San Diego California hosts attractions like Sea World, Wild Animal Park, Legoland and so much more...

Sea World :

This is at the top of our list. The San Diego Seaworld was the first Seawold in the world. You can see first hand various types of animals such as beluga whales, orca whales, a pilot whale, polar bears, dolphins, penguins, manatees, and much more. When it comes to the rides they are short and slightly dissapointing. It should be noted that this is the most expensive attraction, over $60 for an adult. We recommend you pay $10 more and get the 2 day pass. With this pass you get a behind the scenes tour. The tour is different each day, but we got a close up look at a pilot whale, and had the opportunity of petting various small sharks.

Wild Animal Park:

This is the Zoo of the future. Animals roam and interact with one another in over 2000 acres. The animals are all truly happy. There is a lot to see and do. Since this is 35 miles out of the city you will need to rent a car or take a tour to get there. We highly recommend this attraction. The must see exhibits include the all new lion habitat. We witnessed 5 lions cuddling within inches from us. You should also take some time to feed giraffes. The featured attraction is a 1 hour narrated train ride, that takes you through the various habitats, you should do this no matter what. Our favorite was dining at the restaurant in the Heart of Africa habitat. You can eat outside and have an amazing view of the habitat.

World Famous San Diego Zoo :

This is probably the most famous Zoo in the world, and placed San Diego on the map for many tourists. They have several exhibits that are not available at other zoos, such as being able to watch panda bears. You should also take some time to view the Mountain Gorilla habitat, as it's one of the best in any zoo. When we attended there was a baby gorilla entertaining the humans while annoying his siblings.

Other Attractions:

Whale Watching

San Diego has Grey whales that pass through as they migrate annually from the end of December through the end of March. Unfortunately we stayed in San Diego in mid-December and therefore missed this opportunity. In the past I have seen Belugas, and Humpbacks in the wild, and there is nothing like whale watching. If you have never done this, I highly recommend you take a day to go out in the ocean and enjoy yourself.


Is located along a scenic stretch of the Southern California Coastline in beautiful Oceanside , California ( San Diego North County ) just south of Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. Helgren's Sportfishing trips offer a variety of daily scheduled, or charter activities for individuals or groups: Deep Sea Fishing Trips , exciting Sea Life Whale Watch Adventures , and relaxing Oceanside Harbor Coastal Excursions . Helgren's is also a provider of Burials at Sea and Ocean Memorials , serving families and funeral professionals throughout the area. Whatever your needs, Helgren's will provide you with the professional, courteous staff you should

Expect from a quality landing.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps

This is one of the most under recognized attractions. They are a research station with a nice public exhibit. This aquarium has various types of sharks such as nurse, leopard, horn, angel, and much more. They have an outside pool that enables you to touch tide-pool animals and to see them in their natural habitat. Once you're done with this you should enjoy the spectacular view, as it directly overlooks the ocean. What the aquarium specializes in is raising its own coral reefs, and these are spectacular. You'll see reefs from various parts of the world. They also do a lot of sea horse breeding, and it's amazing to see the various types of sea horses, some of them have adapted in unique and strange ways when it comes to camouflaging themselves. A must see for ocean and nature lovers.

Old Town San Diego

The pamphlets and website really don't do this place justice. You can walk around and enter themed shops, and visit museums. Everything is free, and it's a good way to spend several hours. The shops here are unique and sell some unusual objects. There's also a trolley tour that's offered, but you'll get much more out of the place if you walk.

Balboa Park

This is the heart of the city. Balboa has 13 museums and the World Famous San Diego Zoo. The San Diego Museum of Man and the San Diego Natural history museum look very impressive. We tried the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and are sorry to report that we were very disappointed. Many of the interactive exhibits were small, outdated, or simply non-functional. Unless you have kids you might consider skipping this museum. You should take some time to simply walk around Balboa Park to enjoy the fine architecture.

Sea Port Village

This is a nice little area that surrounds the harbor. Take some time to walk around and visit some of the stores. There are plenty of places to dine. Once you have enjoyed an hour or two strolling you can visit an old aircraft carrier turned museum. Visiting this museum should take a maximum of an hour and a half. You can also choose to do a 1 or 2 hour harbor tour. We took a tour offered by blowhorn, and were disappointed. This was advertised as being an educational narrated tour, but instead turned out to be narrated by someone who obviously had too much to drink and was making failed jokes. This turned out to be annoying, and made the entire 2 hour trip long and uninspiring. At $20 a person it's certainly not worth the money. The admission prices vary by institution. Memberships are also available for purchase from the museums and performing arts organizations, offering an opportunity for visitors to support these San Diego cultural treasures on an annual basis. Admittance to the Park grounds is free. The Botanical Building, outdoor gardens and some additional attractions are also offered free of charge.

