@Talon: I moved to San Diego just over 3 years ago for grad school. I lived there during middle school and have family there too. I have lived in a small farming community and Los Angeles (Go Bruins), but I think San Diego is the perfect in between for me. Here are my answers to your questions:
Is the temperature really always in the 70s there?
The weather is almost always perfect, and I LOVE that!! It seldom even rains- though when it does, it’s a big deal and people drive too slow on the freeway, lol- it’s just rain people! But San Diegans aren’t used to that.
What does the average home look like, and how much does it cost?
There are all kinds of homes to choose from- condos, townhomes, single family homes. While you can probably find any style, I would say most houses have a Spanish architectural style. Some neighborhoods require spanish tile roofs for fire prevention reasons, so if you don’t like that look, then a couple northern SD neighborhoods are out. I don’t know a ton about real estate here because I am not house shopping, but it’s California real estate and in San Diego the weather is gorgeous so it is pricier than a lot of the country. I have a friend in the market now because prices haven’t gone all the way back up from the housing crash so it is still a good time to buy. One friend got an older but updated 4 bedroom/2.5 bath with a pool for between 300K and 400K, though she’s more inland. I have friends who bought a 2 bedroom 2 bath townhouse in the best school district for 400K.
What are some of the best towns to live in? Why?
La Jolla is very popular, but on the pricey side. It’s right on the coast, lots of shopping and great restaurants. If you work there, that would be great, ubt if you don’t then you may have a longer commute than you would like.
Hillcrest is the West Hollywood of San Diego- lots of older places that are kept up well and some of the best places to eat are within walking distance. I lived in Hillcrest and I loved it- it’s a hip place to live and walking distance from Balboa Park (the central park of San Diego) where there are ton of museums and the world famous San Diego zoo where they breed pandas. Mission Hills is nearby and has a similar vibe but you would have to drive to dinner. North Park, South Park (real place I swear), and Kensington has nice places, but they are more up and coming neighborhoods so some places still have bars on the windows. All of these places are close to downtown if you are working there.
If you want to be near the main malls and the football stadium, then I would go with Mission Valley- but that will be mostly condos as opposed to single family homes. Also a quick commute to down town. Downtown definitely has more of a large city feel and lots of nightlife. The only other place with a lot of night life would probably be Pacific Beach- lots of bars and near the beach- but also lots of drunk college kids.
Point Loma, Mission Beach, and Ocean Beach are typical beach towns- OB has a great farmers market. Coronado is an island connected to down town by a bridge with nice homes, but rush hour is insane and it’s pretty expensive. Imperial Beach, South Bay, and southern SD is pretty close to being in Mexico in terms of the culture. Linda Vista is okay- some places has great views and it is close to downtown, but I would rather live in another neighborhood.
East SD has San Diego State, so there are a LOT of college kids in that area. El Cajon has higher crime rates, but also starts getting into more country living and ranchettes, especially as you get to Alpine. Other more country area are Ramona and Valley Home. Some neighborhoods are safe, but you just have to be more careful in that area. Aero Road/ Tierra Sante is a lot of military families, lot of single family homes. Kearny Mesa and Mira Mesa have different asian neighborhoods, restaurants, and markets.
Then there is what they call “North County” Poway, Rancho Penasquitos, Rancho Bernardo, and up to Escondido. That area is pretty safe, mostly single family homes and very suburban. There are a lot of families and Poway Unified School District is the best school district (it includes Poway and Rancho Penasquitos for sure and I don’t know where else).
Where the best neighborhood depends on what stage of life you are in. For me, I lived in Mission Valley and Hillcrest (I preferred Hillcrest) and as a young working professional, I would live in Mission Hills, Hillcrest, or maybe La Jolla (since my fiance will be taking classes at UCSD and it is there).
Some general reasons why I like San Diego:
There can be traffic but it isn’t that bad (especially compared to Los Angeles) and if you really want to go to LA for some reason, it’s not a big trip. There is always something to do- concert venues, plays/shows, symphony/orchestra, dinner cruises, mystery dinners, comedy shows. During the summer there are fireworks at Sea World every Friday and Saturday night. You are only 1.5 hours from Disneyland. Padres stadium is a great place to watch a baseball game. You could never eat at the same restaurant twice- and so many are really great (my FI was a chef so we are big on food). The weather is nice for outdoor activities most of the year so many people are very active- you see runners and cyclists everywhere. There are great water sports and tons of great hunting on mountains and canyons. You are pretty close to the beach, the desert, and the mountains- you could go to the desert, so surfing, and then ski all in one day (a long crazy day for sure, but it’s possible).
Cost of Living:
It’s do-able- there are plenty of married couples that make it on one income. I survived as a grad student- I rented a 1 bedroom 1 bathroom apartment (in a big victorian house that was split up between 4 apts) for $1200/month. We went to the park, hiking, and running a lot and that’s all free.
I’m sorry this was long, but I hope it’s helpful to you! 🙂