San Diego is a city in southern California, near the border of Mexico about 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Los Angeles. It is a port of entry and the seat of San Diego county. The site of the first European settlement in California, San Diego was named for San Diego (St. James) de Alcalá. Here are 30 interesting facts about San Diego.
1. A rapidly growing city, San Diego has been known in the past for its naval bases, its prominent role in early aviation development, and its proximity to Mexico. Since World War II, however, it has prospered upon a variegated commercial foundation that has included industry, agriculture, research, trade, tourism, and the city’s great appeal as a place to live.
2. The style of life in San Diego features outdoor activity, encouraged by a diversified landscape, two spacious bays, and a kindly climate with persistent sunshine. The creative arts are generously supported and promoted, as by art sales in public parks. Performances of music and live drama, some of these also in the open air, are frequent and well attended.
3. San Diego stands on land that rises gradually from the Pacific shore onto mesas or foothills of the Laguna mountain range. These are separated by numerous canyons that separate the 25 to 30 communities that make up the city. The climate is mild and semiarid, with an average temperature of 63° F (17° C) and annual rainfall of about 10.4 inches (265 mm).
4. San Diego covers about 392 square miles (1,015 sq km), including inland water. The limits touch Escondido to the north and National City in the south. The shoreline at the west runs from south to north along San Diego Bay, with its naval and commercial shore installations, and around the natural deepwater harbor to Point Loma. Northward from the point are Ocean Beach, the narrow Mission Beach peninsula (which encloses Mission Bay Aquatic Park), Pacific Beach, LaJolla, Torrey Pines Park, and Del Mar Heights, all part of greater San Diego. Also part of the city is South San Diego, at the Mexican border, an agricultural community connected to the city proper by a legal corridor running through San Diego Bay.
5. The Community Concourse in the downtown area contains the City Administration Building, the Civic Theater, and an exhibit hall and convention center. Also downtown, and less than a mile from San Diego Bay, is the 1,400-acre (567-hectare) Balboa Park, which is the home of the world-famous San Diego Zoo. The park also includes the Museum of Man; the Fine Arts Gallery, with many originals by old masters; the Natural History Museum; Spanish Village and the Institute of Art, both of which feature local artists; the Aerospace Museum, with historical aircraft and aviation mementos; the Hall of Champions, commemorating local sports personalities; and the new Hall of Science and Planetarium. The park also retains many landmarks from the Panama-California Exposition of 1915–1916 and the California-Pacific International Exposition of 1935–1936, including the House of Pacific Relations, the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, the re-created Casa del Prado, and a reproduction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater.
6. To the north and inland, in Presidio Park, is the original site of San Diego de Alcalá, Junípero Serra’s first mission in Upper California, founded in 1769. Here, too, is the Spanish presidio (military garrison) and Fort Stockton. Archaeological discoveries on the presidio site and historical materials relating to San Diego are on display. Nearby is the terminus of El Camino Real, the “king’s highway” running north to Monterey, pioneered by Don Gaspar de Portolá.
7. Old Town, just west of the presidio, was the city’s first civilian settlement and still contains restored early Spanish, Mexican, and American period homes. Part of Old Town is now a state park. The present Mission San Diego is 6 miles (10 km) to the east, in Mission Valley.
8. Point Loma was the site of LaPlaya, the beach where, during the early 19th century, traders cured cattle hides for export to New England. Toward the southern end of this peninsula are Fort Rosecrans and a military cemetery, and at the southern tip, on a bluff, is Cabrillo National Monument, with an 1855 lighthouse.
9. The Star of India, an iron-hulled sailing ship built in 1863 and fully restored, is a maritime museum at the harbor waterfront. The Wild Animal Park is at the northeast city limits, and Sea World, a large aquarium in Mission Bay Aquatic Park, features performing sea animals.
10. Tide pools with small marine life abound along the shore, especially at LaJolla Cove, where there are also caves formed by wave action. North of LaJolla is Torrey Pines State Park, preserving groves of these rare trees. Glider enthusiasts soar along the nearby ocean cliffs, within sight of a city-owned tournament-quality golf course. Offshore here is an underwater park.
11. Aquatic sports and ocean fishing are enjoyed most of the year, as is land recreation, with a multitude of parks, tennis courts, and golf courses in the vicinity. Mountains and deserts to the east attract campers, hikers, cyclists, and, in winter, skiers. Qualcomm Stadium is the home of the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League, and the San Diego Padres baseball team of major league baseball’s National League calls Petco Park its home.
12. Public elementary and private schools are numerous. Publicly supported adult education centers and junior colleges also serve the city, and there are several private business and technical schools. Colleges and universities include San Diego State University, the United States International University, the University of San Diego, Point Loma Nazarene University, the Alliant International University, and a campus of the University of California. Palomar Observatory, with the 200-inch (508-cm) Hale telescope, is situated on a peak about 65 miles (105 km) northeast of the city. The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, a research center, and the Scripps Research Institute are located in LaJolla.
13. The San Diego Public Library operates a central downtown building and a growing system of branches and bookmobiles. Among the notable special collections in the main building are those on local history and the history of printing. The San Diego County Library is also headquartered in the city, and there are several specialized business and scientific libraries.
14. San Diegans support numerous year-round little theater groups, including the pioneer Old Globe in Balboa Park with its summer Shakespeare festival. The city’s symphony orchestra and its opera company have extensive seasons, and the Civil Light Opera Company sponsors open-air productions. Musical events as well as art exhibitions are held in the LaJolla Museum of Contemporary Art and in adjacent Sherwood Hall.
