FIPS 55-3 Code
US National Archive Codes
Coordinates Latitude: 32.715738 Longitude: -117.1610838
Demographics & Economic Data
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The original inhabitants of the region are now known as the San Dieguito and La Jolla people. The area of San Diego has been inhabited by the Kumeyaay people.
The first European to visit the region was explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, sailing under the flag of Castile but possibly born in Portugal. Sailing his flagship San Salvador from Navidad, New Spain, Cabrillo claimed the bay for the Spanish Empire in 1542, and named the site "San Miguel". In November 1602, Sebastián Vizcaíno was sent to map the California coast. Arriving on his flagship San Diego, Vizcaíno surveyed the harbor and what are now Mission Bay and Point Loma and named the area for the Catholic Saint Didacus, a Spaniard more commonly known as San Diego de Alcalá. On November 12, 1602, the first Christian religious service of record in Alta California was conducted by Friar Antonio de la Ascensión, a member of Vizcaíno's expedition, to celebrate the feast day of San Diego.
Permanent colonization of California and of San Diego began in 1769 with the arrival of four contingents of Spaniards from New Spain and the Baja California peninsula. Two seaborne parties reached San Diego Bay: the San Carlos, under Vicente Vila and including as notable members the engineer and cartographer Miguel Costansó and the soldier and future governor Pedro Fages, and the San Antonio, under Juan Pérez. An initial overland expedition to San Diego from the south was led by the soldier Fernando Rivera and included the Franciscan missionary, explorer, and chronicler Juan Crespí, followed by a second party led by the designated governor Gaspar de Portolà and including the mission president (and now saint) Junípero Serra.In May 1769, Portolà established the Fort Presidio of San Diego on a hill near the San Diego River. It was the first settlement by Europeans in what is now the state of California. In July of the same year, Mission San Diego de Alcalá was founded by Franciscan friars under Serra. By 1797, the mission boasted the largest native population in Alta California, with over 1,400 neophytes living in and around the mission proper. Mission San Diego was the southern anchor in Alta California of the historic mission trail El Camino Real. Both the Presidio and the Mission are National Historic Landmarks.
In 1821, Mexico won its independence from Spain, and San Diego became part of the Mexican territory of Alta California. In 1822, Mexico began its attempt to extend its authority over the coastal territory of Alta California. The fort on Presidio Hill was gradually abandoned, while the town of San Diego grew up on the level land below Presidio Hill. The Mission was secularized by the Mexican government in 1834, and most of the Mission lands were granted to former soldiers. The 432 residents of the town petitioned the governor to form a pueblo, and Juan María Osuna was elected the first alcalde ("municipal magistrate"), defeating Pío Pico in the vote. (See, List of pre-statehood mayors of San Diego.) However, San Diego had been losing population throughout the 1830s and in 1838 the town lost its pueblo status because its size dropped to an estimated 100 to 150 residents. Beyond town Mexican land grants expanded the number of California ranchos that modestly added to the local economy.
Americans gained increased awareness of California, and its commercial possibilities, from the writings of two countrymen involved in the often officially forbidden, to foreigners, but economically significant hide and tallow trade, where San Diego was a major port and the only one with an adequate harbor: William Shaler's "Journal of a Voyage Between China and the North-Western Coast of America, Made in 1804" and Richard Henry Dana's more substantial and convincing account, of his 1834–36 voyage, the classic Two Years Before the Mast.In 1846, the United States went to war against Mexico and sent a naval and land expedition to conquer Alta California. At first they had an easy time of it capturing the major ports including San Diego, but the Californios in southern Alta California struck back. Following the successful revolt in Los Angeles, the American garrison at San Diego was driven out without firing a shot in early October 1846. Mexican partisans held San Diego for three weeks until October 24, 1846, when the Americans recaptured it. For the next several months the Americans were blockaded inside the pueblo. Skirmishes occurred daily and snipers shot into the town every night. The Californios drove cattle away from the pueblo hoping to starve the Americans and their Californio supporters out. On December 1 the Americans garrison learned that the dragoons of General Stephen W. Kearney were at Warner's Ranch. Commodore Robert F. Stockton sent a mounted force of fifty under Captain Archibald Gillespie to march north to meet him. Their joint command of 150 men, returning to San Diego, encountered about 93 Californios under Andrés Pico. In the ensuing Battle of San Pasqual, fought in the San Pasqual Valley which is now part of the city of San Diego, the Americans suffered their worst losses in the campaign. Subsequently, a column led by Lieutenant Gray arrived from San Diego, rescuing Kearny's battered and blockaded command.Stockton and Kearny went on to recover Los Angeles and force the capitulation of Alta California with the "Treaty of Cahuenga" on January 13, 1847. As a result of the Mexican–American War of 1846–48, the territory of Alta California, including San Diego, was ceded to the United States by Mexico, under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The Mexican negotiators of that treaty tried to retain San Diego as part of Mexico, but the Americans insisted that San Diego was "for every commercial purpose of nearly equal importance to us with that of San Francisco," and the Mexican–American border was eventually established to be one league south of the southernmost point of San Diego Bay, so as to include the entire bay within the United States.
The state of California was admitted to the United States in 1850. That same year San Diego was designated the seat of the newly established San Diego County and was incorporated as a city. Joshua H. Bean, the last alcalde of San Diego, was elected the first mayor. Two years later the city was bankrupt; the California legislature revoked the city's charter and placed it under control of a board of trustees, where it remained until 1889. A city charter was reestablished in 1889, and today's city charter was adopted in 1931.The original town of San Diego was located at the foot of Presidio Hill, in the area which is now Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. The location was not ideal, being several miles away from navigable water at its port at La Playa. In 1850, William Heath Davis promoted a new development by the bay shore called "New San Diego", several miles south of the original settlement; however, for several decades the new development consisted only of a pier, a few houses and an Army depot for the support of Fort Yuma. After 1854, the fort became supplied by sea and by steamboats on the Colorado River and the depot fell into disuse. From 1857 to 1860, San Diego became the western terminus of the San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line, the earliest overland stagecoach and mail operation from the Eastern United States to California, coming from Texas through New Mexico Territory in less than 30 days.In the late 1860s, Alonzo Horton promoted a move to the bayside area, which he called "New Town" and which became Downtown San Diego. Horton promoted the area heavily, and people and businesses began to relocate to New Town because its location on San Diego Bay was convenient to shipping. New Town soon eclipsed the original settlement, known to this day as Old Town, and became the economic and governmental heart of the city. Still, San Diego remained a relative backwater town until the arrival of a railroad connection in 1878.
In the early part of the 20th century, San Diego hosted two World's Fairs: the Panama-California Exposition in 1915–16 and the California Pacific International Exposition in 1935–36. Both expositions were held in Balboa Park, and many of the Spanish/Baroque-style buildings that were built for those expositions remain to this day as central features of the park. The buildings were intended to be temporary structures, but most remained in continuous use until they progressively fell into disrepair. Most were eventually rebuilt, using castings of the original façades to retain the architectural style. The menagerie of exotic animals featured at the 1915 exposition provided the basis for the San Diego Zoo. During the 1950s there was a citywide festival called Fiesta del Pacifico highlighting the area's Spanish and Mexican past. In the 2010s there was a proposal for a large-scale celebration of the 100th anniversary of Balboa Park, but the plans were abandoned when the organization tasked with putting on the celebration went out of business.The southern portion of the Point Loma peninsula was set aside for military purposes as early as 1852. Over the next several decades the Army set up a series of coastal artillery batteries and named the area Fort Rosecrans. Significant U.S. Navy presence began in 1901 with the establishment of the Navy Coaling Station in Point Loma, and expanded greatly during the 1920s. By 1930, the city was host to Naval Base San Diego, Naval Training Center San Diego, San Diego Naval Hospital, Camp Matthews, and Camp Kearny (now Marine Corps Air Station Miramar). The city was also an early center for aviation: as early as World War I, San Diego was proclaiming itself "The Air Capital of the West". The city was home to important airplane developers and manufacturers like Ryan Airlines (later Ryan Aeronautical), founded in 1925, and Consolidated Aircraft (later Convair), founded in 1923. Charles A. Lindbergh's plane The Spirit of St. Louis was built in San Diego in 1927 by Ryan Airlines.During World War II, San Diego became a major hub of military and defense activity, due to the presence of so many military installations and defense manufacturers. The city's population grew rapidly during and after World War II, more than doubling between 1930 (147,995) and 1950 (333,865). During the final months of the war, the Japanese had a plan to target multiple U.S. cities for biological attack, starting with San Diego. The plan was called "Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night" and called for kamikaze planes filled with fleas infected with plague (Yersinia pestis) to crash into civilian population centers in the city, hoping to spread plague in the city and effectively kill tens of thousands of civilians. The plan was scheduled to launch on September 22, 1945, but was not carried out because Japan surrendered five weeks earlier.After World War II, the military continued to play a major role in the local economy, but post-Cold War cutbacks took a heavy toll on the local defense and aerospace industries. The resulting downturn led San Diego leaders to seek to diversify the city's economy by focusing on research and science, as well as tourism.From the start of the 20th century through the 1970s, the American tuna fishing fleet and tuna canning industry were based in San Diego, "the tuna capital of the world". San Diego's first tuna cannery was founded in 1911, and by the mid-1930s the canneries employed more than 1,000 people. A large fishing fleet supported the canneries, mostly staffed by immigrant fishermen from Japan, and later from the Portuguese Azores and Italy whose influence is still felt in neighborhoods like Little Italy and Point Loma. Due to rising costs and foreign competition, the last of the canneries closed in the early 1980s.Downtown San Diego was in decline in the 1960s and 1970s, but experienced some urban renewal since the early 1980s, including the opening of Horton Plaza, the revival of the Gaslamp Quarter, and the construction of the San Diego Convention Center; Petco Park opened in 2004.
According to SDSU professor emeritus Monte Marshall, San Diego Bay is "the surface expression of a north-south-trending, nested graben". The Rose Canyon and Point Loma fault zones are part of the San Andreas Fault system. About 40 miles (64 km) east of the bay are the Laguna Mountains in the Peninsular Ranges, which are part of the backbone of the American continents.The city lies on approximately 200 deep canyons and hills separating its mesas, creating small pockets of natural open space scattered throughout the city and giving it a hilly geography. Traditionally, San Diegans have built their homes and businesses on the mesas, while leaving the urban canyons relatively wild. Thus, the canyons give parts of the city a segmented feel, creating gaps between otherwise proximate neighborhoods and contributing to a low-density, car-centered environment. The San Diego River runs through the middle of San Diego from east to west, creating a river valley which serves to divide the city into northern and southern segments. During the historic period and presumably earlier as well, the river has shifted its flow back and forth between San Diego Bay and Mission Bay, and its fresh water was the focus of the earliest Spanish explorers. Miguel Costansó, a cartographer, wrote in 1769, "When asked by signs where the watering-place was, the Indians pointed to a grove which could be seen at a considerable distance to the northeast, giving to understand that a river or creek flowed through it, and that they would lead our men to it if they would follow." That river was the San Diego River. Several reservoirs and Mission Trails Regional Park also lie between and separate developed areas of the city.
Notable peaks within the city limits include Cowles Mountain, the highest point in the city at 1,591 feet (485 m); Black Mountain at 1,558 feet (475 m); and Mount Soledad at 824 feet (251 m). The Cuyamaca Mountains and Laguna Mountains rise to the east of the city, and beyond the mountains are desert areas. The Cleveland National Forest is a half-hour drive from downtown San Diego. Numerous farms are found in the valleys northeast and southeast of the city.
In its 2013 ParkScore ranking, The Trust for Public Land reported that San Diego had the 9th-best park system among the 50 most populous U.S. cities. ParkScore ranks city park systems by a formula that analyzes acreage, access, and service and investment.
Communities and neighborhoods
The City of San Diego recognizes 52 individual areas as Community Planning Areas. Within a given planning area there may be several distinct neighborhoods. Altogether the city contains more than 100 identified neighborhoods.
