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24 Reasons to Love San Diego Right Now

The beaches and weather are just the start of it. We have extreme sailing, cross-cultural markets, maker space labs, plus 21 more reasons we’re so ridiculously happy to live here.



The giant panda got a giant status update.

After 20 years on the endangered species list, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature recently downgraded the giant panda to “vulnerable.” This is a huge victory for conservationists everywhere, including the San Diego Zoo, where giant pandas are the main attraction. In fact, the zoo’s own director of applied animal ecology, Ron Swaisgood, serves as chair of the IUCN’s Giant Panda Expert Team and authored the report that led to the status change. The zoo began breeding pandas after Bai Yun (pronounced “by yoon”) arrived in 1996. She’s since given birth to six cubs, and the zoo’s breeding program is considered one of the most successful outside of China.



We have a craft beer named after Tony Gwynn’s batting average.

And it’s delicious, too. AleSmith Brewing Company’s partnership with Mr. Padre led to the San Diego Pale Ale .394. Last summer, AleSmith opened the Tony Gwynn Memorial Museum in its tasting room, featuring a rotating selection of memorabilia. Proceeds from .394 beer sales benefit the Tony & Alicia Gwynn Foundation, which helps the homeless and local at-risk youth. They’ve sold 788,928 bottles so far—their most popular beer to date. Just another way the beloved slugger’s legacy lives on.



We are a bunch of overachieving environmentalists.

In November, the city released the first annual report on its Climate Action Plan, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2035. The report showed that we have already reduced emissions by 17 percent since 2010. At this rate, we could reach our goal by 2025, a decade ahead of schedule!



We upcycle surfboards in Point Loma.

Marc Sanchez of Reeco Surfboards is making treasure from another man’s trash. The Point Loma shaper is a pioneer in the upcycled surfboard movement, rescuing old, broken, and forgotten boards from landfills and making them new again. Not only do these eco-friendly boards look super cool, they are also, as Surfer Magazine described, “perfectly rippable crafts.”



The Chula Vista Library has an Innovation Station.

Following the success of its classroom/maker space combo Thinkabit Lab, Qualcomm sponsored the construction of an Innovation Station in the Chula Vista Public Library. The new lab, opened in August at the Civic Center Branch, gives kids hands-on experience with science, tech, engineering, and math. Kids can experiment with circuitry, Arduino microcontrollers, LEDs, solar panels, and more. It’s got high-tech looks, too, with colorful Tetris-block carpets and Hokki rubber stools that allow students to rock, twist, and turn while sitting in one place. Here’s to the next gen of smarty-pants!



We can geek out on local history for free.

As of October, the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park is no longer charging admission—entry is now contribution based. According to Executive Director Bill Lawrence, daily attendance shot up between 200 and 500 percent in the first month. The Give Forward admissions policy will support future visitors. This month: The History & Heritage of San Diego’s Jewish Community.



We are still finishing Chelsea’s run.

Most longtime San Diego residents will never forget Chelsea King, the Poway teen who was murdered while running near Lake Hodges in 2010. Local athletic apparel company Graced by Grit, which was founded on the principles of female empowerment and safety, is doing its part to keep King’s memory alive. Its new Chelsea Legging comes with a safety whistle and cell phone pocket, and up to $50 from each sale will benefit the Chelsea’s Light Foundation.



Our lifeguards got new trucks, at no cost to taxpayers.

Our lifeguards are cruising the sand in slick new wheels, thanks to the city’s renewed partnership with Toyota. The Japanese carmaker will provide 34 state-of-the-art trucks and maintain them on its own dime. In exchange, Toyota gets the title Official Vehicle of the San Diego Lifeguards. Arigato!



Conscious capitalism is booming.

Take San Diego resident Joe Behm, whose best-selling Behmor 1600 Coffee Roaster was just the beginning. After discovering that most farmers have never roasted nor tasted their own beans, he began traveling to Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Burundi, donating equipment to local associations and bringing farmers their own cups of joe. Through the Behmor Inspired program, he shows farmers how the right soil and growing conditions influence the taste of their coffee and how an improved product can up their earnings. To date, the program has worked with 30,000 Guatemalans alone, and Behm, having met the country’s president, Jimmy Morales, will be returning this month to push for another private meeting with him to discuss education and what can be done to bring greater opportunity to the Guatemalan people.



Volunteers are working to save Starlight Bowl (aka our childhood memories).

Save Starlight is a grassroots nonprofit initiative to bring Balboa Park’s historic amphitheater back to life. The venue has seen nary a jazz hand, flea hop, or paying audience member since 2012. Save Starlight plans to repair and maintain the bowl, as well as apply creative technology to figure out how performers might work around the increased plane flyovers. It hopes to use the venue for concerts, screenings, plays, musicals, events, and more. (And how about reviving SD Civic Light Opera while you’re at it?)


Herb & Wood | Photo by Sam Wells


We’re bringing back sophisticated—but not fine—dining.

Somewhere between sitting on upturned milk crates and depositing our chinchilla at coat check is a happy and satisfying dining experience. We would like backs on our chairs, please, and the ability to hear our tablemates. Thank you to places like Parc Bistro-Brasserie, Cucina Sorella, Herb & Wood, and Madison for toeing the fabulous, cool, thoughtful line.



