San Diego spans the centuries from 'birthplace of California' to modern mecca
(Photo by James Blank)
(CNN) -- Early Spanish explorers were more interested in claiming more land for Spain than enjoying the scenic beauty of what is now known as San Diego. The first Europeans to land spent but six days there in 1542 before moving on to points further north in California. Sixty years later, another explorer stopped by, but the Spaniards largely ignored the region for another 167 years, when a small group of soldiers and settlers set up camp on Presidio Hill and Father Junipero Serra founded the first of a string of 21 California missions, San Diego de Alcala.
A city, destined to become the seventh largest in the United States, was born.
Football fans are pouring into San Diego, known as "the birthplace of California," for the January 25 Super Bowl game between the defending champion Green Bay Packers and the Denver Broncos. And while many of those visitors are there only for a whiff of the pigskin, San Diego is much more than a football town. Its natural beauty, near-perfect weather, and dozens of museums and other attractions beckon tourists from around the world to the southwestern corner of the mainland United States.