5 times presidents visited San Diego

From Harrison to Bush, many US presidents visited America’s Finest City while holding the position.

Roosevelt SDtoday

President Roosevelt speaking at Balboa Stadium

Photo by Harry (Jimmy) Erickson + San Diego City Clerk Archives

In February, we observe Presidents Day. The occasion usually celebrates George Washington’s birthday, Feb. 22, and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, Feb. 12.

Neither of those presidents set foot in San Diego, but many later leaders did — including these five presidential visits that have gone down in local (and US) history.

Benjamin Harrison

On April 23, 1891, the 23rd POTUS became the first incumbent president to visit San Diego while touring the nation by train. During his time in SD, he stopped to have breakfast at the Hotel del Coronado.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

To celebrate Balboa Park’s second Panama-California Exposition, President Roosevelt crossed Cabrillo Bridge and delivered a speech at Balboa Stadium on Oct. 2, 1935. During his address, he welcomed the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages and acknowledged their role in building peaceful international relations.

Fun Fact: In 1915 — when Roosevelt was Assistant Secretary of the Navy — Cabrillo Bridge was built as part of the landmark’s first exposition. Roosevelt was in the first car to cross the bridge with former San Diego Mayor Charles F. O’Neall.

Rudford's Restaurant menu with an image of President John F. Kennedy at the top as he drives down El Cajon Boulevard in 1963.

JFK remains a part of San Diego — especially at Rudford’s.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

John F. Kennedy

President Kennedy delivered the San Diego State University commencement speech on June 6, 1963, where he addressed 30,000+ students at the Aztec Bowl. Before the graduation, he drove down El Cajon Boulevard — a moment immortalized on the menu at the longtime local diner, Rudford’s.

Jimmy Carter

The 39th president visited San Diego on Oct. 11, 1979, to deliver a speech to labor leaders where he discussed employment rights. During the same visit he also spoke at the Hotel del Coronado, addressing similar topics and reminiscing on the time he spent living in San Diego while he was in the US Navy, serving in the Korean War.

Did you know? If you’ve seen Jimmy Carter’s Mexican Cafe in Hillcrest, you may think of the president — but it’s named after the restaurant’s owner who coincidentally has the same name.

George Bush San Diego delivering a speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln with US Navy sailors behind him,

President Bush on USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003.

Photo by Paul Morse and the White House Archives

George W. Bush

The 43rd president visited San Diego multiple times, including the memorable “Mission Accomplished” speech on May 1, 2003, on USS Abraham Lincoln. He stood in front of a banner to announce plans to end combat in Iraq. Bush also visited and spoke to local communities following the devastating Cedar and Witch Creek wildfires that occurred during his presidency.

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