Downtown San Diego is located on San Diego Bay. Balboa Park encompasses several mesas and canyons to the northeast, surrounded by older, dense urban communities including Hillcrest and North Park. To the east and southeast lie City Heights, the College Area, and Southeast San Diego. To the north lies Mission Valley and Interstate 8. The communities north of the valley and freeway, and south of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, include Clairemont, Kearny Mesa, Tierrasanta, and Navajo. Stretching north from Miramar are the northern suburbs of Mira Mesa, Scripps Ranch, Rancho Peñasquitos, and Rancho Bernardo. The far northeast portion of the city encompasses Lake Hodges and the San Pasqual Valley, which holds an agricultural preserve. Carmel Valley and Del Mar Heights occupy the northwest corner of the city. To their south are Torrey Pines State Reserve and the business center of the Golden Triangle. Further south are the beach and coastal communities of La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, and Ocean Beach. Point Loma occupies the peninsula across San Diego Bay from downtown. The communities of South San Diego, such as San Ysidro and Otay Mesa, are located next to the Mexico–United States border, and are physically separated from the rest of the city by the cities of National City and Chula Vista. A narrow strip of land at the bottom of San Diego Bay connects these southern neighborhoods with the rest of the city.For the most part, San Diego neighborhood boundaries tend to be understood by its residents based on geographical boundaries like canyons and street patterns. The city recognized the importance of its neighborhoods when it organized its 2008 General Plan around the concept of a "City of Villages".
San Diego was originally centered on the Old Town district, but by the late 1860s the focus had shifted to the bayfront, in the belief that this new location would increase trade. As the "New Town" – present-day Downtown – waterfront location quickly developed, it eclipsed Old Town as the center of San Diego.The development of skyscrapers over 300 feet (91 m) in San Diego is attributed to the construction of the El Cortez Hotel in 1927, the tallest building in the city from 1927 to 1963. As time went on, multiple buildings claimed the title of San Diego's tallest skyscraper, including the Union Bank of California Building and Symphony Towers. Currently the tallest building in San Diego is One America Plaza, standing 500 feet (150 m) tall, which was completed in 1991. The downtown skyline contains no super-talls, as a regulation put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration in the 1970s set a 500 feet (152 m) limit on the height of buildings within a one-mile (1.6 km) radius of the San Diego International Airport. An iconic description of the skyline includes its skyscrapers being compared to the tools of a toolbox.
San Diego has one of the top-ten best climates according to the Farmers' Almanac and has one of the two best summer climates in America as scored by The Weather Channel. Under the Köppen–Geiger climate classification system, the San Diego area has been variously categorized as having either a semi-arid climate (BSh in the original classification and BSkn in modified Köppen classification with the n denoting summer fog) or a Mediterranean climate (Csa and Csb). San Diego's climate is characterized by warm, dry summers and mild winters, with most of the annual precipitation falling between December and March. The city has a mild climate year-round, with an average of 201 days above 70 °F (21 °C) and low rainfall (9–13 inches [230–330 mm] annually).
The climate in San Diego, like most of Southern California, often varies significantly over short geographical distances, resulting in microclimates. In San Diego, this is mostly because of the city's topography (the Bay, and the numerous hills, mountains, and canyons). Frequently, particularly during the "May gray/June gloom" period, a thick "marine layer" cloud cover keeps the air cool and damp within a few miles of the coast, but yields to bright cloudless sunshine approximately 5–10 miles (8.0–16.1 km) inland. Sometimes the June gloom lasts into July, causing cloudy skies over most of San Diego for the entire day. Even in the absence of June gloom, inland areas experience much more significant temperature variations than coastal areas, where the ocean serves as a moderating influence. Thus, for example, downtown San Diego averages January lows of 50 °F (10 °C) and August highs of 78 °F (26 °C). The city of El Cajon just 10 miles (16 km) inland from downtown San Diego, averages January lows of 42 °F (6 °C) and August highs of 88 °F (31 °C).
A sign of global warming, the average surface temperature of the water at Scripps Pier in the California Current has increased by almost 3 degrees since 1950, according to scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Annual rainfall along the coast averages 10.65 inches (271 mm) and the median is 9.6 inches (240 mm). The months of December through March supply most of the rain, with February the only month averaging 2 inches (51 mm) or more. The months of May through September tend to be almost completely dry. Although there are few wet days per month during the rainy period, rainfall can be heavy when it does fall. Rainfall is usually greater in the higher elevations of San Diego; some of the higher areas can receive 11–15 inches (280–380 mm) per year. Variability from year to year can be dramatic: in the wettest years of 1883/1884 and 1940/1941 more than 24 inches (610 mm) fell, whilst in the driest years there was as little as 3.2 inches (80 mm). The wettest month on record is December 1921 with 9.21 inches (234 mm).
Snow in the city is so rare that it has been observed only five times in the century-and-a-half that records have been kept. In 1949 and 1967, snow stayed on the ground for a few hours in higher locations like Point Loma and La Jolla. The other three occasions, in 1882, 1946, and 1987, involved flurries but no accumulation.
Like much of southern California, the majority of San Diego's current area was originally occupied on the west by coastal sage scrub and on the east by chaparral, plant communities made up mostly of drought-resistant shrubs. The steep and varied topography and proximity to the ocean create a number of different habitats within the city limits, including tidal marsh and canyons. The chaparral and coastal sage scrub habitats in low elevations along the coast are prone to wildfire, and the rates of fire increased in the 20th century, due primarily to fires starting near the borders of urban and wild areas.
San Diego's broad city limits encompass a number of large nature preserves, including Torrey Pines State Reserve, Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, and Mission Trails Regional Park. Torrey Pines State Reserve and a coastal strip continuing to the north constitute one of only two locations where the rare species of Torrey Pine, Pinus torreyana, is found. Due to the steep topography that prevents or discourages building, along with some efforts for preservation, there are also a large number of canyons within the city limits that serve as nature preserves, including Switzer Canyon, Tecolote Canyon Natural Park, and Marian Bear Memorial Park in San Clemente Canyon, as well as a number of small parks and preserves.
San Diego County has one of the highest counts of animal and plant species that appear on the endangered list of counties in the United States. Because of its diversity of habitat and its position on the Pacific Flyway, San Diego County has recorded 492 different bird species, more than any other region in the country. San Diego always scores high in the number of bird species observed in the annual Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the Audubon Society, and it is known as one of the "birdiest" areas in the United States.San Diego and its backcountry suffer from periodic wildfires. In October 2003, San Diego was the site of the Cedar Fire, at that time the largest wildfire in California over the past century. The fire burned 280,000 acres (1,100 km2), killed 15 people, and destroyed more than 2,200 homes. In addition to damage caused by the fire, smoke resulted in a significant increase in emergency room visits due to asthma, respiratory problems, eye irritation, and smoke inhalation; the poor air quality caused San Diego County schools to close for a week. Wildfires four years later destroyed some areas, particularly within Rancho Bernardo, as well as the nearby communities of Rancho Santa Fe and Ramona.
The city had a population of 1,307,402 according to the 2010 census, distributed over a land area of 372.1 square miles (963.7 km2). The urban area of San Diego extends beyond the administrative city limits and had a total population of 2,956,746, making it the third-largest urban area in the state, after that of the Los Angeles metropolitan area and San Francisco metropolitan area. They, along with the Riverside–San Bernardino, form those metropolitan areas in California larger than the San Diego metropolitan area, which had a total population of 3,095,313 at the 2010 census.
The 2010 population represents an increase of just under 7% from the 1,223,400 people, 450,691 households, and 271,315 families reported in 2000. The estimated city population in 2009 was 1,306,300. The population density was 3,771.9 inhabitants per square mile (1,456.3/km2). The racial makeup of San Diego was 58.9% White, 6.7% African American, 0.6% Native American, 15.9% Asian (5.9% Filipino, 2.7% Chinese, 2.5% Vietnamese, 1.3% Indian, 1.0% Korean, 0.7% Japanese, 0.4% Laotian, 0.3% Cambodian, 0.1% Thai). 0.5% Pacific Islander (0.2% Guamanian, 0.1% Samoan, 0.1% Native Hawaiian), 12.3% from other races, and 5.1% from two or more races. The ethnic makeup of the city was 28.8% Hispanic or Latino (of any race); 24.9% of the total population were Mexican American, and 0.6% were Puerto Rican. Median age of Hispanics was 27.5 years, compared to 35.1 years overall and 41.6 years among non-Hispanic whites; Hispanics were the largest group in all ages under 18, and non-Hispanic whites constituted 63.1% of population 55 and older.
As of December 2012, San Diego has the third-largest homeless population in the United States; the city's homeless population has the largest percentage of homeless veterans in the nation. The population of homeless veterans in San Diego has been reduced to 1,150 people in 2016, from 2,100 in 2009.In 2000 there were 451,126 households, out of which 30.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.6% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.8% were non-families. Households made up of individuals account for 28.0%, and 7.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.61, and the average family size was 3.30.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2000, 24.0% of San Diego residents were under 18, and 10.5% were 65 and over. As of 2011 the median age was 35.6; more than a quarter of residents were under age 20 and 11% were over age 65. Millennials (ages 18 through 34) constitute 27.1% of San Diego's population, the second-highest percentage in a major U.S. city. The San Diego County regional planning agency, SANDAG, provides tables and graphs breaking down the city population into five-year age groups.In 2000, the median income for a household in the city was $45,733, and the median income for a family was $53,060. Males had a median income of $36,984 versus $31,076 for females. The per capita income for the city was $35,199. According to Forbes in 2005, San Diego was the fifth wealthiest U.S. city but about 10.6% of families and 14.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.0% of those under age 18 and 7.6% of those age 65 or over. San Diego was rated the fifth-best place to live in the United States in 2006 by Money magazine, although it was no longer rated in the top 100 places by 2017. As of January 1, 2008 estimates by the San Diego Association of Governments revealed that the household median income for San Diego rose to $66,715, up from $45,733 in 2000.San Diego was named the ninth-most LGBT-friendly city in the U.S. in 2013. The city also has the seventh-highest percentage of gay residents in the U.S. Additionally in 2013, San Diego State University (SDSU), one of the city's prominent universities, was named one of the top LGBT-friendly campuses in the nation.According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, 68% of the population of the city identified themselves as Christians, with 22% professing attendance at a variety of churches that could be considered Protestant, and 32% professing Roman Catholic beliefs. while 27% claim no religious affiliation. The same study says that other religions (including Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism) collectively make up about 5% of the population.
The largest sectors of San Diego's economy are defense/military, tourism, international trade, and research/manufacturing. In 2014, San Diego was designated by a Forbes columnist as the best city in the country to launch a small business or startup company.
Defense and military
The economy of San Diego is influenced by its deepwater port, which includes the only major submarine and shipbuilding yards on the West Coast. Several major national defense contractors were started and are headquartered in San Diego, including General Atomics, Cubic, and NASSCO.San Diego hosts the largest naval fleet in the world: In 2008 it was home to 53 ships, over 120 tenant commands, and more than 35,000 sailors, soldiers, Department of Defense civilian employees and contractors. About 5 percent of all civilian jobs in the county are military-related, and 15,000 businesses in San Diego County rely on Department of Defense contracts.Military bases in San Diego include US Navy facilities, Marine Corps bases, and Coast Guard stations.
The city is "home to the majority of the U.S. Pacific Fleet's surface combatants, all of the Navy's West Coast amphibious ships and a variety of Coast Guard and Military Sealift Command vessels".
Tourism is a major industry owing to the city's climate, beaches, and tourist attractions such as Balboa Park, Belmont amusement park, San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and SeaWorld San Diego. San Diego's Spanish and Mexican heritage is reflected in many historic sites across the city, such as Mission San Diego de Alcala and Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Also, the local craft brewing industry attracts an increasing number of visitors for "beer tours" and the annual San Diego Beer Week in November; San Diego has been called "America's Craft Beer Capital."San Diego County hosted more than 32 million visitors in 2012; collectively they spent an estimated $8 billion. The visitor industry provides employment for more than 160,000 people.San Diego's cruise ship industry used to be the second-largest in California. Numerous cruise lines operate out of San Diego. However, cruise ship business has been in decline since 2008, when the Port hosted over 250 ship calls and more than 900,000 passengers. By 2016-2017 the number of ship calls had fallen to 90.Local sight-seeing cruises are offered in San Diego Bay and Mission Bay, as well as whale-watching cruises to observe the migration of gray whales, peaking in mid-January. Sport fishing is another popular tourist attraction; San Diego is home to southern California's biggest sport fishing fleet.
