Mission Beach spans nearly two miles of ocean, with a boardwalk on both the ocean and bay side, between Mission Bay to the east and Pacific Beach to the north. The boardwalk has been expanded and separated by a yellow line for foot traffic on one side and wheels (roller blades, bicycles and skateboards) on the other. At the south end of the beach a jetty, with grass, parking and a walk, extends into the ocean.
Many of the original residential structures in Mission Beach were built in the 1930s and '40s as summer cottages. Because of problems to work out with developing on sand, Mission Beach developed later than the neighboring communities of Ocean Beach to the south and Pacific Beach to the north. In 1914, encouraged by land sales in those next-door communities and a new wooden bridge linking Mission Beach with Ocean Beach, John D. Spreckels offered small lots for sale. As a result, Mission Beach is the most densely developed residential community in San Diego with a land use designation across the majority of its land area of 36 dwelling units per acre. It also has the smallest lots in the city, ranging from 1,250 to 2,400 square feet. Few have been consolidated to form larger lots. Many of the structures within the community have been redeveloped into two-story homes.
Attractions near Mission Beach include SeaWorld and historic Belmont Park, in South Mission Beach, which features the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster. Other amusement park rides include the FlowRider, Chaos, Vertical Plunge, Krazy Kars, Tilt-a-Whirl, Liberty Carousel, Crazy Submarine, and The Trampoline. The Mission Beach Plunge opened in May of 1925 as the centerpiece of Belmont Park, which was built by John D. Spreckels to stimulate real estate sales and to promote his electric railway. The 60-foot-by-175-foot swimming pool, was at the time the largest salt-water pool in the world, holding 400,000 gallons. The plunge building, encapsulating The Plunge, which was featured in the Tom Cruise film Top Gun, was styled after the Spanish Renaissance architecture that also were erected in San Diego's Balboa Park between 1915 and 1916. It originally opened as the “Natatorium.” The Mission Beach Plunge is the only remaining structure left from the original Belmont Park structures, which were razed in the late 1980s. Celebrities who once swam in the pool include Esther Williams and Johnny Weissmuller. The roof of the pool rolled open to make it both an inside and outdoor pool.
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