Though the beaches, beautiful skyline, and ideal climate may play a large role in defining the character of San Diego, the city’s true essence and diverse culture has been shaped significantly by a rich history and the influence of Spanish and Mexican heritage.

Learn more about the history and heritage in San Diego as you explore the landmarks and attractions that represent its past and show its impressive growth.

Interesting Facts About San Diego’s History

The more you discover about the history and heritage in San Diego, the more you can enjoy your vacation and understand what makes this area so fascinating.

  • Although San Diego wasn’t officially founded until the 1700s, the San Diego Bay was initially observed by a Portuguese explorer in 1542 who ended up naming it San Miguel. It was later renamed at the beginning of the 1600s.
  • Old Town San Diego was the first location on the West Coast to be settled by the Spanish, triggering the colonization of California. It’s also where the first Spanish mission was constructed.
  • When the Coronado Bridge was opened in 1969, the first person to drive across it was Ronald Reagan.
  • The only roller coaster to be recognized on the National Register of Historic Places is located in Mission Beach and is known as the Giant Dipper.
  • San Diego was home to the country’s first drive-in restaurant.
  • The Hotel del Coronado was built in 1888 and is the oldest wooden structure in the United States.

Top Historical Sites

These sites will give you the opportunity to go back in time and experience San Diego history.

  • Old Town San Diego Historic Park: As part of the area where San Diego was first discovered, Old Town San Diego Historic Park is a must-see if you’re curious about its history. There are original adobe houses still standing here, as well as a blacksmith shop, schoolhouse, carriage collection, and a museum with many artifacts on display.
  • Whaley House: The Whaley House has been acknowledged as one of the nation’s most haunted houses on the Travel Channel. Built in 1856, this was the first two-story brick structure to be erected in the city. It has served as a family residence, courthouse, theater, and general store.
  • Cabrillo National Monument: There are 160 acres surrounding the Cabrillo National Monument, commemorating where Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed in 1542. This spot also offers striking views of the city skyline and bay, as well as a glimpse at the yearly whale migration.
  • Gaslamp Quarter: Spanning 16 blocks, the Gaslamp Quarter is a historical district in the heart of San Diego. While it’s known today for having plenty of entertainment, dining, and shopping options, there is also the chance to see some of San Diego’s earliest history, especially at the William Heath Davis House.

Let our team at 710 Beach Rentals help you reserve the best accommodations in San Diego, perfectly located for all your sightseeing adventures.

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