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  • Writer's pictureJefferson Graham

"Greetings from San Diego:" Where to find the best Instagram spots

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

Those who don't really know California might get the idea that our state has two main cities, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and that's where most of the action is.

Los Angeles, birthplace of the movies and the media capital of the world, and San Francisco, home to Cable Cars, the Golden Gate Bridge and the sprawling tech scene, right?


What if I told you that there was another city that happens to the second largest city in the state, home to 1.4 million people, nearly double the 800,000 who live in San Francisco?

She would be San Diego, and despite the sprawling population, the city happens to be more laid-back than either L.A. or San Francisco, home to fantastic weather, great beach towns, Sea World, that world famous Zoo, proximity to the Mexican border, a large military presence and all those photo opps! (For the record, San Jose is actually no. 3, with 983,000 residents, followed by San Francisco and Fresno is no. 5 at 544,000.)

I recently joined forces with the local photographer Angela Andrieux in San Diego recently to explore the best photo spots south of the South Bay. For fun, we followed, letter for letter, the Welcome to San Diego mural, on the latest episode of #PhotowalksTV.

It's a two-parter, so be sure to come back next week, as we finish up in the beach towns of San Diego. There I'm joined by my pal Chris Raney, from Yellow Productions.

The letters:

S: Hotel Del Coronado, the 1888 Victorian masterpiece that is just over the Bay from San Diego, a former haunt of L. Frank Baum, the author of the "Wizard of Oz" books, the setting for the classic 1959 film "Some Like It Hot" with Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. Best photo view: by the fountain in front of the building. Even better: the "Boat House," across the way, which was the smaller, prototype for the Del, and sits in Glorieta Bay. Get there at Magic Hour, when the lights for what is now a Blue Water Grill get turned on, and you get a beautiful water reflection.

A: Coronado Bridge. The gorgeous bridge, circa 1969, is a sight to see, best viewed from San Diego itself, in Embarcadero Marina Park.

N: Chicano Park. We continue directly under the bridge, for what locals say is home to "the largest concentration of Chicano murals in the world, with more than 100 paintings on seven acres dotted with sculpture, gardens, picnic tables and playgrounds." Bright your camera, enjoy the art and snap some great pix!

D: Sunset Cliffs and Ocean Beach. Ocean is one of four main small San Diego area beach towns (along with Pacific Beach, Mission Beach and La Jolla) with Sunset Cliffs the most dramatic jewel of the bunch. It's described as a 68-acre park by the sea, with trails, caves, tidepools and cliffs. For fun, walk down the steps 100 feet to the coastline, where you'll get a view that has to be seen to be believed.

I: Comic-Con and Little Italy. Every summer, hundreds of thousands of people descend upon San Diego, often in costume, for the annual Comic-Con convention. Somehow the mural artist decided this should stand for I--and I'm going out on a limb and adding one more landmark: Little Italy. The downtown neighborhood was once predominantly an Italian and Portuguese fishing neighborhood, and today celebrates its heritage with tons of great Italian restaurants and grocery stores.

E: Proximity to Mexico. San Diego is just 18 miles from the Mexican border, to Tijuana, and as a city that was the first major California area to be settled by Europeans, it was originally old Mexico before the U.S. took over. That history is celebrated in the Old Town section.

G: Balboa Park. Home to 17 museums in 1,200 acres of parks and gardens, old history and a walking paradise. The letter G is represented by the House of Charm, a 1915 era building originally built for the 1915–16 Panama-California Exposition with iconic Mission Revival Style architecture. It houses the San Diego Art Institute and the Mingei International Museum as well as rehearsal space for the Old Globe Theatre and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

O: Belmont Park. The heart of Mission Beach, Belmont is an amusement park directly across from the ocean, with a classic wooden roller coaster, the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, originally built in 1925, along with a Tilt a Whirl, bumper cars, a Carousel and many more.

Missing from the mural are several great photo spots, including the Embarcadero Marina Park (home to the best city skyline view in San Diego), Harbor Island (great marina) and Point Loma, home to the historic lighthouse which has been offering light guidance since 1891. There's also a fantastic overview of the Pacific Ocean from high above, by the Light House.

Please do me a favor and check out the Photowalks episode from San Diego, and then come back next week when we visit the beach cities too.

Speaking of San Diego, please join us on 2/11 for a live photowalk event in San Diego at the Embarcadero park. The event is sponsored by our friends at Mylio, and thus, attendance is free. Please join us. You can sign up here:


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