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I'll be in San Diego, CA (USA) for about 3 days next week and was wondering what are some of the recommended places to see in and around the San Diego convention center if I have maybe a day's time for sight-seeing.

Yes, I can visit Tripadvisor (of which I am a regular contributor of articles) et al but somehow that seems very impersonal and the reviews are extremely mixed and by experience I find it is difficult to judge a place only by tripadvisor's remarks.

My interests lie in:

  1. Sight seeing/Art
  2. Eating (lacto/ova vegetarian)
  3. Shopping (low budget, < $100)

I will not be renting a car. I will have perhaps a total of 12-15 hours during the entire trip for recreation.


As per Karlson, I am not expecting anyone to be a psychic. If I knew what kind of memorabilia I'd like to pick up, I'd probably not post to travel.SE.

If you anyone has two cents about what to do in San Diego without needing to be psychic (since I am not trying to hire travel agents here), do leave a comment.

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I am not sure that this can be definitively or even semi-definitively answered without clarification. – Karlson Nov 12 '12 at 19:59
@Karlson What clarification do you need? – drN Nov 12 '12 at 20:02
What kind of sights/Art? Any specific cuisines? What are you shopping for? Are you walking only or Light Rail/Bus will work? Would you consider renting a bike? – Karlson Nov 12 '12 at 20:04
@Karlson Thanks for your constructive criticism. For someone who has been on SE for a while, you are quite curt. – drN Nov 12 '12 at 20:14
@drN: Care to answer your own question now that you are back from the trip? – Jonas Nov 22 '12 at 23:13
up vote 5 down vote accepted

If you want to go shopping for memorabilia, the Seaport Village and the Horton Plaza (prepare to not easily find your way out) are pretty good bets, as well as the Gaslamp Quarter, where you'll find plenty of dining opportunities (as a meat-eater, I cannot help you with vegan options).

For museums, I very much recommend you take the bus to Balboa Park, which will take about 30 minutes. In the Balboa Park you'll find plently of museums, including the free Timken Museum, which has a nice small art collection on display. In addition, there are places to eat, as well as gardens to walk around.

If you're into history, you can take the trolley to Old Town, from where you can walk through the beautiful Presidio park to the Serra Museum, where they have small exhibits about San Diego's history. You could also take the trolley a bit further to visit the Mission, which was established by the Spanish in the mid-18th century.

Finally, I do have to mention the San Diego Zoo, which is amazing, takes about a day to visit, and lets you see giant pandas. Don't miss the gondola lift with its nice view!

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You know, now I wish I had more time there! I'll probably get only a total of 12-15 hours to look around! :( – drN Nov 14 '12 at 0:32
@drN: are these hours contiguous, or in small chunks? Also: San Diego is a great destination for tourism, especially if you have a car. – Jonas Nov 14 '12 at 1:13
small chunks. 2 hours on Sunday, 2 hours on Monday and perhaps 8-10 hours on tuesday. No car. Poor grad student! :P – drN Nov 14 '12 at 1:28
@drN: I suggest you spend the 2-hr chunks downtown (gaslamp, seaport village) or in Old Town, and go to Balboa Park on Tuesday (or to the zoo, if you want to spend the money). Note that you can always take a taxi to go to places farther away. – Jonas Nov 14 '12 at 1:41
I live in a small town in Michigan (pop.<10000) and I've always been quite circumspect about travelling to big cities. Should I be worried? Is San Diego generally a safe place for (obvious and oblivious) tourists? – drN Nov 14 '12 at 1:44

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