A mid-sized community in southern San Diego County, the city of Imperial Beach, California, is the southernmost beach city in the state, lying about 14 miles south of downtown San Diego and just five miles north of Tijuana, Mexico. It was estimated to be home to a population numbering around 30,000 in 2006 and sits on an area of about four and a half square miles. The city is also rare in that it has one of the youngest median ages of any community in Southern California. In 2006, the median age of residents was just 29 years old. Only 7.5% of the population at that time was estimated to be over the age of 65. Despite the young characteristics, residents had a fairly average income level in 2006, when median household annual income was just over $49,000.
There are more than six miles of coastal beaches in Imperial Beach, including one dog beach. Surfing is popular throughout the community, particularly in the areas near the Imperial Beach pier and the Boca Rio beach break, known locally as one of the county's best surfing locations. The Border Field State Park is the southernmost beach on the American West Coast, and Imperial City is connected to the city of Coronado, which is located on a peninsula, via a seven-mile long isthmus known as the Silver Strand, also home to Silver Strand State Beach.
Each year, Imperial Beach hosts the unique U.S. Open Sand Castle competition, which draws more than 300,000 visitors and is the largest competition of its kind in the country. There is also an annual car show in the summer and a dog-surfing contest. Every Friday the beachfront farmers market can be found near Pier Plaza. In September, the city holds the Imperial Beach International Film Festival. Another unique spot is the South Bay Drive-in theater, the United States's only drive-in theater with an ocean view, located off Coronado Avenue.
The Tijuana Estuary, a National Estuarine Research Reserve and State Park, is found in Imperial Beach and is home to a number of species of birds, wildlife and plants. The area is also home to the Naval Outlying Landing Field Imperial Beach of the U.S. Navy, and thus boasts a higher number of residents employed in the military. The city of San Diego operates a public transit system with connections in Imperial Beach, including a service to the city's international airport.
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