This is the Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island, literally a 5 minute drive from downtown. It's full of history in addition to being wonderful! It's the largest wooden structure in the US. Built in 1888, it has entertained some of the biggest celebrities in the US. Marilyn Monroe filmed a movie here. Presidential dinners have been here, Babe Ruth went fishing here, and there are some cool old photos in the halls to prove it.
They do a great job keeping their beach clean and it's open to anyone - not just hotel guests.
This is the hotel lobby, still in use today. Their elevator is one of those cool old ones with metal bars, which I've only seen in older European hotels.
We also checked out Cabrillo National Monument and Point Loma Lighthouse at Point Loma. Also just a short drive (15 min.) from downtown, Juan Cabrillo is the explorer who discovered California in 1542. He felt like a failure because he didn't find any gold, or a passage way through North America. He died mysteriously soon after leaving. So he's not really a household name like Columbus.
You can also tour the lighthouse and learn a little bit about it.
Also there are tide pools you can go down by and look for critters, but we just mostly sat on the rocks and watched the surfers!
Just so calming and beautiful.
Another off the beaten path thing we did outside San Diego was tour the Palomar Observatory. It's about 90 min. away, up a windy mountain road, so they don't get many visitors. It is still a working observatory, so they only have 4 tours on the weekend. We managed to get in on one. It houses the Hale 200 inch telescope made in 1948. It was the largest telescope in the world for about 30 years. Learning about how they engineered this thing was pretty cool. Mr. Hale had a talent for building bigger and better telescopes and getting businessmen to buy in and help him finance his projects.
So you've gotten your dose of history today! :)