San Diego, California
A City with Access to the Ocean and the Desert
Location / Description
San Diego, located within 20 miles of the Mexican border, and the county seat of San Diego County. It has an excellent natural harbor, which has made it an important shipping and receiving point for Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico's Baja California. It is also headquarters for the 11th U.S. Naval District with major naval and marine training bases also located here.
San Diego has large aerospace, electronic and shipbuilding industries, and is an important center for biomedical research and oceanography. It is also a distributing and processing point for the highly productive Imperial Valley agricultural area to the east.
Because of San Diego's delightful climate, its 17 miles of public, ocean beaches and many historic attractions and proximity to Mexico, many visitors, convention groups, artists and retirees vacation here. Its year-round mild climate, sunny days and warm ocean temperatures make the San Diego coast one of the nation's surfing capitals.
Population / Elevation
1,171,121 people / 13 feet above sea level
Weather / Climate
San Diego is often billed as the only city in the US with a perfect climate. High temperatures rarely exceed 77 degrees and low temperatures rarely dip below 50 degrees. With slightly more than 10 inches of rainfall annually, San Diego has many days of sunshine to enjoy its famous beaches and the warmest ocean waters along the California coast.
|San Diego, California - Monthly Climate Normals|
Camping & RV Parks
There are many commercial and public locations for camping and RVs in and around San Diego, including numerous beach parks.
For a complete list contact:
San Diego International Visitors Information Center
11 Horton Plaza
San Diego, CA 92101
San Diego, the 6th largest city in the US, is located on the site of the first European settlement in California. Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo sailed into San Diego Bay in 1542 and claimed the land for Spain. It was almost 200 years later that Gaspar de Portola and a group of Spanish settlers founded a military out post on what is now Presidio Hill in 1769. At the same time, Franciscan friar Junipero Serra founded Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, the first of the chain of 21 California Spanish Missions.
After Mexico achieved independence in 1821, San Diego, as well as the rest of present day California, became part of Mexico. By 1830 most of the people were living in what is now Old Town. An Alcalde or Mayor was the head of the local government. Population at this time was sparse. The Mission and surrounding ranches dominated the San Diego landscape.
The 1846 Battle of San Pasqual, the major battle in California, was fought in the Lake Hodges-San Pasqual area. Following the victory of the United States in the War, the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848 ceded the areas of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas from Mexico to the United States. With the discovery of gold in Northern California in 1848, the population of California quickly increased. This increase in the number of citizens soon qualified the territory for statehood. California was admitted to the Union in 1850.
San Diego was incorporated as a city March 27, 1850. The first City government consisted of a Common Council with 5 members and a Mayor, City Marshall, City Attorney, City Clerk, City Assessor and City Treasurer. All were elected to their positions. Other officials were appointed by the Common Council. However, after only two years the City was bankrupt and the State dissolved the government, replacing it with a 3-member Board of Trustees.
The State held control of the government until 1877 when the voters of San Diego adopted a new Charter. This document replaced the Board of Trustees with a Mayor-Council form of government. The city's population surged when the Santa Fe Railroad arrived in 1884, and another Charter was adopted in 1889. This Charter, with modifications, was maintained until 1931, when it was once again revised.
Development in San Diego was slow for most of the first century of California statehood, but the Second World War brought the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet to San Diego and the city has been growing ever since. Later, other branches of the military established bases here. In the 1950s, this concentration of military installations gave rise to San Diego's booming aerospace industry, which has experienced some decline since the 1970s but remains central to the local economy. The diversification of San Diego's economic base contributed to its rapid growth during the 1980s, when its downtown witnessed an urban revitalization effort that included Horton Plaza, an expansive shopping mall that won acclaim for its dramatic architecture. The first line of an extensive trolley system opened in 1986.
Today, San Diego's excellent natural harbor is a busy commercial port and a hub of U.S. naval operations. However, the naval training center at San Diego is slated to be closed due to defense cutbacks. Other leading industries are electronics, aerospace and missiles, medical and scientific research, oceanography, and agriculture. Its magnificent climate and proximity to Mexico have made tourism a significant part of the city's economy.
