San Diego is one of the most walkable cities in California. There are many walking tours that you can take to explore the city on foot. If it’s your first time here, the Historic Gaslamp Quarter walking tour and the Old Town walking tour should be on your list if you love SoCal history. If you’re into panoramic views, consider the Coronado Island walking tour or a Seaport Village walk. In this blog post we highlight our 4 best San Diego walking tours.
Gaslamp Quarter Walking Tour
The Gaslamp Quarter has transformed into a premier shopping, dining, and entertainment destination, a playground, and an elite urban enclave in hip, eclectic San Diego. It is a vibrant 16½-block neighborhood near downtown best known for its nightlife, diverse entertainment options, and historic charm. The region was known as New Town in the 1860s, in contrast to the original Spanish Colonial Old Town. The neighborhood was redeveloped and renamed the “Gaslamp District” in the ’80s and ’90s. Its streets were lit primarily by arc lamps rather than gas lamps. In 1992, the Gaslamp Quarter Arch was completed and opened.
However, locals continue to refer to the area as “Gaslamp” rather than the “Gaslamp District,” as indicated on the entrance arches and official city signs and banners. San Diego has made a special effort to preserve the architectural beauty of yesteryear, and the Gaslamp Quarter deserves particular credit for its excellence. The area is on the National Register of Historic Places list, and is home to one of the biggest collections of Victorian commercial buildings in the western United States, including 94 historic buildings, many of which are still used as restaurants, shops, entertainment venues, and nightclubs.
There are excellent museums worth visiting, such as the Gaslamp Museum and the San Diego Chinese History Museum, old hotels (such as the Houghton Hotel), and some historical buildings renewed with new vitality. Especially in this respect. Of note is the Louis Merchant Bank building (“The Queen of Gaslight”). While local clubs, pubs, and cocktail lounges attract a younger crowd, venues such as the Balboa Theater offer comedy, drama, and music.
Old Town Walking Tour
The Old Town is the oldest settlement in San Diego and is known as the first place Europeans visited on the West Coast of the modern United States. However, Native American culture in the region dates back thousands of years. The neighborhood is often referred to as “The Birthplace of California” because Gaspar de Portolá and Father Junípero Serra founded a military post, the Presidio of San Diego, and then the Church of San Diego de Alcala, the first permanent European settlement in California.
In 1821, Santiago became part of the newly declared Mexican Empire, which was reorganized into the First Mexican Republic two years later. In 1834, the Mexican government granted Santiago city status, during which time it was the commercial and governmental center of the region. Mexican rule ended in 1846, and California became part of the United States in 1850 following the Mexican American War. That same year, Santiago, still largely confined to the old town, was incorporated into a city of just 650 people. Old Town was the center of San Diego in the 1860s and became one of the city’s many neighborhoods in the 1910s. Today, much of it is a state historic park.
The area has 27 historic buildings and places of interest, including the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant, Old Town Market, and the Mormon Camp Visitor Center. There are five original adobe buildings that are part of the complex, including the Johnson House, a reconstructed mid-19th-century office building; Whaley House, an 1857 Greek Revival-style residence; and the 1827 Casa de Estudillo.
Other notable historic sites include the Mason Street School, San Diego’s first public schoolhouse, and several museums, including the McCoy House Museum and the Colorado House, which recreates a 19th-century station and telegraph office.
Coronado Island Walking Tour
Take the short ferry ride or cross the bridge to Coronado Island, a popular getaway just minutes from San Diego. Stretch out on white sandy beaches, enjoy water sports, visit art galleries, shop and exercise outdoors. Coronado means “crowned” in Spanish.
If you are a sun lover, there are many beautiful beaches. Active people will love to hit kayaks, boats, surfboards, or stand-up paddle boards. On land, there are 17 miles of coastal biking trails to explore and several hiking trails. There are also many cultural experiences to enjoy on the island.
Are you thinking of decorating your home with art or photography? Then shop for locally made art at one of the many galleries. Delve into the island’s history at the Coronado Museum of History and Art and admire the architectural beauty of the Hotel del Coronado. It is a wooden Victorian beach resort and the second-largest wooden building in the United States. On the island, visit Centennial Park and the Ferry Terminal Market. From these locations, you can get an up-close view of the aircraft carrier and enjoy views of San Diego’s majestic skyline.
Seaport Village Walking Tour
San Diego’s docklands, especially Seaport Village, are great places to spend some time. This fantastic location on the bay in the city’s heart offers picturesque vistas, cobbled streets, independent shops, and a waterfront vibe.
The Village is a dining and entertainment hub with more than 50 unique shops, 17 restaurants, and plenty of outdoor entertainment. Enjoy a meal at one of the beachside restaurants in between browsing the shops. Casual and fine dining is available here. If picnics are your thing, spread your blanket on the lawn and enjoy your al fresco feast. After your meal, catch a free concert or another type of performance in the outdoor space. There are many seasonal live music events here.
Behind Seaport Village is Embarcadero Marina Park North, a waterfront park with open lawns. Come here for a picnic, lay on the grass, play a game, or watch the hustle and bustle of the harbor. The Quayside is a popular destination all year round, especially in summer when the outdoors can be thoroughly enjoyed.