The USS Midway flight deck and museum.

ith its warm temperatures and white, sandy beaches, it is easy to see why San Diego has been dubbed “America’s Finest City.” Situated on the Pacific coast of Southern California, San Diego boasts a population of more than 1.4 million, making it the second largest city in California and the eighth largest city in the United States. San Diego is often considered the “birthplace of California,” as it is the site of the state’s first permanent Spanish settlement. Known for its longstanding relationship with the U.S. Navy, the city is home to Naval Base San Diego, which houses approximately 54 naval ships. Between its compelling beauty and storied history, San Diego has cemented itself as one of the most dynamic places in the United States.

With a variety of waterfront attractions, museums and shopping destinations, America’s Finest City presents itself as an incredible backdrop for NPMA PestWorld 2019, providing attendees with plenty to see, do and eat during their visit.

ATTRACTIONS. A hub for culture, nature and history, Balboa Park is the ideal attraction for those looking to explore all that San Diego has to offer. This plot of land, which today sprawls 1,200 acres, was placed in reserve by San Diego civic leaders in 1868, making it one of the oldest areas in the United States dedicated to recreational use. Once known as “City Park,” Balboa Park is located minutes away from downtown San Diego. The park houses 17 museums, including the San Diego Air & Space Museum, the Museum of Photographic Arts and the Fleet Science Center, as well as attractions like the San Diego Zoo and the Cabrillo Bridge. Visitors can stroll through one of Balboa Park’s lush gardens or learn about its rich architectural history by taking a tour with a park ranger. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this San Diego gem is a place you won’t want to miss.

For stunning views, consider visiting La Jolla Cove. Known for its scenic views, La Jolla Cove is a magnificent spot for those hoping to get a close-up look at San Diego’s marine life. Surrounded by cliffs and occupied by a variety of sea creatures, including seals, sea lions and barracuda, this cove and beach presents beautiful sights both on the shore and in the water. Visitors can take guided scuba diving tours or try their hand at other ocean-based activities, such as snorkeling, swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding, while those who wish to stay on land can take bike tours or enjoy a picnic at La Jolla Shores Park. Located close by is downtown La Jolla Village, which contains a series of shops, museums and art galleries. While you’re there, you can check out a show at The Comedy Store or view the murals that adorn buildings throughout the area. With a blend of nature, culture and entertainment, La Jolla has a little bit of everything.

While you’re sightseeing, take a stroll down San Diego’s Embarcadero. Located along the San Diego Bay, this walkway not only features dazzling views, but also has many of the city’s best shops, museums and attractions. For souvenirs and unique shopping experiences, venture to Seaport Village, a destination that offers a variety of one-of-a-kind stores and restaurants. Some of Seaport Village’s shops include American Nostalgia, a novelty shop that specializes in retro memorabilia; Sock Harbor, a store that sells an array of themed socks; and Hot Licks, your destination for spicy salsas, hot sauces and foods from around the world.

To develop your knowledge of historic sailing ships and submarines, visit the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Boasting a vast collection of historic ships, including the Star of India, the world’s oldest active ship, this museum restores and operates many vessels. View exhibits that highlight the development of ships over the centuries, as well as San Diego’s history with the U.S. Navy, or book a ticket on one of the museum’s boat tours. The San Salvador Sailing Adventure, a four-hour day sail, takes place aboard a ship modeled after Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s San Salvador, which he sailed into San Diego’s port in 1542. The Tall Ship Adventure, another four-hour excursion, showcases ship life during the California Gold Rush. Passengers get the chance to haul a line and man the helm as they learn about sailing history and the exploration of San Diego. If you’d prefer a shorter boat ride, the Naval History Bay Tour is a 75-minute journey that details the history of the military in the city.

Another place to visit along the Embarcadero is the USS Midway Museum. The longest serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century, the USS Midway now functions as a museum, housing a variety of aircraft exhibits and interactive activities. The museum has more than 30 restored helicopters and aircrafts, as well as a below decks exhibit that allows you to explore where crew members aboard the USS Midway ate, slept and spent their free time. You can also check out one of the flight simulators, which allow visitors to experience what it was like for USS Midway aviators during missions.