Passport to Balboa Park , San Diego's best cultural value, offers visitors the chance to experience 13 museums in the Park, with savings of more than 50% and the convenience of a one-time purchase. The Passport is valid for seven consecutive days, and includes one admission to each of the 13 attractions. The Zoo/Passport Combo includes the Passport to Balboa Park plus one-day deluxe admission at the San Diego Zoo, all for one low price.

Often characterized by its rich historic past, National City is in fact the second oldest city in San Diego County. Incorporated on September 17, 1887, National City was originally part of the 26,000-acre El Rancho de la Nacion, which was purchased in 1868 by Frank Kimball and his brothers Warren and Levi. The Kimballs cleared lands, built roads, constructed the City's first wharf and brought the railroad to the City.

The Kimball's and other early visionary leaders of National City are embodied in the historical buildings and landscape dotted throughout the City. The historic buildings are evidence of the rich past which contributes to the cultural fabric of National City today. Such historical resources provide continuity with our past and enhance our quality of life.

In order to recognize those properties that have historical significance the City Council has the option of placing additional properties on the List of Historical Sites in National City . The property owner then may request a Mills Act Contract (PDF)to reduce property taxes in exchange for ongoing maintenance and improvements of a property on the historic sites list. For additional information on the Mills Act, please contact the Planning & Building Department at (619) 336-4310.

To find out more information about the Kimballs or Historic Places please visit the National City Public Library's Kile Morgan Local History Room .

National Register of Historic Places
Four buildings in the City are listed in the National Register of Historic Places:

Granger Music HallGranger Music Hall, 1615 East 4th Street
Ralph Granger, who struck it rich in the silver mines of Colorado and was making $5,000 a day through the 1890's, located his family on an estate in Paradise Valley (8th Street).His love of violins led to his purchase of a large and expensive string collection, which prompted him to hire San Diego architect Irving Gill to build a private music hall for him near his house.

A wonderful 75-foot mural adorns the recital hall ceiling portraying the Muses Euterpe and Erato, surrounded by cherubs. Due to the way the building was constructed, no wall is exactly parallel, so a microphone is not needed. Sound travels from one end of the hall to the other without distortion.
Saved from demolition, Granger Music Hall was moved to its present site. In an effort spearheaded by National City Historical Society, it was lovingly restored by the citizens of National City. Painted its original colors, it is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Brick Row on Heritage SquareBrick Row on Heritage Square, 909 A Avenue Designed by San Diego architect R. C. Ball (who designed Folsom Prison), it was constructed by Frank Kimball in 1887 for $30,000.These 10 individual row houses were to be used by the executives of the Santa Fe Railroad. This architectural style is unique to this region and was molded after the row houses of Philadelphia and similar eastern cities. It was hoped that the railroad VIPs would not only feel at home surrounded by familiar architecture, but also be impressed by the cosmopolitan appearance of the young city. All the apartments have a formal dining room with fireplace, a kitchen, a parlor with fireplace, a butler's pantry, and four bedrooms upstairs

Twelve-inch thick interlocking brick walls divide the units. The brickwork on the row houses was laid with an artistic eye to break the severe lines of the long walls. The bricks above the second story are set upright at an angle. A one-story wooden porch runs the length of the building.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it now is an integral part of National City's Heritage Square. Each of the 10 units is privately owned and maintained; however, there is a protective covenant on the facade, so the exterior will always be in keeping with the Victorian surroundings.

Santa Fe Rail DepotSanta Fe Rail Depot, W. 23rd Street
(California Southern Terminus Depot)
Built in 1882, the Santa Fe Rail Depot is the only original transcontinental railroad terminus in the United States that is still standing. On November 14, 1885, the first train left from National City to Waterman (renamed Barstow in 1886), 78 miles from its transcontinental link in San Bernadino.

The restored Santa Fe Rail Depot serves as a railroad museum and community meeting place. Nearby on 24th Street, a restored National City & Otay Railway coach will be installed in a park site.

National City Railcar PlazaNational City Railcar Plaza, 840 West 24th Street
Once owned by National City founder Frank Kimball, the railcar played a significant role in transportation, serving as the region's first commuter-type train dedicated to passengers. Even the legendary Wyatt Earp rode the train!

The Original 1887 No. 1 Car of the old "MOTOR CANNON BALL" excursion train is now on display at the National City Railcar Museum.

St. Matthews Episcopal Church

St. Matthews Episcopal Church, 521 E. 8th Street
In 1872, the Kimball brothers donated a parcel of land for the future building of a church. The Episcopal Society was organized in 1882 and Frank Kimball was elected secretary. St. Matthews Church was built five years later. Designed by Chula Vista architect William Herman, it was patterned after an English Countryside church.