San Diego's commercial port and its location on the United States–Mexico border make international trade an important factor in the city's economy. The city is authorized by the United States government to operate as a Foreign Trade Zone.The city shares a 15-mile (24 km) border with Mexico that includes two border crossings. San Diego hosts the busiest international border crossing in the world, in the San Ysidro neighborhood at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. A second, primarily commercial border crossing operates in the Otay Mesa area; it is the largest commercial crossing on the California-Baja California border and handles the third-highest volume of trucks and dollar value of trade among all United States-Mexico land crossings.One of the Port of San Diego's two cargo facilities is located in Downtown San Diego at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal. This terminal has facilities for containers, bulk cargo, and refrigerated and frozen storage, so that it can handle the import and export of many commodities. In 2009 the Port of San Diego handled 1,137,054 short tons of total trade; foreign trade accounted for 956,637 short tons while domestic trade amounted to 180,417 short tons.Historically tuna fishing and canning was one of San Diego's major industries, and although the American tuna fishing fleet is no longer based in San Diego, seafood companies Bumble Bee Foods and Chicken of the Sea are still headquartered there.
San Diego hosts several major producers of wireless cellular technology. Qualcomm was founded and is headquartered in San Diego, and is one of the largest private-sector employers in San Diego. Other wireless industry manufacturers headquartered here include Nokia, LG Electronics, Kyocera International, Cricket Communications and Novatel Wireless. The largest software company in San Diego is security software company Websense Inc. San Diego also has the U.S. headquarters for the Slovakian security company ESET. San Diego has been designated as an iHub Innovation Center for potential collaboration between wireless and the life sciences.The University of California, San Diego and other research institutions have helped to fuel the growth of biotechnology. In 2013, San Diego had the second-largest biotech cluster in the United States, below the Boston area and above the San Francisco Bay Area. There are more than 400 biotechnology companies in the area. In particular, the La Jolla and nearby Sorrento Valley areas are home to offices and research facilities for numerous biotechnology companies. Major biotechnology companies like Illumina and Neurocrine Biosciences are headquartered in San Diego, while many other biotech and pharmaceutical companies have offices or research facilities in San Diego. San Diego is also home to more than 140 contract research organizations (CROs) that provide contract services for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
According to the City's 2016 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
San Diego has high real estate prices. San Diego home prices peaked in 2005, and then declined along with the national trend. As of December 2010, prices were down 36 percent from the peak, having declined by more than $200,000 between 2005 and 2010. As of May 2015, the median price of a house was $520,000. In November 2018 the median home price was $558,000. The San Diego metropolitan area had one of the worst housing affordability rankings of all metropolitan areas in the United States.Consequently, San Diego has experienced negative net migration since 2004. A significant number of people moved to adjacent Riverside County, commuting daily to jobs in San Diego, while others are leaving the region altogether and moving to more affordable regions.
Many popular museums, such as the San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego Natural History Museum, the San Diego Museum of Man, the Museum of Photographic Arts, and the San Diego Air & Space Museum, are located in Balboa Park, which is also the location of the San Diego Zoo. The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is located in La Jolla and has a branch located at the Santa Fe Depot downtown. The downtown branch consists of two buildings on two opposite streets. The Columbia district downtown is home to historic ship exhibits belonging to the San Diego Maritime Museum, headlined by the Star of India, as well as the unrelated San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum featuring the USS Midway aircraft carrier.
The San Diego Symphony at Symphony Towers performs on a regular basis; from 2004 to 2017 its director was Jahja Ling. The San Diego Opera at Civic Center Plaza, now directed by David Bennett, was ranked by Opera America as one of the top 10 opera companies in the United States. Old Globe Theatre at Balboa Park produces about 15 plays and musicals annually. The La Jolla Playhouse at UCSD is directed by Christopher Ashley. Both the Old Globe Theatre and the La Jolla Playhouse have produced the world premieres of plays and musicals that have gone on to win Tony Awards or nominations on Broadway. The Joan B. Kroc Theatre at Kroc Center's Performing Arts Center is a 600-seat state-of-the-art theatre that hosts music, dance, and theatre performances. The San Diego Repertory Theatre at the Lyceum Theatres in Westfield Horton Plaza produces a variety of plays and musicals. Hundreds of movies and a dozen TV shows have been filmed in San Diego, a tradition going back as far as 1898.
Major League teams
Minor League teams
San Diego is home to one major professional team—Major League Baseball's San Diego Padres, who play at Petco Park.
From 1961 to the 2016 season, the team hosted a National Football League franchise, the San Diego Chargers. In 2017, they moved to Los Angeles and became the Los Angeles Chargers.In two separate stints, the National Basketball Association had a franchise in San Diego, the San Diego Rockets from 1967 to 1971 and the San Diego Clippers from 1978 to 1984. The franchises moved to Houston and Los Angeles respectively.
From 1972 to 1975, San Diego was home to an American Basketball Association team. First named the Conquistadors (a.k.a. "The Q's") the name was changed to the San Diego Sails for the 1975–76 season, but the team folded before completing that campaign.
In 2017 the San Diego 1904 FC club was organized as a proposed American professional Division II soccer team. The club's founders include several major-league soccer players. They intend to build a soccer stadium in Oceanside, approximately 40 miles north of downtown San Diego, and will play at the University of San Diego's Torero Stadium in the meantime. The team was originally announced to make its debut in the North American Soccer League in 2018. However, due to the cancellation of the 2018 NASL season, the expansion team is negotiating an agreement to join the United Soccer League in 2019.San Diego hosts three NCAA universities: San Diego State University; University of California, San Diego; and University of San Diego. NCAA Division I San Diego State Aztecs men's and women's basketball games are played at Viejas Arena. Other prominent Aztec sports include college football, as well as soccer, basketball and volleyball. The San Diego State Aztecs (MWC) and the San Diego Toreros (WCC) are NCAA Division I teams. The UCSD Tritons are members of NCAA Division II, but they have begun the process of transitioning to Division I as members of the Big West Conference.
San Diego has hosted several sports events. Three NFL Super Bowl championships have been held at San Diego County Credit Union (SDCCU) Stadium. Two of college football's annual bowl games are also held at SDCCU Stadium: the Holiday Bowl and the Poinsettia Bowl. Parts of the World Baseball Classic were played at Petco Park in 2006 and 2009.
SDCCU Stadium also hosts international soccer games and supercross events. Soccer, American football, and track and field are also played in Balboa Stadium, the city's first stadium, constructed in 1914.Rugby union is a developing sport in the city. The San Diego Breakers played at Torero Stadium in the only PRO Rugby season before the league folded. The USA Sevens, a major international rugby event, was held there from 2007 through 2009. San Diego is represented by Old Mission Beach Athletic Club RFC, the former home club of USA Rugby's former Captain Todd Clever. San Diego participated in the Western American National Rugby League between 2011 and 2013.The San Diego Surf of the American Basketball Association is located in the city. The annual Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament (formerly the Buick Invitational) on the PGA Tour occurs at Torrey Pines Golf Course. This course was also the site of the 2008 U.S. Open Golf Championship. The San Diego Yacht Club hosted the America's Cup yacht races three times during the period 1988 to 1995. The amateur beach sport Over-the-line was invented in San Diego, and the annual world Over-the-line championships are held at Mission Bay every year.
The city is governed by a mayor and a nine-member city council. In 2006, its government changed from a council–manager government to a strong mayor government, as decided by a citywide vote in 2004. The mayor is in effect the chief executive officer of the city, while the council is the legislative body. The City of San Diego is responsible for police, public safety, streets, water and sewer service, planning and zoning, and similar services within its borders. San Diego is a sanctuary city, however, San Diego County is a participant of the Secure Communities program. As of 2011, the city had one employee for every 137 residents, with a payroll greater than $733 million.
The members of the city council are each elected from single-member districts within the city. The mayor and city attorney are elected directly by the voters of the entire city. The mayor, city attorney, and council members are elected to four-year terms, with a two-term limit. Elections are held on a non-partisan basis per California state law; nevertheless, most officeholders do identify themselves as either Democrats or Republicans. In 2007, registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans by about 7 to 6 in the city, and Democrats currently (as of 2018) hold a 6–3 majority in the city council. The current mayor, Kevin Faulconer, is a Republican.
San Diego is part of San Diego County, and includes all or part of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th supervisorial districts of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, Other county officers elected in part by city residents include the Sheriff, District Attorney, Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk, and Treasurer/Tax Collector.
Areas of the city immediately adjacent to San Diego Bay ("tidelands") are administered by the Port of San Diego, a quasi-governmental agency which owns all the property in the tidelands and is responsible for its land use planning, policing, and similar functions. San Diego is a member of the regional planning agency San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). Public schools within the city are managed and funded by independent school districts (see below).
State and federal representation
In the California State Senate, San Diego County encompasses the 38th, 39th and 40th districts, represented by Brian Jones (R), Toni Atkins (D), and Ben Hueso (D), respectively.
In the California State Assembly, lying partially within the city of San Diego are the 77th, 78th, 79th, and 80th districts, represented by Brian Maienschein (D), Todd Gloria (D), Shirley Weber (D), and Lorena Gonzalez (D), respectively.
In the United States House of Representatives, San Diego County includes parts or all of California's 49th, 50th, 51st, 52nd, and 53rd congressional districts, represented by Mike Levin (D), Duncan D. Hunter (R), Juan Vargas (D), Scott Peters (D), and Susan Davis (D), respectively.
San Diego was the site of the 1912 San Diego free speech fight, in which the city restricted speech, vigilantes brutalized and tortured anarchists, and the San Diego Police Department killed a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
In 1916, rainmaker Charles Hatfield was blamed for $4 million in damages and accused of causing San Diego's worst flood, during which about 20 Japanese American farmers died.Then-mayor Roger Hedgecock was forced to resign his post in 1985, after he was found guilty of one count of conspiracy and 12 counts of perjury, related to the alleged failure to report all campaign contributions. After a series of appeals, the 12 perjury counts were dismissed in 1990 based on claims of juror misconduct; the remaining conspiracy count was reduced to a misdemeanor and then dismissed.A 2002 scheme to underfund pensions for city employees led to the San Diego pension scandal. This resulted in the resignation of newly re-elected Mayor Dick Murphy and the criminal indictment of six pension board members. Those charges were finally dismissed by a federal judge in 2010.On November 28, 2005, U.S. Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham resigned after being convicted on federal bribery charges. He had represented California's 50th congressional district, which includes much of the northern portion of the city of San Diego. In 2006, Cunningham was sentenced to a 100-month prison sentence. He was released in 2013.
In 2005 two city council members, Ralph Inzunza and Deputy Mayor Michael Zucchet – who briefly took over as acting mayor when Murphy resigned – were convicted of extortion, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud for taking campaign contributions from a strip club owner and his associates, allegedly in exchange for trying to repeal the city's "no touch" laws at strip clubs. Both subsequently resigned. Inzunza was sentenced to 21 months in prison. In 2009, a judge acquitted Zucchet on seven out of the nine counts against him, and granted his petition for a new trial on the other two charges; the remaining charges were eventually dropped.In July 2013, three former supporters of mayor Bob Filner asked him to resign because of allegations of repeated sexual harassment. Over the ensuing six weeks, 18 women came forward to publicly claim that Filner had sexually harassed them, and multiple individuals and groups called for him to resign. Filner agreed to resign effective August 30, 2013, subsequently pleaded guilty to one felony count of false imprisonment and two misdemeanor battery charges, and was sentenced to house arrest and probation.
San Diego was ranked as the 20th-safest city in America in 2013 by Business Insider. According to Forbes magazine, San Diego was the ninth-safest city in the top 10 list of safest cities in the U.S. in 2010. Like most major cities, San Diego had a declining crime rate from 1990 to 2000. Crime in San Diego increased in the early 2000s. In 2004, San Diego had the sixth lowest crime rate of any U.S. city with over half a million residents. From 2002 to 2006, the crime rate overall dropped 0.8%, though not evenly by category. While violent crime decreased 12.4% during this period, property crime increased 1.1%. Total property crimes per 100,000 people were lower than the national average in 2008.According to Uniform Crime Report statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2010, there were 5,616 violent crimes and 30,753 property crimes. Of these, the violent crimes consisted of forcible rapes, 73 robberies and 170 aggravated assaults, while 6,387 burglaries, 17,977 larceny-thefts, 6,389 motor vehicle thefts and 155 acts of arson defined the property offenses. In 2013, San Diego had the lowest murder rate of the ten largest cities in the United States.
