Relatively free from smog and overbuilt freeways, SAN DIEGO, set around a gracefully curving bay, is the second most populous city in California – affluent and libertarian, but also easy-going and friendly. Although it was the site of the first mission in California, the city only really took off with the arrival of the Santa Fe Railroad in the 1880s, and has long been in the shadow of Los Angeles. However, during World War II the US Navy made San Diego its Pacific Command Center, and the military continues to dominate the local economy, alongside tourism. Understandably, the long white beaches, sunny weather and bronzed bodies give rise to the city’s well-deserved nickname, “Sandy Ego”.Read More
San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo
Immediately north of the main museums, the enormous San Diego Zoo (daily mid-June to early Sept 9am–9pm; early Sept to mid-June 9am–5pm; w http://www.sandiegozoo.org) is one of the world’s most renowned, with hundreds of different species, among them rare Chinese pheasants, Mhorr gazelles and a freakish two-headed corn snake. It’s an enormous place, and you can easily spend a full day here, soaking in the major sections devoted to the likes of chimps and gorillas, panda and polar bears, lizards and lions, and African and Asian elephants. Regular admission ($37, kids $27) covers entry to the main zoo and children’s zoo, plus a short bus tour and a return ticket on the Skyfari aerial tram. A $70 ticket (kids $50) also admits you to the San Diego Wild Animal Park near Escondido (hours vary, often daily 9am–4pm, summer closes 8pm; $37, $27 kids), a two-thousand-acre preserve for big cats, rhinos, giraffes, and the like, which roam about outside your car windows.