San Diego City Guide: Neighborhoods & Things to Do
Why do people move to San Diego? For two main reasons. First, it has what many people describe as “perfect” weather. Second, its proximity to the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean. San Diego is also home to Camp Pendleton, making the U.S. Navy the top employer in the city. If you love marine life (and you kind of have to when you live so close to the ocean!), you’ll love that San Diego has the largest oceanographic museum in the country. And while downtown living means the hustle and bustle of a big city, you’ll find that people who live in this city love and appreciate nature. You’ll have access to a variety of farms, nature reserves, lagoons and canyons to explore. When you’re ready to find your dream home in this beautiful city, check out our San Diego city guide for the perfect apartment within your budget.
San Diego city highlights
Southern California is a major move-to destination for thousands of people. And no wonder! Not only do you get the perks of living in a large city – and one that’s close to LA and Hollywood – but you also get access to some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. Here are a few more things you can enjoy when you find your dream apartment in San Diego.
- San Diego Zoo: The San Diego Zoo is one of the top tourist attractions in Southern California. It’s a great place to bring your kids and spend the day enjoying all the exotic animal exhibits. Unfortunately, one of the greatest attractions – the Giant Pandas – is no longer available as the pandas were sent back to China as part of the conservation agreement between China and the zoo. Still, there are plenty of other beautiful animals to view and a day here will be fun and educational.
- Gaslamp Quarter National Historic District: Adjacent to Petco Park is the Gaslamp Quarter National Historic District, which is the best place to go for some nighttime fun. Victorian buildings in the area are home to shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and art galleries. It’s a very diverse area with food and music from nearly every corner of the globe.
- Old Town San Diego State Historic Park: This historic park celebrates the rich culture of early San Diego. You’ll find authentic Mexican crafts, food and music. The historic buildings – including original adobe structures – have been restored and are part of daily walking tours offered. You can also visit the Old Town State Historic Park, one of the most popular parks in the state.
- Tecolote Canyon Natural Park and Nature Center: Head over to Western San Diego and you’ll get to see this park, which runs along the coast and the mouth of Tecolote Canyon. The Park was dedicated in 1978 with members on the advisory committee who are dedicated to preserving the natural state and beauty of the canyon. The Center provides educational seminars and other special events. There are miles of walking/hiking trails, too.
- University of California – San Diego: Located in Northern San Diego, the University of California, San Diego is one of the leading public research facilities in the world. It was founded in 1960 and is ranked #35 in National Universities, #15 in Best Colleges for Veterans and #173 in Best Value Schools.
San Diego city guide to the best neighborhoods for renters
Are you ready to take the plunge and find a new apartment in San Diego? Our San Diego city guide can help you through the process. It can help you find the best condo, apartment, or home in your neighborhood of choice. Not sure which neighborhood to choose? We’ve got you covered. Here are some of the most popular rental neighborhoods in the area.
North Park is a revitalized neighborhood in San Diego. Within its boundaries are numerous 1920s Craftsman-style homes. It’s a neighborhood that thrives off community and creativity. Trulia calls the neighborhood a hipster’s paradise. However, there are several highly rated public and private schools in the areas, so families can thrive here as well. The Farmer’s Market is ideal for foodies, as are the craft breweries, restaurants and coffee shops. The highway is easily accessible for car owners but there’s plenty of public transportation options available, too.
Most residents here give Ocean Beach an excellent rating for livability. The walkability rating is high and it’s a great place for people who want to walk for exercise or who want to take a stroll at night with their pets. Being so close to the beach is a definite perk but residents do say that you definitely pay for the privilege when it comes to the cost of rent. However, for most residents, the cost is worth it to be able to access the beach and the Pacific Ocean on a regular basis.
One nice thing about living in Downtown San Diego is that you have easy access to just about anything you could possibly need – work, restaurants, entertainment and more. A potential downside is the number of people in the area. If you’re an extrovert and thrive off the buzz of people all around, Downtown might be the perfect place. Those who want to live in a more quiet, peaceful atmosphere might want to consider another neighborhood.
