San Diego is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, and you get to travel through 100 years of its history on a modern- day 5.5-mile urban loop hike that’s filled with food, art, culture, and epic natural beauty! Start at Balboa Park’s California Tower, which has re-opened after 80 years! Built in 1915 for the Panama-California Exposition, the tower now offers a tour ($22.50) that concludes at a brilliant observation deck with 360-degree views of the city. To the north, the famous San Diego Zoo is framed by the Cuyamaca Mountains, while the southern vistas showcase skyscrapers flanked by the Coronado Bridge and, on clear days, Mexico. The east and west views of the Laguna Mountains and Point Loma loom and linger.
Next, head west on El Prado and turn left on Sixth Avenue. Heading south, you’ll notice a distinct change in scenery as you descend into the Gaslamp Quarter, the lively heart of downtown San Diego. After 1.5 miles, take a short detour east on K Street to check out Petco Park, one of baseball’s newest stadiums. Continue south on Sixth and make a right on L Street, which connects with the Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade under the classic Gaslamp Quarter sign. Take the path through the parks until the intersection of Market Street, and you’ll come to the tallest waterfront building on the West Coast, the Manchester Hyatt. For a more modern approach to an observation deck, head to the 40th floor and the Top of the Hyatt, a swanky bar with floor-to-ceiling window showing off every facet of SoCal’s second biggest metropolis.
Afterwards, just one block west, take Kettner Boulevard south to the coast into Seaport Village, a ritzy San Diego shopping staple whose Embarcadero Park is a popular jogging spot. Enjoy gorgeous coastal views as you meander north along the ocean-hugging path. Pass the 70-year-old USS Midway on the way to the 150-year-old Star of India (both of which you can explore). Directly across from the Star is the recently opened Waterfront Park, which you’ll walk through to Cedar Street. After walking two blocks east on Cedar, head north on India Street, the main stretch of San Diego’s Little Italy (and home to delicious authentic fare). This concludes your compact culture tour of downtown San Diego! Now, head north on India Street until hitting Hawthorn Street. Take Hawthorn east 10 blocks to its end at Sixth, head north 4 blocks to El Prado, and turn right to return to the past … and your ride home. Cultural coup complete!
Directions to California Tower in Balboa Park. No dogs on observation decks.