Primary and secondary schools
Public schools in San Diego are operated by independent school districts. The majority of the public schools in the city are served by the San Diego Unified School District, the second-largest school district in California, which includes 11 K–8 schools, 107 elementary schools, 24 middle schools, 13 atypical and alternative schools, 28 high schools, and 45 charter schools.
Several adjacent school districts which are headquartered outside the city limits serve some schools within the city; these include the Poway Unified School District, Del Mar Union School District, San Dieguito Union High School District, and Sweetwater Union High School District. In addition, there are a number of private schools in the city.
Colleges and universities
According to education rankings released by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2017, 44.4% percent of San Diegans (city, not county) ages 25 and older hold bachelor's degrees, compared to 30.9% in the United States as whole. The census ranks the city as the ninth-most educated city in the United States, based on these figures.Public colleges and universities in the city include San Diego State University (SDSU), the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and the San Diego Community College District, which includes San Diego City College, San Diego Mesa College, and San Diego Miramar College.
Private non-profit colleges and universities in the city include the University of San Diego (USD), Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU), National University's San Diego campus, University of Redlands' School of Business San Diego campus, Brandman University's San Diego campus, San Diego Christian College, and John Paul the Great Catholic University. For-profit institutions include Alliant International University (AIU), California International Business University (CIBU), California College San Diego, Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising's San Diego campus, NewSchool of Architecture and Design, Platt College, Southern States University (SSU), UEI College, and Woodbury University School of Architecture's satellite campus.
There is one medical school in the city, the UCSD School of Medicine. There are three ABA accredited law schools in the city, which include California Western School of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and University of San Diego School of Law. There is also one law school, Western Sierra Law School, not accredited by the ABA.
The city-run San Diego Public Library system is headquartered downtown and has 36 branches throughout the city. The newest location is in Skyline Hills, which broke ground in 2015. The libraries have had reduced operating hours since 2003 due to the city's financial problems. In 2006 the city increased spending on libraries by $2.1 million. A new nine-story Central Library on Park Boulevard at J Street opened on September 30, 2013.In addition to the municipal public library system, there are nearly two dozen libraries open to the public run by other governmental agencies, and by schools, colleges, and universities. Noteworthy are the Malcolm A. Love Library at San Diego State University, and the Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego.
Published within the city are the daily newspaper, The San Diego Union Tribune and its online portal of the same name, and the alternative newsweeklies, the San Diego CityBeat and San Diego Reader. Times of San Diego is a free online newspaper covering news in the metropolitan area. Voice of San Diego is a non-profit online news outlet covering government, politics, education, neighborhoods, and the arts. The San Diego Daily Transcript is a business-oriented online newspaper.
San Diego led U.S. local markets with 69.6 percent broadband penetration in 2004 according to Nielsen//NetRatings.San Diego's first television station was KFMB, which began broadcasting on May 16, 1949. Since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensed seven television stations in Los Angeles, two VHF channels were available for San Diego because of its relative proximity to the larger city. In 1952, however, the FCC began licensing UHF channels, making it possible for cities such as San Diego to acquire more stations. Stations based in Mexico (with ITU prefixes of XE and XH) also serve the San Diego market. Television stations today include XHTJB 3 (Once TV), XETV 6 (Canal 5), KFMB 8 (CBS, with CW/MNTV on DT2), KGTV 10 (ABC), XEWT 12 (Televisa Regional), KPBS 15 (PBS), KBNT-CD 17 (Univision), XHTIT-TDT 21 (Azteca 7), XHJK-TDT 27 (Azteca 13), XHAS 33 (Telemundo), K35DG-D 35 (UCSD-TV), KDTF-LD 51 (Telefutura), KNSD 39 (NBC), KZSD-LP 41 (Azteca America), KSEX-CD 42 (Infomercials), XHBJ-TDT 45 (Gala TV), XHDTV 49 (Milenio Televisión), KUSI 51 (Independent), XHUAA-TDT 57 (Canal de las Estrellas), and KSWB-TV 69 (Fox). San Diego has an 80.6 percent cable penetration rate.Due to the ratio of U.S. and Mexican-licensed stations, San Diego is the largest media market in the United States that is legally unable to support a television station duopoly between two full-power stations under FCC regulations, which disallow duopolies in metropolitan areas with fewer than nine full-power television stations and require that there must be eight unique station owners that remain once a duopoly is formed (there are only seven full-power stations on the California side of the San Diego-Tijuana market). Though the E. W. Scripps Company owns KGTV and KZSD-LP, they are not considered a duopoly under the FCC's legal definition as common ownership between full-power and low-power television stations in the same market is permitted regardless to the number of stations licensed to the area. As a whole, the Mexico side of the San Diego-Tijuana market has two duopolies and one triopoly (Entravision Communications owns both XHAS-TV and XHDTV-TV, Azteca owns XHJK-TV and XHTIT-TV, and Grupo Televisa owns XHUAA-TV and XHWT-TV along with being the license holder for XETV-TV, which was formerly managed by California-based subsidiary Bay City Television).
San Diego's television market is limited to only San Diego county. The Imperial Valley has its own market (which also extends into western Arizona), while neighboring Orange and Riverside counties are part of the Los Angeles market. (Sometimes in the past, a missing network affiliate in the Imperial Valley would be available on cable TV from San Diego.)
The radio stations in San Diego include nationwide broadcaster, iHeartMedia; CBS Radio, Midwest Television, Entercom Communications, Finest City Broadcasting, and many other smaller stations and networks. Stations include: KOGO AM 600, KFMB AM 760, KCEO AM 1000, KCBQ AM 1170, K-Praise, KLSD AM 1360 Air America, KFSD 1450 AM, KPBS-FM 89.5, Channel 933, Star 94.1, FM 94/9, FM News and Talk 95.7, Q96 96.1, KyXy 96.5, Free Radio San Diego (AKA Pirate Radio San Diego) 96.9FM FRSD, KWFN 97.3, KXSN 98.1, Jack-FM 100.7, 101.5 KGB-FM, KLVJ 102.1, KSON 103.7, Rock 105.3, and another Pirate Radio station at 106.9FM, as well as a number of local Spanish-language radio stations.
Water is supplied to residents by the Water Department of the City of San Diego. The city receives most of its water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
Gas and electric utilities are provided by San Diego Gas & Electric, a division of Sempra Energy.
In the mid-20th century the city had mercury vapor street lamps. In 1978, the city decided to replace them with more efficient sodium vapor lamps. This triggered an outcry from astronomers at Palomar Observatory 60 miles (97 km) north of the city, concerned that the new lamps would increase light pollution and hinder astronomical observation. The city altered its lighting regulations to limit light pollution within 30 miles (48 km) of Palomar.In 2011, the city announced plans to upgrade 80% of its street lighting to new energy-efficient lights that use induction technology, a modified form of fluorescent lamp producing a broader spectrum than sodium vapor lamps. The new system is predicted to save $2.2 million per year in energy and maintenance. The city stated the changes would "make our neighborhoods safer." They also increase light pollution.In 2014, San Diego announced plans to become the first U.S. city to install cyber-controlled street lighting, using an "intelligent" lighting system to control 3,000 LED street lights.
With the automobile being the primary means of transportation for over 80 percent of residents, San Diego is served by a network of freeways and highways. This includes Interstate 5, which runs south to Tijuana and north to Los Angeles; Interstate 8, which runs east to Imperial County and the Arizona Sun Corridor; Interstate 15, which runs northeast through the Inland Empire to Las Vegas and Salt Lake City; and Interstate 805, which splits from I-5 near the Mexican border and rejoins I-5 at Sorrento Valley.
Major state highways include SR 94, which connects downtown with I-805, I-15 and East County; SR 163, which connects downtown with the northeast part of the city, intersects I-805 and merges with I-15 at Miramar; SR 52, which connects La Jolla with East County through Santee and SR 125; SR 56, which connects I-5 with I-15 through Carmel Valley and Rancho Peñasquitos; SR 75, which spans San Diego Bay as the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, and also passes through South San Diego as Palm Avenue; and SR 905, which connects I-5 and I-805 to the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.
The stretch of SR 163 that passes through Balboa Park is San Diego's oldest freeway, and has been called one of America's most beautiful parkways.San Diego's roadway system provides an extensive network of cycle routes. Its dry and mild climate makes cycling a convenient year-round option; however, the city's hilly terrain and long average trip distances make cycling less practicable. Older and denser neighborhoods around the downtown tend to be oriented to utility cycling. This is partly because of the grid street patterns now absent in newer developments farther from the urban core, where suburban style arterial roads are much more common. As a result, a majority of cycling is recreational. In 2006, San Diego was rated the best city (with a population over 1 million) for cycling in the U.S.
San Diego is served by the San Diego Trolley light rail system, by the SDMTS bus system, and by Coaster and Amtrak Pacific Surfliner commuter rail; northern San Diego county is also served by the Sprinter light rail line. The trolley primarily serves downtown and surrounding urban communities, Mission Valley, east county, and coastal south bay. A planned mid-coast extension of the Trolley will operate from Old Town to University City and the University of California, San Diego along the I-5 Freeway, with planned operation by 2018. The Amtrak and Coaster trains currently run along the coastline and connect San Diego with Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura via Metrolink and the Pacific Surfliner. There are two Amtrak stations in San Diego, in Old Town and the Santa Fe Depot downtown. San Diego transit information about public transportation and commuting is available on the Web and by dialing "511" from any phone in the area.The city has two major commercial airports within or near its city limits. Downtown San Diego International Airport (SAN), also known as Lindbergh Field, is the busiest single-runway airport in the United States. It served over 17 million passengers in 2005, and is dealing with larger numbers every year. It is located on San Diego Bay, three miles (4.8 km) from downtown, and maintains scheduled flights to the rest of the United States (including Hawaii), as well as to Canada, Mexico, Japan, and the United Kingdom. It is operated by an independent agency, the San Diego Regional Airport Authority. Tijuana International Airport has a terminal within the city limits in the Otay Mesa district connected to the rest of the airport in Tijuana, Mexico via the Cross Border Xpress cross-border footbridge. It is the primary airport for flights to the rest of Mexico, and offers connections via Mexico City to the rest of Latin America. In addition, the city has two general-aviation airports, Montgomery Field (MYF) and Brown Field (SDM).
Recent regional transportation projects have sought to mitigate congestion, including improvements to local freeways, expansion of San Diego Airport, and doubling the capacity of the cruise ship terminal. Freeway projects included expansion of Interstates 5 and 805 around "The Merge" where these two freeways meet, as well as expansion of Interstate 15 through North County, which includes new high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) "managed lanes". A tollway (the southern portion of SR 125, known as the South Bay Expressway) connects SR 54 and Otay Mesa, near the Mexican border. According to an assessment in 2007, 37 percent of city streets were in acceptable condition. However, the proposed budget fell $84.6 million short of bringing streets up to an acceptable level. Expansion at the port has included a second cruise terminal on Broadway Pier, opened in 2010. Airport projects include expansion of Terminal Two.
San Diego has 17 sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International:
A city defined by its many neighborhoods, San Diego really doesn't have any clearly defined "districts". This list, by no means an official division, is a reflection on how a visitor might see the city based on its attractions and amenities.
Like much of California and the Southwestern United States, English is the predominant language with Spanish the second most widely spoken. Store signs are written in English or both languages, and many businesses have bilingual employees who speak English and Spanish.
The area was long inhabited by the native Kumeyaay people (also known as the Diegueño by the later Spanish settlers), who lived off the land and created a proud culture. The first time a European visited the region was in 1542, when Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, sailing under the Spanish flag, claimed the bay for the Spanish Empire and named the site San Miguel. In November 1602, Sebastián Vizcaíno was sent to map the California coast. Arriving with his flagship "San Diego", Vizcaíno surveyed the harbor and what is now Mission Bay and Point Loma, renaming the area for the Spanish Catholic saint, St. Didacus (more commonly known as San Diego).
