Are you moving to San Diego soon? It’s the second-largest city in California and has beautiful beaches, perfect weather, and lucrative job opportunities, so it comes as no surprise you’d want to move to San Diego.
It’s a city that’s perfect for all ages. But with its temperate climate, abundant nature, and diverse community, San Diego stays appealing to families and young professionals. Since the city has some of the best schools in the nation, it’s an attractive location to raise a family. Whatever your reasons are for moving to San Diego, you can rest assured that the city will welcome you with open arms. But you need to know a little more about the location you will start calling home. To help you with that, we have put together a comprehensive guide that covers all the essential facets of what makes this America’s Finest City so unique.
San Diego Location
Located on the Pacific Coast in Southern California, San Diego is known as “America’s Finest City”. It’s famous for its mile-long sandy beaches and mild weather all year round. This city has a population of 1.3 million people, making it California’s second-largest city. San Diego County, where San Diego resides, comprises 18 cities and towns with neighborhoods like Chula Vista, Del Mar, Carlsbad, Coronado, and Point Loma.
The city as a whole recognizes 52 distinct Community Planning Areas, with each area containing several neighborhoods. There are over 100 neighborhoods in San Diego.
Weather in San Diego
San Diego’s summer months last 2.8 months, from early July to early October, with an average temperature of 75°F during the warm months. The climate during this period is warm and dry, with August being the hottest month.
Cooler weather settles between the end of November and early April, where the average temperature hits below 67°F. The winters here are long and wet, with the coldest month being December.
When it comes to rain, it’s concentrated chiefly between December to March. Summer months are mostly rainless, except for a couple of days.
History of San Diego
The first to visit this region was Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. He was a Spaniard that led an expedition in 1542 to the coast of California, ultimately anchoring in San Diego Bay on September 28th and claiming the area for Spain.
In 1769, the Spanish built 21 Missions across California. In 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain, then in 1846, California was annexed by the United States from Mexico.
In 1850, San Diego had a population of just a few hundred. After getting incorporated, the population grew steadily, reaching 2,300 people by 1870.
At the beginning of the 20th century, San Diego became a leading U.S. naval base. But in July 1905, a boiler explosion on USS Bennington killed 66 men in San Diego and injured many others. But due to the presence of the Navy, San Diego survived the depression in the 1930s better than the rest of the country.
By the end of the 20th century, San Diego’s population exploded to nearly 700,000 in 1970. Maritime Museum, Sea World, the Timken Museum of Art, Horton Plaza, Plaza Bonita, and San Diego Convention Center opened their doors between 1948 through 1989, further fueling its economic growth.
San Diego continues to thrive today, with industries like defense, tourism, and technology fronting the growth.
San Diego Demographics Breakdown
The City of San Diego is a story of 3.34 million residents, with their scores of diversity reflected in its culture, workforce, cuisine, and festivities. This city holds the nation’s largest military community.
With its proximity to Mexico and its strong presence as a global innovation hub, this region has become multicultural. Over 40% of San Diego residents over the age of five speak a language other than English (the most common non-English language spoken here being Spanish, Tagalog, Mandarin, and Cantonese. 26.5% of people that reside here were born outside of the US.
The three largest ethnic groups in San Diego are White, Hispanic, and Asian. The residents here have a median age of 36.4.
Jobs in San Diego
San Diego has a thriving tech sector, thanks to a large influx of new tech companies popping up in the market in recent years. Other notable job sectors in San Diego include:
- Aerospace: Aerospace workers are in high demand in San Diego. The two naval bases in the city and the Marine base heavily rely on aerospace technologies, like crewless aerial vehicles like drones or UAVs. Two of the largest UAV producers Dash Northrop Grumman and General Atomics, are located here.
- Defense: Most of the research and design of new defense products like command and control systems, surveillance systems, and cyber security is done in San Diego.
- Engineering: Engineers are in short supply in San Diego. There’s a high demand, particularly for civil engineers, software engineers, computer hardware engineers, and biomedical engineers.
