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Celebrate San Diego’s 250th Birthday


July marks the 250 year anniversary of San Diego, California. The first European settlers to arrive on the west coast sailed into San Diego Bay in 1542, naming the land Alta California, where it became the starting point for explorations into the wider state.

The first of 21 California missions, Mission San Diego de Alcala, was founded on 16 July, 1979 in what is now known as Old Town San Diego, establishing the city as it’s known today.

The city has a series of events through to October to celebrate the city’s anniversary.

San Diego 250, Where California Began: 16 July

San Diego Old Town Presidio
San Diego Old Town Presidio Park

Presidio Park kicks-off the 250 year anniversary celebrations with a special ceremony featuring an unveiling of the new Kumeyaay Native American flag and a VIP tour of the new exhibits at the Junipero Serra Museum. Visitors will also enjoy free live entertainment and traditional San Diegan refreshments.

Founders’ Day Old Town San Diego: 14-15 September

The free Founders’ Day Old Town Festival in September will continue the anniversary festivities, with live local entertainment, street food vendors and fun activities for the whole family.

Taste + Tequila Old Town: 3 October

This annual culinary event brings together the city’s best Mexican restaurants and bars. Each ticket includes a shot of tequila, speciality cocktail and small plate samples at each participating restaurants. Tickets start from $28 per person.

Old Town Trolley Bus
Old Town Trolley Bus

Top 5 Attractions in and around San Diego

With year-round sunshine, beautiful beaches, delicious cuisine and world-class attractions, San Diego is the SOCAL city that has it all. Top five things to see and do throughout the year:

  1. Balboa Park: The largest urban park in the USA, Balboa Park is the heart of San Diego. Home to 17 museums, a number of manicured gardens and the world-famous San Diego Zoo, it’s easy to spend hours exploring all that the park has to offer. Visitors can also catch a musical, ballet, comedy or puppet show at one of ten performing arts stages.
  2. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Park: 1,500 acres make up the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, one of the wildest stretches of land in southern California. Located on the cliffs above Torrey Pines State Beach, there are eight miles of hiking trails to enjoy, as well as wildlife and over 3,000 pinus torreyana trees – the nation’s rarest pine.
  3. Liberty Public Market: Head to Liberty Public Market (an old navy base turned hipster market to be seen at) to purchase everything from fresh baked sea goods to homemade gifts. During the weekdays, many of the stalls offer happy hours so bargain hunters can buy food and drink at discounted prices. The market also holds regular live music events and craft workshops.
  4. La Jolla: Often referred to as the jewel by the sea, this hilly seaside and affluent community, set within the city of San Diego, is one of the most popular beach destinations in California. La Jolla occupies seven miles of curving coastline boasting incredible views and offers a variety of accommodation, restaurants and outdoor activity, including surfing and stand-up paddle boarding.
  5. Tijuana, Mexico: Not in San Diego nor even in California, but TJ (as the locals call it) is only a short 30-minute drive across the border and well worth a day trip. Travellers can soak up the dynamic and vibrant culture at the many museums and galleries; grab a beer on the top floor bar of a downtown car park, sample authentic Mexican cuisine at the Telefonica Gastro Park or a fresh salad at Caesar’s.

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Mark Bibby Jackson

Mark Bibby Jackson

Before setting up Travel Begins at 40, Mark was the publisher of AsiaLIFE Cambodia and a freelance travel writer. When he is not packing and unpacking his travelling bag, Mark writes novels, including To Cook A Spider and Peppered Justice. He loves walking, eating, tasting beer, isolation and arthouse movies, as well as talking to strangers on planes, buses and trains whenever possible. Most at home when not at home.

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