Best Events in San Diego History
San Diego is a great place to live. Beneath sunny skies and amid gorgeous beaches, the city appeals to a variety of residents and visitors. Nature lovers can flock to the Pacific Ocean or participate in numerous outdoor activities. Foodies can lose themselves among all the world-class dining options. From museums to sports, San Diego attracts a wide spectrum of people.
Visitors who come for the city’s entertainment could find themselves staying when they experience the community’s strong ties. This sense of unity springs from its long history that stretches back to prehistoric times. San Diego’s character has shone through in times of struggle and triumph.
This article will guide you through the best events in San Diego’s history. If you already live here, then you might learn something new about your home. If you don’t live here, the area’s history may entice you to visit – and maybe stay.
1542: The Cabrillo Landing
The people of the La Jolla complex were San Diego’s first inhabitants. The coastal culture was eventually joined by Yuman groups known as the Kumeyaay. They flourished in the area, planting roots in places like Mission Valley, San Clemente Canyon, and Sorrento Valley.
The first European to explore California, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, landed in the area on September 28, 1542. The landing site was designated a California Historic Landmark in 1932 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
The Cabrillo National Monument stands on the tip of the Point Loma Peninsula to mark the occasion. The Cabrillo Festival Open House observes the event each year with a reenactment of his landing and other cultural festivities.
Cabrillo’s landing ignited a wave of colonization that raised the area to new heights.
1602: San Diego Gets Its Name
Sebastián Vizcaíno, a Spanish explorer, was tasked with mapping the California coastline. On November 10, 1602, his mission took him to the soon-to-be-named San Diego bay and the surrounding area. His flagship was named after its patron saint San Diego de Alcala.
After spending time with the friendly locals, he thought the area demonstrated promise as a potential colony site. It would take 167 years for colonization to begin, but when it did, the region lived up to Vizcaíno’s expectations.
1850: California’s Admittance, San Diego’s Ascension
Years of strife eventually led to a peace that saw monumental changes in the area. The United States granted California statehood on September 9, 1850. The same year, San Diego was incorporated as a city and named the county seat.
At the time, San Diego County encompassed all of California south and east of Los Angeles County, making it one of the most influential areas in the southwestern United States.
1867: San Diego’s Renewal
When Alonzo Horton, a real estate developer, visited San Diego in 1867, he saw a land waiting to explode with life. Opportunities beckoned. They just needed a spark.
Horton built a wharf and began to develop the area, hoping entrepreneurs and residents would flock to his “New Town.”
His efforts initiated a boom that saw the city’s business and population increase. Among his achievements were his efforts to create a central park for the community to enjoy. The 1,200-acre Balboa Park is one of the country’s most prestigious recreational parks. Home to numerous museums, gardens, and other attractions, the park is one of San Diego’s proudest accomplishments.
1911: “Tuna Capital of the World”
With its prime location on the Pacific coast, San Diego has been the focal point for maritime interest for hundreds of years. After all, it’s why Sebastián Vizcaíno thought it a good spot to colonize.
In 1911, the Pacific Tuna Canning Company opened, becoming the city’s first tuna cannery. Other canneries soon followed, earning San Diego the moniker of “Tuna Capital of the World.”
1915-1917: Hosting a World’s Fair
You might find it difficult to believe that there was a time when countries were literally a world apart. Technology has united us, giving us constant glimpses into other cultures. Learning about other countries’ feats is just a few clicks away.
In the early 20th Century, the news took much longer to travel – if you were lucky to receive it at all. World’s fairs were held to bridge the distance between nations. Countries from all over the globe demonstrated their scientific advancements. These events also served as cultural exchanges, opening the world up for many people who only knew their neighborhood.
San Diego played host to the Panama–California Exposition from January 1, 1915, to January 1, 1917. The two-year expo honored the newly-opened Panama Canal, which connected the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Balboa Park was the site for tasty concessions, exciting amusement rides, a replica of the Panama Canal, and many more exhibits.
Many buildings built for the Panama–California Exposition still stand to this day. For example, the Balboa Park Club uses the New Mexico State Building. The Santa Fe Depot Baggage Building also underwent a name change and currently serves the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. If you walk through Balboa Park, you can experience the wonder visitors felt over 100 years ago.
1925: Belmont Park
John D. Spreckels must have been impressed by the public’s reactions to the Panama–California Exposition. The sugar magnate had previously founded the San Diego Electric Railway and improved upon the city’s transportation infrastructure. On July 4, 1925, he opened what he hoped to be one of the city’s crown jewels.
Originally named the “Mission Beach Amusement Center,” Belmont Park remains one of California’s best-loved amusement parks. The park’s main attraction is the Giant Dipper, a roller coaster that has been in use since 1925.
Although their spirits were high with so many recreation options at their disposal, San Diego citizens and visitors were about to face a harsh reality. The Great Depression was just around the corner. Industries and livelihoods were going to be devastated. San Diego was not excluded from the fallout. But the city did not play the victim either.
