89 Interesting Facts about San Diego

Fun and interesting San Diego facts

Below you’ll learn much more about “America’s Finest City” with these fun and interesting facts about San Diego. For even more tidbits, read these facts about California and other cities in the state: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose!

San Diego is California’s oldest settlement, neighbor to Tijuana, and was one of the birthplaces of skateboarding culture.

General San Diego Facts

1. San Diego is the 2nd largest city in the US state of California, after Los Angeles, but ahead of San Jose.

2. San Diego is the southernmost major city in California and is just across the border from Tijuana, Mexico.

3. San Diego is the largest American city on the US-Mexico border, while Tijuana is the largest Mexican city on the US-Mexico border and the country’s 2nd largest city, after Mexico City.

4. With 1.4 million residents, San Diego is the 8th largest city in the United States, putting it between San Antonio, Texas, and Dallas, Texas in terms of population.

5. San Diego is similar in size to Copenhagen, Denmark.

6. The Greater San Diego Area, which includes Chula Vista and Carlsbad, has a population of 3.3 million, making it the 17th largest metropolitan area in the United States, between Minneapolis, Minnesota and Tampa Bay, Florida.

7. San Diego is also the county seat of San Diego County, which occupies the southwestern corner of the state.

The skyline of downtown San Diego, with water fountain in foreground
Downtown San Diego

8. San Diego and Tijuana are sometimes considered one metropolitan area, or a “transborder agglomeration”. This mega city’s total population is around 5 million.

9. Around 8.5% of all Californians live in the Greater San Diego Area.

10. Around ¼ of San Diego residents speak Spanish natively or fluently.

11. San Diego sits at the same latitude as Baghdad, Iraq.

12. The highest temperature ever recorded in San Diego was 111°F (44°C) in 1963, while the lowest was −25°F (−4°C) in 1913.

A grassy park beside a bay in San Diego
Fine weather in San Diego

13. San Diego was originally named San Miguel by a Spanish explorer who sighted the area’s perfect bay in 1542. In 1602, the area was renamed after San Diego de Alcala de Henares, a Spanish missionary associated with the Canary Islands.

14. The official abbreviation for San Diego is SD, while the San Diego International Airport code is SAN.

15. Some common nicknames for San Diego are “Sandy Eggo”, “America’s Finest City”, “Birthplace of California”, and “City in Motion”.

16. The official motto of San Diego is “Semper Vigilans“, which is Latin for “Always Vigilant.”

17. People from San Diego are called San Diegans.

The official San Diego flag
The city flag of San Diego

18. The San Diego flag shows three vertical bars with the colors red, white, and gold- from left to right. The center of the flag features the official seal of San Diego, with the date “1542”, the year Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo claimed the area for Spain.

19. San Diego has 16 sister cities, including Panama City (Panama), Warsaw (Poland), Yokohama (Japan), and Perth (Australia).

Interesting Facts about San Diego Places

20. The San Diego Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the US and is the country’s most visited zoo, with over 4 million guests per year.

21. The zoo sits inside Balboa Park, which dates back to 1835, making it one of the country’s oldest parks. Besides the zoo, it has historic buildings going back to the early 1900s.

A water fountain at Balboa Park in San Diego
Balboa Park, site of the San Diego Zoo

22. The wooden Giant Dipper rollercoaster at Belmont Park in San Diego is one of the few in the country that is a designated National Historic Site.

23. San Diego is famous for its beaches. It has more than 30 beaches on its 70 mi (112 km) of coastline.

24. The tallest building in San Diego is Emerald Plaza, which has 30 floors and stands 450 ft (137 m) tall.

25. Other iconic landmarks in San Diego include the Coronado Bridge (which crosses San Diego Bay to Coronado peninsula and city), Sapphire Tower, Imperial Bank Tower, Geisel Library, and El Cortez Hotel.

26. Some of the trendiest neighborhoods in San Diego are the Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy, Clairemont, and Hillcrest.

