In the 1970s the region was, on the surface, beyond its prime. Poorly planned, mid-century strip mall development had left behind clusters of retail space that were separated and almost dismal. The lively spirit of residents, however, drove a redevelopment effort that turned Mission Hills and Hillcrest District into a bustling European/Mediterranean-style urban center.

San Diego's public education is provided by San Diego Unified School District. The district operates 185 schools and serves over 140,000 students throughout greater San Diego. Students of Mission Hills attend Birney Elementary, Florence Elementary, Grant Elementary, Roosevelt Middle School or San Diego High School.

Options for higher education are plentiful. San Diego is home to several universities as well as institutions that provide vocational training. Some examples are San Diego State University, University of San Diego, Design Institute of San Diego, Platt College and ITT Technical Institute. In addition to the traditional, four-year institution, design schools and art colleges have a relatively strong presence.

Mission Hills' markedly urban feel is balanced out by its lush neighbor, Balboa Park. The park, home to 15 museums and the San Diego Zoo, is one of the most popular attractions of San Diego. As the largest urban cultural park in the country, Balboa is a place to learn volumes about San Diego's historic and artistic culture. The selection of museums includes Museum of San Diego History, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego Museum of Art and the Timken Museum of Art. Residents and visitors can also enjoy performances at the Old Globe and the Casa del Prado Theatre. The park also offers several themed gardens, including the Japanese Friendship Garden and the Florida Canyon Native Plant Reserve.

Deeper insight into San Diego's earlier years is available at Presidio Park, the other large park adjacent to Mission Hills. Presidio's museum, the Serra Musem, maintains displays covering the days of the Kumeyaay Tribe through the Spanish and Mexican control of the area. The park also features a mile-long historic trail that winds down to Old Town Historic State Park, as well as the site of the original Fort Stockton.

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