San Diego Hidden Attractions

San Diego Hidden Attractions
San Diego, known as "America's Finest City," is highly regarded in tourist circles for its miles of sandy white beaches, world-famous San Diego Zoo, the original Sea World and historic Old Town. What the tourist brochures don't tell you about is all the other attractions that make San Diego so popular--hidden attractions, if you will, sure to spice up your next visit.

Little Italy

The Gaslamp Quarter and East Village get all the press, but one of downtown San Diego's most charming and vibrant communities is Little Italy, where Italian fishermen from Genoa and Sicily originally settled in the early 1900s. The area is awash with trendy new restaurants and condos, but there's also plenty of history still intact, including Filippi's Pizza Grotto, a 60-year-old pizza house with an authentic Italian market in the front, and Our Lady of the Rosary Church, built in 1925 and featuring original paintings by Italian artist Fausto Tasca. Each year in October the community hosts the Little Italy Festa, a festival of Italian food, entertainment, crafts and gondola rides.

Little Italy
North -- Laurel Street
South -- Ash Street
West -- Pacific Highway
East -- Front Street

International Cottages

This cluster of little cottages, built for the 1935 World's Fair, is now home to 32 volunteer groups, each representing a different country, that seek to foster cultural understanding. Each Sunday the cottages, decked out with native art, photos and other memorabilia, are open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. Visitors can sample apple strudel at the House of Germany, munch on waffles at the House of Sweden and get their name written in Chinese characters at the House of China.

House of Pacific Relations International Cottages
Balboa Park
2125 Park Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 234-0739

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

This spectacularly beautiful 2,000-acre seaside park is home to the rare Torrey Pine tree. Eight miles of hiking trails take hikers from the pine tree forests to towering red-sandstone cliffs and down to the beach. Guided nature walks are available most weekends. There's also a visitor center and museum where visitors can learn more about the rare pine trees that give the reserve its name, as well as the indigenous Kumeyaay people who once lived there.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
12600 North Torrey Pines Road
San Diego CA 92037
(858) 755-2063

Crystal Pier

At the north end of the three-mile Mission Beach Boardwalk is Crystal Pier, a rickety old wooden pier that first opened in 1927 with a grand ballroom (since wiped out by high surf) at its end. Today the pier is still a great place to fish, walk or just sit on a bench and read a book amid cool ocean breezes. But the real draw is a cluster of cottages that can be rented for the night, allowing you to literally sleep over the ocean.

Crystal Pier Hotel & Cottages
4500 Ocean Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92109
(858) 483-6983

Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

A true relic of old San Diego, the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge spans Kate Sessions Canyon in the old-San Diego community of Banker's Hill, just north and west of downtown. The bridge, which spans 375 feet, was built in 1912 to bring pedestrians across the canyon from new residential neighborhoods to a newly built streetcar line. Kids love the bridge, which rocks and sways as you cross. A stroll across is both invigorating and picturesque---not to mention a little scary, particularly when the wind is blowing.

Spruce Street Suspension Bridge
Foot of Spruce Street, just west of First Street

Article Written By Thomas K. Arnold

Thomas K. Arnold is the publisher and editorial director of "Home Media Magazine" and a regular entertainment contributor to various publications including "USA Today," "The Hollywood Reporter" and "San Diego Magazine." He has written travel stories for "San Diego Magazine," the "San Diego Union" and the Copley News Service. Arnold attended San Diego State University.

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