Welcome to San Diego

San Diego is the seventh largest city in U.S., and the second largest city in California. San Diego is a great place to live, work, play and visit. Although it was the site of the first mission in California, the city only really took off with the arrival of the Santa Fe Railroad in the 1880s, and in terms of trade and significance it has long been in the shadow of Los Angeles but it's also easygoing and far from smug. However, during World War II the US Navy made San Diego its Pacific Command Center, and the military continues to dominate the local economy, along with tourism.

Within its borders of 4,200 sq. miles, San Diego County encompasses 18 incorporated cities and numerous other charming neighborhoods and communities, including downtown's historic Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy, Coronado, La Jolla, Del Mar, Carlsbad, Escondido, La Mesa, Hillcrest, Barrio Logan, Chula Vista and more. San Diego is a big city, where locals take pride in its small-town feel. With more than 1.3 million people living within the city limits and more than 2.8 million residents countywide. San Diego is second only to Los Angeles in population among California cities and ranks as the seventh-largest municipality in the United States.

San Diego, occupying the southwest corner of California combines perfect climate, sunshine year-round, miles of white-sand beaches, world class dining, laid-back friendliness, history and Hispanic culture, and family-oriented outdoor entertainment at SeaWorld and the world-famous San Diego Zoo are enough to draw 14 million visitors annually to "America's finest city." Most days are sunny, averaging 70°F and humidity is low. The cool coastal climate is ideal for the area's most colorful industry -- flower growing. Summer temperatures frequently reach 100°F inland, particularly at the Wild Animal Park near Escondido; even so, nights are cool enough to make it a good idea to have a sweater or jacket handy.

But there's more than meets the eye here. If you look beyond the obvious, you'll discover why many longtime vacationers eventually become residents, and why residents have a hard time ever moving. Along the west, 70 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline supports year-round outdoor recreation, such as surfing, boating, sailing and swimming. San Diego County also features 92 golf courses and a variety of exciting participatory and spectator sports, beachfront hotels & resorts and luxury spas, gaming, a dynamic downtown district, annual special events and unique holiday offerings, multicultural festivals and celebrations. The San Diego Convention Center is located on sparkling San Diego Bay in the heart of a vibrant downtown and was recently named one of the top three convention centers in the world.

San Diego's arts and culture and culinary arts are making a name for themselves, both nationally and internationally. Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in the U.S., features 15 museums, numerous art galleries, beautiful gardens, the Tony Award-winning The Globe Theatres and the World-Famous San Diego Zoo. The region is also a breeding ground for the hottest, new talents of culinary arts, who prepare award-winning meals in many of the region's 6,400 eating establishments.

Central San Diego is delightfully urban and accessible. You can walk the entire downtown area -- explore the exciting and trendy Gaslamp Quarter, stop and shop at whimsical Horton Plaza, dine Italian, hear a rock band, attend a play, take a sunset harbor stroll, picnic in the park, or visit a historic building. Downtown you can catch the trolley or take the bus to the Balboa Park museums and the zoo, Old Town historic sites, Mission Bay marine park, Qualcomm Stadium, diverse urban neighborhoods, and Tijuana.

In San Diego's North County, the land produces quantities of flowers as well as quality grapes that become excellent wines, which are served at some of the most elegant restaurants and resorts in the region. Along the west, 70 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline not only supports year-round outdoor recreation, such as surfing, boating, sailing and swimming,but also important scientific research at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Hiking and camping territory lie inland, where a succession of long, low, chaparral-covered mesas are punctuated with deep-cut canyons that step up to savanna-like hills, separating the verdant coast from the arid Anza-Borrego Desert. Unusually clear skies make the inland countryside ideal for stargazing.

In San Diego's East County, the terrain varies from gentle foothills to mile-high mountains and the historic mining town, Julian, down to the 600,000-acre Anza Borrego Desert State Park, offering nature-conscious visitors endless opportunities to hike, camp, fish, observe wildlife and much more. You'll find reminders of San Diego's Spanish and Mexican heritage throughout the region -- in architecture and place-names, in distinctive Mexican cuisine, and in a handful of historic buildings in Old Town. The San Diego area, the birthplace of California, was claimed for Spain by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542. The first European community, Mission Alta California, was established here in 1769, when a small group of settlers and soldiers set up camp on what is now called Presidio Hill. Franciscan Father Junípero Serra, leader of the settlers, celebrated the first Mass here in July of that year, establishing the Mission San Diego de Alcala, the first of the 21 missions built by Spanish friars in California. San Diego, along with the rest of California, ultimately came under Mexican rule before entering the United States as the 31st state in 1850.

In 1867 developer Alonzo Horton, who called the town's bay-front "the prettiest place for a city I ever saw," began building a hotel, a plaza, and prefab homes on 960 downtown acres. The city's fate was sealed in 1908 when the U.S. Navy's battleship fleet sailed into San Diego Bay. The military continues to contribute to the local economy, operating many bases and installations throughout the county; San Diego is home to the largest military complex in the world. San Diego has taken an orderly approach to inevitable development with the adoption of a general plan to run through the year 2020. More than 50 projects are under way or on the drawing board for downtown, including a new ballpark for the Padres, several hotels, and the creation of plazas, parks, and promenades along the waterfront.

Links between the south-of-the-border communities of Tijuana and Ensenada continue to strengthen. More than 50 million people cross the border at San Ysidro annually, indicative of the two-nation nature of San Diego. In recent years Tijuana has grown into one of the biggest, most exciting cities in Mexico. You'll discover a sophisticated, pulsating city marked with excellent restaurants, trendy bars and discos, chic boutiques, discount malls, sports-betting parlors, broad boulevards congested with traffic, and new high-rise hotels.

Without question, San Diego is one of the warmest and most appealing destinations in the United States. As you explore, you'll make your own discoveries that will lead you to agree with most locals that this corner of California is just this side of paradise.