COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE HAWKINS

San Diego attractions worthy of the brag

For the past month we have had several groups of out-of-town friends and family visiting. It has been tour-guide time for us.

Over the years we have explored most of the places we wanted to show our visitors, but we’ve never examined more than one or two at a time. During the past 30 days, we’ve taken people to at least a dozen points of interest in San Diego. They were all of high quality and remarkable variety. That alone says something about San Diego and this part of Southern California.

Many cities and localities have a handful of attractive features. None, it seems to us, compares to the number, variety and quality of attractions available in San Diego within and along 20 miles or so of the Southern California coast.

Admittedly, in our travels around the country we have resisted most of the roadside attractions attempting to draw in visitors. For example, inflatable dinosaurs fail to capture our attention.

I did get off the freeway once to see an enormous ball of string somewhere but it was so uninspiring that I have forgotten where it is. I think there is a collection of chewing gum wrappers out there, too, but we haven’t bothered with that one, either.

In my opinion, the nature of these sorts of “attractions” is, to me at least, something less than inspiring. They can’t possibly compare, for example, to the Midway Museum in San Diego Bay.

An aircraft carrier museum does not make San Diego unique, of course. There are five retired aircraft carriers to enlighten folks about an important part of our naval history. The USS Yorktown is in Charleston, S.C.; the USS Intrepid is in New York, the USS Hornet (my dad served on that one when it was an active duty ship) is in Alameda, and the USS Lexington is tied up in Corpus Christi, Texas.

All, no doubt, are fine museums, but how many are so close to a world recognized and acclaimed zoo? Perhaps one, maybe? And, of course, there is more in San Diego to compliment the Midway than the zoo.

When you throw in Balboa Park, SeaWorld, San Diego’s Glider Port at Torrey Pines, Torrey Pines Nature Preserve, the Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village and a bay full of Navy destroyers, active-duty carriers, frigates and other formidable craft, all visible via water tours, the comparative group of attractions in other areas begins to pale.

It takes several excursions to see everything in San Diego. One could spend days investigating the museums in Balboa Park. That may not compare, by itself, to the lists of museums in Washington, D.C., or New York City, but San Diego doesn’t quit with museums.

There are beaches that are worth walking or driving past just to enjoy their calming beauty. We hopped on the San Diego Beach Trolley tour and made one of those drives with some of our visitors. It was a fun and interesting day.

While Seaport Village is not a unique tourist attraction, with similar jewelry-encrusted shops everywhere that a cruise ship stops, there is plenty there to enlighten even the most casual visitor. The history of the tuna fleet, now a remnant of its past, is on display. One can wander through a “retired” jail, viewing several cells and photos of men and women who had resided there for a time.

Once more, an old jail cell is not the only such facility in tourist-oriented locations, but the preponderance in San Diego of so many things in near proximity makes this area very impressive to us and visitors. At least, that is the case with the crush of friends and relatives who came through in the past few weeks. Each, in one way or another, remarked to that fact.

For my wife and me, this could be adopted-hometown bias. We’ve lived here a scant 15 years and aren’t numbed locals, who, in many cases, don’t visit all of these places. Nevertheless, San Diego and the civic pride in evidence is worthy of the brag.


Hawkins is retired after 35 years as a construction industry association manager. He was a broadcast reporter and news anchor in Denver. As a Navy officer, he saw action in Vietnam in the River Assault Squadrons and is the recipient of a Silver Star and Purple Heart.

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