San Diego is a resort city in the state of California standing on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, near the border with Mexico. It resembles an American dream - unbelievable, but achievable. After all, San Diego is one of the top-25 cities where, according to National Geographic, the happiest people in America live. Many other ratings and lists claim that this is a city of lucky people and one of the best for life. What else can you say after that? The sun shines here 320 days a year, and the weather is always great — without exhausting heat and heavy rains. In San Diego, well-being and measured life prevail, and its ancient parks and modern entertainments compete with the best ones in the world. Wide snow-white beaches, emerald hills and the picturesque bay of La Jolla annually attract lovers of different kinds of recreation.
Districts of San Diego
Mission Beach and Pacific beach are hangouts for youth and students.
Old Town is the historical part of the city where the first European settlement in California was once located.
Point Loma and Ocean Beach are renowned for their beaches and beautiful cityscapes.
La Mesa is popular with the Slavonic people because it is home to a large Russian-speaking community.
Map San Diego
People in this city know not only how to relax, but to enjoy life. The sights of San Diego are diverse. They bring aesthetic pleasure from ancient architecture and parks, gastronomic — from a variety of dishes, cultural — from a diversity of museums, adrenaline — from bright emotions in the best amusement parks, nightlife, and conquering the waves of the Pacific Ocean. The mix of cultures has also given the city many unique and vibrant attractions.
Sixty years later, the Spanish navigator, merchant, and cartographer —Sebastian Vizcaino — entered these waters. After he had served on the shore to honor Saint San Diego (patron saint of his ship), he renamed the land after him.
The colonization of San Diego started in 1769 when another expedition established a fort and a Catholic mission here. It was the first settlement of Europeans and the largest mission in California, with about 1400 baptized Indians living there by the end of the XVIII century.
In 1821, San Diego became part of the newly declared Mexican Empire, which was transformed into the First Mexican Republic two years later. The fort was abandoned, but the city began to grow by the hill. By 1830, however, the population had rapidly declined, and the city lost its status, with approximately 100-150 people living there at the time.
As a result of the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, the territory of California, including San Diego, was transferred by Mexico to the United States under the terms and conditions of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
When California was admitted to the United States in 1850, San Diego became the administrative center of the namesake district. It looked like an upfront action since the city had only 650 inhabitants. The city's location well away from navigable waters was one of the problems that limited its growth.
The merchant named William Heath Davis came up with the idea of creating a bayside town called "New San Diego", a few miles south of the original settlement. Together with his supporters, he bought 160 acres of land where they later laid the streets, built a large berth and a warehouse. The locals called the project "New Town" and "Madness of Davis". At first, the enterprise failed due to a lack of freshwater and hostility from the residents of the old settlements. It wasn't until 1867 that the project became a reality.
New San Diego grew and soon outshined the Old City, becoming an economic and governmental center. However, it remained a kind of backwater town until the arrival of the railway in 1878.
San Diego's strategic location during the Spanish-American War (1898) led to the development of naval infrastructure. And World War I finally oriented the city towards the development of the military-industrial complex for the next few decades.
Two major international exhibitions marked the beginning of the XX century for the city. It was the Panama-California in 1915-1916 and the California-Pacific in 1935-1936.
During World War II, San Diego became a major center of military and defense activities due to the presence of facilities and production of military equipment. As a result, the city's population grew rapidly. If in 1930 its population had been about 148 thousand people, by 1950 it had already grown to 333,865 citizens.
In the last months of the war, the Japanese planned to attack several cities in the United States, starting with San Diego. The plan was called "Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night" and involved the creation of kamikaze planes filled with infected fleas. They had to crash into residential buildings in the city to spread the plague and kill tens of thousands of civilians. The execution was scheduled for September 22, 1945, but, fortunately, it was not implemented because Japan had surrendered earlier.
In the postwar years, the local economy continued to depend on the military and aerospace industries, which had suffered severe damage since the end of the Cold War. The city reoriented on scientific research and tourism, but at the same time, it had the largest U.S. naval base.
For more than half of the XX century, San Diego had been considered to be the world capital of tuna fishing. However, due to the increasing costs and foreign competition, the last of the canning companies were closed in the early 1980s.
Before the trip, you should calculate the approximate budget that you will require for the travel:
The best time to come to San Diego
Summer is the best time to go to San Diego for a beach holiday. It is quite comfortable to explore the numerous attractions in winter as well.
As for cultural events, there are plenty of them in the city at any time of year.
The middle of April is marked by the beautiful retro festival La Jolla Concours D'Elegance. One of the most beautiful bays of San Diego — La Jolla — seems to be transported to an elegant time of the middle of the last century. Hundreds of cars from the 50s and 60s can be seen on the coast, and visitors to La Jolla Concours D'Elegance try to match the vintage style of the event in their outfits. Local restaurants prepare a special menu for the occasion.
