San Diego is by far my favorite stop on the Golf Industry Show’s revolving circuit, and it’s the one destination I love to bring the family along for the fun.

We all know about Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, Old Town, Legoland and many of the other common tourist destinations that make San Diego, well, San Diego. But there are just as many stops in, around and outside the city that maybe aren’t as well known, but are definitely worth checking out if you have the time.

  • Here are five “Off the Beaten Path” things to check out while in San Diego. Please note that adding a day or two to your planned GIS trip might just be in order to fully experience any one of these attractions. Although trying to hit all five of these might put a serious crunch on your GIS time, one or two of them would definitely be worth the effort.
  • Julian, California: An hour east of San Diego is Julian, a historic gold-mining town that is also a beautiful mountain retreat. Unlike most of Southern California, Julian experiences all four change of seasons. Famous for its apples, Julian is also a great escape for hiking, shopping and is known as the bed and breakfast capital of California. And who knows, maybe you’ll stumble across a little gold on one of those hikes. Could be some just lying alongside a trail. You never know.
  • Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary: Located in Del Mar, about 45 miles out of the city, this is a must for bird lovers. Heck, even bird likers. Probably not bird haters though, but who hates birds, and if you do, what’s wrong with you? The sanctuary is free, open seven days a week and offers you a chance to see exotic birds up close and even interact with many of them. Its mission is to “Maintain a sanctuary that shelters, nurtures and re-socializes parrots, while educating the public to inspire a lasting concern for the well-being of exotic birds.”
  • Temecula, California: About an hour from San Diego, this beautiful town is in the heart of Southern California wine country. They say some of the best hot air balloon rides in the U.S. are to be found in Temecula. And, if collecting old stuff is your game, in the heart of the Old Town district there are over 640 antique dealers. Bring an extra suitcase for a few treasure findings.
  • San Diego Zoo Safari Park: Separate from the regular zoo itself, the 1,800-acre safari park is located near Escondido, about 30 miles from the downtown zoo. Both the zoo and the park are operated by the Zoological Society of San Diego. The park’s coolest sounding feature has got to be the Africa Tram, which apparently explores exhibits that house such seldom seen animals as antelopes, giraffes, buffalo, cranes and rhinoceros. The park is also known for its California condor breeding program, which also sounds extremely awesome, right?
  • Birch Aquarium: If you’re in to oceanography or marine biology like I am, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps is a must. Located north of the San Diego in La Jolla, the Aquarium is perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. As stated on its website, the aquarium “provides ocean science education through creative exhibits, programs and activities designed to help visitors use critical thinking, and to make science relative in their daily lives.” Current exhibits include the “Hall of Fishes,” “Elasmo Beach,” “There’s Something about Seahorses,” and “Feeling the Heat, the Climate Challenge.” As its website declares, “Explore where the wonders of the ocean come alive!”