There are a whole host of reasons why the city of San Diego, California, may have earned itself the title of America’s Finest City.
Perhaps it was the 70 miles of white sand beaches that did it? Or the year-round warm temperatures? Maybe it was the relaxed, chilled vibe, which is evident in every aspect of life in the city, even down to the way San Diegans talk. Whatever it was, San Diego is a haven to live in.
Are you thinking of moving to San Diego, but looking for advice and keen to get a feel for the city before you uproot? If so, check out our guide to moving to San Diego.
This will cover the following topic areas:
- About San Diego
- The Climate
- The Best San Diego Suburbs and Neighborhoods
- Employment in San Diego
- Cost of Living in San Diego, California
- Attractions in and Around San Diego
- Food and Restaurants in San Diego
- How to Get There - Moving to San Diego
- Is San Diego a Good Place to Live? Final Thoughts
About San Diego
Originally inhabited by the Kumeyaay indigenous people, San Diego was discovered by Europeans in the 16th century.
After being colonized by the Spanish, the city became part of Mexico as the country gained its independence from Spain. However, following the Mexican-American war in 1848, San Diego became part of the US.
Today, San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the US and the second-largest in California.
Its pristine white beaches make the city a perfect retirement and vacation hotspot. Moreover, it’s home to some of the best surfing spots in the US. However, besides the beach lifestyle, there are also plenty of other outdoor activity options, such as hiking trails, cycling, tennis, and golf.
Further inland, residents can soak up the rich culture and colonial Spanish architecture in Balboa Park.
San Diego’s topography often creates microclimates. This makes May and June slightly on the gloomy side, as thick clouds keep air temperatures cooler than normal. That being said, the city’s climate is mostly mild year round, with warm, dry summers and mild winters.
The yearly average temperature is usually around 70 °F (21 °C), with summer medians rising to 78 °F (26 °C) in August and winter record lows dropping to 25 °F (−4 °C).
Annual rainfall is low, averaging 9.6 inches (240 mm), and the wettest months are usually December through March.
The Best San Diego Suburbs and Neighborhoods
Here is a selection of the best neighborhoods close to the city center to choose from.
- Ocean Beach - Just a couple of blocks away from the beach, this neighborhood is a surfer’s paradise. It’s filled with airy bungalows, surf shops, cafes, and restaurants that create the perfect mix of beach and suburban living.
- La Jolla - This neighborhood has more of a student vibe, with seaside cliffs serving as a popular hangout spot for both UC San Diego students and college grads. The beachside area is also home to hiking trails and home to stunning coastline views.
- Hillcrest - Hillcrest is the neighborhood you’ll want to house hunt in if you enjoy a party. The area's nightlife and bars make it a hubbub of activity. This neighborhood is LGBTQ-friendly and located just a few minutes from downtown San Diego.
- East Village - A cultural hub, East Village living means that you’re less likely to constantly bump into tourists every day. It’s also a popular haunt for students as it houses the city’s community college and the new public library.
San Diego’s stunning coastline is also home to suburban beachside towns if you’re after an alternative to city living. Here are three of our favorites:
- Solana Beach - Approximately a 30-minute drive from downtown San Diego, Solana Beach offers 1.7 miles of coastline where you can swim and surf to your heart’s content. This beachside suburb is generally home to young professionals and families.
- Carlsbad - If your budget is slightly larger, Carlsbad boasts beaches both for surfing and secluded relaxation. Moving to San Diego with your family? This family-friendly suburb is also home to Legoland. This brings in a steady flow of tourists, a factor you might want to take into account if you’re planning on living there.
- Santee - While still within convenient reach of the city of San Diego, Santee isn’t a beachside suburb. This makes it far more affordable if you’re looking for a new home without a hefty price tag. Along with affordable housing, the suburban city is also home to shopping centers, a business park, and a 15-acre sports field complex.
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Employment in San Diego
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of non-farming jobs in San Diego can be found in the professional and business services sector. This is closely followed by the government sector, and then the trade, transportation, and utilities sectors.
The average weekly wage across all industries in San Diego, California is $1,315.
As of October 2020, the city’s unemployment rate is 9.7%, just below the national average.
Cost of Living in San Diego, California
As with other cities we have explored in California, one of our moving to San Diego tips is to factor in the cost of living. This sits 44% higher than the national average, based on the price of housing, utilities, groceries, and transportation.
