San Diego Virtual Tour: 17 Museums & Attractions You Can Visit from Home

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San Diego, CA

With over 35 million annual visitors, San Diego is one of the most popular urban destinations in the United States. The city is famous for its thriving nightlife and vast array of museums and cultural attractions that are recognized around the globe. If that’s not enough to lure you in, we did the math and it turns out San Diego is the city with the best craft beer in America. Now we understand why they call it ‘America’s Finest City.’

Yes, we know the best way to visit a city is by exploring it in person rather than browsing through it using your computer or phone. And you can certainly do that. On Wanderu you can book trips to visit San Diego by bus or travel there by train. But if you don’t feel comfortable hitting the road just yet, let us alleviate your growing wanderlust with this immersive virtual tour.

From walking tours and 360-degree webcams to online exhibits, we found a way to virtually visit some of the most exciting places across the city of San Diego.

Points of Interest

Cabrillo National Monument

russellstreet / Flickr

The Cabrillo National Monument commemorates the landing of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, the first European to set foot at San Diego Bay in 1542. The monument is located near the southern tip of Point Loma with astounding views of the city’s skyline and the Pacific Ocean. Other points of interest near the monument include the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and the Cabrillo Sea Cave. Installed in 1949, the monument is a city landmark and one of the most popular attractions in San Diego, drawing around 842,000 visitors annually.

You can get a front-row seat looking out from the monument across the city’s skyline. Thanks to the Adventure Blog by Adventurous Way, you can explore the area covering the monument, lighthouse, and take in views from the Pacific Ocean anytime.

Coronado Beach and Island

Coronado Beach and Island

Coronado is a resort city located on the peninsula of San Diego Bay and it is known for its unique Victorian Hotel del Coronado that first opened up in 1888. This area features some of the best beaches in the country with the most scenic views of the skyline in Downtown San Diego.

Thanks to Island Hopper TV’s channel on YouTube, you can enjoy a complete walking tour of Coronado Beach and Island. You will be able to immerse yourself into the full experience – from arriving at the island by ferry, to touring around Hotel Del Coronado, and walking across the white sand beaches.

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove features a small beach surrounded by sandstone cliffs in one of the most photographed places in Southern California. Located near the Birch Aquarium by the coast of La Jolla, the Cove remains protected as a marine reserve underwater park for small activities and educational purposes.

Virtual Guide
Thanks to the Yellow Productions Youtube channel, you can explore the area virtually and “walk” around at your convenience. Immerse yourself in the calming neighborhood by touring La Jolla village, and enjoy some of the most iconic views off the southern coast.

VR 360 Video of Sea Lions
The Cove is also famous for the sea lions that inhabit the rocks along the shoreline. You can observe them at the Cove with this VR 360-degree tour.

Balboa Park

Balboa Park

Located at the heart of the city, Balboa Park is a historic urban space with natural vegetation zones, 16 different museums, and a rich variety of gardens. Most prominently, this is where you will find the world-famous San Diego Zoo (there’s more on that below).

With more than 4 million visitors every year, Balboa Park is one of the most popular attractions in the world. Thanks to the Yellow Productions YouTube channel, you can enjoy a 4K 360-degree walking tour around the paths inside the park and get a good idea of what all the hype is about.

San Diego Central Library

San Diego Central Library

Nathan Rupert / Flickr

The San Diego Central Library was founded in 2013 as the main branch of the San Diego Public Library. Located downtown near Petco Park, the library’s large lattice dome dominates the city’s skyline.

Thanks to the City of San Diego’s YouTube channel, you can take a virtual tour of the new Central Library, check out the area at the Joan Λ Irwin Jacobs Common, and hear more about the charter school featured on the 6th and 7th floors of the library.

Museums & Zoos

San Diego Museum of Man

San Diego Museum of Man

Photos by Clark / Flickr

Founded in 1915, the San Diego Museum of Man offers a variety of experiences through exhibits and tours around human history and cultures. It also explores the relationship humans have with animals, different races, monsters, and even cannibalism.

To keep people engaged during Covid-19, the San Diego Museum of Man updates their YouTube channel so you can immerse yourself within the museum and the surrounding area around Balboa Park. Through the channel, you are able to virtually climb up the California Tower and visit different PostSecret Exhibits in the museum.

San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat)

The Architecture and Landscape Architecture Library at Penn State / Flickr

Founded in 1874, the San Diego Natural History Museum, better known as The Nat, is the oldest scientific institution in Southern California. It is one of the museums located inside Balboa Park and welcomes around 400,000 visitors annually. Thanks to Traveling with Andrew’s YouTube channel, you can browse through the museum’s collection of dinosaur fossils, glance at vivid photographs of different animal species, and lean more about the purpose of the museum.

Museum of Photographic Arts

Museum of Photographic Arts

Shu Wu / Flickr

The Museum of Photographic Arts, a.k.a. MOPA, is located inside the historic Balboa Park. The museum recently featured an exhibition called Illusion: The Magic of Motion on their YouTube channel. It follows the development of the art and craft of photography through time and explores its evolution as a result of scientific and artistic explorations in optics, light, and perception. You can browse through the exhibit and learn more about how the human eye perceives motion.