Close up of the wooden roller coaster called Giant Dipper at Belmont Park in San Diego
The historic Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park

27. The California Historical Resources Board has registered over 200 sites in San Diego County as historically significant.

28. Old Town San Diego State Historic Park recreates what San Diego would have looked like when the city first developed in the 1800s.

29. San Diego is home to 17 museums, including the San Diego Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and the San Diego Museum of Art.

30. The USS Midway Aircraft Carrier is permanently docked in San Diego Bay and serves as a museum. After it was commissioned right after WWII, it was the largest ship in the world until 1955.

31. One of the city’s most famous historic monuments is the Cabrillo National Monument at the tip of Point Loma, which commemorates the Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landing in San Diego Bay in 1542.

Aerial view of San Diego Bay with the USS Midway ship parked in it and buildings of downtown behind it
The USS Midway in San Diego Bay

32. San Diego County is home to the most small farms of any county in the US and produces the most avocados.

33. The San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park in Escondito, San Diego was the site of the bloodiest battle of the US-Mexico War.

34. San Diego is the only place on the mainland of the US where the endangered Torrey pine tree grows.

35. The San Diego Comic Con holds the record for largest annual comic and pop culture festival in the world.  

San Diego Economy and Society Facts

36. Jack-in-the-Box, the famous American fast food chain, started as a drive-thru hamburger stand in San Diego.

37. Taquitos, which are small rolled-up tacos, were invented in San Diego.

A plate of taquitos
We have San Diego to thank for taquitos

38. The Greater San Diego area has the 17th largest economy in the United States, between the Greater Phoenix, Arizona area and the Greater Denver, Colorado area.

39. San Diego is home to three Fortune 500 companies: Qualcomm, Sempra, and LPL Financial Holdings.

40. There are 12 colleges and universities in San Diego, with the largest being the University of California San Diego and San Diego State University.

41. Around 169,000 unauthorized immigrants are living in San Diego county, with 70% of them from Mexico.

42. San Diego was found to have the 5th largest homeless population in the country.

43. 14.5% of people in San Diego live below the poverty line.

44. San Diego’s crime rate is about half that of Phoenix, Arizona, but double that of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

A white building and tower at San Diego State University
San Diego State University

45. The San Diego International Airport is the 24th busiest airport in the US. It served 12.6 million million passengers in 2021.

46. Fashion Valley Mall is the largest mall in San Diego and one of the largest in the state.

47. San Diego has five billionaires, who have a combined net worth of nearly 15 billion USD.

48. The richest person in San Diego is Gwendolyn Sontheim Meyer, equestrian and granddaughter of the founder of Cargill, with a net worth of 4 billion USD.

49. San Diego is considered one of the most pet-friendly cities in the country and is said to have more dog-friendly restaurants per capita than any city in the country.

Skyscrapers and palm trees in downtown San Diego
Downtown San Diego

50. San Diego has the 7th highest percentage of LGBTQ+ people in the US, at 6.8% of the city’s population.

51. Sixty-one percent of San Diego county residents voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

52. Movies filmed at least partially in San Diego include Top Gun, Almost Famous, Bruce Almighty, and American Sniper.

53. Anchorman was set in San Diego, although it was filmed in Los Angeles. In it, Ron Burgundy famously said “Go F*** Yourself San Diego” on air.

54. TV shows filmed in San Diego include Veronica Mars, Animal Kingdom, Silk Stalkings, and Weeds.

55. San Diego inventions include WD-40, Barbie dolls, Hula Hoops, Egg McMuffins, and the Nicotine Patch.

San Diego Sports Facts

56. San Diego is considered one of the birthplaces of skateboarding and the world’s first skatepark was built there.

57. San Diego has one major professional sports team: The San Diego Padres (MLB).

58. They are one of only two MLB teams in the state, the other being the Los Angeles Angels.

59. The official Padres mascot is the “Swinging Friar”, after the Spanish friars who founded the first mission in San Diego.