Locally Designated Significant Buildings



A Avenue

Elizur Steel/Crandall/Ennis House



A Avenue

Frank Kimball House



A Avenue

John Proctor House



C Avenue

Pinney House



D Avenue

Boyd-Vurgason House



D Avenue

Fred Copeland House



E Avenue

William Burgess House



F Avenue

Mitchell-Webster House



F Avenue

Tyson House



G Avenue

Doctor's House



G Avenue



J Avenue

George Beermaker House



L Avenue

George Kimball House



L Avenue

McKnight House



N Avenue

Oliver Noyes House



E. 2nd Street

John Steele House



E. 7th Street

Barber-Ferbita House



E. 8th Street

Wellington Estate



E. 10th Street

Tower House of Moses Kimball



E. 16th Street

Mrs. Eimar Home



E. 20th Street

Charles Kimball House



E. 22nd Street

D. K. Horton House



E. 24th Street

Olivewood Clubhouse



E. 24th Street

Wallace Dickinson House



E. 24th Street

Dickinson Boal House



Highland Avenue

Floyd Home



Shell Avenue

Josselyn House

SDERA operates the historic National City Depot as a museum that is open Thursday to Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm. This lovely Santa Fe station ( California Southern Railway when it was first constructed) was the first terminus of transcontinental rail travel in the San Diego area. It is the oldest railroad-related structure still standing in San Diego County, and it is in its original location.

The city of National City restored the structure to the way it was when it was built in 1882 - restored in 1998. The woodwork and other details of the interior are especially impressive.

National City Interior

The National City Depot is located at the corner of Bay Marina Drive and Marina Way in National City, just 2 blocks west of the Interstate 5 Bay Marina Drive exit.

Some Common Questions about the National City Depot

"I see tracks. Are there trains?"

Yes! BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway) does a fair amount of freight operations in this area. The San Diego Port District has a large terminal just down the road on Bay Marina Drive (restricted access) where large container and car carrier ships make deliveries and the cargo is carried by rail to points all over the country - avoiding the busy port of Long Beach. Remote controlled switching engines are frequently seen passing the depot property.

"Was the second story an addition to the Depot?"

No, the depot appears today much as it did back in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Over the years, awnings were used and a elevated freight dock was available trackside. During renovation in 1998, many changes made while the structure was used as a restaurant were removed to restore it to its original configuration.

"Is the second floor accessible to the public?"

Sorry, no. The second story is used as office space and there are no exhibits on that floor. In the early days of the Depot, that floor was used as a general business office for the railroad.

"What is that wooden platform in the Freight Room?"

That is the original scale used to weight the freight prior to shipment by rail. While it is not functional at this time, there are components on display nearby.

"Who owns the Depot?"

The City of National City owns the property and building while the San Diego Electric Railway Association, Inc. (d.b.a. San Diego Electric Railway) has a Maintenance and Operating Agreement with the City. SDERA is responsible for maintaining the property and building. If you are interested in helping us with keeping this historic depot in great shape, please contact us at the Depot - 619-474-4400. As will all classic structures, we need to actively work to keep the weather and time from doing what it does best.

"Is the building available for events or meetings?"

Yes! Our main freight room can hold up to 60 people (about 30-35 normally). Please contact Dave Slater ( emailaddr("dslater","sdera","org") ) or Tom Matson ( emailaddr("tmatson","sdera","org") ) to make arrangements.

"What does it take to be a docent?"

It is easy to be a docent. If you are interested in history, rail, or any combination of the two, and have a few hours to spare a month, contact Docent Coordinator Tom Matson ( emailaddr("tmatson","sdera","org") ). He will be glad to give you a training session.

"The Depot looks unusual. What is the architectural design used for the depot?"

The National City Depot was designed with an Italianate style of architecture - a distinct style in the nineteenth century. For more information on Italianate designs, see .

"Can we do class or group tours of the Depot?"

Yes - with advance reservations. We do not normally staff the museum Monday through Wednesday but will make arrangements to support class tours. We would also appreciate advance notice if you are bringing large groups so we can have the right number of docents available.

"Is food available at the Depot?"

We have snacks and drinks available for sale in our Bookstore. A picnic table is available outside if you would like to bring a lunch and enjoy the typically nice San Diego-area weather. Fast food is available on the other side of Interstate 5 (In-and-Out Burger is a popular spot with Depot volunteers!).

"The is lots of construction in the area. What is going on?"

National City is working on a redevelopment effort in the areas around the Depot. This "Marina Gateway" redevelopment effort is being led by the new Marina Gateway Best Western hotel across Bay Marina Drive built by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Indians. This will anchor a set of changes that will involve the National City Depot and adjacent properties. The San Diego Electric Railway Association proudly supports this effort and is an active participant in planning for these changes - thanks to our friends in National City Community Development Commission. Watch for some big changes that will be happening in the next few months!

Please note that Harrison Ave in front of the Depot is no longer accessible from Bay Marina Drive. To get to the Depot, use Cleveland Ave to West 23rd St which has been converted to a two-way street.

Recent demolition on the other side of Harrison Ave. clears the way for the next phase of renovation in the area. Last reports from National City say that this area will be one or two "family-style" restaurants to support the new hotel. We expect demolition to start in our south parking lot to begin in September, 2009 (depending on National City financial conditions).


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