San Diego Attractions

San Diego is a vibrant city with activity options for all types of travelers. While the Biophysical Society does not currently offer tours in conjunction with the meeting, this list has been compiled for your use before and after the meeting. Enjoy your stay!

San Diego Zoo 

The San Diego Zoo opens at 9 a.m., giving you several hours to explore. With approximately 4,000 animals on more than 100 lushly-planted acres, the best way to get your bearings is with a narrated tour on a double-decker bus. Your ticket is also good for an express bus that makes stops throughout the Zoo, so you can hop on and off at various points. Another great idea: an aerial tram ride providing a fantastic overview of the entire area. In addition to the Zoo's famous pandas, on loan from the People's Republic of China, top exhibits include the Polar Bear Plunge and Hippo Beach (both enclosures offer underwater vantage points); the Monkey Trails exhibit, home to many endangered species; and the Elephant Odyssey, where you can view current species while exploring prehistoric fossil evidence and extinction causes. For youngsters, the Children's Zoo with its petting corral of friendly animals is a perennial favorite. Open daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.


One of the nation's loveliest beaches. Named one of the top 10 in America by the Travel Channel, Coronado Beach is family-friendly and well-patrolled by lifeguards. Here, you can swim, play volleyball, build a sandcastle, or simply relax. The most popular stretch of sand is known as Central Beach, adjacent to the historic Hotel Del Coronado. Constructed in 1888, the charming red-roofed hotel has hosted numerous presidents and celebrities and was the setting for the movie "Some Like it Hot." To the north, the beach offers a designated area where dog owners can let their pets romp in the surf, while to the south, the Shores area is a popular spot for bodyboarding. 

Nighttime-Gaslamp Quarter

Depending on your interests, you can sightsee, shop, stroll, see a movie, dine, or dance into the night. Your first stop should be Horton Plaza, a multi-story, open-air mall known for its eclectic architecture, people-watching opportunities and more than 100 stores and shops. Make a purchase here and you'll get three free hours of parking - ample time for shopping and exploring the surrounding Gaslamp Quarter. Home to art galleries, boutiques, coffeehouses, neighborhood bars, swanky nightclubs and restaurants of every stripe, the Gaslamp Quarter offers something for every budget. Dining options range from family-style restaurants and chains to upscale steakhouses, Italian trattorias, tapas bars and Asian eateries. Several clubs and restaurants host live music (the House of Blues has a branch here), while others feature DJs, televised sports, or simply the buzz of lively conversations. Movie theaters include the Gaslamp Stadium 15 and the UA Horton Plaza; and if it's baseball season, you can catch a Padre game at the spectacular Petco Park. 

Petco Park

Petco Park is home to the San Diego Padres baseball team. The park offers tours at low rates on most days (no tours on game days). 

Sea World

One of the best ways to experience Sea World is with a one-hour, behind-the scenes tour that gives you a VIP view of animal housing and training facilities and research areas. (Other personalized tours are available as well. See Web site for details; tours should be booked in advance.) Then, be sure to check out favorite attractions like the delightful Penguin Encounter; Wild Arctic, where a 25-foot-long ice wall brings you upclose to beluga whales, polar bears and walruses; Shark Encounter, where a walk-through, Plexiglas tube takes you into the midst of hundreds of sharks; and dozens of other exhibits and shows. Dining options range from snacks and fast food to sit-down restaurants; there's even an opportunity to dine with Shamu. Note: Buy a "Two Days to Play" admission ticket, for the same price as a single day ticket, and you can come back another day for free. Park hours vary according to the season; gates open at 9:00 or 10:00 a.m.

Mission Bay

There are many boat rental facilities around Mission Bay. Depending on your skill level and the size of your party, you can rent anything from a single or double kayak or a people-powered paddle boat to a fast-moving sailboard, personal watercraft, or sailboat. Generally, the motor-powered craft stick to the east portion of the bay (Fiesta Island is especially popular with the jet ski crowd) while sailors and kayakers are more common on the west side. Several of the larger hotels, including the Bahia, the Catamaran, and Paradise Point, have rental facilities, as do the Mission Bay Sport Center at Santa Clara Point and Seaforth Boat Rental at Quivira Basin. Be sure to bring along some bottled water and plenty of sunscreen; San Diego sunlight can be intense year-round.

Bahia Belle

Wrap up your night with a cruise on the Mississippi-style sternwheeler Bahia Belle, which shuttles between two hotels on Mission Bay. The views are fabulous from all three decks, and the bay has a quiet beauty all its own at night. Cruises from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. are designated Family Hours, while those from 9:30 p.m. on are for the 21 and up crowd only. Catch the boat at the Bahia Hotel and enjoy a short tour before stopping at the Catamaran Hotel. After a brief stop, the ship returns to the Bahia.


LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad was the first LEGO theme park in North America, and it offers far more than classic building blocks. The park, which is geared toward children ages 2 through 12, has more than 50 shows, rides and exhibits - many of which provide learning opportunities and creative play as well as entertainment. Among the most popular: Kids can pilot their own LEGO-built boats at Skipper School, view life-size dinosaurs from the Coastersaurus ride, attend "driving school" or navigate through pirate-infested waters while aiming your water cannon at other riders or spectators at Splash Battle. Don't miss Miniland - miniature replicas of famous structures throughout the world sure to fascinate grownups and children alike. The park offers a number of shops and dining options; nearby casual restaurants include Tip Top Meats and Karl Strauss. Note: LEGOLAND's days of operation follow school schedules, and the park may be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the school year. Be sure to call ahead for hours.

Birch Aquarium

Drive south along the coast on Highway 101, which carries you through a series of beach towns and ocean vistas on your way to the Birch Aquarium. This stunning La Jolla landmark attracts visitors of all ages. Children are especially attracted to the "touch and learn" exhibit of starfish and other sea creatures; the outdoor tidepool; the fanciful seahorses; and the impressive collection of sharks. On certain days, guests can watch divers descend into the 70,000-gallon giant kelp forest tank to point out various species of fish, feed them, and answer audience questions. The aquarium also has an Explorers Gallery with science displays and interactive features, and a simulator ride with surround sound and computer-generated visuals that mimics an underwater adventure.


A scenic cruise around San Diego Bay is offered by several companies. Both Flagship Cruises & Events and Hornblower Cruises offer narrated one-hour tours featuring either the north or south end of the bay. Highlights (depending on the itinerary) include the Coronado Bridge; naval aircraft carriers and other military ships; San Diego's working shipyards; Shelter and Harbor Islands; the submarine base; and Point Loma. You'll often see seals and sea lions perched on the buoys as well as a colorful variety of sail and power boats, especially on the weekends. Families will appreciate the comfortable cruise boats that feature snack bars, indoor and outdoor seating, and bathroom facilities. Bring a sweater; even when the weather's warm, sea breezes can add a chill out on the water. After your cruise, walk along the bayfront to see the Star of India (a classic sailing ship) and the ferryboat Berkeley. Nearby family-friendly dining options include Anthony's Fish Grotto and the Fish Market. Note: Dinner cruises are also offered by the tour boats; check with the companies for details. 

59-Mile Scenic Drive

This drive, marked by the Visitor's Bureau of San Diego, covers all of the major points in San Diego that a visitor would want to see. 

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