Picture of people lounging near Prado Theater in Balboa Park, San Diego, California

Visitors lounge in the grass near Prado Theater in Balboa Park, San Diego.

Photograph by Heeb Photos, eStockPhoto

Rich in parkland, lined with 70 miles of beaches, and blessed with what many consider to be the nation's best weather, San Diego is home to the ultimate California dream. This smart city is energized by the biotech and telecom industries, which draw talent and fresh perspective, allowing it to blossom culturally with money flowing into the arts and helping the dining scene flourish. A huge range of water-sports facilities, giant culture parks, and the largest zoo in the U.S. draw millions of visitors a year.

As the oldest Spanish settlement in California, San Diego and its environs are full of historic places. A hop-on, hop-off trolley system offers narrated tours and an easy way to see much of the city. Among the attractions are the revived Gaslamp Quarter, where Wyatt Earp ran such a bawdy operation that he caused his more uptight neighbors to move north. The quarter is now the place to shop and eat in historic San Diego.

Another of the city's jewels is 1,100-acre Balboa Park, which holds 17 museums and art institutes, three theaters, 19 formal and informal gardens, the world-famous San Diego Zoo, and more Spanish colonial architecture than anywhere else in the state.

Much of San Diego's delights are tied to its seaside location. In the waters off Mission Bay, the city's prime recreation area, a spectacular oceanic display takes place between mid-December and mid-February, when gray whales migrate from Alaska down to Baja California.

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