San Diego is a central location in California’s history, and it has a storied past of its own, from its earliest days to its modern status as a West Coast hub of activity.
The First Settlements
Prior to the arrival of European settlers, Southern California was home to the Kumeyaay Indians. The explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, the namesake of the Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma, was the first Spaniard to land in the San Diego Bay in 1542, which was also the first point of contact for the exploration of all of California.
It wasn’t until 1769 that the priest Junipero Serra established the first Spanish settlement at the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá. San Diego has an extensive mission history, with 20 more missions stretching up the coastline following the creation of the first.
A town sprung up around San Diego de Alcalá which came to be known as Old Town San Diego. This is the birthplace of San Diego, and its creation marked the beginning of more settlements and expansion throughout California.
Expansion and Growth
In the following years, San Diego continued to grow and attract a larger population. In 1821, the Mexican War of Independence removed it from Spanish control, and in 1848 the Mexican-American war led to another change of hands, as California became part of the United States.
San Diego saw further development in 1867 when Alonzo Horton built New Town, which would later become the Gaslamp Quarter. Over the years, San Diego developed a reputation for its consistent sunny weather and excellent surfing climate, which both helped to establish the city as a popular tourist destination alongside the creation of many museums and other attractions.
How to Learn More
If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at San Diego’s history, check out different topics such as the area’s military history, surf culture history, or the history of the Gaslamp Quarter. You can also explore history at many San Diego museums, such as the San Diego History Center or the Mission San Diego de Alcalá.
Before you visit the museums, grab a Go San Diego pass, which offers discounts on admission prices and other attractions. Buy your pass through our website for additional savings!