- Biotech: San Diego has world-class research facilities and locally has many companies specializing in medical devices, biopharmaceuticals, biofuels, and more. Biomedical engineering is one of the fastest-growing occupations in San Diego.
- Information and Communications Technology: Local ICT businesses specialize in big data, security, and gaming. These companies support the tech needs of sectors like healthcare, biotech, defense, and clean-tech.
There are two fortune 500 companies in San Diego: Qualcomm, which is a prominent telecommunication research and development firm, and Sempra energy, which is a North American energy infrastructure company.
Here are the top employers in San Diego County:
- Department of Defense
- Local Government
- Public school districts
- University of California, San Diego
- Sharp Healthcare
- Scripps Health
- Kaiser Permanente
- UC San Diego
The average salary in San Diego is $79,000, but the cost of living in this city is 44% higher than the national average. So the higher pay is more of a necessity than a luxury.
San Diego has fantastic weather and a robust economy, which keeps new companies always coming in, bringing new job opportunities with them. From IT to aerospace, jobs are abundant here.
Education in San Diego
San Diego has plenty of schools. Most of them are outdoors, which means the students spend a lot of their time outside. Lunch is held under a covered patio instead of in an enclosed lunchroom.
Also, note that San Diego strives to build a community where the children can walk or bike to school. School buses aren’t usually offered for transportation. If it is available, you’d have to pay extra for the service.
Most San Diego schools provide fantastic Extended School Services (ESS) before and after regular school hours. Since it’s a coastal city, your kids will have many sports options available not found in many other cities, like surfing, beach volleyball, water polo, etc.
Some of the best school districts in San Diego are San Dieguito Union School District, Poway Unified School District, Coronado Unified School District, Carlsbad Unified School District, and San Marcos Unified School District.
When it comes to private schools, a few of the best institutions are Bishops School in La Jolla, La Jolla Country Day School, San Diego Jewish Academy, and Francis Parker School.
For those seeking higher education, there are several top-notch colleges and universities in San Diego. It’s one of the most educated cities in the nation, with over 44 percent of the population holding a Bachelor’s degree.
University of California, San Diego, is the largest university in this city and also the second-largest employer in the area. Other public colleges and universities include San Diego State University, San Diego City College, and San Diego Miramar College.
Private educational institutions include the University of San Diego, California International Business University, and California College San Diego.
There is one medical school and three accredited, and one non-accredited law school in this city.
Getting Around in San Diego
This city has a robust transit system that makes going to and from places convenient and accessible for those who don’t want to drive.
Buses: San Diego’s Metropolitan bus system is the most economical way to traverse through the city, albeit not the most reliable according to locals. When planning to take the bus, schedule some room to accommodate for inevitable delays. Also, it won’t hurt to have a backup transportation plan. But the great news is that the bus system runs 992 routes, which means you can quickly get anywhere from a specific restaurant to the airport. Check out all the available bus routes here.
Do remember that you need a PRONTO Card to access the buses.
Trolley: These bright red trolleys are an iconic component of San Diego’s legacy. These offer three different lines (Blue line, Orange Line, and Greenline) that operate daily and cover more than 50+ miles across 53 stations.
Here are some routes for each line:
- Blue Line: Harborside, Paloma Street, Iris Avenue
- Orange Line: Lemon Grove Depot, Grossmont, Amaya Drive
- GreenLine: Fenton Parkway, Fashion Valley, Old Town
There is also a Heritage line (Silver line) that covers a particular downtown route around Petco Park on certain days.
The Pacific Surfliner: This is a 350-mile passenger train that has a route along the California coastline and into San Diego from LA, Santa Barbara, and the San Juan Capistrano. The train also allowed surfers and cyclists aboard with their surfboards and bikes.
COASTER Commuter Rail Service: This rail connects the North and South of San Diego County, across eight stations between Oceanside and Downtown San Diego. Over 20 trains run on the weekdays with more service during the weekends. Traveling the entire Coaster route will take you about an hour.
Sprinter: This is a DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit) operated commuter rail that connects Oceanside, Escondido, San Marcos, and Vista across 15 stations. SPRINTER runs every 30 minutes in both directions Monday to Friday from 4 am to 9 pm. On the weekends, the train operates every 30 minutes between 10 am to 6 pm and on an hourly schedule outside that time window.
