10 Things You Must Know Before You Move to San Diego

Choosing where to live is a momentous decision. There are some people who just go with a feeling — why overthink things? — while others make life-changing decisions as if they were an insurance analyst; for them, it’s all about the numbers. Relocating to San Diego is a big decision, so whether you’re choosing with your heart, your head or both, it’s important to know a few things about the city before you start packing.

San Diego is famous for lush beaches, amazing food and locals who embody the surfer attitude. It’s also a top choice for tech companies, and is one of the most popular tourist cities in America, welcoming millions of visitors each year. Living in San Diego isn’t cheap, but there’s plenty of work to be found, amazing schools for kids, and did we mention it’s sunny 266 days out of the year?

If you’re choosing the city with your heart, follow your feelings and meet us out on the beach. But for all you over-analyzers and up-and-coming gurus, here are 10 things to think about as you consider a move to San Diego.

1. All roads lead to the beach

 

 
 
 
 
 
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San Diego boasts over 17 miles of coastline and nine permanent lifeguard stations, so although all roads don’t really lead to the beach, a good majority of them do. From Blacks Beach in the north to Ocean Beach in the south, there are endless opportunities for water sports, fishing, dog walking and even hang gliding. Check out sandiego.gov to find a list of all the public beaches, along with their amenities and regulations, but here are a few of our favorites beaches to visit in San Diego:

  • Mission Beach: This popular beach features the largest man-made aquatic park in the nation, as well as a gorgeous shoreline that makes it a top San Diego attraction. There’s also a boardwalk on Mission Beach with plenty of locally owned shops to explore.
  • Blacks Beach: Looking to catch some waves while you’re in San Diego? Blacks beach has some of the best waves around, making it a popular spot for local and visiting surfers. Be aware before bringing kids though, Blacks Beach is also a famous spot to find San Diego’s local nudists. (Yeah, you read that right. And yeah, it is technically illegal, but they just keep coming!)
  • Ocean Beach: This local favorite is well known for its surfing and sunbathing opportunities. It also features a gorgeous pier that brings you right out into the water, which is perfect for experiencing your first (or 100th) California sunset.

2. It’s a city with a nickname

Seriously, didn’t you always want a cool nickname? Your city should have one too. Back in 1982, San Diego mayor Pete Wilson came up with the slogan, “America’s Finest City,” and the city has lived up to its name ever since. San Diego makes the top 10 list in some national publications as well. Forbes ranked it as one of the “coolest” cities, and Travel and Leisure recognized it as one of the best cities for foodies.

As the city has grown more and more popular, it’s gained a few more fun nicknames as well. Today, San Diego is known as the “Craft Beer Capital of the World” due to its enormous number of local craft breweries, and the high quality of the beer they produce. Other San Diego nicknames include the “City in Motion,” and the “Plymouth of the West.” And remember, many of the neighborhoods in San Diego have their own nicknames as well, so you’ll need to learn them all fast if you want to keep up with the locals.

3. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The San Diego Zoo is recognized worldwide for its animal care and conservation science, but it’s also one of the most fun thing to do in San Diego with kids! Home to hundreds of species from across the world, the San Diego zoo lets you get up close and personal with lions from the African savannah, some of the most famous (and adorable) pandas in the world, and more. There’s even a room where you can feed lorikeets straight out of your hand. Trust us, whether you’re visiting for the first time or moving to San Diego permanently, the zoo is one attraction you just can’t miss.

Animal lovers have even more to do in San Diego once they’re done at the zoo. Visit the Birch Aquarium or SeaWorld San Diego to learn all about sea creatures, from tiny seahorses to speedy dolphins and terrifying sharks!

In addition to the zoo, San Diego also has a thriving parks system. Residents enjoy a variety of available activities such as community sports, picnicking, playgrounds and walking trails. Plus, for experience hikers, bikers, climbers and horseback riders, California’s deep, beautiful canyons and hundreds of miles of sunny trails means you’ll never get bored.

Read More: Looking for more family fun to fill your day on the “best” coast? Check out our blog post on the Top Things to do in San Diego with Kids.

4. Sun, sun and more sun

San Diego cost of living

The sun sets on surfers at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego California.

Selected as one of the top 10 best weather cities by Farmer’s Almanac, San Diego has comfortable temperatures year-round, with average highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s to 50s. Residents get plenty of Vitamin D thanks to countless hours of sunshine per year. The famed Santa Ana winds bring hot, dry air from the desert into the Pacific coast region during the winter months.

Although the average weather in San Diego is amazing, it’s important to note that this city does have its negative weather phenomenons, too. While New England battles Nor’Easter snowstorms, and the South is pummeled by Atlantic hurricanes, San Diego is subject to wildfires that are created by Santa Ana winds during dry summer days. If you’re transitioning to San Diego, make sure you’re prepared in case of a fire, as they can cause community-wide evacuations.

5. Prepare for that daily commute

San Diego is a commuter city. Make sure your car has been smog tested, and be ready to roll on all six lanes. If you choose to forgo owning a vehicle, you can get around quite well thanks to San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System. The SDMTS supplies route maps to riders, and its on-the-go app provides immediate arrival and pickup times. Trolley lines connect downtown areas to the east and south communities. Luckily, traffic in San Diego isn’t nearly as bad as the infamous LA traffic, giving this city a potential “leg up” for those trying to decide between moving to San Diego or Los Angeles.

6. Experience a lifetime of learning

 

 
 
 
 
 
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San Diego has several school districts within its borders. Options for education include local neighborhood schools, application school choice programs, private schools and homeschooling. Public and private universities dot the city, creating an environment that thrives on culture and information. Science camps, museum lectures, and musical community centers provide extracurricular learning.