USS Midway Museum

USS Midway Museum

The USS Midway is a naval aircraft carrier museum located in Downtown San Diego at the Navy Pier. It offers 60+ exhibits covering the history of the aircraft, virtual tours, audio tours, and galleries of different airplanes on the ship. It features more than 30 restored aircrafts and helicopters displayed on the flight decks that were used in the Battle of Midway and the Korean War, as well as some aircrafts that are still used today.

On the museum’s website, you can find 360-degree virtual tours that will let you explore the most popular spaces, including the hangar deck and the flight deck, as well as the famous jet airplanes and helicopters exhibits. A rich collection of audio tours will also allow you to learn more about the history behind each exhibit and the featured aircrafts. If you’re a history buff with a penchant for naval aircrafts, this is your nirvana.

San Diego Model Railroad Museum

Model Railroad Museum

Simon / Flickr

Located in Balboa Park, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum is the largest indoor-outdoor exhibit in North America and one of the largest in the world. To put that into scale, the museum’s collection covers over 27,000 square feet of trains and tracks.

Thanks to the YouTube channel YurView, you can check out various model trains, observe miniature railroads, and learn more about the museum’s history.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Nathan Rupert / Flickr

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps is an exploration center for the famous Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego. It overlooks the Pacific Ocean and features more than 5,000 fish with 60+ aquarium habitats that replicate environments in the wild. Every year around 460,000+ annual visitors have the chance to observe a vast array of marine species up close through a rich variety of exhibits.

This virtual tour takes you on a stroll around the Birch Aquarium and showcases some of the most impressive exhibits you will find in the area.

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo

Adam Reeder / Flickr

The San Diego Zoo is home to over 4,000 animals of more than 800 different species. It is located inside of Balboa Park and famous for being one of the best zoos in the world.

On the zoo’s official website, you can find live cams through which you can observe and enjoy various wildlife like hippos, baboons, koalas, platypi, and even condors in real time.

The zoo is also known to provide animals with natural habitat settings and lush landscaping. For a closer look, check out the In the Loop YouTube channel that features various types of animals and habitats only the San Diego Zoo has to offer.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Safari Park

Photos by Clark / Flickr

Located 45 minutes north of San Diego in San Pasqual Valley, the Safari Park was originally used as a research and breeding center for the zoo in Balboa Park. Today, the Safari Park houses a huge array of wild and endangered animals from Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia and beyond.

If you’re looking to go on a journey through the San Diego Safari Park Zoo, strap onto the ride and prepare yourself for a fascinating tram tour that takes you deep within the park. During this experience you will be treated to sweeping front-row views of baby rhinos playing in the mud, baby giraffes drinking water, and learn more about animals you may have not heard of like the somali wild donkey.

SeaWorld San Diego

Seaworld

Founded in 1964, SeaWorld San Diego is a 21-acre marine mammal park located about 15 minutes away from the heart of the city. It was originally planned to be an underwater restaurant, but the idea later turned into a park that became known throughout the world. While SeaWorld has theme park rides like roller coasters, they also have an aquarium that houses whales and dolphins.

Despite not being there in person, you can still tour SeaWorld by immersing yourself in the virtual guide by Coaster Studios. Through this guided tour, you’ll get a closer glimpse at the different experiences and shows SeaWorld offers like live performances with seals and orcas.

Walking Tours

Downtown, Petco Park & Seaport Village

Seaport Village

Prayitno / Flickr

Downtown San Diego is a perfect place to immerse yourself in arts and culture. The city is famous for its bright green trolly cars, historic architecture, and as we already established, some of the best craft beers in the country. In this video, you’ll go on a walking tour around downtown San Diego, MLB stadium Petco Park, and the Seaport Village, courtesy of the Walking Tour channel on YouTube.

Gaslamp Quarter

Gaslamp Quarter

Alan Light / Flickr

Located in Downtown San Diego, the Gaslamp Quarter is known for its vibrant nightlife, dive bars, and young crowds. The name comes from their signature gaslamp street lights, right next to the famous Victorian-era buildings and skyscrapers in the heart of the city.

If you’re looking to learn more about this lively area, admire historic architecture, and take in the city life, then this is the tour for you.

Old Town

Ken Lund / Flickr

Old Town is often referred to as the birthplace of California. It was first established in 1769 and it is home to many preserved historic buildings and museums that celebrate the early years of San Diego. This neighborhood is filled with hotels, restaurants, art galleries, historic buildings and unique boutique stores all around.

Famous for its white sand beaches, historic attractions and unique experiences for everyone to enjoy, San Diego offers so much more than just a regular experience. We hope these virtual tours will help satisfy some of your travel cravings if you don’t feel comfortable hitting the road just yet. And once you are ready, Wanderu will be here to help you get to San Diego and thousands of other places around North America and Europe.

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About the author
Suryanka Thapa

Suryanka Thapa

Suryanka was born and raised in Nepal, but she grew up traveling around the world with her family as a young girl. Through these adventures, Suryanka learned to celebrate different cultures and ethnicities which helped further expand her understanding of the world.