The 10 Best Places to Live in San Diego

More and more people want to move to San Diego. The ocean, the mountains, great weather with lots of sunshine, and all kinds of fun activities make San Diego County a great place to live, work, raise a family or retire. Beaches, parks, cultural attractions, hiking trails, botanical gardens and great restaurants are some of the pleasures awaiting you. It’s the home of the San Diego Padres, and from the city it’s just a short jaunt to the desert to see the wildflowers or to the mountains to snow ski.

Other attractions include the world-renowned San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which draw millions of visitors each year. The parks feature not only animals, but also many unique plants, some of them endangered. There are nearly two million plants between the two parks.

Old Town is the oldest neighborhood in San Diego. In addition to appreciating its history, you can fill up on delicious Mexican food and visit quaint shops.

Balboa Park is a National Historic Landmark featuring beautiful gardens, museums, shops and restaurants.

For baseball fans, Petco Park, located downtown, is home to the San Diego Padres. The park has astonishing views of San Diego Bay and the skyline. If you like to play baseball or have children playing in Little League or high school leagues, practice and playing can take place year-round. No snow days here.

San Diego is viewed as one of the safest cities in the state, and quality healthcare is easily accessible wherever you live in the county. The same is true of public transportation, with buses, trolleys and trains running throughout the county.

San Diego County’s population is 3,351,737, and the city of San Diego alone has over 1.4 million residents and is the second-largest in California. It has numerous educational and historic facilities. You’ll find a variety of districts and towns, each with its own flavor and personality; one is sure to fit yours. Below are the 10 best places to live in San Diego for Families.

1. Downtown San Diego Gaslamp District

Vibrant and beautiful, downtown San Diego overlooks San Diego Bay. The historic Gaslamp District is buzzing with activity and is great for a night out, whether a romantic evening or dinner with the family. You’ll find lots of entertainment, from music to comedy to dancing, nightclubs, bars, theaters, art galleries and museums.

Much of the excitement downtown is within walking distance. Catch a baseball game at Petco Park, then head to Seaport Village for waterfront dining, shopping and entertainment. The complex has over 50 one-of-a-kind shops and plenty of places to wine and dine.

The Saturday morning farmer’s market in the Little Italy district of downtown San Diego is one of best and largest in the county, with six blocks to shop. Fresh from the farm, the market features produce, eggs, poultry, meat, nuts and honey, along with fish, olive oil, bread and sauces.

Many people think it’s mainly young professionals who choose to live downtown, but a lot of families also enjoy the lifestyle and want their children to experience it. Downtown San Diego is a great choice for a neighborhood with highly rated schools. San Diego City College is also located downtown.

The median price for a home is approximately $770,000. Rental prices are 28% lower than the San Diego average.

The crime rate in the Gaslamp Quarter is 3% lower than the national average, but 10% higher than the San Diego average.

Sharp Coronado Hospital provides quality healthcare and is close to downtown San Diego.

2. Mission Beach and Mission Bay

All of the beach neighborhoods and towns of San Diego County have their own distinctive attractions and unique qualities. Mission Beach, just like Pacific Beach to its north and Ocean Beach to the south, is a thriving community. Mission Beach is a two-mile peninsula that is two blocks wide, with the Pacific Ocean on one side and Mission Bay on the other side.

Enjoy surfing, paddle boarding, boating and many other water sports. You can buy or rent equipment and lessons are available.

Sea World is an animal theme park featuring sea lion and dolphin shows, up-close views of many animals, and thrill rides. It’s not the only place in the area with a roller coaster, though. Belmont Park in Mission Beach is a small amusement park that features the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, a historical icon of the San Diego beachfront. Originally built in 1925, it’s a classic wooden coaster that moves up to 48 miles per hour, with thrilling dips and turns and an ocean view.

Mission Beach and Mission Bay are fun neighborhoods to visit or live in. If you’d like to buy a home in the area, the median price is $2,162,500. Rent for a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment is typically over $2,000 a month.