San Diego was established in 1769 as the first European settlement and Spanish mission in California, at the present site of Old Town. However, due to the poor nature of soils in the Old Town area, the mission was eventually relocated about 5 miles up river in Mission Valley. The mission had a troubled history, seeing bloodshed between the Spanish missionaries and natives resisting conversion, and the settlement didn't grow far beyond a few hundred people owing to the fact that it was too far from navigable water.
In the 19th century, San Diego passed from Spanish to Mexican to American hands. In 1850, a few years after the United States gained control of California, San Diego was officially designated a city. But with much of the westward expansion to California centered on the gold rush around San Francisco, American influences were slow to come to San Diego. Eventually they did, however, and in the 1860s Downtown was established on the shores of the bay, soon exploding in growth when the railroad arrived in the 1880s and developing into a major port. The city celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 with a huge exposition touting San Diego's prominence and history; the fairgrounds, buildings, and exhibits of that expo formed the basis for today's Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo.
The U.S. Navy discovered San Diego in the early 20th century, and constructed a coaling station on Point Loma in 1907. Ten years later, the Naval Air Station on Coronado island was established, and in later years the military would take on an increasingly important role in the city's economy, peaking with World War II, when the city's ship building yards and naval base made San Diego one of the busiest ports on the west coast. Today, San Diego is still home to the Navy's Pacific Fleet and is a favorite leave location for many sailors.
Growth in San Diego has exploded and the economy has shifted away from its maritime and military roots. The defense industry still plays a big role here, but it is now rivaled by tourism, trade, biomedical laboratories and research, with many corporations moving their headquarters here amid the huge influx of residents. San Diego is a favorite destination for retirees and tourists, drawn by the balmy weather and the many attractions the city has to offer.
The San Diego area can be an incredible place to visit almost any time of the year. With coastal temperatures around 75 °F (24 °C) most of the time, the weather is ideal. The climate of Southern California is rather complex, however, and temperatures change rapidly as one travels from the coast eastward. In the summer during the day, the temperature might increase as much as one degree Fahrenheit for each mile going east. In the winter, especially at night, eastern areas are usually relatively cooler. Some valleys and other areas have significantly different weather due to terrain and other factors. These are often referred to as "micro-climates".
If you're coming to San Diego expecting sunny weather, avoid coming in May or June, when San Diego is covered in clouds most days, a phenomenon referred to by the locals as "May Grey" or "June Gloom". September is usually the hottest month of the year in the daytime. Mid-September through October are labeled as the most at-risk months for wildfires, because of the long absence of any substantial rainfall. Along the beach during the warmer half of the year, it can get surprisingly cool after dark, even when it's not too cold a short distance inland. The months of March and April typically see the strongest winds. Along the coast, fog is most common September through April; it is not uncommon to experience 3-7 foggy days per month.
During the late summer and fall there is a reversal of the usual climate conditions, when hot, dry air blows from the desert to the coast. These winds are called the Santa Ana winds. Milder Santa Ana winds can result in excellent dry air conditions, but powerful ones can last days on end, significantly raising temperatures, creating tremendous fire danger, and making the outdoors unpleasant.
International Visitor Information Center, 1140 North Harbor Drive (in Downtown, in front of the B Street Cruise Ship Terminal), ☎ +1 619-236-1212. Daily 9AM-5PM (June-September); daily 9AM-4PM (October-May).
La Jolla Village Information Center, 1162 Prospect Street, ☎ +1 858-454-5718. Daily 10AM-6PM (summer); daily 11AM-4PM (winter).
1 San Diego International Airport (SAN IATA) (is less than 10 minutes from Downtown San Diego.). The descent into the airport from the east comes remarkably close to downtown buildings, which can be a bit alarming for first-time visitors. The airport has international flights, mostly from Mexico and Canada but also Tokyo, London, Frankfurt, and Zurich. Visitors to California from other countries will most likely travel through Los Angeles (LAX IATA) or San Francisco (SFO IATA). However, San Diego has non-stops to Hawaii (via Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines) and most major American hubs, including New York-JFK, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and Chicago-O'Hare. If traveling from Mexico, it may be advantageous to fly into Tijuana on a domestic flight and then take a shuttle or public transportation into San Diego. Airlines serving SAN include:
Terminal 1: Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air (arrivals from Mexico arrive at Gates 20-22 in Terminal 2), Frontier and Southwest Airlines. If you are connecting or have a flight cancellation on Southwest, there are three separate security perimeters. Though uncommon, if your departure gate is in another section of the terminal, you must go through security screening again.
Terminal 2: American Airlines/American Eagle, Delta Air Lines/Delta Connection, United Airlines/United Express, Allegiant, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit, Sun Country, and Virgin America. International flights from Mexico (Volaris and Alaska Airlines), Canada (Air Canada, WestJet) plus one daily flight on British Airways from London Heathrow, Edelweiss from Zurich, five weekly Lufthansa from Frankfurt Airport and Japan Airlines from Tokyo Narita are at Gates 20-22.If you are staying first in the Los Angeles area, then traveling to San Diego (or vice versa), even with discounted coach airfares between the two cities 120 mi (190 km) can be nearly as costly as a trip to the east coast. The flight between San Diego and Los Angeles is usually greatly discounted or even free for connecting flights if it's part of the overall routing, but you must leave LAX within four hours for domestic flights or 24 hours for international. Fixed point ground transportation between LAX and San Diego is extremely limited and taxi/van service is more costly than flying (except for groups of about six or more). If you plan to arrive in Los Angeles, always know in advance the method and cost of getting to San Diego. Many Angelenos take Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner to San Diego for a weekend getaway (see below); see Ground transportation options between LAX and Amtrak in Los Angeles.
There are a number of airport shuttle companies that handle transportation to and from the San Diego airport. They generally cost around $15 per person. MTS bus #992 The Flyer ($2.25 per boarding or $5 for a day ticket to transfer to another bus or trolley) takes 10 minutes to travel from both terminals to the Santa Fe Depot in Downtown San Diego, where you can connect to other MTS bus routes, the Coaster commuter train, the Trolley, and Amtrak.
The 2 Airport Consolidated Car Rental Center is on the opposite side of the airport from the terminals, at 3355 Admiral Boland Way directly off of Pacific Highway north of Downtown; from I-5 take the Sassafras Street exit and head towards the airport. The terminals are located along Harbor Drive between Downtown and Point Loma. Free shuttles run regularly between the airport terminals and the rental car center.
There is a separate 3 USO Neil Ash Airport Center, at opposite side of the road from the international arrivals doors, to inquire with and wait for a government shuttle to pick up travelers reporting for military duty at the USMC Recruit Depot, Camp Pendleton, US Navy SEALS training in Coronado or any of the other military installations in the area. The USO is accessed via the Eastern Skybridge from Terminal 2.
4 General Abelardo L. Rodríguez Airport or Tijuana International Airport (TIJ IATA) in Mexico is not far from San Diego, and may be an option especially if traveling to/from Mexico as the fares would be less expensive as a domestic flight than if flying between Los Angeles or San Diego and Mexico. It offers numerous domestic flights from Mexico and long-haul service from Shanghai. This allows many tourists from the Pacific Rim to bypass the Los Angeles or San Francisco airports when connecting to Latin America or arriving closer to San Diego. Tokyo flights now go direct to/from Mexico City. As this airport is not in the United States, travelers will need to make sure that they have the proper documentation such as passports or visas for their respective nationality to travel through Mexico into the United States. However, you may access the Tijuana Airport from the U.S. side of the border at the 5 Cross Border Express Terminal (CBX). A 120 m (390 ft) airport border-crossing pedestrian only bridge connects the CBX terminal into the main terminal in the Mexican side of the border. Passengers pay a US$16 toll each way (or $30 RT) to walk across the bridge from the CBX terminal to the main terminal for departures and to enter the US for arrivals. The bridge is privately owned, and part of the fee pays for the U.S. Customs and Immigration inspectors. This is much faster than going through the vehicle inspection lanes, which often have hours-long delays. There's a shuttle that connects passengers from the downtown Santa Fe Station and from the Las Americas Premium Outlet Mall in San Ysiro to the CBX terminal. On return they offer drop off at the San Diego Airport on request. A cheaper but longer way going south is the 'UC San Diego Blue Line' trolley down to San Ysidro, cross the border on foot into Mexico and a taxi over to the airport in the Mexican side. The White & Orange 'Libre' Taxi is cheaper than the solid yellow taxis. Taxis of other color combinations are shared ride taxis operating on a fixed route like a bus. If coming to the United States it would be quicker to just walk across the bridge into the second CBX terminal and take the CBX shuttle to downtown San Diego or San Ysidro bus station. This avoids the wait times for pedestrians and vehicles going into the United States as the wait times are longer going into the U.S. than to Mexico.
Private pilots will prefer the nearby general aviation airports, 6 Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport (MYF IATA) in Clairemont Mesa, 7 Gillespie Field (SEE IATA) in El Cajon, or 8 Brown Field Municipal Airport (SDM IATA) east of San Ysidro. There are several more in North County, including 9 McClellan-Palomar Airport (CLD IATA) in Carlsbad which is also served by SurfAir as the only small commercial carrier. If you are flying to the San Diego area from the east, watch out for the 5,722-foot (1,744-m) Volcan Mountain near Julian. Private aircraft have flown straight into the mountain at night, often with deadly results. Some air taxi and air charter firms offer specials to the San Diego area from local airports, including from many smaller Los Angeles airports and from the San Luis Obispo area.
See also: Rail travel in the United States
Amtrak, toll-free: +1-800-872-7245. Amtrak operates from the historic 10 Santa Fe Depot, downtown at 1050 Kettner Blvd. The station is the southern terminus of Amtrak's frequent Pacific Surfliner route, which runs north to Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo. The depot is within walking distance of downtown hotels and near San Diego Bay. The city operates a bus line (Route 992, the "Airport Flyer") between the train depot and San Diego International Airport.There are also secondary rail stations in Old Town and Sorrento Valley, used mainly the Coaster (Commuter) Train. The trolley stops at Old Town and the downtown Santa Fe Station while the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner stops at Old Town, Solana Beach and Oceanside. Check if your specific train stops at the Old Town stop (OLT), if you plan to get off there. If you are coming from or going to areas of San Diego north of downtown, such as La Jolla or Mission Valley, the Old Town station is much easier to access than the Downtown (SAN) train station.
Other rail services include the Coaster, ☎ +1-800-262-7837, a commuter train that runs north from downtown along the coast into northern San Diego County all the way to Oceanside where it meets the Metrolink rail service from Los Angeles and the Sprinter rail service from Escondido. Service is mostly limited to the weekday rush hours, with limited service on Saturdays and Sundays. Fares are based on how far you ride; a one-way fare will be in the range of $4-5.50 ($2-2.75 seniors, July 2018). Tickets must be purchased from the ticket vending machines located at each station.
San Diego is easily accessible by car via the 5, 8, and 15 interstate freeways.
Interstate 5 begins in San Ysidro, at the US-Mexico border crossing, and continues northward through Los Angeles and Central California to Oregon and Washington, terminating in Blaine, Washington at the US-Canadian border crossing.
Interstate 8 begins near the San Diego coast and continues eastward through eastern San Diego and Imperial Counties into Arizona, where it connects with Interstate 10 about half way between Phoenix and Tucson. From the Phoenix area, AZ Hwy 85 to I-8 at Gila Bend is often faster than I-10 to I-8, except from the eastern suburbs. On I-8, a mountain pass of about 4,200 ft (1,300 m) lies between the desert and coastal area. Closures or restrictions due to snow or wind happen on rare occasion, and there's a Border Patrol checkpoint just west of the Buckman Springs Rest Area (westbound lanes only).
Interstate 15 begins in southern San Diego County and continues northward into the California deserts, through Nevada, Utah, and Idaho, eventually terminating at the US-Canadian border in northern Montana. The southernmost stretch of highway, between I-5 and I-805 within San Diego, is marked "California 15" as it is not up to interstate standards, but it's the same highway.Additionally, there are numerous other freeways that crisscross San Diego County, making access to most places in San Diego relatively easy. However, traffic is frequently congested during the weekday morning and evening commuting hours.
