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A Hidden Gem in San Diego: Lemon Grove

A Hidden Gem in San Diego: Lemon Grove

Lemon Grove is a hidden gem in San Diego. Discover the giant lemon, hidden murals, Berry Street Park, and the plaza of this town.


3 min read

December 29, 2021

Nestled just a short drive from the vibrant heart of San Diego, Lemon Grove is a quaint community where over 26,000 people enjoy the blend of small-town ambiance with the convenience of city life nearby. Known for its deep historical roots, strong sense of community, and vibrant spirit, Lemon Grove proudly claims to have the "best climate on earth," a slogan that has been a part of its identity for roughly a century.

Uncovering the History of Lemon Grove

A small town with a weird name may be the first impression you get, but Lemon Grove has a history so interesting you'll want to learn more.

It Began as an Idea 

In the late 19th century, the area that would become Lemon Grove caught the attention of sheep rancher Robert Allison, thanks to its fertile soil and mild weather ideal for citrus trees. The phrase "Best Climate on Earth" was later popularized by local merchant Tony Sonka in 1925, becoming a beloved piece of local lore.

The arrival of the railroad in 1888 marked the beginning of significant development, with the establishment of orchards proving to be economically beneficial. The subsequent years saw the construction of essential infrastructure including a flume for irrigation in 1891 by Joseph Allison, and the establishment of a packing house, train station, store, and post office, culminating in a landscape dominated by lush citrus orchards by 1895.

Building Lemon Grove’s Community

The spirit of collaboration among residents led to the formation of a tight-knit community, with the establishment of key organizations such as the Lemon Grove Fruit Growers Association and the Lemon Grove School District. The first church, Atherton Chapel, was built in 1897, marking the growing communal infrastructure.

Despite this growth, Lemon Grove remained without municipal services, relying on the County of San Diego for governance. It wasn't until 1903 that the town saw the appointment of its first constable.

Interesting fact about Lemon Grove: this town was the location of the nation’s first successful school desegregation case in 1931.

Lemon Grove San Diego: The Good Era

Between 1915 and 1930, Lemon Grove gained representation at the county level with Charles L. Good, a well-liked figure, serving on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. His tenure was marked by significant improvements in local infrastructure, including the construction of roads and bridges, earning this period the moniker "the good era."

This time also saw a surge in community engagement, highlighted by events like the Lemon Grove Products Exhibit, showcasing the town's agricultural prowess despite the limited technology of the era, evidenced by the mere six telephones in town.

The idea to name Lemon Grove in honor of the citrus crop is credited Tempa Waterman Allison, rancher Robert Allison's wife.

How San Diego’s Lemon Grove Got Its Name

Post-World War II brought prosperity and transformation to Lemon Grove, with the shift from orchards to suburban development. The influence of the U.S. Navy in San Diego encouraged many servicemen to settle in the area permanently.

By the 1970s, the original settlers had passed on, and a new generation of professionals and community advocates stepped forward. In 1975, efforts to formalize the community's status culminated in Lemon Grove becoming an official city in 1977, thanks to the advocacy led by local figures like retired Navy Chief Dell Lake.

Today, Lemon Grove is a vibrant community that balances its historical heritage with modern living. The city still honors its past, notably with a small lemon orchard near the city hall and the iconic "Big Lemon" statue, serving as reminders of its rich history and enduring community spirit.

Attractions in Lemon Grove Worth Checking Out 

A 3,000-pound civic lemon statue sits in the center of Lemon Grove. It's around 10 feet long and six feet wide.

The Giant Lemon 

A lemon weighing an astonishing 11 pounds and 9.7 ounces was discovered on January 8, 2003, by Aharon Shemoel on his farm in Kefar, Israel—it officially became the world’s largest lemon. However, that lemon has no game against the tourist attraction found a little east of San Diego. This enormous lemon is about ten feet long and several feet high; it lies inside a small lemon grove near the Orange Line trolley tracks. And, of course, its concrete base sports the words “Best Climate on Earth.”

The Hidden Murals of Lemon Grove

Tucked away behind an unassuming set of shops is an artistic world you’d initially never associate with Lemon Grove, San Diego. Vivid shades of purple, yellow, and blue weave a stunning tapestry of murals by Sydel Howell and her mother. Alongside five additional muralists—Beth Emmerich, Gloria Muriel, Alex Banach, Maxx Moses, and KJ Ashley—Howell created a lasting testament to the artistic accolades of the endlessly inspiring Golden State. Containing various themes of nature and images that appear to be pulled from an enchanting dreamscape, the Lemon Grove Murals are one of the lesser-known but equally impressive Instagrammable spots in California.

Lots of trees, dog park areas, and plenty of space to run around; Berry Street Park is a fun spot for a picnic in Lemon Grove.

Berry Street Park

With ample shade and endless greenery, Berry Street Park is Lemon Grove's outdoor recreation haven. People come here to relax with their children, enjoy the famed climate, and frolic around with their four-legged best friend. The park is also pretty close to St. John of the Cross Lemon Grove, a catholic parish with magnificent architecture.

Lemon Grove Plaza

If you want to get a little bit of shopping done on your trip, Lemon Grove Plaza is always an excellent choice. Offering great visibility from Highway 94, the shopping center is great for hop-in-hop-out kind of purchases—you can grab your necessities and get back to exploring.

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