Mission Beach has excellent health clinics and is about a 15-minute drive to Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego.

The 10 Best Places to Live in San Diego

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The 10 Best Places to Live in Southern California

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3. Encinitas

Located in San Diego’s North County, Encinitas is a delightful city famous for its beaches, such as Moonlight State Beach, Cardiff State Beach and Swami’s Beach. Surfers from around the world line up at Swami’s. The name comes from Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, who was an Indian Hindu monk, yogi and guru. In 1920 he founded the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), which still stands on the cliffs overlooking Swami’s Beach. The SRF gardens are amazing, complete with meditation benches, and the view from the gardens is spectacular. They are open to the public at no cost.

Encinitas is also home to the San Diego Botanic Garden, which features spectacular plants and flowers plus a number of classes and events.

Just a short jaunt to the north of Encinitas is Carlsbad. You can rent equipment at the Carlsbad Lagoon for water sports — boats, kayaks, paddleboards and more. It’s also home to Legoland, where the family can enjoy an adventure of rides, attractions, shows and many mini cities made out of lots and lots of Legos. During the spring, you can view the majestic flower fields in Carlsbad. The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch are a spectacular 50 acres filled with a rainbow of flowers.

Encinitas is a great town for singles, couples and families. Home prices are among the more expensive in California, with a median price of $2,047,500.

According to U.S. News and World Report, Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas is ranked #8 in San Diego.

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4. La Mesa

La Mesa

The inland valleys, mountains and deserts have a lot to offer, too. La Mesa is one of the cities located in San Diego’s East County. Its nickname is “The Jewel of the Hills.”

Typically, you can get from La Mesa to downtown San Diego or the ocean in approximately 20 minutes.

La Mesa Village is the historical center of La Mesa. This quaint neighborhood hosts annual events such as Christmas in the Village, Oktoberfest and the Antique Street Faire.

If you love the outdoors, you’ll find plenty of places near La Mesa to walk, hike and bike. Some trails are also open for horseback riding. Mission Trails Regional Park has numerous trails around features such as Lake Murray, Cowles Mountain and Old Mission Dam.

Old Mission Dam is both a California Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. Built between 1813 and 1816 by Franciscan padres and Kumeyaay laborers, it was one of the first irrigation projects on the West Coast.

Not too far from La Mesa is the Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve, a 190-acre park and campground with a chain of seven small lakes stocked with sport fish. This is a great place for bird watching and photography, with approximately 230 different species of birds. It has an interesting history. It began as a water recycling facility in the late 1950s. Two million gallons of water are recycled there daily. About 50% of the water is used locally to water golf courses, parks and schoolyards. The park hosts annual events year-round.

La Mesa is located just down the freeway from San Diego State University, which is ranked #148 among national universities by U.S. News and World Report.

It’s a great place to live and raise a family. The median price for homes is $862,500.

Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa is ranked #6 in San Diego.

5. Kensington

Kensington

If strolling through charming neighborhoods and admiring architecture and immaculate lawns is something you enjoy, Kensington is an ideal destination for you. Residents also like having restaurants and grocery stores within walking distance.

Kensington is a small, unique community of 115 acres with Spanish-style single family homes on peaceful, winding streets with stone gateways and ornamental lighting. The median home price is around $1,190,000.

Adams Avenue is where you’ll find coffee shops, restaurants, businesses, the library and a park in this small, older urban neighborhood. Founded in 1910, its name comes from a borough in London, England.

Quality healthcare is nearby at UCSD Health Hillcrest, which is ranked #1 in San Diego, along with its La Jolla facility. It’s about a 15-minute drive.

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6. La Jolla

 

Breathtaking ocean views of a curving coastline along the Pacific Ocean is what you’ll see in La Jolla. Surrounded by ocean bluffs and beaches, this hilly upscale community within the city of San Diego is referred to as “the jewel.” And jewels can be pricey — the median price for a La Jolla home is $3,725,000.