The closest thing to a central bus station is in San Ysidro just north of the US inspection station, behind McDonald's. From there, there are numerous bus and shuttle services, including Greyhound, going up to Hungtington Park, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, Stockton, Sacramento etc. The next one is the bus station just south of the border next to the roundabout at Amistad & Frontera, west of the freeway with buses going up to the U.S. and to nearby areas in Baja California (Ensenada, Rosario, etc). Otherwise the bus companies maintain their separate stations and stops all over the city:
11 Greyhound & Crucero USA, depot at 1313 National Ave, Downtown (13th & Imperial, next to 12th & Imperial Transit Center), ☎ +1 619-515-1100, toll-free: +1-800-231-2222. Travels primarily on Interstate 5 (San Diego-Los Angeles and San Diego-Tijuana on two separate routes), a separate route also goes from downtown San Diego to the Tijuana airport; I-8/I-10 (Calexico-Yuma-Tucson-El Paso, with some variations of the route diverging from Yuma to Phoenix instead) and I-15 (San Diego-Riverside-San Bernardino-Las Vegas). Passengers can transfer to other Greyhound/Crucero buses in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Tucson, El Paso or Phoenix to get to other cities in the U.S. and in Tijuana, Calexico/Mexicali, and El Paso/Ciudad Juarez to get to other cities in Mexico. Prices vary depending on your destination.
12 Hoang Express, bus stop at Lucky Seafood Supermarket, 9326 Mira Mesa Blvd (Mira Mesa Blvd and Black Mountain Rd, NW of the Mira Mesa Blvd & I-15 junction (Exit 16 from I-15)), ☎ +1 714 839-3500, toll-free: +1-888-834-9336. Travels between SoCal (San Diego, El Monte, Los Angeles, Westminster); northern California (San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and Sacramento) and Arizona (Phoenix, Chandler and Tempe). $60-65 to Bay Area; $80 to Sacramento.
13 InterCalifornias/Aeromexico Shuttle, bus stop at 751 E San Ysidro Blvd., San Ysidro (parking lot behind McDonald's Restaurant, next to the San Ysidro Blue Line trolley station).), ☎ +1 619-428-8259, toll-free: +1-888-834-9336. Buses goes up to Los Angeles, San Fernando, Bakersfield, Fresno, and San Jose/Stockton (route splits/joins in Madero) and down to Tijuana. Prices vary depending on your destination.
14 Rapid Connection Llc, 727 E San Ysidro Bvld, San Ysidro (parking lot behind McDonald's Restaurant, next to the San Ysidro Blue Line trolley station), ☎ +1 619-428-1900. Buses between Sacramento and Tijuana via Lodi, Madera, Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield, San Fernando, Los Angeles, Santa Ana, San Ysidro and several other places along SR-99/I-5.
15 Tufesa, bus stop at 727 E San Ysidro Blvd., San Ysidro (parking lot behind McDonald's Restaurant, next to the San Ysidro Blue Line trolley station.), ☎ +1 619-662-1730. Buses going down into Mexico and across the American southwest (California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah). Prices vary depending on your destination.
LuxBus, bus stops; hotel pick-up/drop-off on request, toll-free: +1-800-610-7870. Travels up to Anaheim. Transfer in Anaheim to get to Las Vegas. $44 one-way or $72 round-trip per person to Anaheim.
16 Tourismo Express (formerly Mexicoach), depot at 4570 Camino de la Plaza, San Ysidro, ☎ +1 619-253-8291. Daily 7AM-6PM. Picks up at the parking lot west of I-5 and then travels down to Zona Rio ('Blue Line') & Zona Centro ('Green Line') on two separate routes. Drops off at the U.S. border inspection station going north. They also operate a shuttle between San Ysidro and the CBX (Airport) Terminal within the U.S.
17 CBX Shuttle, bus stop at Santa Fe Depot, 1050 Kettner Blvd (Kettner & Broadway in front of the train station), toll-free: +1-888 CBX-INFO (229-4636). The Volaris Airlines Shuttle had ceased service as of June 1, 2016 and has been replaced by the 'CBX Shuttle' US$10 to/from downtown San Diego and $5 to San Ysidro. Another $16 to walk across the bridge each way or $55 for a group or family of up to four people or $75 for six people..
By cruise ship
18 B Street Cruise Ship Terminal, 1140 N Harbor Dr, ☎ +1 619-683-8966. The B Street Pier in Downtown San Diego serves as a port of call and home port for many major cruise lines. Voyages include: Mexican Riviera, Hawaii, South America, and Trans Panama Canal.
The San Diego metropolitan area is large and sprawling. Car travel is the most efficient way of navigating the city and county. If you want to "see it all", rent a car. For less ambitious itineraries, public transportation may be used with enough planning and time allotted for travel.
Most San Diego addresses do not include the cardinal directions of north, south, east, and west. This is because the address grid north of Mission Valley is totally separate from that to the south, and nearly everything is east of the ocean. The exception is in the downtown area, where streets west of 1st Avenue are designated "west." For example, 234 Broadway in downtown is assumed to be East Broadway, while 234 West Broadway would never drop the word "west."
Unlike the greater Los Angeles area, the freeways go by their route numbers and not their names. Although most of the San Diego freeways do in fact have names, in practice, they're almost never used.
Throughout the Downtown and beach communities, on-street parking is metered. Parking meters accept coins, pre-paid Parking Meter Cards, and some newer meters accept credit cards. For more information on parking meters and enforcement, or to purchase a pre-paid meter card, visit the City of San Diego Parking Administration website. Gas/petrol prices tend to be higher than elsewhere in the U.S., but gas is cheapest in the outlying communities of El Cajon, Santee, Lemon Grove, Poway, and Chula Vista. Many intersections with a traffic signal allow U-turns. If making a right turn on red, look both ways beforehand.
All the major rental car companies operate at the San Diego Airport, though most require you to take a 2½-mile shuttle which goes behind the terminal and runway. To get to the I-5 freeway, turn right at Sassafras Street, then cross the railroad tracks. Do not mistake the railroad crossing for Kettner Blvd./I-5 south as a few visitors have done (mostly after dark) over the years. These tracks are heavily used by Amtrak and other rail services, and there's a good chance of being hit by a train if you make a wrong turn. Likewise, the car rental returns are near the railroad tracks, so don't blindly follow your GPS before making a turn.
By public transit
The Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) operates bus service to large portions of the county, although service in many areas is sparse and infrequent. The weakest points in the transit system are suburb-to-suburb travel and poor links between some of the individual coastal communities, both of which often require long trips to one of the transit hubs, then back out. If you will be mainly in the areas around downtown, the bus may be suitable, but service generally gets weaker the farther you are from the central area. A few newer and wealthier communities have no public transportation at all, such as Carmel Valley (east of Del Mar).
There is bus service every 15 minutes or so (at least on weekdays) between Downtown San Diego and a number of destinations useful to tourists. These include the Airport, the Zoo, and neighborhoods such as Hillcrest, North Park, and La Jolla (about an hour ride). There is frequent service to Sea World and Pacific Beach from the Old Town Transit Center, where the trolley stops. Service from Downtown to Coronado and Ocean Beach is about once every 30 minutes. All downtown buses intersect with Broadway at some point. During the day all kinds of people will be taking the bus; at night some people might feel a little less comfortable, but generally not unsafe in the main parts of downtown.
The fare is $2.25 for most bus routes and $2.50 for express routes. Transfers are not available. A reloadable electronic fare card, the Compass Card, can be used to cover fares and passes on San Diego County transit systems; a new Compass Card costs $2 and can be purchased online, at vending machines at Trolley and Coaster stations, at the MTS Transit Store in Downtown, or at select stores (see website for list). Day passes, which also include rides on the Trolley, cost $5, but must be loaded onto a Compass Card (an extra $2 if you don't already have a card). 2, 3 and 4 day passes are also available.
The San Diego Trolley is a light rail system operated by the MTS which mainly serves tourists and people living in the southern and eastern parts of the city who need to get to downtown areas. There are three trolley lines: blue, green, and orange. The Blue Line operates from the US-Mexico border at San Ysidro and runs to Downtown via Chula Vista and National City. The Green Line travels from Downtown east to Santee, via Old Town and Mission Valley and SDSU. The Orange Line connects the eastern cities of El Cajon and La Mesa with Downtown (generally less useful for tourists). Trains run from at least 5AM-midnight every day. Frequency varies, but the trolley usually runs every 15 minutes, with service reduced to every 30 minutes for late-night, weekend, and holiday service. An extension of the Blue Line from Old Town north to UCSD and University City is under construction, but won't be completed until 2021 at the earliest.
Standard one-way fares are $2.50, and ticket vending machines are located on the platforms at each station. Just as with MTS buses, Trolley fares and passes can be covered with the Compass Card; a new card costs $2 and can be purchased at vending machines at Trolley stations. Day passes, which also include rides on MTS buses, cost $5, but must be loaded onto a Compass Card (an extra $2 if you don't already have a card). 2, 3 and 4 day passes are also available. Trolley fares have to be purchased before you board the train. There's no formal system to check if you've purchased a fare, but there are trolley guards that may come around and ask to see your ticket or Compass Card, and the fine is normally around $120 for not having paid fare.
The weather in San Diego is ideally suited for bicycle riding, although a good lock is a necessity.
Bikes are a good way to explore the beachside communities. Many of the beach side community's residents use bikes to get around their neighborhood because parking is tight. The beach areas are flat and some beach cruiser rental spots can be found along the boardwalk areas in Mission/Pacific Beach.
In other parts of the city, cycling is much more difficult with numerous difficult-to-cross freeways, as well as hills, valleys and older streets, but is possible for the avid cyclist. A bicycle map of San Diego is available online.
Individual listings can be found in San Diego's district articles
See San Diego with children for travelers with children.A couple of combination passes are available which offer discounted admission to multiple attractions:
Go San Diego Card. Covers admission and express entry to over 40 attractions, including Sea World San Diego, Legoland California, San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, USS Midway Museum, Birch Aquarium, and all Balboa Park museums.
Southern California CityPass. Gives you one day each at SeaWorld San Diego, Legoland California, and a 3-day park hopper ticket for Disneyland, as well as one-day admission to either the San Diego Zoo or the San Diego Zoo Safari Park for an additional fee if purchased online.
One of San Diego's main claims to fame is its array of renowned zoological attractions which are at the forefront in the wildlife conservation movement. Of them, the most respected is the San Diego Zoo, a massive zoo that encompasses over 100 acres of Balboa Park and is possibly the premier zoo in North America. One of the earliest adopters of naturalistic animal exhibits, this is also one of the most gorgeous zoos in the world. Animal shows run constantly, and there are creatures here that aren't visible in any other zoo on the planet. It's definitely worth a visit, but you need a full day to really do it justice.
The sister park to the San Diego Zoo and another stellar attraction in its own right, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park covers 1800 acres of the San Pasqual Valley, about 30 miles (50 km) north of Downtown San Diego near Escondido. Here the wide open expanse of the desert valley has enabled the creation of stunningly huge exhibits that resemble African savanna, where herds of animals roam and drink from watering holes. Like the Zoo, the Safari Park is also well worth a trip, but also requires a full day to take it in.
Considerably smaller but also important in its own right is the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, the public face of the renowned Scripps Institute of Oceanography. The Birch holds fantastic exhibits which cover physical oceanography and plenty of beautiful aquarium fish, with highlights including a touchpool and a massive kelp tank that is a simulation of ocean life just off the San Diego coast. Less scientifically renowned but popular in its own right is Sea World on Mission Bay, the California branch of the marine theme park chain with its numerous animal shows and enclosures showcasing sharks, penguins, polar bears, dolphins, and killer whales among other marine animals. Also in the area and something of a hidden gem is the Living Coast Discovery Center, a nature center in the marshes of San Diego Bay in Chula Vista with a lot of interactive exhibits on the native wildlife.
