A unique blend of laid-back beach vibes and big city culture, diverse neighborhoods and sunny outlook are just a few of the many reasons that San Diego is a top travel destination. But for travelers whose New Year’s goal is to leave a positive impact while setting out on new adventures, San Diego offers just that.
Whether through meeting new exotic friends, discovering a delicious culinary scene, engaging with the arts or crossing frontiers, the following are eight meaningful ways to travel with a purpose while in San Diego.
For the Love of Animals
- Hidden in the mountains of Alpine about 30 minutes from downtown San Diego, Lions, Tigers and Bears offers a safe haven for abandoned or mistreated exotic animals. The 93-acre sanctuary is home to 19 species including bears, cougars, tigers, lions and leopards, among others. In addition to purchasing sponsorships and memberships or making donations, visitors can support the organization by taking part in one of their guided educational visits led Wednesday through Saturday. Experiences vary and include behind-the-scenes tours, animal feedings, or a two-night luxury stay at the sanctuary’s White Oak Mountain Retreat. All proceeds help the center care for current and future rescued animals.
- Located minutes from the picturesque town of Julian, the California Wolf Center is committed to help repopulate critically endangered Mexican gray wolves and North American gray wolves through breeding programs and by educating farmers on the implementation of nonlethal solutions to wolf-livestock conflicts. Visitors can help support the organization’s efforts by participating in one of the center’s tour programs. Tours can be private or public, and different packages include educational presentations, intimate guided tours, individual time with a staff educator, and meeting two packs of wolves.
- For many, visiting the San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a bucket-list experience, but what visitors might not know is that by checking it off the list they are also making a positive impact in the world. San Diego Zoo Global , which operates the zoo and Safari Park, is a non-profit organization whose mission is to save vulnerable species worldwide through research, education, breeding, rescues, release programs and the establishment of game and wildlife preserves. Each park ticket, merchandise and food purchase helps fund the San Diego Zoo Global animal and plant conservation efforts.
Drink, Eat and Give
- Wine aficionados can give back while imbibing. Carruth Cellars , a local urban winery with locations in Solana Beach, Carlsbad and Little Italy, offers three different Pay It Forward bottles of wine where a portion of proceeds from every bottle sold is donated to a non-profit organization. Beneficiaries include The Global Mosaic Project, which brings community-based public art, training and education to neighborhoods across the globe, and the Lois Merrill Foundation, which provides medical expenses assistance to cancer patients in need. Also, one day each month, Carruth selects a nonprofit organization to support through their Corks for a Cause fundraiser.
- San Diego is known for having some of the best tacos north of the border, and those at Tacos Libertad are no exception. But at this Hillcrest taco shop craving can also be an act of caring. The not-for-profit taco shop donates 100 percent of profits to rotating local charities every month and guarantees a $3,000 minimum donation. Previous beneficiaries have included the Surfrider Foundation, SD Youth Services, and Girl Scouts San Diego.
A Heart for Art
- In the heart of Balboa Park, the San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA) is home to a renowned collection of European, American, Latin American and Asian art, and hosts cultural and educational programs for children and adults. Once a year every April, SDMA blossoms into Art Alive, a four-day event in which floral designer create more than a hundred floral interpretations of some of the museum’s works. Art Alive kicks off with Bloom Bash, an over-the-top celebration with live music, custom art installations, beer and craft cocktails and cuisine from some of San Diego’s top restaurants. Bloom Bash is SDMA’s primary charity event and gives visitors an opportunity to support the museum’s exhibitions and educational programs while mingling with locals, sipping on local craft beer, indulging in San Diego’s gastronomy and exploring the museum.
- Also located in Balboa Park, the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) is one of only three museums in the nation exclusively dedicated to lens-based media. Through presentations, collections and preservation of photography film and video, MOPA inspires locals and visitors alike. Thanks to MOPA’s Pay What You Wish program, visitors can make a voluntary contribution in any amount rather than pay a general admission fee. Donations support the museum’s creative courses, workshops and educational programs, like the annual Juried Youth Exhibition which invites San Diego County and Tijuana K-12 schools to exhibit their own works.
- Close proximity to Mexico makes San Diego an ideal destination for visitors looking for an enriching international travel experience. A day trip to Tijuana, Mexico makes a great addition to a San Diego itinerary, especially if it can change the lives of low-income and neglected children. Corazon de Vida is a US-based non-profit foundation that provides for orphaned children in Baja, Mexico by funding local orphanages, delivering basic life services and by funding higher education. A great way to get involved is by participating in one of Corazon de Vida’s orphanage day-trips to Tijuana. Usually held on the third Saturday of each month, the visits provide care and attention to kids, and volunteer activities include preparing lunch, organizing arts and crafts and participating in sports activities. A trip fee covers transportation from and to San Diego, plus lunch and the cost of craft projects.
For more information on San Diego’s other exciting offerings, including vacation packages and valuable coupons for attractions, restaurants and more, visit the San Diego Tourism Authority’s website at www.sandiego.org.