Ever since Juan Cabrillo sailed into San Diego Bay in 1542, much of the city’s life has revolved around its waterfront. Pioneers stepped ashore on its banks; immigrants worked as whalers and fishermen; the US Navy left an indelible mark with its shipyards and warships. Tourism has added another layer to the harbor’s lively atmosphere. The Embarcadero welcomes visitors with its art displays, walkways, nautical museums, harbor cruises, and benches on which to sit and enjoy the uninterrupted harbor activity.
USS Midway Museum: 910 N. Harbor Dr; 619 544 9600; open 10am–5pm; adm adult $20, child $10
Santa Fe Depot: 1050 Kettner Blvd
One of the greatest attractions of the Embarcadero is this bustling harbor, where you can watch as Navy destroyers, aircraft carriers, ferries, cruise ships, and sailboats glide past. Be a part of the action by taking a harbor cruise.
New England and Spanish design blend eclectically in this waterfront area (see Seaport Village) with brilliant harbor views.
Dedicated by President F. Roosevelt, this 1936 civic structure looks especially magisterial at night. Enter through the west door and feel free to wander about.
San Diego was once home to the world’s largest tuna fleet, with 200 commercial boats. Portuguese immigrants dominated the trade until the canneries moved to Mexico and Samoa. The US Tuna Foundation still keeps its offices here.
The 1,000-ft (305-m) USS Midway, commissioned in 1945, was once the world’s largest warship. Many docents on board are veterans of the carrier.
Relax on one of the grassy expanses to enjoy the excellent views of the harbor and Coronado Bridge. Joggers and bicyclists use the paths around the park, and on weekends, entertainers and artists demonstrate their work.
The center was designed to complement the waterfront location, with its flying buttresses, skylight tubes, and rooftop sails.
Glistening cruise ships bound for Mexico and the Panama Canal tie up at B Street Pier. Harbor cruises and ferries to Coronado can be caught nearby.
The train cars may be modern, but the atmosphere recalls the stylish days of rail travel. The interiors of the Spanish-Colonial style building feature burnished oak benches, original tiles, and chandeliers.
Nautical lovers can gaze at San Salvador, Star of India, Berkeley, Medea, and other vintage ships (see Maritime Museum of San Diego) restored to their former glory.
San Diego has had strong military ties ever since the Spanish built the presidio (fortress) in 1769, and the military contributes handsomely to the local economy. Their presence is everywhere: Navy SEALS train at Coronado, three aircraft carriers and warships berth in the harbor, and Marines land amphibious tanks along Camp Pendleton. Ship parades and tours are popular events in San Diego’s September/October Fleet Week.