Museums and historical attractions
In addition to the zoo, Balboa Park is home to an expansive campus of intriguing museums, flowering gardens and beautiful arboretums set amidst neo-classical Spanish architecture, making it a must-visit for any trip to San Diego. Among the highlight attractions are the San Diego Museum of Art, merely the largest of several art museums within the park, the San Diego Museum of Man with its exceptional anthropological exhibits, the San Diego Air and Space Museum with its numerous historical aircraft and full-scale models, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and the San Diego Natural History Museum with their kid-friendly interactive exhibits, and the very fun San Diego Model Railroad Museum.
Amidst Downtown San Diego's restaurants and nightlife is the historical district of Gaslamp Quarter, home to plenty of Victorian-era buildings that have been re-adapted to other uses. Nearby along the Downtown waterfront are two museums devoted to the city's maritime heritage: the San Diego Maritime Museum, with a collection of lovingly restored 19th-century sailing ships, a steam ferryboat, and a former Soviet Union submarine, and the USS Midway Museum, a former aircraft carrier of the US Navy that is now open for tours and home to a collection of former naval aircraft housed on the ship's expansive flight deck. Across the bay from Downtown is the independent community of Coronado, home to a major naval facility and very charming streets, as well as the gorgeous Hotel del Coronado, a high-class hotel constructed in the late 1800s and sitting on one of San Diego's cleanest beaches.
Old Town is the city's main historical district, with preserved buildings and icons of the Spanish heritage of San Diego and the Old West, from 19th-century cannons to the haunted Whaley House. Shopping and restaurants dot the area and living history performances regularly take place. Up Mission Valley from Old Town and another reminder of the city's Spanish heritage is the Mission San Diego de Alcala, the oldest of the California missions, founded in 1769 by Junipero Serra.
The San Diego coastline is rife with scenic attractions. Among the most spectacular is the view from Cabrillo National Monument at the tip of Point Loma. Created to commemorate the first California landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo's expedition for Spain in 1542, the monument is situated atop a high vantage point at the mouth of the San Diego Bay, where visitors can get a panoramic view of Downtown San Diego, the bay, the ocean, and the distant mountains, as well as tour a historic former lighthouse and the remnants of WWII-era coastal defense structures. To the north, near Ocean Beach, is a stretch of scenic coastline known as Sunset Cliffs, with some secluded beaches and tidepools beneath the steep ocean cliffs.
However, few places in Southern California can match La Jolla for coastal scenery. An upscale coastal community with dozens of coffee shops, restaurants and high-end shopping outlets, La Jolla also holds many secluded coves, beaches and ocean cliffs to explore, including the popular Children's Cove that has become a breeding ground for harbor seals. Just to the north of La Jolla proper is the scenic Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, situated atop a plateau with steep ocean cliffs overlooking the beautiful (and relatively secluded) Torrey Pines State Beach; hiking trails lead you through the park to the beach below.
Further inland, away from the coast, the rugged, scrubby terrain of Northern San Diego offers some understated scenic attractions, including the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve with its interesting rock formations and Mission Trails Regional Park, a hidden jewel that contains San Diego's highest point and a small gorge popular with rock climbers.
Individual listings can be found in San Diego's district articles
Along San Diego's coast you can find miles of beaches providing excellent opportunities for swimming, surfing, and general beach-going. Each beach is unique, ranging from popular white sand beaches to harsh surf spots to the clothing-optional Black's Beach in La Jolla. Surf conditions vary by beach, and there are numerous surf schools throughout the San Diego area.
Among San Diego's beaches, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are the most popular, with a connected boardwalk popular with bicyclists and roller bladers and plenty of shops, restaurants and bars catering to the huge crowds that show up, as well as a pier in Pacific Beach and a seaside amusement park on Mission Beach. This area tends to be the center of the Spring Break scene and has some of the calmest ocean swimming and surfing in San Diego, albeit also the most crowded.
To the south, Ocean Beach draws a more local crowd, with a large sandy beach, a fishing pier, and designated surfing and swimming zones, as well as a dog beach at the northern end, making it a good place to come if you want to get a taste of the local beach culture away from the crowds of Mission and Pacific Beaches. Further to the south, Coronado's main beach is noteworthy for its gleaming white sands and mostly family crowd, while the Silver Strand extending between Coronado and Imperial Beach has some excellent swimming and surfing spots.
To the north, La Jolla has some of the most scenic beaches around, including the popular La Jolla Cove, frequented by swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers. Surfing is not allowed in the Cove, but the nearby Windansea Beach and Marine Street Beach are proven places to test your mettle against some rough surf. La Jolla Shores has some of the gentlest waves anywhere in San Diego, while Torrey Pines State Beach is arguably the most scenic, set against steep cliffs and a splendid place to get away from the crowds. Even further north, the coast of Northern San Diego County offers multiple scenic and popular beaches.
San Diego Bay offers amble opportunities for sailors to enjoy boating, with plenty of anchorages and marinas catering to all boaters. Launch ramps and marinas are located in Point Loma, Downtown, Coronado, National City and Chula Vista (see separate pages for specific places). Some anchorages require a permit, while others do not. If a permit is required, it can be obtained at the Shelter Island Harbor Police Facility in Point Loma (1401 Shelter Island Drive, +1 619-686-6272). There are also several moorings throughout the harbor for vessels ranging from two to 65 feet in length; see the SD Mooring Company Office on Harbor Island (near the airport; 2040 N. Harbor Island Drive, +1 619-291-0916) for a mooring application.
San Diego Bay and the calmer man-made inlet of Mission Bay are also excellent places for sailing, windsurfing, and jet skiing, with rentals and lessons offered on Mission Bay. The calm waters of Mission Bay also make it an excellent place for kayaking, with numerous rental places. Kayaking is also superb at La Jolla Shores, where you can see leopard sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, sea lions and pelicans, and explore ocean caves.
San Diego also features some great scuba diving, including the "Wreck Alley" where you can see kelp beds and explore the shipwrecks of the Yukon and the Ruby E. In addition, several dive boat operators offer regular runs to the Coronados Islands off the Mexican coast where you can dive with sea lions. Diving here is usually considered cold water diving and visibility is not always the greatest.
If you're looking for a more casual way to get on the water, there are also whale watching cruises. California gray whales migrate south along the coast each February, and there are some great places along the coast to view the migration, such as the overlook in Cabrillo National Monument (in Point Loma). Several private companies offer sailing tours during the migration season that bring you much closer to the whales.
Hang gliding – At the edge of cliffs towering above the Pacific Ocean, the Torrey Pines Glider Port in La Jolla allows anyone to soar over one of the most pristine sections of coastline in southern California. Training and tandem glides with an expert are offered.
Golfing – There are many public and private golf courses scattered throughout San Diego that suit nearly every budget. The Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla hosts the PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open annually in January or February.
Hiking & biking - San Diego’s near perfect climate, unique landscape, and low-crime rate make it one of the most pleasant places in the country to enjoy outdoor exercise. Because of this, visitors and locals alike will have no trouble finding a biking, hiking, or walking trail to suit their needs. There are numerous hiking trails and bike paths to choose from - big and small, highly visible or hidden. Information on some of the most popular individual trails can be found in the district articles.
Rock climbing - San Diego offers some unique opportunities for rock climbing both outdoor and indoor. Although San Diego is rarely considered a destination climbing area, specialist climbing companies offer guided rock climbing from professional climbers for the beginner to the experienced climber. All the climbing companies provide all the required equipment such as helmets, shoes and harnesses, and usually require an orientation meeting the week of the climb for all participants. Most good climbing spots are located either in North San Diego or Inland San Diego County.
San Diego sports fans have always had a hard time of it. Despite being one of the largest cities in the country and blessed with beautiful weather, no major league professional team in San Diego has won a championship, and neither of the city's two current major college teams have won a national title in a popular sport. In fact, San Diego has more often been a place for professional athletes to play before moving on to legendary careers elsewhere. And not just athletes—whole teams have left San Diego, most notably the 2017 loss of the NFL's Chargers to Los Angeles.
Nevertheless, one major league team still makes its home in San Diego: the San Diego Padres of Major League Baseball, who play at the lovely Petco Park in Downtown San Diego and who over their history have cultivated greats like Dave Winfield, Trevor Hoffman, and—of course—Tony Gwynn. This is also the birthplace of the San Diego Chicken, a widely beloved mascot whose popularity inspired a wave of cartoony mascots throughout American professional sports.
In collegiate sports, the San Diego State Aztecs, representing San Diego State University, are the city's most notable NCAA program, with the basketball team playing their home games at Viejas Arena on the SDSU campus in Mid-City, the baseball team playing at Tony Gwynn Stadium (also on the SDSU campus) and the football team playing at SDCCU Stadium in Mission Valley. Also in the city are the San Diego Toreros of the University of San Diego, with college basketball, baseball, and football teams playing at facilities located on the USD campus in Mission Valley.
Individual listings can be found in San Diego's district articlesSan Diego is dotted with major shopping centers and upscale boutiques catering to nearly every style of dress and expression. The most well-known shopping centers in the area are Horton Plaza in Downtown, Fashion Valley and Westfield Mission Valley in Mission Valley and Westfield UTC near La Jolla. In addition to these, one can find numerous other malls and outlet centers across the city.
If you're more interested in smaller shops and more local businesses than you'd ordinarily find in your average mall, Downtown, Hillcrest, and the beach neighborhoods (Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, La Jolla, etc.) offer a slightly more unique shopping scene. San Diego County has some unique antique markets, with a treasure trove of high end stores, as well as a host of second hand shops, bric a brac, and vintage stores.
Individual listings can be found in San Diego's district articlesLike any large metropolitan area, San Diego offers a wide variety of national and international cuisine. Food representing almost every world cuisine can be found somewhere in the city, and major restaurant chains are found in almost every district. Some of the best districts for fine dining are Downtown, Hillcrest, and La Jolla, which all offer extensive options that cater to both a local and tourist crowd. Pacific Beach also has a bustling — albeit more laid-back — dining scene, while the neighborhoods of Mid-City (particularly Kensington and North Park) have plenty of great restaurants that cater to a more local crowd. Other food scenes of note in San Diego are the concentration of Italian restaurants and delis in Little Italy in Downtown and the numerous Southeast Asian restaurants and markets that serve the large Asian-American population in Kearny Mesa.
Given the proximity to the border, it should come as no surprise that Mexican food is abundant in San Diego. Be sure to look beyond the touristy (and generally overpriced) concentration of Mexican restaurants in Old Town; this city offers endless options for Mexican food, from hole-in-the-wall taco joints to fine dining. Ask a local for their opinion; every San Diegan has their favorite place. A local specialty is rolled tacos, which consist of beef or chicken tightly rolled into a corn tortilla and fried until crispy, then served with guacamole and shredded cheese piled on top. You can find them all over Southern California, but the best ones are to be found in San Diego, where they're ubiquitous. Other quintessential San Diego menu items not to be missed are fish tacos and the carne asada burrito; unlike other regional burrito varieties that tend to use rice and beans as filler, the San Diego variety is typically jam-packed with chunks of carne asada steak with some guacamole and pico de gallo mixed in, making for an immensely satisfying meal. A variant of the carne asada burrito is the California burrito, which contains carne asada, French fries, cheese, and some combination of cilantro, pico de gallo, sour cream, onion, or guacamole.
Individual listings can be found in San Diego's district articlesBars and clubs can stay open past 2AM but are not permitted to sell alcohol after this time. Expect beer bars to be open until midnight and bars and clubs to call last call around 1:30-1:50AM. A medium-sized beer generally costs $4-5 in a restaurant. The best bar scenes in San Diego are in the Gaslamp Quarter area of Downtown and in Pacific Beach.
San Diego is well-known for its craft-brewing scene, with an emphasis on highly-hopped beers. Local brewers of distinction include AleSmith Brewing Company, Stone Brewing Company, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Green Flash Brewing Company, Coronado Brewing Company, Ballast Point Brewing Company, and Port Brewing Company. Craft beer can generally be found at nearly every bar in San Diego. In addition, many specialty craft beer bars are scattered throughout San Diego, boasting some of the best and most unique selections of beer in the country.
Happy hour specials are very popular in San Diego, offering some of the best and cheapest deals on food and drink in the city. The Pacific Beach and Downtown areas are particularly known for their numerous bars and restaurants offering significant deals during happy hour.
