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27 Reasons to Love San Diego

Our annual list of all things San Diego and rad—from kiteboarding to urban farming to a city-wide book club


1. Because we might just be a baseball town again.

Thanks to new Padres GM A.J. Preller, baseball fans are clamoring for tickets in the preseason, something that hasn’t happened for many years. Sure, the New York Times and a few others are quick to write off Preller’s aggressive moves to acquire Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and Wil Myers as premature and overly optimistic. But heck, big bats, big personalities, and a collective lineup that will get the kids excited? We’ll take it. In our laid-back land, Preller is a welcome dose of passion and adrenaline. See you at Petco in the spring!


2. Because DECO Bike Share will have 1,800 bikes up and running across 180 bike stations citywide early this year.



3. Because National Geographic calls us a “smart city.”

As part of a series on innovative places around the world, Nat Geo went looking for what makes San Diego especially smart. Following reporter Andrew Evans’s Twitter feed while he was here on location made us drool. Hanging with architect Rob Quigley atop the dome of the Central Library? Strolling through the Salk Institute at sunset? Surfing with Rob Machado? He did it all, and more, thanks to financial support from the City of San Diego and other partners like Illumina, Qualcomm, and the San Diego Tourism Authority. Watch for it to premiere on Nat Geo later this year!


4. Because we’ve got 250 acres of free wi-fi.

Thanks to a $1 million tech grant from the James Irvine Foundation, Balboa Park’s public Wi-Fi now covers about 250 acres, from the Zoo’s parking lot to Spreckels Organ Pavilion and beyond. It’s all part of the 2015 centennial celebration. Here’s to making one of San Diego’s oldest treasures a little more modern for the next gen.


5. Because Mexican food god Rick Bayless is finally gracing us with a signature restaurant.

Okay, so it’s the third location of his successful Red O restaurant chain, not an original concept planned especially for us, but we’ll take it (in the former Donovan’s space across from UTC). Bienvenido a señor Bayless! We hope you’ll be the one to make high-end Mexican food work here.


6. Because we are figuring out how to email vaccines.  

Yes, we, as in San Diego-based scientists led by genomics rock star Craig Venter. Venter, famous for being first to sequence the human genome in the 1990s, has been vocal lately about how the speed of computing has rocketed his research to the next level. Not only can we now map the human genome, but we can read it and interpret it, which means we are that much closer to creating synthetic versions of it in labs on the La Jolla mesa. And once you can write the code for something, you can email it anywhere. “I’m excited about this technology to send biology through the Internet, kind of like Star Trek teleportation,” Venter says. “We can send a new flu vaccine around the world in a fraction of the speed of light.” Technology!


7. Because it’s getting easier and easier to visit our neighbor to the south.

It started with the new 46-lane San Ysidro Border Crossing, which was six years in the making and opened this past October. In just one month, 13 percent more Americans crossed. Even more recently, SeaPort Airlines began flying nonstop from San Diego to San Felipe, so you can leave SD at 9:15 a.m. and be on the beach before 11. And finally, the Tijuana International Airport is constructing the binational terminal, which will make it easier to fly out of TJ (they’ve got direct flights to Asia, and this year, direct flights to Oakland and four other undisclosed destos coming soon).


8. Because we love our floating ship museum so much, we’re welcoming another one.

The USS Recruit is technically landlocked at the former Naval Training Center in Point Loma (now redeveloped as Liberty Station), but it’s an actual training vessel used by the Navy in the 1950s—and the only one still around today. Corky McMillan Companies is working with the USS Midway to restore and maintain the ship so it’s ready for visitors. All aboard!


9. Because Petco Park's off-season rocks.

This past September, San Diegans lucky enough to score tickets witnessed the unforgettable, three-plus-hour Paul McCartney concert. In December, kiddies of all ages got to ride the Polar Express, stroll through extravagant light displays, and give Santa their wish lists at the park’s inaugural Holiday Wonderland. And coming August 29: Taylor Swift will perform. Ohmahgerd. You can’t get bigger than Taylor Swift, a Beatle, and Santa! 


10. Because mid-crisis, we bring in the orchestra.

In the midst of an influx of unaccompanied minors surrendering themselves at the U.S. border, and the crisis that followed, local nonprofit Border Angels organized a moving musical event at the border. To embody the theme that music knows no borders, both the San Diego Symphony and the Baja California Orchestra played together on either side of the fence at Friendship Park.


11. Because we’re attractive to a very attractive population. 

For another consecutive year, San Diego has seen above-average growth in the number of young people (aged 25 to 34) and adults with a bachelor’s degree in the region. Young, smart people are key to keeping our city competitive, exciting, and moving forward. Let’s hope we keep up our end of the bargain by providing good schools, housing, and infrastructure for the next generation of leaders and thinkers.


12. Because last April, a San Diegan became the first American man to win the Boston Marathon in more than three decades.


13. Because who doesn’t love a mega region?

A total of 6.5 million people live in the combined San Diego and Imperial counties and Baja border region—the largest concentration of people on the border. So why not join forces? The CaliBaja Binational Mega-Region aims to unite San Diego’s economy, universities, and workforce; Imperial’s developable land and renewable energy sources; and Baja’s manufacturing and labor force. “[It] is an exciting way to promote the benefits that our area has to offer,” says City Council president Sherri Lightner.