The co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles curates a comic book museum in Liberty Station.

It’s Comic-Con all year long, thanks to IDW Publishing and a team of local superhero aficionados who started the San Diego Comic Art Gallery. Kevin Eastman, co-creator of TMNT, curates a rotating selection of comic book art. And there’s a permanent exhibit dedicated to TMNT that includes original sketches, toys, and more. Even though the gallery opened over a year ago, the space remains largely under the radar. Ninja, indeed.



We helped 3,600 kids discover the joy of reading.

Local nonprofit Words Alive is promoting literacy across San Diego. Through its Read Aloud program, trained volunteers make weekly visits to preschools and elementary schools in low-income communities and read stories to the students. Its current reach is about 3,600 children in 135 classrooms at 27 San Diego schools, and this winter every child in the program received a brand-new book to take home.


Samoas and Alesmith's Speedway Stout


We pair our Girl Scout Cookies with craft beer.

To celebrate 100 years of Girl Scout Cookies, local craft brewers will be offering $15 cookie flights February 24–26. The Cookies on Tap event, happening at Mike Hess, AleSmith, and select Stone locations, pairs five cookies with five beers. Proceeds benefit Girl Scouts San Diego and Operation Thin Mint, which sends cookie boxes to deployed troops. Cheers!



We’re home to some seriously badass women.

Encinitas software engineer and mother Vivian Lee completed a marathon at the North Pole last April. She had taken up running only two years prior, but that didn’t stop her from wanting to go 26.2 miles in minus-30-degree weather. On race day, she was often knee-deep in snow but managed to finish in 7 hours, 4 minutes.

Carlsbad-based Denise Mueller set the women’s world record for fastest speed on a paced bicycle, at a blistering 147.7 miles per hour. For this record category, the bicycle’s single gear is so enormous that a pace vehicle must tow it to 90 mph first, so the cyclist can gain the additional speed herself.

Tierra Santa’s Angela Shartel competes in ultramarathons—anything longer than 26.2 miles. In 2016, Angela placed first overall at Lost Boys 50, a 50-mile race in Borrego Springs; won again at Fat Dog 120, a 120-miler through British Columbia; and most recently placed first female at the 28-mile Quad Dipsea in Mill Valley.
—Jade Belzberg


We have legit film festivals with appearances by big-name stars.

Last year the San Diego Film Festival hosted stars like Simon Helberg, Kate Beckinsale, and Annette Bening, with Bening earning the Gregory Peck Award for Excellence in Cinema. Meanwhile, Chris Noth received the La Costa Film Festival’s first Shining Star Award last October. Sure, we might not be Sundance or Cannes, but our fests seem to get Mr. Bigger and better every year.



Our school kids are eating local.

Twelve school districts in San Diego County are participating in a new program called California Thursdays, which serves school lunches made from ingredients grown in California. In addition to the added health benefits of eating fresh, the program also teaches kids where their food comes from, supports local farms, and helps the environment by reducing the school’s carbon footprint.



Money magazine named San Diego the No. 1 domestic destination for your money.

We deliver quite the bang for your buck, according to Money’s data-driven article that factored in quality, cost, and value. We do have some super-fine restaurants that offer great deals like taco Tuesdays and all-night happy hours. And as for those miles of beaches and dreamy pink sunsets? They’re free!



City Heights created a wildly successful cross-cultural market.

Fair@44 is a City Heights neighborhood gathering place and international food market, intended to serve as an incubator for vendors while teaching neighbors about one another’s cultures. The market—a collaboration between City Heights Economic Development Collaborative, City Heights Community Development Corporation, El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association, and more—is situated on a lot between Fairmount Avenue and 44th Street on El Cajon Boulevard. It has taken off with lunchtime Zumba and concerts by local musicians, supporting City Heights businesses and individual artists. Fair@44 has helped launch a handful of new businesses in just three months, such as Cultura Fe, y Yoga (Mexican artisanal clothing) and Tortas Ahogadas La Potranca (Guadalajara-style sandwiches dipped in salsa), all part of La Maestra micro-enterprise program. Soon to launch: food trucks, increased operating days, and a more robust events schedule.

4350 El Cajon Boulevard, City Heights



The city cut 911 wait times in half in 2016.

Thanks to a new compensation plan and some operational changes, the city’s emergency wait times reached an all-new low last year. In April, the average wait time was 15.38 seconds. By July, that number had dropped to 7.03. Here’s to keeping the city safer and those wait times shorter!



Our sailing is about to get Extreme.

This October, Harbor Island will host a new spectator sport, the Extreme Sailing Series. Called the “Formula One of sailing,” the event features hydrofoiling GC32 catamarans that reach top speeds of 39 knots. The series has typically been held overseas, with its last American appearance in Boston in 2011. Expect to see some of the sport’s brightest stars, plus some local talent, too.


SDSU Commencement


Our colleges and universities are diverse (and have an award to prove it).

This year, San Diego State University and the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District were among 83 nationwide recipients of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine’s Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award. This is SDSU’s fourth consecutive year. A+ for diversity!

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