Seven Must-See Places When Visiting San Diego

San Diego is known for its sunshine, beautiful weather and world famous attractions. With its rich history, cultural treasures, award-winning beaches and Pacific Ocean views, "America's Finest City" is an ideal travel destination. But for many visitors, deciding which places to visit can seem like a daunting task. Here are seven not-to-miss favorites.

San Diego Zoo

Home to over 3,700 animals, many not seen in other zoos around the world, the zoo is dedicated to protecting and breeding endangered species from around the world. The guided bus tour is a great way to get oriented to the different parts of this enormous zoo. Take a ride on the Skyfari Aerial Tram for bird's eye views of the lush and varied landscape and animals below. Zoo-goers fall in love with giant pandas and their babies in Panda Canyon. Cute, cuddly koalas sit in eucalyptus trees in the Australian Outback and every day's an Arctic day at Polar Bear Plunge. Elephant Odyssey pays homage to prehistoric life of southern California while showcasing some of their modern day descendants.

Balboa Park

As the nation's largest urban recreational area, this beautifully designed park built for the 1915 International Exposition hosts 17 museums on its more than 1,200 acres. The museums' offerings range from air and space to automobiles, model railroads and sports, and include one of the largest planetariums in the U.S. Just walking around to admire the stunning architecture and impressive gardens of this historic park is worth the visit.

USS Midway Museum

Welcome aboard America's longest-serving Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Midway, paying homage to one of America's greatest naval towns. One of the most fascinating parts of this museum ship is the flight deck, housing 25 aircraft with stunning views of San Diego's harbor.

Maritime Museum of San Diego

The Maritime Museum of San Diego is a great place to learn about nautical transport with an impressive collection of ships and submarines. Five permanent exhibits cover fascinating topics as charting the seas and harvesting the oceans. The Star of India, with her towering masts and wooden decks is 150 years old and queen of the waterfront.

Old Town San Diego

Considered the "birthplace" of California, Old Town San Diego State Historic park shows California as it was in the 1830s with its restored adobe homes, historic hotel and vintage shops. Docents dressed in period attire provide museum tours. The Bazaar del Mundo and Fiesta de Reyes areas feature festive displays, Mexican crafts, entertainment and sumptuous restaurants.

Hotel del Coronado

The magnificent 126-year-old Hotel del Coronado located across the bay from downtown San Diego oozes with history and elegance. The Victorian beach side resort built in 1888 with its iconic bright red-shingled roof has hosted 14 presidents and other famous dignitaries. Its wide, pristine, white sand beaches are considered some of the best in the world.

La Jolla

Just 15 miles north of downtown San Diego and worth the drive, La Jolla, which means "the jewel" fascinates visitors with its stunning coastline featuring sea caves and an underwater park ecological reserve perfect for snorkelers and divers. It's hard to resist the of multitude of barking sea lions in majestic La Jolla Cove or the basking harbor seals that have taken up residence further down the coast at Casa Beach, also known as Children's Pool Beach.

Noreen Kompanik is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in San Diego, California. She has been published in San Diego Family Magazine, San Diego Reader, Edible San Diego, Traveling Mom, Travel thru History Magazine, Vacation Rental Travels Magazine, Miles Geek and more. When not writing, Noreen loves to travel the globe with her family looking for new adventure.