San Diego’s Best Annual Event
- January – San Diego Black Film Festival: Since 2002, this event has been the country’s most prominent black film festival. It screens more than 100 independent black films across genres like documentaries, LGBT, horror, and foreign/African diaspora.
- February – San Diego Museum Month: This is an annual program where, for the entire month of February, more than 40 museums open their doors to the public with 50% off admission. Some of the previous participating institutions include the San Diego Archaeological Center, the California Surf Museum, The San Diego Museum of Art, and the San Diego Botanic Garden.
- March – San Diego Indie Music Fest: This is the place to be if you want to discover upcoming local bands and musicians. The funds from the show go to support a local charitable cause, which the festival organizers pick annually. The chosen non-profit last year was Rock to Stop the Violence, which helps victims of domestic violence.
- April – Mission Federal ArtWalk: San Diego’s most prolonged running and largest art-related festival. It’s held in the Little Italy district. The weekend of this event, this area gets filled with over 100,000 art lovers from all over the US. The ArtWalk is spread over 16 blocks, and the artist can pick the venue where they want to showcase their works.
- May – Old Town Fiesta Cinco de Mayo: This event transforms the historic Old Town into the most popular Cinco de Mayo celebration of the West Coast. It attracts more than 100,000 visitors across three days with non-stop music, live performances, Lucha libre wrestling, and more. There are many activities for the kiddos, too — face painting, arts and crafts, and stagecoach rides.
- June – San Diego County Fair: With more than 20 concerts, rides (Big wheel Ferris wheel, Twister, Carousel, mini bumper cars), live animals, and so many carnival games, the San Diego County Fair brings in over a million annual visitors. This fair is held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and celebrates all the fantastic food, talent, and innovation of San Diego.
- July – Comic-Con International: The nation’s most giant comic book and pop culture convention brings comic creators, sci-fi and fantasy authors, writers, film directors, and other creators together for their fans. Over the years, this event has introduced a wide range of comics and book publishers in its Exhibit Hall. If you’re a pop art or comic book lover, this is an event you need to see.
- August – World Bodysurfing Championship: Held beside the Oceanside Pier, this event draws 350-400 bodysurfers worldwide to compete in their age bracket for prizes and trophies. At the end of the event, The Men and Women’s Grand Champion gets crowned.
- September – San Diego Bayfair: The Bayfair is among the biggest races in San Diego. The 2.5-Mike racecourse is the longest and fastest racecourse on the H1 Unlimited hydroplane circuit. In recent years, over 5 million attendees have enjoyed watching the races on Mission Bay. Although it started as just a hydroplane race in 1964, this event has now grown to feature drag boats, live music, international competitors, and aerial performances. There are also boat racing tours that include Grand Prix Westfield Formula One Tunnel Boats and more.
- October – San Diego Asian Film Festival: This is one of the most prominent media arts organizations in North America that focuses on Asian and Asian American cinema. It showcases the diversity and depth of their cinema, with independent voices and unique documentaries, and fresh perspectives of Asian and Asian American filmmakers. It gives attendees a remarkable opportunity to discover films from across the globe.
- November – Holiday of Lights at Del Mar: West Coast’s largest animated drive-through light show. You will find over 409 displays around the Del Mar Racetrack spanned across a 1.5 miles tour, which you can traverse in your car or on an offered hayride. Some of the incredible light displays you will see include Santa steering a sleigh through the sky, dinosaurs grazing on the grass beside a palm tree, and more.
- December – La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival: This holiday parade and festival has been going on for nearly 60 years. It’s one of La Jolla’s most beloved activities. There’s a photo with Santa, arts and crafts, and much live entertainment. The theme of the event changes every year. One of the main attractions of the event is Santa’s visit. In the last event, he was driven in a classic 1915 Black Packers Convertible.