1935-1936: Another World’s Fair
Held on the site of the earlier Panama–California Exposition, the California Pacific International Exposition was San Diego’s attempt to jump-start its fading economy. The country’s Great Depression swept over the nation, sparing no one. San Diego leaders sought to fight against the tide.
Their struggle paid off.
Originally meant to last one year, the California Pacific International Exposition was such a success that its duration was stretched another year.
Over twenty countries participated in the event. Despite presenting cultural, scientific, historical, and industrial exhibits, this world’s fair had a slightly different bent than the one before. Attempting to provide a distraction from a financially-despairing world, the expo offered entertaining diversions like the Hollywood Motion Picture Hall of Fame and Zoro Garden Nudist Colony. It was definitely a different experience.
A few structures built for the event still stand. You can visit the San Diego Automotive Museum, which was the California State Building. The San Diego Air & Space Museum is in the former Ford Building.
San Diego is a rare place where you can find so many layers of history in one location.
1949: San Diego Looks to the Stars
Astronomer George Ellery Hale had a vision. He wanted the public to be able to learn about the universe. Advancing his mission meant building the world’s largest telescope, something he had done four times before.
This one would be different.
Hale wanted this telescope to be the standard for decades to come. He meant for it to unlock all of the galaxy’s mysteries.
Although finished in 1939, Palomar Observatory housed the incomplete Hale Telescope. The mirror was eventually manufactured and installed in 1949. True to Hale’s wishes, the telescope was the world’s largest – until 1976. The astronomer, unfortunately, passed away in 1938.
Although he only saw the fruits of his vision in his mind, millions of people have marveled at the telescope’s stellar discoveries. From quasars to new asteroids, the Hale Telescope continues to keep San Diego’s eyes glued to the stars.
1951: Can I Take Your Order?
After World War II, America was on the move. Forgoing the rails for highways, Americans sped from place to place in convenience and style.
San Diego native Robert O. Peterson opened a drive-in restaurant called “Topsy’s” in 1941. His business was successful enough for him to open several other locations throughout the area.
Peterson made history in 1951 by converting one of his locations into a drive-through restaurant. This location was the first to make a drive-through window and intercom system a primary ingredient to feeding the masses. Peterson renamed his innovative chain “Jack in the Box.”
When you eat one of their mouthwatering burgers, you are biting into food history.
With the advent of television, viewers were exposed to new sights and sounds. Dramas, sitcoms, and newscasts were broadcast to millions of people transfixed by the emerging medium. The popularity of sports exploded. Football and baseball fought for small-screen dominance in homes across the country.
In 1961, the American Football League team, the Los Angeles Chargers relocated to San Diego’s Balboa Stadium. The team quickly became a cherished piece of San Diego culture.
The Chargers defeated the Boston Patriots to win the American Football League Championship in 1963.
When the American Football League and National Football League merged, the San Diego Chargers were poised to continue their winning ways. After earning fourteen division championships and a conference victory, the Chargers moved back to Los Angeles in 2016. Their reign in “America’s Finest City” might be a memory but their legacy reverberates to this day.
1965: The Beatles Come to Town
The Beatles only toured for six of their ten-year existence. They only played San Diego once. On August 28, 1965, John, Paul, George, and Ringo played to thousands of adoring fans at Balboa Stadium. The occasion might have seemed like a simple concert at the time, but given their current legendary status, the show is a piece of San Diego history.
1969: A Home Run
Minor League Baseball team, the San Diego Padres, received the chance of a lifetime when they were invited into Major League Baseball in 1969. The team struggled to find its place at the top of the competition until 1984.
The Padres won the National League Pennant in 1984, beginning a Division-dominating history that stretches into the 21st Century. With two Pennant and five West Division titles to their credit, the San Diego Padres consistently show fans they are one of the most reliable baseball teams in the country.
1970: Super San Diego
The inaugural Golden State Comic Book Convention took place in San Diego. It was a small gathering of comic book and science fiction fans. Its popularity exponentially increased each year it was held.
The event eventually relocated to the San Diego Convention Center. Now known as “San Diego Comic-Con” or simply “Comic-Con,” the fan fest attracts hundreds of thousands of attendees per year. Its status among geeks is even more impressive given its humble origin five decades ago.
1996: Playing Host
The San Diego Convention Center hosted the 1996 Republican National Convention. The event was San Diego’s first national political convention. Millions of eyes fell upon the “Birthplace of California” to watch Senator Bob Dole and Jack Kemp become the Republican nominees for U.S. President and Vice-President.
San Diego beat New Orleans, New York City, and San Antonio to host the event. Their victory brought positive attention to the city and its people.
Create Your Own History
If you’re ready to live in an area rich with tradition, then Move Central Moving & Storage can help you arrive where you belong. Whether you need local or long-distance moving, our comprehensive services can get you into your new home quickly and confidently. Affordable packing and storage solutions can make your transition a memorable one.
Please contact us and let us know what we can do for you. We look forward to connecting your bright future with a deep past.