20 Things San Diego Is Known And Famous For

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San Diego is known for its great climate, military culture, world-class attractions, and events like Comic Con.

San Diego is the second largest city in California, behind Los Angeles. Located in the southwest corner of California, San Diego runs along the US-Mexico border near Tijuana. Since San Diego is known primarily for its sunny days and mild climate, it is a popular destination for tourists around the country.

Although most visitors will start by mentioning the San Diego Zoo or La Jolla beaches, San Diego is known for so much more! 

What Is San Diego Known For?

Many call it America’s finest city, so what is San Diego known for that earns that claim?

San Diego is famous for excellent weather, which pairs well with its expansive, white-sand beaches. The weather allows visitors to enjoy nearby LEGOLAND and SeaWorld San Diego to the fullest. Overall, San Diego is known for its mix of tourist attractions, natural wonders, and city charm!

Check out San Diego for a city that attracts beach-goers and city-dwellers alike! This city is certainly worth a stop for anyone visiting California! 

History, Culture, And Traditions

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Gems Of Tourism 

There are so many famous attractions San Diego is known for. From LEGOLAND California to Sesame Place San Diego, there are plenty of family-friendly destinations scattered all around the city.

The seaside climate and sunny days make San Diego a perfect place to enjoy theme parks and outdoor entertainment. 

If you’re more of an animal lover, get a better view of amazing creatures at SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Zoo, or the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. 

In addition, if you’re willing to travel a bit farther, you can catch a train or bus and be in Disney’s Magic Kingdom in just an hour and a half. 

All of these popular attractions draw tourists to the city and keep locals entertained. Over the years, they have become a huge part of what San Diego is famous for. 

soldier-holding-an-american-flag

Military Pride & Tradition 

With its prominent location along the coast, naval base, and military museums, San Diego is known for its military culture. This city holds the greatest concentration of military personnel in the entire country. Since San Diego has been a key military position for more than a century, it’s no wonder military influences can be seen all over San Diego. 

If you want to get a closer look at naval history in the area, visit the USS Midway Museum. Located at Navy Pier, this museum is one of the things San Diego is known for. This museum is in the Midway aircraft carrier, allowing visitors to explore the carrier and large collection of artifacts and memorabilia. 

There are also events during the year that bring out this military history clearly. Fleet Week and the Miramar Air Show are enormous public events, which honor members of different US military branches. 

San Diego Comic Con

Additionally, San Diego is famous for its Comic Con! Many recognize San Diego’s Comic Con as the largest comic convention in the world. This convention brings together fans from many pop-culture hits, drawing from comic books, movies, manga, anime, video games, and more.

In fact, San Diego Comic Con is such a big part of the city, there’s a museum for it! If you’re visiting Balboa Park, check out this museum. Its interactive exhibits and focus on storytelling is bound to be a hit with any Comic Con fan! 

Mexican Influences

With its location near the US-Mexico border, San Diego has strong Mexican influences in its culture. This influence can be seen in the Cali-Baja twist on important foods, as well as the city’s architecture. Chicano art has also become a big part of what San Diego is known for. 

The prominence of Mexican culture can also be seen through notable events throughout the year. Head to Old Town on Dia de los Muertos to be part of the vibrant Day of the Dead celebration.

Similarly, there is an excellent, three-day festival around Cinco de Mayo, which incorporates continuous music, a lively market, and constant entertainment. 

Districts And Areas

balboa-park-in-san-diego

Balboa Park

Balboa Park is a stunning natural oasis in the bustling city of San Diego. Stretching over 1,200 acres, this beautiful green space offers a breath of fresh air to its visitors. 

Even so, Balboa Park holds so much more than just greenery, gardens, and walking paths. It also encloses the San Diego Zoo, over 15 museums, and the Old Globe Theatre. 

You could spend days exploring this park and not see everything in it that San Diego is known for. A visit to San Diego wouldn’t be complete without a relaxing walk in this beautiful park. 

Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp Quarter is one of the neighborhoods San Diego is famous for. This neighborhood boasts some of the best restaurants, art galleries, and shops in town. Its historic character and vibrant energy definitely warrant a visit; it’s one of the most popular areas in San Diego. 

The Gaslamp Quarter was originally founded by a San Francisco transplant, William Davis, who built a home for his family and dreamed of developing the land around it into a bustling town. Though he failed in this venture, decades later the area was fully established. 

This area is on the National Historic Register, but that historic charm doesn’t damper its modern-day amusements. If you ever find yourself in San Diego, the Gaslamp Quarter definitely deserves a visit. 

Old Town 

Old Town is hands down one of San Diego’s most popular and cultural neighborhoods.

This charming district preserves a lot of historic architecture and buildings from San Diego’s beginning years. Today, it is a center for Mexican culture, featuring a good blend of restaurants, shopping, and attractions. 