Thanks to the famous international festival Comic-Con, the end of July is especially fun in the city. It started in 1970 and is dedicated to comic books and the whole cosplay culture. More than 700 events are held during just four days, including a film festival, presentations of new comics, T.V. series, films, and computer games. This is a real chance for film fans to meet their icons. Comic-Con International is accompanied by a carnival procession of heroes from comic books and film characters. Moreover, they arrange a traditional cosplay competition. This festival can be considered to be the forerunner of such events all over the world.
The Beer Festival is also among the most popular events in San Diego. It is held in mid-September and is accompanied by folk celebrations, competitions, entertainment, and gastronomic events. It features charitable activities for children and medical foundations, and the local citizens are happy to participate. Such peculiarity of the local culture is appealing to foreign tourists, who also take part in various charitable actions.
All beaches in San Diego are clean, well-equipped, and not too crowded, as they stretch for tens of kilometers. The best of them include Coronado Beach, suitable for vacationing with children as it is protected from the waves of the ocean by the peninsula Point Loma; surfers love Ocean Beach for its diverse outdoor activities; La Jolla Beach offers a picturesque coastline and charming seals chilling on the sand.
The water in the ocean on the coast of San Diego does not get warmer than +20 °C. Therefore, if you come on a long-term vacation, it makes sense to choose a hotel on the coast with a good pool.
It is worth renting a car only if you plan frequent trips out of the town. Frequent traffic jams make it challenging to travel by car within a metropolitan area. Those who have less than one year of driving experience can be rejected for renting a car.
It is convenient to travel around the city by San Diego Trolley express trams, which can take you to any neighborhood. But it's better not to go anywhere during rush hours, as transport can be crowded.
What should a tourist do in San Diego?
- Visit the San Diego Zoo. There are 3700 animals of about 650 species living in an area of about 40 hectares. The zoo is fascinating with its collection of plants. For example, it grows more than 40 species of bamboo to feed the giant pandas. You can visit using the sightseeing bus or in a gondola. The San Diego Zoo is considered to be the most progressive and largest in the world, and its animals live there without enclosures.
- Admire the scale of a unique museum-ship. The aircraft carrier "Midway" participated in the Vietnam War, had been a part of the American fleet for 47 years, and since 1998 became a museum ship. Its length is almost 300 meters, and its crew was 4 500 people. It could hold up to 100 airplanes and used about 40,000 liters of fuel per day.
- Try catching a wave as surfing is the most popular entertainment in San Diego. The coast is famous for its waves, perfect for beginners. Experienced instructors will help you master your skills in this surfing adventure.
- Visit the famous SeaWorld oceanarium, the largest in California. Here, in an open aquarium, you can feed the stingrays by hands, see the Red Garra fish and bamboo sharks. The giant orcas are the leading celebrities of the aquarium. The show where they perform as artists is extremely popular. Mind that you won't be able to stay dry during the performance.
- Enjoy a stroll in the old Balboa Park. It will take several days to see all its sights, as it occupies an area of 40 hectares. It is one of the oldest parks in the United States. Here you shall find a mirror pond, a botanic garden, museums, theaters, restaurants, historical buildings with fine open-work Spanish architecture, a village of artists. In addition, street musicians are never tired to entertain visitors with their play.
- Head to the homeland of cacti and tequila in Mexico. It will take you less than an hour to reach the Mexican border town of Tijuana from San Diego. Tourists with American visas can quickly get to Mexico. It's as simple as crossing from one side of the street to another. But be ready to stand in a line and pass a passport control on the way back to the United States. These security measures are due to many illegals with fake passports and drug dealers. Americans like to come to Mexico because the prices for meds and dental services here are much lower than in the United States. And you can also eat delicious and cheap food in local restaurants.
- Build an "architectural construction" on the beach or take a private lesson from a sand sculptor. This is an incredibly fascinating activity. The San Diego Sand Sculpture Festival is one of the most famous in California and the USA.
- Get acquainted with the seals that live on La Jolla beach. These sweet marine animals are quite friendly and treat their humans are their neighbors naturally. But despite this, there are warning signs on the beach that animals should not be petted, even if they let you get close to them and seem to be in contact.
- Spend the whole day on the snow-white beach of Coronado Island, which is among the top-10 best in the U.S., but it's not the only thing that makes CoronadoIsland famous. Here, at the Hotel Del Coronado, Frank Baum wrote the world-famous fairy-tale "The Wizard of Oz", Marilyn Monroe played the role of Sugar in the movie "Some Like It Hot" and the Prince of Wales met a divorced American and refused the throne for love to her. Almost all U.S. presidents of the last century stayed here. You don't have to check in to see the hotel, and you can just take a tour.
- Relax in the historic amusement Belmont Park, located on the beach. It was founded in 1925 by sugar magnate John Spreckels. It still has the old attractions that were installed when it was opened —"Giant Dipper" and a roller coaster. There are over eight restaurants and cafes in the park. Flow Barrel is the most renowned among them.