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El Cajon, CA (Population: 92,487)

El Cajon is an East San Diego County community with a population of 92,487 (2005). El Cajon is situated just 20 minutes east of downtown San Diego, the Pacific Ocean, and San Diego International Airport. The city is also approximately 27 minutes from the Tijuana, Mexico Border Crossing. El cajon is Spanish for “box”, and the city was dubbed so due to its 14 square miles being “boxed in” by mountain ranges.

Despite its location near San Diego, visiting El Cajon can make you feel like you’re in another world. The city, with its cowboy past, has managed to maintain a small-town, homespun vibe. The El Cajon Valley floor was once used to graze cattle. Early settlers also mined gold and planted citrus, avocado, grape, olive, and raisin crops. One of the country's most famous Western painters, Olaf Weighorst, made the valley his home. Many motor fanatics also came to El Cajon, reflected by the numerous motorcycle shops and car dealerships throughout the city. In recent decades, many people have been drawn to El Cajon because it offered a cheaper alternative to San Diego housing.

With its retro dive bars and diverse population, El Cajon has much to offer the off-the-beaten-path traveler. One might begin a day in the city by having a breakfast burrito at Perry’s Café or an omelet at the Antique Row Café. Afterwards, head over to the Olaf Wieghorst Museum to check out the painter’s spectacular scenes of the Old West. For some late morning fun, golf lovers can tee off at one of El Cajon’s excellent golf courses: Singing Hills and Cottonwood. For those who would like to take an aerial tour of the county, visit the Golden State Flying Club. Afternoons in the city can be extremely hot, particularly in the warmer months. This might be a good time for some indoor activities. Go shopping at the El Cajon International Market and browse aisles of tea and rice or sample some olives at the deli counter. Another indoor alternative is a visit to the Unarius Educational Foundation, where the Unarians, based in El Cajon for many years, practice past-life therapy.

Nightlife in El Cajon centers around downtown and the recent influx of new restaurants surrounding the East County Performing Arts Center (ECPAC), which maintains a schedule of performing arts and concerts. Por Favor and Downtown Café are among El Cajon’s excellent restaurants serving up delicious drinks and savory entrées. If you’re looking for family fun, check out The Boardwalk, which has bowling, arcade games, laser tags, and rides to entertain the kids. For more mature fun, head over to Sycuan Casino. For those seeking out neighborhood bars, two local hot spots are the El Cajon Grand and On the Rocks. If you’re into motor racing, spend an evening at the classic Cajon Speedway. As you can see, there are a multitude of opportunities for fun and entertainment in El Cajon.