Visitors who are more interested in the historic aspect of the city will find lots to discover here. Be sure to head up to Presidio Park and visit the first California Spanish Mission founded in 1769. 

This old Mission, which now contains several museums, will give you more perspective on San Diego’s history. Either way, make sure you don’t miss out on this historic area that San Diego is known for.

la-jolla-shores

La Jolla Shores

When you think, what is San Diego famous for, you might think about beautiful beaches. If you’re looking for a beach day in San Diego, go no further than La Jolla Shores! Known as “the Jewel” of San Diego, no visit is complete without seeing La Jolla Shores.

The beaches here are ideal for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and surfing. The gentle waves and weather make it a good place for newbies to try surfing! If you’d rather not hit the ocean, there are plenty of other things to do around the La Jolla area.  

Along with a wide range of restaurants and shops, the La Jolla area is also home to the notable Torrey Pines Golf Course and the Torrey Pines Gliderport.

If you happen to visit on a Sunday, you can stop by the La Jolla Open Aire Market, which is famous for its produce, handicrafts, and delicious food court. Don’t miss out on iconic La Jolla when you visit!

seaport-village-in-san-diego

Seaport Village

Just outside of downtown, Seaport Village is a charming area that runs along the waterfront. This is an extremely popular district due to its distinctive architecture, which is designed to look like a small village. 

Spend some time wandering its cobblestone paths, hidden pathways, and secret gardens. You will find some hidden gems amidst the exploration.

That said, there’s plenty to enjoy in this area that San Diego is known for. There are a whopping 70+ shops and restaurants offering different retail and gastronomic experiences awaiting you. 

Whether you’re there to do some shopping, have a nice meal, or simply take in the great views, make sure you see Seaport Village! 

Little Italy

Little Italy is one of the hotspots of dining and drinking in San Diego. This area is bursting with friendly cafes, restaurants, breweries, wineries, hotels, shops, and boutiques. If you’re looking for a nice night out, Little Italy is a great option!

A few highlights in Little Italy include: “Top Chef Alley,” which boasts distinctive dining options like Juniper & Ivy, and Herb & Wood. 

The heart of Little Italy is a plaza called Piazza della Famiglia. This is a large square with an impressive grand fountain. 

From this plaza, you can head to the Little Italy Mercato. This Saturday farmer’s market draws plenty of visitors with its produce, crafts, and more! It is a fun destination to stroll, shop and enjoy the local vibes.

This quaint neighborhood actually used to be the heart of San Diego’s tuna-fishing community. Italian families settled in this area to make the most of its easy access to the sea. Now, it is a must-see district that San Diego is known for! 

Landmarks and Architecture

san-diego-zoo

San Diego Zoo

If you ask any local “what is San Diego known for,” the San Diego Zoo is a very likely answer! This zoo has been operating for more than 100 years and is emblematic of the city. 

With more than 4,000 animals, representing over 650 distinct species, the San Diego Zoo is a key attraction for locals and tourists alike. 

In addition to the variety of animals, the San Diego Zoo promotes conservation, preservation, and education through its work. A visit to the zoo can teach you a lot and give you a really fun day! 

Plus, San Diego’s famously nice weather makes it more likely that you’ll have a sunny day to enjoy everything the zoo has to offer. It is one of the famous landmarks in San Diego, particularly for a great family day out!

cabrillo-national-monument

Cabrillo National Monument

San Diego is known for being the “place where California began,” specifically at Cabrillo National Monument.

In 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed on the shores of California, at the Point Loma Peninsula, where Cabrillo National Monument now stands. He was the first European to visit the western US. The visitor center tells the story of this incredible voyage. 

If history isn’t your thing, Cabrillo National Monument still warrants a visit! You can enjoy the views of the Pacific Ocean and the wildlife that frequents the area, such as birds and critters in the tidal pools.

The visitor center also offers information on the importance of the Point Loma area in national defense. This is one of the most meaningful monuments and landmarks in California

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve 

While there is plenty of things to do in the city center, don’t miss looking a bit further out!

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of the natural wonders San Diego is known for. Plus, it’s located right inside San Diego’s city limits! This reserve protects approximately 2,000 acres of coastal land in southern California. 

While the state has been developed extensively, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve has remained one of the wildest areas on the coast. 

For an overview of the area, you can visit the Nature Center or enjoy a self-guided program. This beautiful nature reserve is open 365 days a year, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t pay it a visit! 

If nature is your thing, one of the exciting facts about California is that it is the state with the most national parks in the U.S. So explore away!

mission-beach-in-san-diego

Mission Beach

One of the most beautiful beaches in San Diego lies in Mission Beach, to the northwest of downtown. This oceanside neighborhood optimizes the laidback, beach culture San Diego is famous for. 

The dazzling white sand beach is a great place for walking, biking, or just enjoying the scenery. 

