

Mission San Diego de Alcalá

This historic mission might not be the first stop for visitors, but Mission San Deigo de Alcalá does have a few points of interest, particularly for history buffs. It is considered California’s first mission church. The first California vineyards were planted at the mission. Although the wine didn’t survive, olives did. According to the mission’s history, the mission successfully cultivated the first olives in the state here.

It is also an active parish church. Visitors can go to mass or daily readings. While some tours are available, it is best to check with the church for availability.

Hotel del Coronado

Located on the beach, the Hotel del Coronado is a wooden Victorian beach resort and is considered the second largest wooden structure in the United States. Featured in numerous movies and books, the active hotel is considered part an important part of American history and pop culture. Today, the hotel is part of the Hilton Curio brand.

Even if you don’t book a room at this infamous hotel, a visit to the property is quite entertaining.
After a long day, a visit to the Sunset Bar is a great place to unwind. Located on the ocean, the outdoor bar offers amazing views and creative cocktails. While you might not meet your king, like Wallis Simpson did, you can sip an impeccable cocktail and enjoy a delicious appetizer.

USS Midway Museum

Considered one of the best museums in the U.S., this aircraft carrier museum is a must visit for history buffs and movie fans alike. With San Diego being the original home to the Navy TOPGUN school, why not see what those Navy fighter pilots go through in real life?

The tour of the USS Midway has guests traversing the whole ship. While the audio tour is self-guided, it does offer some fun experiences. From flight simulators to climbing into a cockpit, you can experience what it could be like to be a fighter pilot. Don’t forget your aviators for that perfect photo.

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Are you heading to San Diego? What’s your hidden gem or must visit locale?