The open spaces in Clairemont Mesa are important natural habitats and contain a variety of plants and wildlife. Rose Canyon Open Space Park contains interacting habitats unique to Southern California. The hills and fields are covered with coastal sage scrub and chaparral, and on the north-facing hillsides is oak woodland. A unique riparian habitat runs the length of the park. Rose Creek gently meanders along the canyon floor and drains into Mission Bay. Wildlife in Rose Canyon includes raccoons, skunks, rabbits, coyotes, foxes, and mule deer. Owls and hawks can be seen flying majestically over the canyon.

Tecolote Canyon Natural Park has more than six miles of trails that are used by walkers, joggers and mountain bikers. A Nature Center offers exhibits detailing the lives of the Kumeyaay Indians who called the canyon home, as well as displays on the plants and animals found in the canyon. San Clemente Canyon has more than three miles of trails along the length of the canyon. Additional and more difficult trails lead into the many side canyons and up to the mesa tops.

Clairemont Mesa features a number of other recreational opportunities. South Clairemont Mesa Recreation Center offers a playground, ball courts, a field house, picnic areas and a swimming pool. The Tecolote Recreation Center offers baseball fields, a football field, outdoor basketball courts and picnic areas. In addition, Clairemont Mesa holds an annual family day festival each summer with live music, food and a car show.

World-renowned Balboa Park, just minutes from Clairemont Mesa, is home to 15 museums, various arts and international cultural associations, and the famous San Diego Zoo. Art treasures, exotic animal species, model railroads, world folk art, sports memorabilia and rare aircraft are just a few of the many unique items on display at Balboa Park. The museum collections are housed in magnificent Spanish Revival Colonial buildings – the likes of which had not been seen in the United States before – built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. The 1200-acre urban park is filled with seasonal flowers, groves of trees, lush and verdant lawns, fountains, and miles of paths and trails. The botanical building, the Japanese Friendship Garden and the Marston House gardens contain rare and interesting plants. The Old Globe Theatre, San Diego's largest arts organization, is located in Balboa Park. The Globe presents at least 12 productions annually on its three stages.

Balboa Park's sports complex is named after John Morley, who was the park's superintendent from 1911–1939. The sports complex includes tennis courts, a velodrome where Master's World Cup Championships are held, a swimming pool, and a disc golf course along with the 18-hole Balboa Park Golf Course. Morley Field also has playgrounds and picnic areas, a recreation center and a senior center.

San Diego Mission de Alcalà, located in Presidio Park, was founded in 1769. It was the first Spanish mission built in California. Artifacts found during archaeological digs in the area are on display at the mission's museum. San Diego's heritage can also be seen at nearby Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Buildings date from the early 19th century. Stables, shops, adobes, schools, banks and the town's first fired-brick building can be seen here. Museums contain displays that depict life in early California. Today, Old Town is filled with shops and restaurants. Dancers perform native routines and live music fills the air.

Other things to do in San Diego include San Diego Harbor excursions; taking in a professional baseball, football or hockey game; visiting the maritime museums; or wagering on the ponies at Del Mar Race Track. Hot air balloon rides are available as are trolley tours and walking tours of the city.

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