Solana means "sunny" in Spanish. It's an apt name for the location, and probably one of the reasons the San Dieguitos tribe settled here some 10,000 years ago.
Fast-forward to 1918, when the area began to grow with the building of the Lake Hodges Dam. It bloomed in the 1920s after Ed Fletcher, an influential community leader and businessman, bought 140 acres and promoted the town's development as an avocado center. The community has grown steadily since World War II, and was incorporated in 1986. Today an estimated 13,400 people live in the city's 4 square miles.
Solana Beach holds some surprises. The Eden Gardens neighborhood, a slice of history in the heart of the city, sprang up as an enclave for Mexican workers who toiled on nearby ranches in the 1920s. This several-block area of older homes retains its original flavor. Many residents are direct descendants of the first families.
Solana Beach has a few strip malls, but the Cedros Design District is known throughout San Diego County. Just east of Coast Highway at Lomas Santa Fe Drive, this signature shopping area evolved from an industrial center to a commercial center for upscale interior designers and architects. Colorful and quirky, Cedros is a trendy arts and design complex with vendors selling handcrafted furniture, art, antiques, clothing and jewelry.
Carole Carden owns SoLo, a Cedros shop filled with "industrial repurposed design items" in one of the warehouses. "The district is really fun," Carden said. "There are no big-box or chain stores."
Deanna Bramble, a real estate broker with the Guiltinan Group, enjoys Cedros as well, and singles out Muttropolis, a boutique whose sign beckons to "haute dogs & cool cats," as a favorite. "They even have a small couch and TV for your pet to watch animal videos while you shop," Bramble said.
Cedros is home to the Belly Up Tavern, a notable nightclub that frequently hosts pop legends in an intimate space built in a Quonset hut. A block away is the Amtrak station with a new, modern depot designed by A-list architect Robert Quigley.
And then there are the beaches. Because of the rough surf, they are more popular with surfers than sunbathers. The outdoors crowd also enjoys the San Elijo Lagoon Reserve, a 900-acre shallow-water estuary with five miles of hiking trails. For joggers and cyclists, there's a new two-mile paved path along Highway 101.