Aerial view of Petco Park baseball stadium and Coronado Bridge behind it
Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres

60. San Diego is home to Greg Louganis, Olympic champion in diving, Joanna Zeiger, Olympic champion in triathlon, and Shaun White, who has three Olympic gold medals in snowboarding.

61. More than 60 San Diego athletes competed at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, with medal winners including Michael Andrew, Keegan Palmer, Sky Brown, Jennifer Valente, Xander Schauffele, Brian Burrows and Kelsey Plum.

62. The first modern triathlon was held in Mission Bay, San Diego in 1974.

Other Famous San Diego People

63. Although Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was born in Massachusetts, he lived in San Diego when he wrote books such as The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Green Eggs and Ham.

64. The skateboarding legend Tony Hawk was born in San Diego. Today, his company Birdhouse Skateboards is headquartered in Vista, San Diego.

65. RuPaul, the world’s most famous drag queen, was born in San Diego.

66. Kris Jenner, who married into the famous Kardashian family, was also born in San Diego.

67. Actresses Cameron Diaz, Sarah Roemer, Caity Lotz, and Holly Marie Combs, and actors Adam Driver, Robert Duvall, Nick Cannon, and Adam Brody were born in San Diego.

A mosaic of famous people from San Diego
Famous San Diegans Dr. Seuss, Cameron Diaz, Tony Hawk, Blink 182, Ru Paul, and Ron Burgundy (clockwise from top-left)

68. Musicians Nick Cannon, Nikki Nelson, Abra Moore, and Brianna Cara were born in San Diego.

69. Famous bands from San Diego country include Blink 182, Stone Temple Pilots, Rocket from the Crypt, As I Lay Dying,  Wavves, and Buck-O-Nine.

70. Although he was born in Virginia, Jason Mraz’s musical career took off while he was living in San Diego. He still owns an avocado farm in Oceanside, San Diego County.

71. When Ronald Regan was governor of California, he was the first person to cross the Coronado Bridge in San Diego when it was first opened in 1969.

San Diego History Facts

72. The Kumeyaay people were the original inhabitants of the San Diego area.

73. In September 1542, Spanish explorers sailing under the command of Juan Rodgriguez Cabrillo spotted what is now San Diego. He originally named the area San Miguel Bay.

A whitewashed Spanish church in Old Town San Diego
Spanish architecture at Old Town San Diego

74. In 1602, Sebastián Vizcaíno renamed it the San Diego Bay

75. In 1769 the Spanish established a fort and mission at San Diego, making it the first European settlement in all of California.

76. In 1795, the first public school in San Diego opened.

77. In 1835, San Diego officially became a town (pueblo) under Mexican rule. In the same year, what is now Balboa Park was made a reserve.

78. Following the Mexican-American War, San Diego city was incorporated, just one month after the state’s first city and current capital, Sacramento.

79. The first transcontinental railroad reached San Diego in 1884. Santa Fe Railway began operating a year later.

A sign over the road in San Diego that says Historic Gaslamp Quarter
Gaslamp Quarter

80. In 1887, an electric streetcar line was established between Downtown and Old Town.

81. The San Diego Electric Railway began operating in 1892.

82. In 1925, the Giant Dipper roller coaster was built at Belmont Park.

83. In 1927, the first transatlantic flight (from Long Island, New York to Paris, France) was made with the “Spirit of St. Louis”, which had been built in San Diego.

84. The San Diego International Airport opened in 1928.

85. In 1957, San Diego resident Dr. Seuss published The Cat in the Hat.

86. The first Comic-Con convention was held in San Diego in 1970.

Book cover of The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
The Cat in the Hat was written in San Diego

87. In 1981, the San Diego Trolley began operating.

88. In 2017, the Chicano Park Murals were designated as a National Historic Landmark.

89. In early 2021, one San Diegan was shot and killed by police while she was storming the Whitehouse in Washington D.C.

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