15. There are more than 30 radio stations and several local television channels, plus some cable TV services. The San Diego Union (morning) and Tribune(evening), two newspapers under single ownership, furnish the city with daily and Sunday news coverage. There are several weekly neighborhood newspapers.
16. There were 17,700 people residing in San Diego in 1900, 147,995 in 1930, 573,224 in 1960, and 696,769 in 1970. By the mid-1970s, it displaced San Francisco as California’s second largest city. At the 2010 census, the population totaled 1,307,402, while that of the metropolitan area was 3,095,313.
17. Ethnically, the population is fairly typical of most U.S. cities, although there may be more than the average number of persons with Spanish surnames, mainly people of Mexican or Philippine descent. Portuguese tuna fishermen and their families populate parts of Point Loma. Despite its popularity with retired people, San Diego is predominantly a city of young families attracted to the area by pleasant living conditions.
18. San Diego derives its economic sustenance from many sources: electronics, aerospace suppliers, nuclear and oceanographic research, fishing, marine products, retail and wholesale distribution, imported goods, and clothing manufacture. The city is headquarters for some large banks and savings and loan companies, a motel group, a large scheduled airline, and an extensive chain discount house. Tourism is also a major income producer in a city favored by an excellent climate and generous hotel, motel, and convention accommodations. San Diego has long been a military center, with much of its income derived from the armed forces.
19. The harbor, including the shore facilities of other cities adjoining San Diego Bay, is managed by the San Diego Unified Port District. Several hundred merchant ships flying about two dozen national flags enter port yearly. There are docking and loading facilities, waterfront parks, boat marinas, and water sports areas.
20. Truck gardening, dairy farms, and small cattle ranches operate within the San Diego city limits, while lemon, orange, and avocado groves flourish in outlying areas. The production of dairy products and eggs is important in the city’s economy. Sand and rock are mined within the city limits, and salt is recovered from seawater in a modern plant.
21. San Diego is a hub of naval activities. It includes the 11th Naval District headquarters, a supply depot, naval ship and air stations, training centers for Navy and Marine recruits, a naval hospital, and an electronics laboratory. A large fleet, ranging from aircraft carriers to atomic submarines, is stationed in San Diego. The Coast Guard maintains bases with rescue aircraft and patrol ships.
22. The heaviest passenger traffic into the city is by automobile on Interstate 5 from the north and Interstate 8 from the east. Several scheduled commercial airlines use San Diego International Airport (also known as Lindbergh Field), operated by the Port District. Private aircraft fly from Lindbergh Field and from city-operated Montgomery and Brown fields. San Diego is served by bus, truck, and railroad companies. A trolley line, opened in 1981, links downtown San Diego with the Mexican border. A bridge has replaced the ferries that once were the most direct link between downtown San Diego and Coronado, on the long peninsula that shelters San Diego Bay.
23. San Diego is a charter city under California law. It is one of the largest U.S. cities with a council-manager form of government, which was established in 1931. The mayor and eight councilmen are elected for four-year terms, and they appoint a city manager. The elections are nonpartisan.
24. A Portuguese navigator in Spanish service, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, discovered San Diego Bay on Sept. 28, 1542, naming it San Miguel. Don Sebastián Vizcaíno, who entered it on Nov. 10, 1602, renamed the bay San Diego.
25. Father Junípero Serra, a Franciscan, led a Spanish expedition that established a mission to the Indians and a presidio near the bay in 1769. Because of conflicts between soldiers and Indians, Father Serra moved the mission to its present site in 1774.
26. The British explorer George Vancouver entered the harbor in the Discovery on Nov. 27, 1793. Occasional American ships followed in later years. Trade in cattle hides between American shippers and local herd owners became lucrative after the establishment of Mexican rule in 1822.
27. The Mexican War in 1846 brought the U.S. sloop Cyane, under Capt. Samuel duPont, into the bay on July 29, 1846. Troops under John C. Frémont disembarked and raised the U.S. flag over the Old Town plaza. U.S. soldiers led by Gen. Stephen W. Kearny had come westward from Kansas and on December 6 fought a costly battle against loyal Californians under Gen. Andrés Pico at San Pasqual, northeast of San Diego.
28. The town’s first newspaper, theHerald, was founded in 1851 but failed in 1860, leaving San Diego without a newspaper until 1868, when the present Union began to publish. A year earlier, Alonzo E. Horton in effect founded modern San Diego by purchasing an unsuccessful 1,000-acre (405-hectare) development in the present downtown area. Horton built a wharf, laid out streets, gave land to churches, and, in 1870, opened a hotel opposite the new town’s plaza.
29. An 1870 gold strike at Julian, in the mountains to the northeast, and several land booms increased the population rapidly. The Santa Fe Railway arrived in 1885, and the financier John D. Spreckels and others brought added improvements. From a high of 40,000 in the 1880s, however, San Diego dropped in population to 17,000 near the turn of the century, as real-estate enterprises failed. The city’s later growth came as a result of U.S. Navy investments, the industrial progress nurtured by several wars, and the city’s encouragement of civilian industries.
30. San Diego’s sunny climate was largely responsible for making it a favorite production and testing site of the pioneers of aviation. In 1883, John J. Montgomery flew the first successful glider flights at Otay Mesa, and on Jan. 26, 1911, Glenn H. Curtiss piloted the first successful seaplane flight, taking off from San Diego Bay. Charles Lindbergh had his airplane, Spirit of St. Louis, built here in 1927. After World War II, the Atlas missile, a vital cog in the U.S. space program, was assembled in San Diego.