Most residents in this neighborhood rent their homes/apartments. This area has an urban feel, which is great since you’ll have access to everything you need within a matter of minutes. Mission Valley was one of the first major shopping centers in Southern California and currently has three major shopping malls, as well as multiple boutiques and retail stores. The neighborhood is close to major transit sites and there’s easy highway access. The area is also ideal for families with many of the schools earning above average scores from Great Schools.
City Heights is a cultural melting pot with people from Mexico, Vietnam and Middle Eastern countries. You’ll find culturally diverse markets and restaurants. More traditional malls are found in other San Diego neighborhoods, so if you want to frequent those types of facilities, you’ll either need to make a day trip or consider living in a neighborhood that’s in closer proximity to a major shopping mall. Besides the diversity, residents say the safety of the neighborhood is one of its perks, too.
Located just north of Downtown is the historic neighborhood of Little Italy. It started out as an Italian fishing area but has evolved into a neighborhood with incredible restaurants, import shops, galleries and more. Within the 48-square block radius are condos, single family homes, apartments and townhouses. Amici Park is a nice outdoor space in the neighborhood that has a dog park and amphitheater. The walkability score is high for this neighborhood with few people needing vehicles. However, there is easy access to public transport as well.
Another neighborhood where residents don’t need to be reliant on vehicles is Hillcrest. Both the walkability and bike scores are high, making it easy to do your shopping, run errands and get around with relative ease. Accessibility is definitely one of the blessings of living in this San Diego neighborhood. The area is also ideal for families due to its multiple parks and playgrounds. The daycare centers and preschools are also highly rated.
Mira Mesa was originally an area for the army and navy, used as an auxiliary landing area and for tests during World War II. These days, Mira Mesa – one of the oldest San Diego neighborhoods – is an affordable neighborhood for families and boasts great schools. The area is ethnically diverse, being home to residents of Vietnamese, Filipino and Mexican cultures just to name a few. Mira Mesa has a great community park, plenty of businesses and quite a few rental complexes.
If you love history, beauty and culture, you need to check out Balboa Park. The area is home to 16 museums and a plethora of artistic and entertainment venues. You’ll also have access to gorgeous gardens and trails where you can walk, run or hike – whatever type of outdoor exercise you prefer. The transit score for the area is about average, while the walkability and bike scores are lower, so you’ll need to have access to a vehicle to get around.
If entertainment and nightlife are important to you, you should check out our San Diego city guide for East Village apartments to rent. East Village has live music, bars, galleries, pubs, shops, boutiques and cafes. Residents say there’s a decent mix of age groups living in the area – from singles in their 20s to retired couples. Many people who live here are outgoing and friendly and they love to socialize with friends and neighbors.
Looking for something that has a bit more of a suburban feel to it without being too detached from city life? Check out Linda Vista, a suburban/urban neighborhood. It boasts great nightlife and highly-ranked schools. Residents love that there’s plenty to do here, such as visiting indie art studios and dining at great restaurants.
According to a SanDiegan.com, Mission Bay Park was ranked #1 by readers for livability. Not only do residents get amazing views of Mission Bay, but they also have easy access to freeways, several shopping venues, world-class microbreweries and great restaurants. Even better – there are fewer crowds here than in other Southern California cities and neighborhoods. It’s an ideal place to engage in outdoor activities, like paddleboarding, sailing and jet skiing.
Do you love the look of Craftsman and Spanish Colonial-style homes? That’s exactly what you’ll get in this quaint, quiet neighborhood. Residents here say it’s a great spot for planting roots and growing a family. The neighborhood has a high walkability score and is pet friendly. Popular neighborhood events include the Old House Fair and the South Park Walkabout where you can get to know your neighbors and enjoy historic home tours.