The University of California San Diego (UCSD) is one of several educational institutions in La Jolla. It includes the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. UCSD is ranked among the best universities in the world and its campus has been recognized globally and nationally for advancing health care, producing powerful research, and much more. Also located in La Jolla are the Salk Institute, Scripps Research Institute and the headquarters of National University.

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps sits on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Visitors can view a variety of marine life there, with more than 60 habitats featuring fish and invertebrates. The oceanographic museum shares research discoveries by Scripps Oceanography scientists on climate, earth and ocean science.

Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial, at the top of an 822-foot hill, honors service members with thousands of plaques. And what a view! With a 360-degree panoramic look around San Diego, when the weather’s clear, you can see as far south as Mexico and to the mountains of Los Angeles to the north.

La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores are beautiful places to picnic, stroll, snorkel, swim, surf, kayak or scuba dive.

The central area of La Jolla is called the Village, and this is where you’ll find many of La Jolla’s high-end boutiques and upscale restaurants.

The Torrey Pines Gliderport in La Jolla offers paragliding and hang gliding, with tandem paragliding available. Flight lessons and equipment sales are available, too.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a beautiful stretch of land along the coastline. The view is wonderful, and the hike is serene. The animals and rare plants at Torrey Pines are protected. Residents and travelers from all over visit this clean, beautiful and peaceful environment.

As for healthcare, UCSD Health La Jolla ranks #1 in San Diego, as does its Hillcrest facility; Scripps La Jolla Hospital is ranked #2. La Jolla is also home to the San Diego VA Medical Center.

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7. North Park

The 10 Best Places to Live in San Diego

A community of cultural diversity, North Park is conveniently located and offers easy access to many different places. The Gaslamp District is just a little over 10 minutes away, and the San Diego Zoo is about a five-minute drive.

North Park borders Balboa Park, where you can visit the Fleet Science Center and smell roses in the garden. It’s been described as a cultural wonderland, and with good reason. It’s easy to walk around and check out the shops, outdoor art and various museums. It’s a place for recreation, arts and culture, performing arts and community gatherings.

Check out the ornate Spanish Renaissance architecture and roam around the 1,200 acres of beautiful gardens at Balboa Park.

The San Diego Air and Space Museum, San Diego Automotive Museum, San Diego Model Railroad Museum, San Diego Natural History Museum, WorldBeat Center and San Diego Museum of Art are just a few of the 17 museums in Balboa Park.

North Park has a mix of architectural styles from many eras, including hundreds of classic Craftsman houses. The tree-lined roadways are welcoming. The North Park Historical Society has walking tours of the neighborhood. The median home price is $1,212,500.

There’s variety in North Park’s nightlife, and it’s easy to stroll from place to place. Dance the night away or kick back and relax.

It’s close to UCSD Health Hillcrest, a top-rated facility in San Diego.

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8. Hillcrest

Hillcrest is a vibrant, lively, upbeat neighborhood that is located just to the west of North Park — so it, too, is close to downtown San Diego and Balboa Park.

Hillcrest is charming. Homes in the area cost a little more than in neighboring North Park. The median home price is around $1,575,000.

Hillcrest is the heart of San Diego’s LGBT community and is known for its acceptance, equality, diversity and inclusion — it’s a place where everyone is welcome. The neighborhood naturally has a large presence of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents.

Many of the businesses are locally owned, with a wide array of popular thrift stores, boutiques, unique shops and specialty stores, vintage clothing shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, sidewalk patios and clubs.

The annual San Diego Pride Parade is full of color and is among the largest in the country, attracting over 300,000 spectators. It’s the largest single-day civic event in the region.

The Hillcrest CityFest, a celebration of community spirit, is another annual event featuring live music, arts, crafts, food and, of course, fun.

