Ray Bradbury and crazy Horton Plaza.

This escalator goes up one level, but no escalator goes down right here!
This escalator goes up one level, but there’s no immediate way back down!

Horton Plaza, San Diego’s colorful downtown shopping mall, was inspired by a concept put forth by famous science fiction and fantasy writer Ray Bradbury. The crazy, jumbled design was based on Ray Bradbury’s essay “The Aesthetics of Lostness” which took joy in the notion of becoming safely lost on the side streets of Paris, London or New York.

While walking about Horton Plaza, you’ll see ramps, escalators, bridges and stairs that go every which way–up, down, across–leading you to new unexpected vistas. One mysterious escalator will take you up one level, but there’s no immediate way to return from where you came. You must let your eyes rove to discover another route. It’s really a fun idea!

I believe I took these pics on a Sunday morning, and few people had yet arrived.

Random ramps and bridges all over the shopping mall.
Random ramps and bridges all over the shopping mall.
Crazy, colorful Horton Plaza.
Crazy, colorful Horton Plaza.

Colorful samples of fun Horton Plaza.

Horton Plaza is a feast for the eyes everywhere you turn.
Horton Plaza is a feast for the eyes everywhere you turn.

Horton Plaza, located in downtown San Diego, is a fun and interesting place for shoppers to visit. The unique mall’s crazy, whimsical design makes an interesting contrast to the restored old buildings in the adjacent Gaslamp Quarter. Many bright colors and types of architecture have been cleverly integrated into a visual feast. Horton Plaza was designed so that people intentionally get a bit lost, to provide a feeling of adventure and the unexpected.

Here are some random pics for you to enjoy…

Elegant Jessop's clock in the midst of colorful whimsy.
Elegant Jessop’s clock in the midst of colorful whimsy.
Many bridges and walkways connect different areas.
Many bridges and walkways connect different areas.
Looking north along several shopping mall levels.
Looking north along several shopping mall levels.
Looks like someone yarn bombed this stair railing.
Looks like someone yarn bombed this stair railing.
Downtown buildings can be seen projecting into the sky.
Downtown buildings can be seen projecting into the sky.
Cool places to eat overlook the layered central area.
Cool places to eat overlook the layered central area.
Just another place to explore on an upper level.
Just another place to explore on an upper level.
Lots of great vistas near Horton Plaza's food court.
Lots of great vistas near Horton Plaza’s food court.
A small decorative touch adds fun flavor to the scene.
A small decorative touch adds fun flavor to the scene.
Many arches that shoppers can pass over or through.
Many arches that shoppers can pass over or through.
Go up or down in unexpected places.
Go up or down in unexpected places.
Banner welcomes visitors in many languages.
Banner welcomes San Diego visitors in many languages.
Just walking along and enjoying the many sights.
Just walking along and enjoying the many sights.

Playing with giant chess pieces at Horton Plaza.

Chess and checkers games can include a small workout!
Chess and checkers games can include a small workout!

Here are three fun photos! I stood for a moment on an upper level at Horton Plaza, watching two guys play a game with giant chess pieces.

San Diego’s downtown Horton Plaza shopping mall is more than just typical retail stores and a food court. It’s a wonderland of colorful, whimsical, unexpected architecture, with cool discoveries around almost every corner, including this shady nook where you’ll find giant-sized chessboards and checker boards.

The Horton Plaza shopping mall contains fun surprises around almost every corner.
The Horton Plaza shopping mall contains fun surprises around almost every corner.
People enjoy a leisurely game of chess with gigantic chessboard and pieces at Horton Plaza.
People enjoy a leisurely game of chess with gigantic chessboard and pieces at Horton Plaza.

Here are a couple more photos I took during another visit…

Horton Plaza visitor watches two people playing chess on an ordinary-size chessboard.
Horton Plaza visitor watches two people playing chess on an ordinary-size chessboard.
People congregate in a Horton Plaza nook where giant chess pieces beckon.
People congregate in a Horton Plaza nook where giant chess pieces beckon.

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Cabrillo’s galleon sails in Civic Center Plaza.

cabrillo's galleon san salvador sails in civic center plaza

Walking recently through San Diego’s Civic Center Plaza, I enjoyed a variety of historical images and colorful designs inlaid in the central courtyard.

Check out Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s galleon the San Salvador. In 1542, the Portuguese explorer discovered San Diego Bay on behalf of Spain while searching for a mythical water route across North America.

An actual working replica of the San Salvador is being built by the San Diego Maritime Museum. One of these days I’ll walk north along the bay to Spanish Landing in order to take some pics!

Wider view of Civic Center Plaza.
Wider view of Civic Center Plaza.

Signs point toward San Diego’s sister cities.

distance signs at san diego civic center plaza

Should you ever walk through Civic Center Plaza, you’ll probably see this unusual group of signs. These are a few of San Diego’s sister cities. Pointing in almost every direction, the signs indicate distances in miles and kilometers.

Another similar group of fun signs can be found directly across the plaza.

San Diego’s 16 sister cities are:

Alcala de Henares, Spain
Campinas, Brazil
Cavite, Philippines
Edinburgh, Scotland
Jalalabad, Afghanistan
Jeonju, South Korea
Leon, Mexico
Perth, Australia
Quanzhou, China
Taichung City, Taiwan
Tema, Ghana
Tijuana, Mexico
Vladivostok, Russia
Warsaw, Poland
Yantai, China
Yokohama, Japan

UPDATE! I walked through Civic Center Plaza about half a year later and I noticed brand new signs!

New sister city signs at the Civic Center!
New sister city signs at the Civic Center!
More San Diego sister cities around the world.
More San Diego sister cities around the world.

San Diego Trolley and Santa Fe Depot.

red san diego trolley and santa fe depot

This red trolley belongs to the blue line. Makes sense, right? It’s waiting for passengers at the America Plaza station, across the street from the Santa Fe Depot. The blue line stretches from downtown San Diego all the way down to the Mexican border.

In this photo you can see both domes of the historic train station.

Old black-and-white photos of the Santa Fe Depot pretty much show nothing around it. It just sits there in the middle of nowhere, seemingly. Today the city rises and surges all about it, and it can almost seem lost among the many bright tall buildings.

San Diego Trolley pulls into Santa Fe Depot from the south.
San Diego Trolley pulls into Santa Fe Depot from the south.

Domes of San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot.

dome of san diego's santa fe depot

The Santa Fe Depot is downtown San Diego’s train station. Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner, the Coaster, and the San Diego Trolley’s orange and green lines all stop at the historic building.

The Santa Fe Depot, built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, was opened in 1915 to serve thousands of visitors to Balboa Park’s Panama-California Exposition.

This photo shows one of the Santa Fe Depot’s two colorful domes and some palm trees against a backdrop of high-rise condos. The architects a hundred years ago probably didn’t imagine that glassy skyscrapers would tower nearby!

Birds fly over one of the distinctive domes.
Birds fly over one of the distinctive tiled domes.
Looking up through palm trees toward the dome.
Looking up through palm trees toward one dome.

Here are some more photos taken at a later time. Black material now covers up part of the two domes. I learned that the terracotta columns are cracking.

The Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego.
The east side of the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego.
Buildings rise behind the domes of the Santa Fe Depot.
Buildings rise behind the domes of the Santa Fe Depot.
The two domes of San Diego's Santa Fe Depot.
The two domes of San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot.
Amtrak train parked by historic Santa Fe Depot.
Amtrak train parked by historic Santa Fe Depot.