This event sees many local businesses participants, like the Rotary Club, the La Jolla Historical Society, the Gillispie School, and Birch Aquarium. There are floats, fire engines, princesses, and beauty queens in the parade. This event is also for car lovers since there’s always a lineup of vintage and rare vehicles for the show.
Festivals in San Diego
- Brazil Carnival: This event is touted as the most significant Brazilian festival on the West Coast. It draws more than 60,000 attendees to family-friendly activities and a street fair with more than 150 vendors and a food court. There’s also a carnival parade with floats and Brazilian music. This event is held at the Mission Beach in the heart of San Diego, which Brazilians in the city lovingly called the “Rio de Janeiro of North America.”
- San Diego Greek Festival: Hosted by St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church, this annual Greek Festival allows attendees to celebrate the Greek heritage, culture, music, traditions, and food. This 3-day event by St. Spyridon Community has made a reputation of serving some of the best Greek pastries and food in entire California.
- Pride Parade and Festival: San Diego’s Pride event is a celebration of love and togetherness. The bars, clubs, and streets display colorful flags representing the LGBTQ community. The multi-day event includes Pride 5K Run, Spirit of Stonewall Rally, and Pride of Hillcrest Block Party, a mile-long parade through Hillcrest.
- Coronado Flower Show: This is the largest flower show in the country. It’s held on the third weekend of April in Coronado’s gorgeous Spreckels Park. The exhibition includes landscape displays, floral and horticultural competitions, educational lectures, food, beer, and wine events. There’s also live entertainment and shopping opportunities galore.
- San Diego International Movie Festival: SIDF is an indie film festival based in San Diego. It’s held in the fall in Gaslamp Quarter and La Jolla. The event encompasses award banquets, premiers, panel discussions, independent documentaries, and short film screenings. There are competitive juried events across multiple film genres, like Native American, foreign language, thrillers, and even local movies made in San Diego.
- Miramar Air Show: This is the largest military air show in the whole world. It’s also one of the most significant public events in San Diego. It attracts 700,000 guests from around the world every year.
- CRSSD Festival: This is a 2-day electronic festival held at 12 acres of San Diego Waterfront Park. It features more than 36 performers across three stages. There’s also craft beer and delicious food for the attendees.
- San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival: The San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival brings the country’s jazz lovers together at the beautiful Embarcadero Park North located in the San Diego Marina. It’s a 3-day event that combines smooth jazz with delicious cuisines and a fantastic ambiance that you’ll remember for a lifetime.
San Diego Cuisine
San Diego is one of the best places to eat your heart out. It has access to many fresh ingredients and is a melting pot of many ethnicities and lifestyles.
Here are some of the best food you need to try in San Diego:
- California burritos: A burrito with fries, guacamole, and carne asada (grilled and sliced beef). You can find these anywhere from bars to taco shops.
- Fish tacos: With the Pacific Ocean and Mexico so close, there’s no shortage of fresh seafood. The fish tacos here changed based on the type of freshly caught fish. The most famous taco here is the Baja-style fish taco.
- Avocado toast: While you’ve likely had avocado toast many times, San Diego’s version is the best. The avocados here are so fresh and flavorful. It takes this dish to the next level.
- Açaí bowl: Since they were popularized in San Diego, you can find creative açaí bowls here for very cheap compared to other regions. If you don’t know what açaí bowls are, they’re almost like a smoothie bowl made with açaí (a superfruit berry) topped with nuts and chocolate.
Top Things to Do in San Diego
- USS Midway Museum: The USS Midway used to be the longest-serving aircraft carrier in the 20th venture. Now, this interactive music presents an opportunity for an unforgettable experience for the whole family. You get to explore a floating city, flight deck, restored aircraft, flight simulators, and more. The Midway is an iconic part of San Diego since it’s known worldwide as a “Navy Town.”
- La Jolla Cove: This is a small beach sandwiched between sandstone cliffs. It’s one of the most photographed beaches in Southern California. In the summer months, the north-facing La Jolla Cove is perfect for snorkelers, scuba divers, and swimmers. Since it’s located within the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, it’s abundant in marine life. With the water visibility over 30 feet, you can see plenty of the fishes and other creatures from the surface.