The weekly Hillcrest Farmers Market has a reputation for being the best and one of the largest farmer’s markets in the county. Over 175 vendors offer a wide variety of locally grown produce, arts and crafts, flowers, gifts, clothing and other unique goods. There’s a wide range of prepared food, too, with hot and cold cuisine, including international cuisine. Entertainment is a part of it, too, with an assortment of local musicians performing. U.S. News and World Report has UCSD Health Hillcrest ranked #1 in San Diego, along with its La Jolla facility.

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9. Del Mar

Del Mar is an extravagant yet quaint village by the sea. It’s a prestigious, affluent and upscale community in San Diego’s North County. Del Mar Village has a small-town vibe, and visitors from around the world come to visit the beautiful beaches, eat international cuisine and watch the sunset over the Pacific. Summertime brings residents and tourists to the town for the renowned Del Mar Racetrack and the San Diego County Fair.

While it’s a sophisticated little town, it’s also casual. Locals enjoy the restaurants and bars overlooking the water for a get-together with friends any time of day or for a romantic dinner in the evening.

It’s an exceptional place to live for singles, couples, families and retirees, but it comes with a price. The median price for a home is $3,900,000. With many half-timbered, Tudor-style structures, the town creates a European feel. It’s a great place to raise a family and the schools in Del Mar are excellent. High-quality healthcare is available at Scripps Clinic Del Mar.

From the end of July to the beginning of September, thousands flock to the racetrack for one of Southern California’s most popular summer events: opening day at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. When the club opened in 1937, Bing Crosby was there to greet the first fan to come through the gate.

Thousands attend opening day, which features the traditional Opening Day Hats Contest. Create a winning hat and win money on more than just the horses. Prizes are given in four categories in the contest: Best Racing Theme, Most Glamorous, Best Fascinator and Best Flowers.

You know it’s the start of summer when the San Diego County Fair gets underway in Del Mar. (It used to be called the Del Mar Fair.) There’s all the fun you’d expect and plenty of animals, food, games, rides, a number of musical acts, and wine and beer festivals.

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10. Coronado

Coronado

Across the bay from downtown San Diego is the island paradise of Coronado, with the charm of the Hotel Del Coronado (designated a National Historic Landmark) and wide, sandy beaches. Immaculately manicured lawns, elegant gardens, lovely mansions and quaint shops are all part of Coronado.

You can get to Coronado via the magnificent San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge, which is a little over two miles long, or by driving on the Silver Strand, or by taking a ferry or water taxi. The ferry travels from the Coronado Ferry Landing to the San Diego Broadway Pier. From there you can walk to Seaport Village, where you’ll find plenty of shops and eateries.

Coronado’s Ferry Landing also has lots of shops, art galleries and restaurants. It’s a nice place to relax and enjoy the amazing view. Bike cruises are popular, too.

Beaches on both sides of the Silver Strand State Beach make the area a popular recreational destination. In one direction is the Pacific Ocean, and in the other is San Diego Bay. Locals and visitors enjoy camping, swimming, surfing, boating, water skiing, volleyball, picnicking and fishing for perch, corbina, grunion and yellow-fin croaker.

Other water activities on the waters of Coronado include sailing, stand-up paddle boarding, surfing and kayaking.

It is one of the most sought-after places to live in San Diego County. The median home price is around $3,477,000.

According to Public School Review, Coronado has one of the highest numbers of public schools in the state that are top ranked.

Sharp Coronado Hospital offers everything from quality care for serious medical conditions to wellness classes.

Coronado has one of San Diego’s several military bases: Naval Air Station North Island and the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. It has an on-base population of 5,000 military personnel and 7,000 students and reservists. Naval Amphibious Base Coronado and its adjacent beaches provide training for Navy SEALs.

San Diego County is an amazing place to live. Great weather, beautiful beaches, entertainment, education, sports — there’s typically some event to attend and definitely a place to enjoy. You can take your dog, too. San Diego has plenty of dog parks and dog beaches. Several restaurants allow you to bring your pets when you’re seated in the patio area. Regardless of where you live in the county, it’s easy to get around; it’s just a short drive, for example, from the inland valleys to the sandy beaches.

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