However, compared to other cities in California, San Diego still remains cheaper than the likes of San Francisco. If you’re thinking of making the move, you’ll want to consider the cost of moving from San Francisco to San Diego before making any decisions.
The state of California, for example, has the highest average home value in the entire US.
Interested in other options in The Golden State? Check out our Ultimate Sacramento Relocation Guide.
Attractions In and Around San Diego
With the ocean at your fingertips, you’re unlikely to need many attractions in San Diego to keep you entertained.
However, if swimming or surfing aren’t your thing, here is a list of other things to do:
- Balboa Park - This 1,200-acre urban park is home to San Diego Zoo, over 16 museums, performing arts venues, gardens, and walking trails. Balboa Park is the perfect place to come for a lunchtime picnic, or to take a stroll during the golden hour. Make sure you also check out the botanical building, which houses over 2,000 plants!
- Whale Watching Cruise - If you enjoy being near the sea, but not necessarily being in it, why not take a cruise around the San Diego harbor to see if you can spot any whales? From December through April, you can look out for gray whales, but, to see a blue one, spring or summer is your best bet.
- USS Midway Museum - San Diego is home to many US military bases, including the longest-serving American aircraft carrier of the 20th century, the USS Midway.
- Petco Park - More of a sports person? Why not book to go and see a baseball game at Petco Park stadium? This architectural beauty was named the top Ballpark in America by USA Today in 2016.
If you’re prone to getting itchy feet, the city of San Diego isn’t quite as claustrophobic as others, thanks to its many miles of sandy beaches. But for those looking to switch it up, here are some recommendations for trips you can take outside of the city.
- Sunset Cliffs Natural Park - Try visiting these stunning cliffs that lie adjacent to the Pacific Ocean to soak up some incredible views at sunset. Although this 68-acre park is still technically within the city limits, it doesn’t feel like it. There are also plenty of options for hiking in and around San Diego.
- Los Angeles - Just a two hour drive north of San Diego, you can explore the iconic city of Los Angeles, the center of the US film and TV industry. Visit the famous Hollywood sign, and take a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard and check out the Walk of Fame.
- Tijuana - An even closer day trip can not only take you to a new city but also across the border to a new country! Cross into Mexico for a trip to the buzzing city of Tijuana and visit the art museums and cultural centers. And don’t forget to try the tacos!
Food and Restaurants in San Diego
Culinary taste in San Diego is very heavily influenced by the fusion of cultures within the city.
Being a border town, there’s a lot of Mexican influence in the city’s cuisine. Typical dishes include carne asada, fish tacos, enchiladas, burritos (California style), and ceviche. While some of the best of these dishes can be bought at food trucks, there are many popular Mexican restaurants in San Diego, including City Tacos, Death by Tequila, and Tacos El Gordo.
Immigration to San Diego has also brought culinary specialities from Southeast Asia -- mostly Vietnam and the Phillipines -- to the city. Some of the best Vietnamese restaurants in San Diego include Goi Cuon, Dao Fu, and Pho Hoa.
San Diego is also famed for its wood-fired, California style pizza, seafood, local wines, and locally-brewed craft beers.
How to Get There - Moving to San Diego
- By plane - San Diego International Airport is less than a 10-minute drive from downtown. However, if you’re coming to San Diego for the first time, don’t be shocked by the landing - the planes get very close to the buildings downtown! Tijuana International Airport is also another option.
- By car - San Diego is easily accessible via major interstate freeways including the I-5, I-8, and I-15.
- By train - You can also travel to San Diego via train on either of the commuter rail services, Amtrak or COASTER. There is also a railway line that travels between San Diego and the Mexican border called The Blue Line Trolley.
- By bus - While there is no central bus terminal in San Diego, each bus company has their own stops or terminals in the city. Bus companies that travel to San Diego include Greyhound, Crucero USA, Autobus Americanos, Hoang Express, InterCalifornias, LuxBus, Mexicoach, and Volaris Airlines Shuttle Services.
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Is San Diego a Good Place to Live? Final Thoughts
Now you’ve read our guide to moving to San Diego, are you still California dreaming of moving to America’s Finest City?
If you fancy living where Top Gun and Anchorman were filmed, in a city lined with stunning coastal beaches and a warm, pleasant climate, then what are you waiting for? San Diego is the place for you!