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Downtown San Diego Skyline

16 Things to Know About Living in San Diego

Have you ever wanted to live in a city that experiences 266 days of sunshine? Consider moving to San Diego! Not only is America’s Finest City one of the best places to live on the West Coast and one of the best places for veterans to retire, but it also has great employment opportunities, a plethora of beautiful beaches, top-notch cuisine, affordable neighborhoods, and much more! Check out these 16 things to know about living in San Diego!

Experience Living in “America’s Finest City”

Skyline shot of Downtown San Diego. Photo via @yellowmanbb

Photo via @yellowmanbb

While living in San Diego can carry a higher cost of living, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to live affordably in one of the best West Coast cities! In fact, living in San Diego is more affordable than in other large metros like New York or San Francisco. If you’re planning on renting in the City of Motion, you can expect to spend around $1,427, while San Diegans looking to buy a home spend an average of $488,600. Whether you buy or rent a home in San Diego, you can find more savings by living in inexpensive neighborhoods in San Diego, like Rancho Bernardo or Scripps Ranch. Or, if you’re being stationed in San Diego, Naval Base Coronado is perfect for military families.

An Excellent Job Market

Six story building with windows on each floor with trees lining the front. Photo by Instagram user @prosglobalinc

Photo via @prosglobalinc

Moving to San Diego means being close to plenty of career opportunities! The unemployment rate in San Diego is 5%, which is lower than the state average, and the city’s average wages are 14% higher than the national average. Looking for a job in San Diego? Residents can work in major industries like tech, healthcare, tourism, military, and research with employers like Sharp HealthCare, the United States Navy, or the University of California San Diego. Or San Diegans can take their pick of Fortune 500 companies like tech innovator Qualcomm or Sempra Energy.

Take Advantage of Public Transit Options

Traveling around San Diego doesn’t have to be difficult. Most residents prefer to drive their own vehicles, but many San Diegans choose public transportation in this commuter-friendly city. Unlike traffic-heavy California metros like Los Angeles, San Diego boasts a commute time lower than the national average—just 24 minutes. And while San Diego public transit doesn’t cover the whole city, there are expansion plans in progress. Take advantage of one of the many public transit options San Diego has to offer like the MTS bus to Downtown San Diego or the Blue Line Trolley to Old Town. Or for trips farther away, catch a flight at the best airport in the U.S., the San Diego International Airport!

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Find Top-Rated Higher Education

Aerial view of central campus at University of San Diego. Photo by Instagram user @uofsandiego

Photo via @uofsandiego

Want to attend a nationally-ranked college or university in San Diego? Choose from 24 diverse higher education options! The University of San Diego is a great private college that has NCAA-Division I sports and a variety of graduate programs, including a Tier 1 law school. There’s also San Diego State University (SDSU), which prides itself on creating compassionate leaders and ethical innovators through its 97 bachelor’s, 84 mater’s, and 23 doctoral degree programs. Check out the variety of law programs such as Juris Doctor, Master of Law in American Legal Studies, and Master of Law in Practice Skills at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Study medicine, science, global policies, and more at the University of California San Diego, San Diego’s leading public research university. Or earn your bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Development or your master’s in art education and more at National University.

Support San Diego’s Sports Team

baseball player on the field. photo via @padres

Photo via @padres

This sunny California city hosts athletic events for nearly every sport! Make your way alongside the San Diego Chicken (also known as The Famous Chicken) to Petco Park to watch the San Diego Padres (MLB) hit homers. Cheer on the San Diego Seals (NLL) lacrosse team or the San Diego Strike Force (IFL) football players at Pechanga Arena San Diego. If you’re in the mood for soccer, attend a San Diego Wave FC (NWSL) or San Diego Sockers (MASL) game. Shout for tries as the San Diego Legion (MLR) leave it all on the pitch. See the San Diego Aviators (WTT) serve nothing but aces. Enter into racing regattas at the San Diego Yacht Club. Or watch the San Diego Growlers (AUDL) and the Western Ultimate League bagel their rivals in ultimate frisbee.

Spend the Day Relaxing on the Beach

Golden Doodle dog plays with a ball on the beach. Photo by Instagram user @montanathedood

Photo via @montanathedood

Lather on the highest SPF and grab your swimsuit because you’ll be living in one of the best places near the ocean! Nationally known for being home to Dog Beach—one of the first off-leash beaches in the U.S.—Ocean Beach is ideal for anyone ready to enjoy the sunshine with their pet in one of the most dog-friendly cities in the U.S. Compete in sand volleyball, go whale watching, or boogie board at Mission Beach. See resident superstar and slow-motion rollerblader Slomo on Crystal Pier at Pacific Beach (also known as “P.B.” by locals). Kayak, scuba dive, kiteboard, or admire sunbathing seals at La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Cove. Or catch some waves at Black’s Beach, one of the best surf spots in the world.