San Diego is both a modern metropolis, with the accompanying cultural advantages, as well as a year-round resort. The Pacific Ocean, the Borrego Desert, the Cuyamaca Mountains and Tijuana, Mexico are all within an hour's drive.
San Diego is the seat of the Univ. of California at San Diego, San Diego State University, United States International Univ., the Univ. of San Diego, Electronic Technical Institute, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences.
Balboa Park near downtown contains a fine art gallery, several museums (including an aerospace, anthropology and natural history museum), and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Some buildings from the Panama-California International Exposition (1915-6) and the California Pacific International Exposition (1935-36) remain, and there is also a spectacular aquatic park.
Cabrillo National Monument and the restored Mission San Diego de Alcalá are also major attractions.. The first of the California Spanish Missions, it was founded July 16, 1769 by Father Junipero Serra at Presidio Hill. Moved to its present site in 1774, it was destroyed by earthquakes in 1803 and 1812 and later rebuilt. A visitor center provides tapes for tours. It's open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Parts of Old Town are now a state historical park. Jack Murphy Stadium is home for the city's professional baseball and football teams. The San Diego Yacht Club, representing the United States, won the America's Cup in 1987 and successfully defended it in 1988 and 1992. The city also has an international airport.
The construction of Mission Bay Park in the 1960s added to San Diego's reputation as a center for watersports. Now, in addition to surfing, swimming and boating, jet skiing, kayaking, windsurfing and snorkeling are popular activities in this paradise of sun, water and southwestern culture.
San Diego Backcountry Recreation Map
- March: St. Patrick's Day parade.
- April: San Diego Crew Classic.
- May: Cinco de Mayo celebration.
- August: Miramar Naval Air Show.
- September: APA Thunderbolt Gold Cup Races.
- November: Dixieland Jazz Festival.
December: Holiday Bowl football game.
Cities & Towns
- Escondido, California: 30 miles northwest.
- Oceanside, California: 39 miles north.
- Los Angeles, California: 125 miles north.
- Yuma, Arizona: 177 miles east.
- Julian, California: 60 miles east.
- Borrego Springs, California: 80 miles east.
Parks & Monuments
- Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: 80 miles east.
- Balboa Park (within the city)
- Mission Bay Aquatic Park (within the city)
- Old Town San Diego State Historic Park (within the city)
- Cabrillo National Monument (within the city)
- Mission Trails Regional Park (within the city)
- Cuyamaca Rancho State Park: 50 miles east.
- San Pasqual Battlefield State Park: 35 miles northwest.
- Palomar Mountain State Park: 55 miles northwest.
- Agua Caliente/Vallecito County Parks: 98 miles east.
Wilderness & Recreation Areas
- Silver Strand State Beach: 5 miles west.
- Carlsbad State Beach: 30 miles north.
- Cardiff State Beach: 25 miles north
- Torrey Pines State Beach/Reserve: 20 miles north.
- Cleveland National Forest: 30 miles west.
Historic & Points of Interest
- Wild Animal Park: 30 miles north.
- Stephen Birch Aquarium: 20 miles north.
- Legoland California: 30 miles north.
- Maritime Museum of San Diego (within the city)
- Junipero Serra Museum (within the city)
- Sea World (within the city)
- Balboa Park (within the city)
- San Diego Zoo
- San Diego Museum of Art
- San Diego Museum of Man
- San Diego Natural History Museum
- Ruben H. Fleet Space Theater & Science Center
- Museum of San Diego History
- San Diego Aerospace Museum
- San Diego Model Railroad Museum
Related DesertUSA Pages
- How to Turn Your Smartphone into a Survival Tool
- 26 Tips for Surviving in the Desert
- Your GPS Navigation Systems
May Get You Killed
- 7 Smartphone Apps to Improve Your Camping Experience
- Desert Survival Skills
- Successful Search & Rescue Missions with Happy Endings
- How to Keep Ice Cold in the Desert
Survival Tips for Horse and Rider
an Emergency Survival Kit
Share this page on Facebook:
DesertUSA Newsletter -- We send articles on hiking, camping and places to explore, as well as animals, wildflower reports, plant information and much more. Sign up below or read more about the DesertUSA newsletter here. (It's Free.)
Click here to see current desert temperatures!