Girafe mother and baby, at the San Diego Zoo.
Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo

Not far from San Diego is LEGOLAND, a unique theme park perfect for the whole family. Guests can immerse themselves in the world of LEGO as they walk through attractions built from LEGO blocks that are modeled after U.S. cities, such as San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York City and Washington, D.C. Roller coaster enthusiasts can take rides on Coastersaurus and The Dragon. Visitors can also try out the park’s interactive games and experiences. Lost Kingdom Adventure arms riders with laser blasters, which they use to battle interactive creatures as they search for the treasure of the Lost Kingdom, and Safari Trek brings guests on a ride to see giant LEGO animals. If you need to cool off, head to the LEGOLAND Water Park. With various pools and waterslides, this park is bound to have plenty of ways for you to enjoy your time under the California sun.

FOOD. If you’re feeling famished after a day of exploring San Diego, there are plenty of dining options from which to choose.

In the mood for a hamburger and a fun, casual atmosphere? Consider Hodad’s. This popular spot, which has been featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” has a tasty selection of burgers, sides and drinks. Choose from a variety of burger toppings, including bacon, blue cheese and pastrami, which you can pair with a side of fries or onion rings. Although Hodad’s is known for its hamburgers, the eatery also serves chicken strips, tuna, grilled cheese, a chicken burger and a BLT, as well as vegan and vegetarian burgers. Finish off your meal with a chocolate, vanilla or strawberry milkshake or malt.

For authentic Mexican cuisine, stop by Super Cocina. Established in 1988, this San Diego original offers patrons a variety of dishes from different regions of Mexico. If you want a taste of a popular entrée, order the puerco en chile colorado, which is pork, pork ribs and potatoes topped with a spicy chile and tomatillo sauce. You can also try enchiladas verdes, homemade enchiladas filled with chicken or cheese, or mole poblano, chicken covered in mole sauce. Super Cocina changes its menu daily, so while you’re there, ask about the specials of the day.

If you want unique food in a sleek, urban setting, consider Dija Mara. Voted “Best New Restaurant in North County” by San Diego Magazine in 2018, this restaurant serves Southeast Asian cuisine with a “Western flair.” Stopping in between 5 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., you can find dinner options such as the oxtail dumplings, charred eggplant, grilled hangar steak and chicken thigh satay. If you go between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., you will be able to order from the brunch menu, which features a spicy eggplant bowl, Thai sausage hash and short rib rendang, among other items.

Thinkstock: visitorlando.com
The Gaslamp Quarter is a lively downtown neighborhood known for its nightlife.

To satisfy your sweet tooth, head to The Baked Bear. Founded by two San Diego natives, this ice cream sandwich shop allows customers to select from a mixture of cookie and ice cream flavors to customize their own ice cream sandwiches. With cookie flavors like sea salt peanut butter chocolate and ice cream flavors like espresso bean and toasted smores, the combination of possibilities never seem to end.

NIGHTLIFE. For vibrant nightlife, check out the Gaslamp Quarter. Known for its Victorian architecture and lively atmosphere, this historic neighborhood contains an assortment of nightclubs, bars and lounges, making it the ideal destination for drinks and entertainment. If you’re looking for a ritzy experience, check out Prohibition, a speakeasy-inspired bar with a concealed entrance. With cocktails and live music, Prohibition will make you feel like you’ve been transported to the 1920s. A formal dress code is required on Friday and Saturday to keep up with the retro vibe. However, Sunday through Thursday, feel free to wear your casual clothes.

Another spot in Gaslamp Quarter is Café Sevilla, which functions as a Spanish restaurant, tapas bar and nightclub. Café Sevilla focuses on tapas, or small plates, and offers a variety of Spanish wines and sangria. The tapas bar hosts entertainment every night, such as live music and salsa dance lessons. If you head downstairs, you’ll find the Sevilla Nightclub. Featuring music and a dance floor, this nightclub provides energy and excitement.

From the beaches to the museums, San Diego has many opportunities for you to explore during your stay. Rich in culture and beauty, “America’s Finest City” gives you the opportunity to embark on exciting adventures and experience new things. Whether you discover the city’s history at Balboa Park, absorb the breathtaking views of La Jolla Cove or take advantage of the hotel amenities, you’re bound to have a memorable time while you’re in San Diego.

The author is a Cleveland-based writer and can be contacted at pbennett@gie.net.