Spend Time Outdoors

Beaches are only half the fun in the City of Motion! With 266 days of sunshine and annual temperatures averaging between 48 and 79 degrees, you can enjoy countless outdoor activities in one of the best U.S. cities for year-round weather. Hike up one of the six trails at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to admire beautiful ocean views. See the endangered animals that are protected at the 2,000-acre San Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Take a trip to Carlsbad to pick blueberries, walk through a greenhouse filled with over 20 rare Poinsettia plants, or ride a tractor while admiring the American Flag of Flowers at The Flower Fields. Or ride the famous Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, indulge in Dole Whip and Hot Dog on a Stick, or climb a coconut tree at Belmont Park.

Have Fun at San Diego Festivals

Performer in front of crowd. photo via @kaaboosandiego

Photo via @kaaboosandiego

Celebrate the area’s diverse culture by attending festivals and events in San Diego! Enjoy three days of live music, top-notch cooking, and beautiful art displays at the ultimate music event, KAABOO San Diego. Listen to artists like Duke Dumont, Eric Prydz, and Purple Disco Machine at the CRSSD Festival. Try seafood, Mexican cuisine, Italian dishes, and everything in between during San Diego Restaurant Week. Spend the day watching a variety of films at San Diego International Film Festival. Learn about the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead, tour the altars, and walk through the Mercado de Arte at Old Town Dia de los Muertos.

Visit San Diego’s Family Attractions

little girl playing with toy elephant. photo via @ sdcdm320

Photo via @sdcdm320

Looking for things to do with kids in San Diego? Plan a trip to LEGOLAND and design a raft to float down the lazy river, board a submarine and explore aquatic life, or feel the wind in your hair on the dinosaur-themed roller coaster, Coastersaurus. Reimagine museum spaces during artist talks or explore interactive art exhibits like the clay studio, tikitiko sensory wonderland, or color matching feast exhibition at The New Children’s Museum. Dance with your favorite character from Sesame Street, have fun on the Sunny Day Carousel, or make a splash going down Bert’s Topsy Turvy Tunnels at Sesame Place. Attend Nature Play Storytime, learn how to take care of chickens, or watch the kids have a spotlight moment at Imagination Stage while visiting the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum. Or sign the kiddos up for wildlife day camps, where they can feed stingrays and visit exhibits like Turtle Lagoon at Living Coast Discovery Center.

Explore San Diego Museums

art in san diego museum. photo via@mcasandiego

Photo via @mcasandiego

Learn about the history and culture of San Diego with museums and local attractions! View dinosaur fossils, celebrate the Golden State’s beautiful wildflowers, or attend a Nat Talk at the San Diego Natural History Museum. See jet fighters and helicopters on the flight deck and go below deck to understand what it takes to feed the Midway crew at the USS Midway Museum. Visit historic sailing ships and submarines, learn about the technology that was used for charting the sea, take a historic Bay Cruise, and more at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Or take a gallery tour, create art inspired by monsters, watch percussionists improvise a duet, and stick around for a sci-fi film during Free Third Thursday at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Experience San Diego Fun at Balboa Park

Adult female panda sits down and chews on a piece of plant. Photo by Instagram user @sandiegozoo

Photo via @sandiegozoo

Located in the heart of Downtown San Diego, Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in North America! This green space has 17 museums, gardens, walking trails, and more spanning over 1,200 acres, making it one of the best places to visit in San Diego. Get up close to giant pandas, baby gorillas, and laughing kookaburras at the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Learn about the human experience and existence through exhibits at the San Diego Museum of Us. Marvel at renowned collections of South Asian paintings, Buddhist sculptures, and contemporary photography at the San Diego Museum of Art. Head over to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion and listen to free organ performances every Sunday. Or stop to smell the orchids and take pictures with the bright lilies at the Botanical Building and Lily Pond. Shop for new artwork created by San Diego artists, sign up for Summer Art Camp, or participate in one of the many community outreach programs at the Spanish Village Art Center.

