Scarcely a generation ago, one drove through downtown San Diego with the windows rolled up, past derelict tattoo parlors and sleazy porn palaces. But it has transformed into a first-class destination for visitors and a trendy area for residents. There are restaurants, art galleries, festivals, performing arts centers, museums, and a sports stadium. The atmosphere is strictly Southern Californian: a blend of urban energy and laid-back priorities. From the edge of the Embarcadero to the beautifully restored Gaslamp Quarter, downtown is a great place to have fun in.

1. Embarcadero

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