Individual listings can be found in San Diego's district articlesSan Diego offers a wide range of accommodations and a wide range of price levels. If you doesn't mind splurging, there are luxury highrise hotels in Downtown and many beachside (and bayside) hotels and lavish resorts along the coast in Coronado, Ocean Beach, Point Loma (along the bayside), Mission Beach/Bay, Pacific Beach, and La Jolla.
There are also many vacation rentals and beach cottages available for the traveler, most of which can be found along the shores of Mission Beach and Pacific Beach.
For travelers with a smaller budget, San Diego also has a few downtown hostels and many chain motels scattered across the city. A high concentration of the chain motels are along Hotel Circle in Mission Valley.
Comic-Con is a massive celebration of geek culture. Lodging, even well outside of downtown, becomes expensive and scarce during this time, so if this isn't your scene, you probably want to check the website for when it's going on and avoid San Diego.
The most common area code for San Diego Metropolitan area, including downtown, the southbay and the eastern suburbs is 619. North of I-8/Mission Valley uses 858, and the far northern suburbs (Escondido, Oceanside, Encinitas, etc.) use 760. Beginning June 2018, the area must be dialed with the phone number in all areas, i.e., 10-digit dialing is mandatory. Be sure to look when dialing a phone number that may be in a different area code. Most public telephones and hotel phones have the area code next to the phone number on the actual device.
There are numerous Wi-Fi hot spots in San Diego, many of which are at internet cafes. The San Diego Public Library system also offers wireless internet at all of its locations. If you're from out of state, ask for an "internet only" card, to avoid a $32 non-resident fee.
San Diego is considered to be one of the safest cities in California. Though crime is present, violent crime is on an overall decrease, but property crime still exists. You can now view real time crime reports of the area you plan to visit. One should use the same precautions as you would in any large metropolitan area. Avoid walking in Southeast San Diego or Barrio Logan (near or under the Coronado bridge) at night. If you do or must, avoid walking down dark alleyways or approaching unknown people. Even with this word of advice, travelers coming from or familiar with the inner cities of places like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Detroit will consider Southeast San Diego to be reasonably safe in relative comparison. Most people do not encounter any problems if they avoid buying illegal drugs or prostitution. In addition, gangs are not as present as they are in Los Angeles, but they still exist.
In an emergency (immediate danger to loss of life or limb), call 911 to reach the Police Department, Fire Department, and/or to call for an ambulance. If you call from a cell phone, 911 calls are directed to the California Highway Patrol, which can result in delays in contacting city police. (911 calls made from land-line telephones are directed to the appropriate local agency.) 911 calls are free from all phones including pay phones.
In many cases, when within the city limits, it may be more appropriate to directly dial the San Diego non-emergency number, +1 619-531-2000. For example, to report a crime in progress when you are not in direct danger, it is probably best to call the San Diego Police (or other local municipality) directly.
San Diego is served by a professional police force as well as a county sheriff department. Additional protection is offered on the major highways by the California Highway Patrol (CHP). To report a non-emergency within city limits, call +1 619-531-2000.
The city of San Diego fire department offers fire protection, emergency medical care, hazardous waste cleanup, and search and rescue functions. If you dial 911 for an emergency the first responders will be the San Diego Fire Department. Urban brush fires are always a risk during the summer and fall, but rarely affect tourists.
Rip currents are notorious in San Diego for their strength and sudden appearance. Do not go out in the water without lifeguard supervision or at night. At La Jolla Shores, rip currents can be so strong that people standing (not swimming) in waist-deep water have been pulled out over their heads -- sometimes with deadly results (especially for non-swimmers). Except for sunbathing, avoid low tide like the plague at this beach. (This means the largest of the two daily tide cycles. Check newspaper weather page for Scripps Pier, or view the Weather Channel.) All of the major beaches have lifeguards on duty in the summertime, with only the more popular beaches having lifeguards year round.
Many of the ocean cliffs are made of a compressed sandstone and are prone to collapse, even in dry weather. If walking along the cliffs at the beach, try to be as far away from them as is practical. Obey all signs. Heavy rain may cause rising bacteria and chemical levels in the ocean waters. Care should be taken to read the newspapers or call the county health office to see if the water is safe for swimming. Generally, most people stay out of the water at the beaches for 24 to 72 hours after rain.
Access to the beaches is safely made by using any of the public stairways provided; they are well maintained (except at Black's Beach) and free. The stairs at Black's Beach are in disrepair, so use at one's own risk. Wear sturdy shoes, and don't try unless you are in very good physical condition and able to climb the 300 ft (100m) back from the beach. Beware of the false trails going down the cliffs, as every year a few people get stuck (or worse!). The trailhead begins at the southern corner of the unpaved glider port parking lot. Take a little time to familiarize yourself with the area and observe where others are going. Though a long walk, you can also get in from the north via Torrey Pines State Beach. ($10-12 Monday-Thursday; $12-20 Friday-Sunday and Holidays, or free along the highway.) High tide will cut off this route, so plan ahead.
The bridge that connects Torrey Pines (north of Black's Beach) with Del Mar (former Hwy US 101) is old and in need of repair. Avoid walking directly underneath, as pieces of concrete occasionally fall off. It's still considered safe enough to drive over for now. If concerned, access this area from the south via I-5 and Genesee Avenue (exit #29) which soon becomes N. Torrey Pines Rd. Always supervise children very closely at places such as Sunset Cliffs and the Torrey Pines Glider Port above Black's Beach. It may be necessary to hold their hand at all times. If you have unruly kids, don't go there.
Thefts do occur at the beach and can ruin a perfectly wonderful day. Do not leave any purses or other personal items of value alone on the beach or in an open car. Vehicle burglaries are more prevalent in most beach communities and take place in broad daylight. If possible, do not leave anything of value in your car even when locked. Most kayak and beach rental shops offer safe boxes free of charge, and will store your valuables while renting.
In addition, take caution when around certain beach areas, as you may wander (inadvertently) onto a military instillation, where security is tight and beaches are either reserved for military patrons and their families or training centers.
Alcohol is banned on all public beaches and coastal parks in the city of San Diego. Violators can be given up to a $250 fine, with repeat offenders fined up to $1,000 and six months in jail.
The alcohol ban applies also to any sidewalk or street in the city of San Diego.
San Diego has no history of any major destructive earthquakes in modern times. The large fault that threatens San Francisco and Los Angeles runs far to the east here, and is actually closer to the Arizona border. Nevertheless, a smaller fault runs through San Diego. This has scientists concerned due to its proximity, even though it cannot produce a top tier quake. When the "big one" hits LA, San Diego will be affected to some extent. Even if local damage is minimal, there will be supply shortages. You should take the same precautions as you would in any other area that potentially could have an earthquake someday.
San Diego Union-Tribune – The Union-Tribune is San Diego's main daily newspaper.
San Diego Reader – A free weekly publication and the largest alternative paper in the city.
San Diego CityBeat – An alternative free weekly paper.
Voice of San Diego – A nonprofit, independent online newspaper.
UCSD Guardian – A free student-operated newspaper at the University of California San Diego, published twice a week.
North County Times – A daily paper focusing on issues facing the communities of Northern San Diego County.
San Diego Magazine - A monthly publication.
There are numerous public and private hospitals in San Diego. These range from state funded institutions such as UCSD-Hillcrest and Thorton to private, world-renowned hospitals of Scripps La Jolla and the Children's Hospital. Non-profit Sharp Health Care also owns several hospitals, and has many "Urgent Care" centers for non-serious injuries such as a broken arm (daytime and early evening only). First-rate, world-class medical care can be found at any of these hospitals, as well as interpreters for more than a dozen languages.
San Diego is home to some of the most cutting edge health research in the country. The University of California, San Diego Medical Center is known for it's world class research. Some residents head to Mexico for cheaper health care, but this can be risky, and it would be more wise to use San Diego hospitals and clinics. Many of the institutions have doctors of all nationalities so language may not be a problem for some whose English skills may not be so good.
Smoking is banned in all restaurants, bars, public offices, and other places by order of California law, although smoking is allowed in tobacco shops and in coffee shops where tobacco is sold. There is a county wide ban on smoking in all state parks and there are city wide bans in San Diego, Del Mar, and Solana Beach that forbids smoking on public parks and beaches. El Cajon bans all outdoor smoking in public places. Smoking is also prohibited within 25 feet of any MTS transit station or bus stop, and those caught smoking near transit facilities will face a fine of $75.
Most consulates are honorary which means they offer limited services to travelers and their nationals living in the area and usually available by appointment only. They are typically located in downtown but can be elsewhere too. The nearest cities for additional foreign consulates are in Los Angeles and San Francisco:
Canada (Trade Office), 402 W Broadway Ste 400, ☎ +1 619-615-4286, fax: +1 619-615-4287, e-mail: [email protected]
Denmark (Honorary), 135 Liverpool Drive, Suite C, Cardiff, ☎ +1 760-942-9431, e-mail: [email protected]
Germany (Honorary), 1620 5th Avenue, Suite 500, ☎ +1 619-321-0606, fax: +1 619-744-7463, e-mail: [email protected]
Mexico, 1549 India St, ☎ +1 619-231-8414, fax: +1 619-231-4802.
Netherlands (Honorary), e-mail: [email protected]
Norway (Honorary), 1940 Garnet Avenue, Suite 300, ☎ +1 858-274-3422, e-mail: [email protected]
San Diego is probably the best city in America for making a quick trip to Mexico. Tijuana, which sits directly across the US - Mexico border, can be reached by public transit. The San Diego Trolley's Blue Line provides service from downtown San Diego to the border. The trip on the trolley takes about 45 minutes from downtown. Once you reach the end of the line (San Ysidro), follow the people and signs to the border crossing. It takes less than five minutes from the trolley stop to the border. Once across, it is either a 20-minute walk or a 5-minute cab ride to reach Av. Revolucion, the main tourist shopping street in Tijuana. If you take a car, avoid driving hassles and long waits when returning by parking in pay lots near the border and walking across. This also saves you the added expensive of purchasing Mexican insurance on the US side before you drive into Mexico. Be warned: it is illegal to drive your car or a rental car into Mexico without this type of insurance. Otherwise, taxis, buses, and private car hires are all available. If traveling to Tijuana Airport, the Mexican airline Volaris operates a bus service between that airport and San Diego's Santa Fe Train Depot.
For a delightful, low-key alternative, drive 60 minutes on the American side to the small border crossing of Tecate (home of the Tecate brewery). It's a short walk to the town square. Coming back, the line is usually shorter here at the pedestrian crossing. You can easily combine a trip to the train museum in nearby Campo with a quick trip across the border for lunch!
The greater San Diego County has a lot of smaller, more private beaches to the north (e.g., Del Mar and Encinitas). Del Mar has the largest county fair in the nation (June-early July), and horse racing mid summer to fall, plus November. There are also some great small towns to stay in and explore. Carlsbad, about 30 miles (50 km) north on I-5, is home to the popular Legoland California theme park. Further east, the Imperial Valley and the California Desert give a change of scenery.
Julian is the largest and most popular mountain community in San Diego County. Also, nearby is Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and Palomar Mountain which has a large observatory. Beware, on hot summer days, the mountains are actually warmer than the city (as they're next to the desert).
Temecula Wine Country is located about 60 minutes northeast of San Diego on I-15 and makes a good day trip. There are about 30 wineries (with tasting rooms) fairly close to each other. One hour further is the mountain resort of Idyllwild which features shopping and outdoor activities in an alpine forest.
It's also relatively easy to get up to Los Angeles and other points in Southern California. Interstate 5 extends through the San Joaquin Valley of California, Oregon and Washington to the Canadian border. Although slower, California Route 1 (Highway 1 or Pacific Coast Highway in most of Southern California) and the US Route 101, through the Central Coast, Monterey Bay, and the San Francisco Bay Area, makes for more of a pleasant and fruitful trip. There is no gas/petrol or other services on I-5 between Oceanside and San Clemente for a distance of about 20 miles (32 km). (Entry to Camp Pendleton most often requires a DOD decal or military ID, though you always need commissary privileges to buy fuel.)
There are no boats to Catalina Island (Avalon) within San Diego County. You'll have to go north into neighboring Orange County to the pier at Dana Point. By car, take I-5 to exit #79 Pacific Coast Hwy 1 (make reservations).