Map of San Diego Area | What is San Diego Known for?

Giraffe in San Diego zoo
Giraffe in San Diego zoo

Map of San Diego Area | What is San Diego Known for?


San Diego is a large urban and suburban area in the southwest corner of the United States, mostly associated with “sun and surf.” But climate and coastal conditions aside, really, what is San Diego known for?

The City of San Diego, along with all the suburb communities in and around it that make up the Greater San Diego metropolitan area, is known for tourist attractions such as the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, LEGOLAND, a historic mission, a world-class harbor, and some famous beaches.

In terms of people, the City is the second most-populous in California, and nationally it ranks eighth, with more than 1.4 million residents. However, when people think of San Diego, most often they consider the entire San Diego County which includes the Carlsbad area to the north and the Chula Vista region to the south, which altogether houses over 3 million people.

Based in this border region are a multitude of major attractions, making tourism a significant industry. Perhaps the top reason people know about San Diego is that it’s a wonderful place to visit.

What is San Diego Known For?

It’s difficult to say exactly what San Diego is known for, because of the number and variety of attractions. Some have changed over time — such as SeaWorld dropping the popular Shamu exhibition of Orca whales — and the region’s ever-growing population shifted the popularity of others. Here’s a look at them, in no particular order.

San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park are world-renowned animal care and display attractions. Committed to saving species worldwide since opening in 1916, the Zoo is home to the endangered Amur leopard, Koala bears, and a variety of hippos, penguins and orangutans, among other exotic animals attracting visitors year-round.


Long a San Diego staple, SeaWorld offers all things ocean among its 100 acres of outdoor grounds inside Mission Bay. Families by the thousands visit for rides, aquariums, shows, presentations, animal tours and interactions, dining, shopping, and more. Lively animal exhibits include dolphins, sea lions, sea otters, turtles, and more.


Located in Carlsbad to the north, LEGOLAND is a relative newcomer to the crowd of major attractions in the San Diego area, opening in 1999. Kids are amazed at what the park can create from the famous little connector-block toys. Plus, the park offers a surprising number of rides and other things for family enjoyment.

Gaslamp Quarter

This commercial district in the heart of the city is a longtime hotspot for dining, nightlife and general play. The historic commercial district began as William Heath Davis’ New Town in 1850, an effort by a prominent San Francisco elite to establish a town on the waterfront. Today it is a vibrant, modernized urban center with world-class boutiques, galleries and restaurants.

San Diego Mission

Officially called Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala (the latter half of this is where the city gets its name), this is the first of 21 missions that Spain established up the coast of California. Visitors can see the start of the 600-mile El Camino Real (the King’s Highway) stretching up past San Francisco Bay up to Sonoma.


The sole remaining major sports team in San Diego, the Padres, have one of the most beautiful baseball parks around, PETCO Park. When not hosting the 81 regular-season Major League Baseball games, this architectural wonder also hosts numerous events — and offers stunning views of the city’s skyline and San Diego Bay. This attraction is even newer than LEGOLAND, opening in 2004.

San Diego Bay

Among the best natural harbors on the West Coast, San Diego Bay was initiated by Spain starting in 1769 and over the years has had a strong U.S. Navy presence and significant commercial activity. The large bay features many wonderful sights including huge aircraft carriers, and the amazing San Diego-Coronado Bridge, a curving structure up to 200 feet above the sea (originally so Navy ships could pass beneath).

Beaches of San Diego

San Diego is well known for its sun-drenched yet not-too-hot climate, as well as an abundance of swells for surfing and ocean enjoyment. Big-name beaches include the triumvirate of Mission Bay-Ocean Beach-Pacific Beach; the three popular beaches of Carlsbad; Del Mar; Encinitas; La Jolla; and Oceanside in the northernmost part of San Diego County.

Best Areas to Live in San Diego

Overall, San Diego is considered a relatively affluent region, with a mix of income levels and a great variety of neighborhoods ranging from the inner-city living to spread-out mega suburbs. The San Diego area is considered a great place to live considering its climate, ample job opportunities, and attractions both tourist-wise and environmental.

Among the best areas to live in San Diego include:

  • Mission Valley. Home of the original Jack Murphy Stadium (later Qualcomm Stadium), as well as the old Spanish mission, this east-west corridor is home to a regional shopping center, convention center-like hotels, and other attractions, just up the road from Mission Bay and its assortment of recreational opportunities.
  • North County. This rather large suburban area stretches, generally, from Del Mar through the growing Carlsbad area, up to Oceanside. It’s numerous beach communities create wonderful, relaxing living conditions.
  • La Jolla. Kind of the border between Mission Bay and North County, this community is home to a top-class aquarium, a significant University of California campus, and cliff-top views of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Mission Bay. Home to SeaWorld as well as an old-school wooden roller-coaster, marinas for small boats, and a great number of eateries, bars and business establishments, this area with both seaside and bayside living has attracted many newcomers young and old over the years.
  • Coronado. A near-island in San Diego Bay, this community of luxury is known for clean and expensive homes.
  • Rancho Bernardo. This inland enclave features newer homes, master-planned communities and ample recreational amenities.
  • Torrey Pines/Torrey Hills. These communities just south of Del Mar are located along the ocean (Torrey Pines) and immediately east of the freeway (Torrey Hills) — both clean and affluent communities.

See Also


Interesting Facts about San Diego

What is San Diego, California Famous for?

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!