Dive into the World of Comic Con

A woman dressed up as wonder woman greets a young child and older woman both dressed as super woman. Photo by Instagram user @comic_con

Photo via @comic_con

Grab your most beloved comic and dress up as your favorite character when attending the largest comics and pop culture event in San Diego, Comic-Con International: San Diego! Over four days, participants can sit in on panels of their favorite actors and directors, attend art workshops with comic book professionals, watch exclusive trailers and clips from upcoming films, compete in costume contests, and more. Whether you want to meet your childhood superhero or need tips for creating your first movie, going to Comic-Con is a must-do event in San Diego!

A Colorful & Historic LGBTQ Community

A large group of people stand on the street holding a giant rainbow flag above their head. Photo by Instagram user @sandiegopride

Photo via @sandiegopride

Considered one of the top LGBTQ-friendly cities in the country, San Diego takes pride in welcoming and celebrating people from all walks of life! Not only is this city home to the first street named after gay rights activist Harvey Milk, but it’s also the home of Senator Toni Atkins, the first openly gay Senate president in California history. The Hillcrest neighborhood is the heart of San Diego’s LGBTQ community, filled with vibrant and queer-friendly coffee shops, boutiques, farmers markets, restaurants, and bars. The area also hosts the largest civic event in the region, San Diego Pride Weekend, where more than 300,000 people travel near and far to attend events like the She Fest, 5K Run, Pride Parade, Light Up the Cathedral, and much more!

Find Good Eats in San Diego

Many plates of food sit on top a table. Photo by Instagram user @crushedpb

Photo via @crushedpb

Known as one of the best food cities in America, San Diego’s abundant farms, location near the ocean, and proximity to Mexico make the City of Motion a food lover’s paradise. Considered one of the best places to eat in San Diego for brunch, Crushed serves up delicious meals and morning cocktails like their popular Crab Cake Benny or French Toast Sticks paired with Mimosa Flights. Enjoy new takes on traditional dishes like Lamb Meatballs, Whole Fried Snapper, or Hanger Steak at Juniper and Ivy. Indulge in Mediterranean and Lebanese dishes like Tabouleh Salad, Kafta Kebab Entree, or Shrimp Biryani, and save room for a piece of Baklava at Amardeen! Dine on classic Mexican favorites like Carne Asada, Chile Verde, and Chicken Verde Enchiladas paired with a Casa Blanca Margarita at well-known Old Town Mexican Cafe. Or visit Dija Mara for unique Balinese-inspired dishes such as Tofu Rendang, Cereal Prawns, or Whole Fried Market Fish.

A Thriving Hub for Craft Beer

Glass of beer and empty beer bottle. Photo by Instagram user @greenflashbeer

Photo via @greenflashbeer

Known as the craft beer capital of America, the City of Motion offers plenty of San Diego breweries! As a city that’s always growing with new restaurants and bars, it’s no surprise that the craft beer scene has become a major part of the San Diego lifestyle! Visit the world-famous Stone Brewing and try Stone Buenaveza Salt & Lime Lager or Stone Neverending Haze IPA. Explore over 140 different beers, including the Aurora Hoppyalis IPA, Boat Shoes Hazy IPA, and the popular Red Trolley Ale at Karl Strauss Brewing. Head over to one of the many Ballast Point locations in the area and sip on a Sculpin India Pale Ale or California Kolsch. Or try a variety of food trucks, grab a few cold West Coast IPAs with some buddies at the beer garden, or hang with your four-legged friend on the patio at Green Flash Brewing Co.

Explore San Diego’s Nightlife

A crowd of people stand and watch a country concert in a beer all with hanging lights. Photo by Instagram user @moonshineflats

Photo via @moonshineflats

With so many bars and clubs tucked into the different San Diego neighborhoods, you’ll never run out of places for fun! Looking for nightlife in San Diego? Be sure to visit The Gaslamp Quarter, also known as Downtown San Diego! Swap your stilettos for cowboy boots and enjoy line dancing or taking a spin in the famous shot chair at Moonshine Flats. Laugh at comedy shows, rock out to live music, or compete in old-school games in any of the three levels of entertainment at The Tipsy Crow. If you’re in the mood to sip on a cocktail while looking out at the ocean, the Pacific Beach area has plenty of hot spots! Order a round of Red Bull Vodka Slushy OGs and sit out on the patio at PB Shore Club, or try 20 different styles of margaritas right on the beach at Baja Beach Cafe. Head over to The Shout! House for unique entertainment with dueling pianos and sing-alongs. Or hop around the local dive bar scene in the South Park neighborhood, where you can find low-key spots like Whistle Stop Bar.


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Pinterest graphic: Living in San Diego, CA: 16 Things to Know

About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.