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San Diego Area Sights: Coronado Highlights

If there is a signature piece of San Diego area architecture, the bridge connecting Coronado to Downtown is it. The Coronado Bridge arches up to a 200-foot clearance (high enough for tall ships to pass under) before curving hard upon approaching Coronado, forming a swoop of blue steel and gray concrete that appears far less rigid than the sum of its parts.

The views from the top are equally majestic, but check them out from the passenger seat; stopping on the bridge nets you a steep fine. If you’re ready for a good look at Coronado highlights, there are much better—and closer—places to dig into this area’s fascinating history and beautiful sights.

Coronado Bridge in San Diego, California.
Coronado Bridge in San Diego, California. Photo © Mirko Vitali/123rf.

Coronado Museum of History and Art

How did Coronado come to be and why? The Coronado Museum of History and Art tells the story of the island that’s really the tip of a peninsula. View pictures of early vacationers at Tent City, a canvas resort built beside the Hotel del Coronado as a friendly option for budget travelers. Examine vintage military costumes while learning how the Navy’s presence has impacted the community. The small museum packs a lot of Coronado in its three exhibits—it’s certainly not a full-day or even half-day activity, but it’s great for establishing context on the area.

Hotel del Coronado

It’s rare that a hotel can be considered a sight in its own right, but then few carry the panache of Hotel Del. Built in 1888, the all-wood Victorian construction of the original building can take your breath away, particularly the grandly furnished lobby and the iconic dome over its historic Crown Room, which hosts a lavish Sunday brunch.

The historic Hotel Del Coronado was once the largest resort in the world.
The historic Hotel Del Coronado was once the largest resort in the world. Photo © SD Dirk, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Once the world’s largest resort, the Del has been a popular destination among Hollywood VIPs for nearly a century; movie buffs will remember it as the location of Billy Wilder’s comedy classic Some Like It Hot. Much of the luxury resort is open to the public: sip a drink at the outdoor Sunset Bar or enjoy the outdoor ice-skating rink set up between Thanksgiving and New Year. Of course, the main attraction is what inspired the hotel’s construction—just outside is one of the nation’s finest beaches. Rent a cabana for the day and enjoy cocktail service on the sand as you watch sailboats, Navy ships, and the occasional breaching whale enhance the panoramic Pacific view.

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