The city is also home to more than a dozen higher education institutions, including the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), San Diego State University, the University of San Diego, and San Diego City College. As you can tell, the names of the colleges aren’t that unique, but each offers a wide set of majors and classes for students to choose from. Whether you’re looking to go back to school, or hoping your kids will stay close to home for college, living in San Diego offers plenty of options for every level of education.

7. Neighborhoods are quirky, trendy, upscale…

best neighborhoods in san diego

Skyscrapers next to a water in San Diego

San Diego’s neighborhoods are each unique in their own way. Experience the relaxed boho-vibe of Encinitas, enjoy quick access to downtown from Banker’s Hill, soak in the true SoCal atmosphere that is Ocean Beach, or settle down with your family in Carmel Valley.

Before migrating out to San Diego, you’ll want to find the perfect neighborhood for you. Take into account home prices, your commute time, things to do in the area, and of course, who your neighbors will be! For a head start, here are a few awesome San Diego neighborhoods to choose from:

  • La Jolla: Known as the “Jewel of San Diego,” this gorgeous coastal neighborhood is a great choice for families with tons of single-family houses available. La Jolla has 10 beaches for residents to enjoy, and La Jolla High School is renowned for its academic achievements. If you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community, La Jolla might be perfect for you: the community here is loud and proud!
  • Del Mar: Named on of the 100 most expensive zip codes in America by Forbes, Del Mar is known for its multimillion dollar estates with amazing ocean views. It’s a beach town with all the amenities you could want, from shops and restaurants to stunning public and private beaches.
  • Little Italy: This small San Diego neighborhood is a perfect fit for millennials, with a vibrant community and thriving nightlife. Little Italy is also home to the Mercato Farmers Market, so if you want to cook instead of going out, you’ll have access to some amazing, fresh ingredients close to home.

Read More: Want to get the details on more San Diego Neighborhoods? Check out our blog post on the Best Neighborhoods in San Diego!

8. Renting may be the logical choice for housing when moving to San Diego

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Trulia.com lists average San Diego home prices at $555,000 and San Diego apartment rentals at $2,775. San Diego’s price-to-rent ratio may encourage residents to rent instead of buy, and home listing prices have risen over the last several years. The architecture of San Diego gives each home its own unique appeal. Throughout the city, you will find examples of Craftsman, Victorian and Mid-Century Modern. Many homes and buildings have the distinct terracotta roofs and tiles that show their Spanish roots.

Read More: Want to find the best rentals in San Diego? Check out our blog post for all the details on San Diego’s Top Luxury Apartments.

9. The San Diego cost of living is higher than many similar-sized cities

Average salaries in the San Diego area are $60,800, according to payscale.com. Unfortunately, high personal income tax rates for the state of California and a state-county-city combined sales tax of 7.75 percent take a toll on expendable income. The cost of living is higher than in most cities of this size, with housing consuming the largest portion of the pie.

Read More: Want to know more about how much it costs to live in San Diego? Check out our complete guide to San Diego’s Cost of Living, and decide if relocating here is worth the price tag for you!

10. The city is home to its own professional sports team

Spend summer evenings watching the San Diego Padres. Tickets are priced so families can enjoy a day at the park without breaking the bank, and Petco Park provides stunning views of both the local beaches and downtown. Taco Tuesdays, promotional giveaways and special theme games add extra fun between innings.

Bonus!

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably pretty invested in relocating to San Diego, so we thought we’d give you a couple extra things to get excited about! Check it out:

11. MORE Things to Do in San Diego

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Settling down in San Diego doesn’t mean life is going to get boring anytime soon. In fact, relocating this sunny west coast city means you’ll always have fun things to do, whether you’re looking for a romantic night out, fun with kids, or want to spend time with some friends. A few more of our favorite San Diego attractions include:

  • Stroll through  Balboa Park: Covering 1,200 acres of beautiful shoreline and mountains, Balboa Park is home to 17 museums, the San Diego Zoo, amazing hiking trails, botanical gardens and more. You won’t be able to visit the whole park in one day, so you can go back time and again for new adventures.
  • Party in the Gaslamp Quarter: Like New Orleans’ French Quarter, the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego is where you’ll find some of the city’s best nightlife, including amazing clubs and bars. So grab your favorite outfit and get ready to paint the town red!
  • Ride Along at Belmont Park: Have you ever wanted to ride a seaside roller coaster? Well, now you can! Belmont Park is an awesome amusement park in mission bay, and it features tons of rides for all ages, along with restaurants and shops to enjoy on the boardwalk.

12. Working in San Diego

I know we talked about the cost of living being high, but luckily, there are tons of amazing jobs in San Diego to help you afford the luxury of all that sunshine. There are over 145 Million people working in San Diego, across every industry you can think of, and jobs here are growing, having added 2 Million jobs from 2015 to 2016 alone!

Healthcare and education are strong in this city, and the University of California, San Diego and Sharp Healthcare consistently rank as some of the top employers in San Diego. But two of the fastest growing sectors in the city is tech companies and biopharma corporations, so if you work in tech or science, you’ll be sure to find the perfect job here.

Moving to San Diego

So if you have been wondering, “Should I move to San Diego?” add these items to that spreadsheet of yours or get out on the beach for some deep meditation. Once the decision is made, you can start a new list. Top 10 places to buy a bathing suit in San Diego, where to find the best craft beer in each of San Diego’s neighborhoods, 1,001 things to do in the summer sun … well, you get the picture.