14. ... and because we’re already thinking like a mega-region.

Student bodies from UC San Diego and the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California have agreed to collaborate on research projects and publications. Como se dice “group project”?


15. Because vacant lots have become the new urban parks.

Who doesn’t love a makeover—especially when it involves turning a vacant parking lot into something usable, fun, and cool? Now the kids are splashing in the fountains at the new County Administration Center Waterfront Park, people are growing flowers and veggies at Smarts Farm in the Makers Quarter, and pups are running amok in the 5,000-square-foot dog park at Quartyard, which just opened this month. We also just cut the ribbon on Lane Field Park. Let’s keep this trend of urban parks going! 


16. Because competitive kiteboarding is a thing.   

U.S. Kiteboard Nationals on San Diego Bay | Photo courtesy of US Sailing / Kate Sheahan

And San Diego’s consistent weather conditions make it a prime spot to train and host major events, like we did in 2013 with the U.S. Nationals and in 2014 with the North American Championship. “The racing equipment has allowed us to sail in San Diego every day,” says former Master World and Master North American champ Ty Reed. “You get the same west wind every day.” The new hydrofoil boards, similar to the high-tech America’s Cup boats, are all about power and speed, while the traditional boards allow riders to catch big air and go “stupid high,” as Reed describes. When the wind is really blowing, riders can jump as high as 50 to 60 feet. YouTube it, people!   


17. Because Reuben H. Fleet sends its scientists into the field, and by field, we mean bars.

The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center runs a program called ”Two Scientists Walk Into a Bar,“ and it’s literally just that. Look for the sign that reads: “We are scientists. Ask us anything!” The next session is February 26 at 25 bars around the county. Who says bar convo has to be all bro talk and pick-up lines?


18. Because the city’s biggest book club is being launched by the MTS.

Photo by Natalia Robert

To us, this sounds like a win-win for literacy and the environment—and an added bonus for the nearly 300,000 people who make their daily commutes on the trolleys and buses. The city’s new Read and Ride program is produced in partnership with the San Diego Public Library, MTS, and Coca-Cola. Every few months, library staffers make a new selection (currently, it’s The Circle by Dave Eggers), which is available for free download on tablets and smartphones. The library will also host various events to discuss the book and teach people how to download. No library card required!


19. Because we have an all-female mariachi group.

The five women of Mariachi Divinas have been performing together since June 2012 and are graduates of the Sweetwater Union High School District, which is home to 12 mariachi programs.


20. Because urban farming could soon be legal in Encinitas.

For residents of this NoCo city itching to keep bees, raise chickens, and farm produce, the dream could soon be a reality… within reason. (The number of beehives would be limited to two or three; chickens—hens, no roosters—limited to 25.) Very soon, City Council members will be presenting a draft of the Urban Agriculture Ordinance to the public. Whatever the outcome, we love that the era of community gardens, farmers markets, and healthy eating continues to thrive.


21. Because our life sciences bring in the big bucks. 

PricewaterhouseCooper’s latest report shows more than two dozen San Diego companies received about $230 million in venture capital funding in the third quarter of last year, most of which went to life sciences companies. Here’s hoping that number continues to rise, spreading the wealth to software, digital design, and robotics.


22. Because Jamie Simons, an autistic five-year-old in Encinitas, was able to avoid a panic attack when he put into practice the yoga-based exercises he learned at school.

Capri Elementary is one of nine schools in the Encinitas Union School District (plus two in Cajon Valley and one in San Diego Unified) with a Health and Wellness Program supported by the Sonima Foundation. (Deepak Chopra is a board member!) About 6,400 students currently benefit—as well as parents, teachers, and administrators. A recent study by the University of San Diego found that the program in Encinitas Union School District has resulted in a “better-behaved and more even-tempered student body” with higher attendance, fewer suspensions, improved fitness scores, and kids being able to “self-regulate” and not “react negatively” to bullying and other social stressors.


23. Because 28-year-old Jordi Muñoz, a drone-making prodigy we called “The Next Big Thing” in January 2013, made the pages of Esquire this past December. They put him right next to Beyoncé.

Photo by Dean Bradshaw


24. Because our biodiversity is off the charts.

San Diego is one of 25 similarly-sized geographic areas in the world with the highest concentration of different species. Visit The NAT’s new permanent exhibit, Coast to Cactus in Southern California, to understand just why we’re so special. The exhibit includes live animals.


25. Because the Mayor heard about this story and email-asked if he could contribute to it!

Sure this city’s got its challenges, but it’s Valentine’s Day, man! We love to see our leaders loving up on our city.


26. Because Tony Gwynn continues to inspire our region, and everyone, in perpetuity.

Add the Mountain West Player of the Year to the list of due tributes and memorials to Tony Gwynn. The award given to the conference’s MVP in baseball will now be called the Tony Gwynn Award. Gwynn played for San Diego State and coached the Aztecs for more than a decade after retiring from the San Diego Padres in 2002. Good on you, Mountain West Conference.


27. Because Carlsbad is campaigning to be the “Kindest City in America” with meters that accept donations to designated nonprofits like the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation.

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