- San Diego Zoo: This 100-acre zoo is renowned for its lush, natural habitat and 3,700 rare and endangered animals encompassing nearly 600 species and subspecies. There’s also an expansive botanical collection with over 700,000 plants. You can view them all by walking through the pathways into aviaries or cosmic biozones.
There’s also a 35-minute Guided Bus Tour that’s very helpful to get an overview of the zoo. You can take a note of all the locations you’d like to spend additional time in later. The Zoo is remarkable in that you get to see the animals in the most natural way possible.
- Old Town San Diego State Historic Park: Founded in 1968, a living history museum that preserves historic structures from the 19th century as San Diego transitioned from Mexico to America. It also has shops and restaurants offering authentic handmade works and cuisines. This park also forms the venue of several annual cultural festivities like Cinco de Mayo.
Some reconstructions include Robinson-Rose House, a two-story building used as offices, schoolrooms, county clerk’s office, and a jail cell. There are also live enactments of a blacksmith shop, and the reconstructed Seeley Stable and Livery holds horse-drawn carriages, wagons, and buggies from the mid-19th century. Multiple abode structures that were built around the 1830s are also found here, one of which includes The Casa De Estudillo is the oldest Adobe mansion in California.
- Balboa Park: The 1,200-acre Balboa Park is the USA’s most iconic urban park. It contains gardens, 17 museums, and the iconic San Diego zoo. The park has exquisite architecture, amazing exhibits and also holds many cultural events throughout the year.
Balboa Park is ethnically and culturally diverse and has a deep history. This is the best spot to revel in the past and future of San Diego.
- Children’s Pool: This is a small beach that’s half protected with a seawall. It was initially intended to be created as a fully protected swimming area, but over the years, sand has filled inside most of the wall. You will also spot seals and sea lions chilling on the beach during the year. There are several other smaller beaches nearby, like Wipeout Beach and Shell Beach. The Children’s Pool is one of the only nine beaches in the nation with a permanent lifeguard station.
- Sunset Cliffs Natural Park: This is a 68-acre park that stretches 1 ½ mile along the western edge of Point Loma Peninsula’s shoreline. You get to explore stunning cliff formations, magnificent ocean views, caves, and more. You can watch California gray whales migrating from the Bering Sea to Baja Valley from the clifftop. Also, there’s a 50-acre hillside zone that’s dedicated to multiple species conservation areas. It connects to the 640-acre Point Loma Ecological Reserve nearby.
This site is popular among surfers, ocean gazers, and anyone who enjoys breathtaking panoramic views and sunsets.
- Fashion Valley: This outdoor shopping mall has San Diego’s most exquisite collection of 200 stores and restaurants and 18 movie theaters. The five department stores found here include Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, JCPenney, Bloomingdale’s, and Nordstrom. A few high-end fashion brands available are Ted Baker and Gucci. Once you’re done shopping, grab a meal at The Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, or PF Chang’s.
Tips for Moving to San Diego, California
- It’s best to move during wintertime since due to high demand for apartments, the rent prices surge during summer months, and it’s also harder to find a spot.
- If you’re planning to take your car, make sure to check out the local parking scene since it can be a challenge to park your vehicle in specific neighborhoods.
- Get a Compass Card right away, even if you don’t plan to take public transport. If the traffic or weather is bad or the car isn’t functioning, you will have a way to get to work.
- Mark your calendar for Comic-Con. Even if you aren’t attending, know that the city will be bustling around that time, which will affect your commute time to work.
- Take advantage of free events around the city like free yoga, beach volleyball, and parks.
- When eating out, explore local restaurants for some authentic cuisines. They’re cheaper and also made with better quality ingredients.
- Hire professional movers to get packing, loading, and transporting of your belongings done for you. A good moving company can make an otherwise daunting task of relocating to a new state into a seamless and exciting experience.
The Stark Team has located many Boston families in several neighborhoods in San Diego. If you are heading to the west coast and need professional relocation assistance, don’t hesitate to give our team a call. We will be happy to develop a moving plan and get you started with a free estimate based on your needs.