While you’re in the area, you can visit Belmont Park, located on the Mission Beach boardwalk. This theme park has rides, games, and snacks to keep you occupied all day. If you’re up to it, make sure that you take a ride on the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, the park’s most iconic ride. 

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is another natural attraction, located just within 15 minutes of downtown San Diego. 

This beautiful park, which San Diego is famous for, offers breathtaking views over the high, coastal cliffs. As the name would suggest, it is a very popular place to watch the sun setting in the West. 

Spanning over 60 acres, this park also contains an impressive collection of coastal bluffs, arches, and sea caves. It is incredibly scenic offering both greenery and marine sights.

If you have sharp eyes, you may even be able to see the California gray whales making their annual migration, between December and April! 

coronado-bridge

Coronado Bridge

This iconic bridge connects San Diego and Coronado, stretching a total of 2.1 miles between the two. Construction on the bridge started in 1967, and it was completed in 1969, just in time for the 200th anniversary of San Diego’s founding. 

While driving across the bridge offers beautiful views, Coronado Bridge has more to it. Its support pillars on the eastern side are part of Chicano park and carry enormous Chicano murals. This is actually the biggest collection of Chicano murals worldwide. 

Make sure you take some time to visit this famous bridge when you’re in San Diego! 

Famous Food In San Diego

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California Style Pizza  

While the state carries the name, San Diego is known for California Style Pizza as well! This lip-smacking good pizza relies on a thin crust, which serves as the perfect base for highlighting fresh, local ingredients. The west-coast pizza is all about letting the ingredients and flavors shine. 

San Diego is known for adding some creativity to California Style pizza. Don’t be surprised if you see artichokes, avocado, pumpkin, or seafood elements on top of these pizzas. If you’re looking for some of the best, check out Siamo Napoli or Il Dandy! 

famous-sushi-in-san-diego

Sushi 

With its beautiful ocean views, it’s no wonder why sushi has become a dish San Diego is famous for. The city’s prime location allows chefs to get the freshest seafood around. Chefs in this area have become great at this classic, but they also put their own spin on it. 

The sushi burrito has actually gained a lot of popularity to become one of the favorite foods in San Diego. The name really says it all: imagine a sushi roll, the size of a burrito! Instead of slicing the sushi into smaller pieces, it is presented in one long roll. 

So whether you’re in the mood for traditional sushi or you’re willing to try a sushi burrito, you should definitely get a taste of the sushi stylings of San Diego. 

baja-california-fish-tacos

Baja California Fish Tacos 

While fish tacos did not originate from this city, San Diego is known for this tasty dish nonetheless. Walking through the streets of San Diego, you’ll find it hard to go a few blocks without seeing fish tacos being sold. When you visit, make sure you try some! 

Baja fish tacos are a great representation of San Diego, bringing in the influence of the seas and Mexican flavors. The laidback, eat-with-your-hands style also nods to the prominence of relaxed, surf culture in the community. 

If you’re looking for some of the best fish tacos, check out El Cacho’s location in Windmill Food Hall. If you’re more in the mood for a sit-down meal, look no further than Oscar’s Mexican Seafood. No matter where you go, make sure you try this San Diego classic. 

Famous People From San Diego 

Cameron Diaz

 Although this notable actress can be seen on screens around the world, Cameron Diaz is originally from San Diego. She grew up in California, working as a model while she studied. Her first big debut was alongside Jim Carrey in the 1994 comedy, The Mask

Since then, Cameron Diaz has become a star actress in many American comedy and romance movies, such as My Best Friend’s Wedding and There’s Something About Mary.

She has been nominated for four Golden Globes during her career and collected many other accolades. Over the years, Cameron Diaz has certainly become someone whom San Diego is known for. 

Tony Hawk

Tony Hawk is undoubtedly one of the biggest stars of skateboarding in the entire world. It comes as no surprise that he is one of the people San Diego is famous for. 

Tony Hawk began skateboarding when he was nine years old. During his years skating, he won 73 skateboarding titles. Tony Hawk is best known for his vertical skating skills, executing impressive tricks and feats in his competitions. 

By 1999, Tony Hawk retired from skateboarding professionally but has kept close to the sport, as a promoter and entrepreneur. Even in his retirement, Tony Hawks continues to contribute to skateboarding, through the Tony Hawk foundation. 

Discovering More Things San Diego Is Famous For

Walking down the streets of the city, you can easily get a feel for some things that San Diego is known for. However, you will most certainly uncover even more as you go about your adventure around this Californian city.

From the famous tourist attractions and natural beauty, there is plenty on offer in this wondrous city. Don’t forget to follow your curiosities and find your own hidden gems. You may even come up with a new answer to the question, “what is San Diego known for?” from your own experiences.


WHAT IS SAN DIEGO KNOWN FOR? PIN IT FOR LATER!

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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.

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