Fall has started in the U.S., Autumn leaves are falling in Europe and here I am lying in my bikini on a California beach… a beach I have just discovered within walking distance of the overpriced room I rent in an ancient tiny apartment with dripping taps and cracked walls so thin I know exactly who wants a 7AM “Large vanilla latte with soy milk” at the drive-through coffee shop next door.
Is this the California Dream?
Where it is normal to still rent a room instead of owning a home in your thirties, where you easily pay upward of $1000 for that room but where you get a comfortable climate and a good looking city with a lot to offer in return?
I am in San Diego and I have been coming here for extended stays for over a year now. And yes, it is a great city: not too big and overwhelming but with a lot of activities going on, numerous completely different neighborhoods to explore, a beautiful coastline on one side and the mountains on the other side.
I like San Diego. I clearly do because it’s one of the few places I have ever visited that I actually make an effort to go back to.
“California Dream is the psychological motivation to gain fast wealth or fame in a new land.” – Wikipedia
As a result of the California Gold Rush after 1849, California’s name became indelibly connected with the Gold Rush, and fast success in a new world became known as the “California Dream”
Still, I am not convinced about this California Dream
If you ask anyone living in San Diego what they think of this city they will without fail tell you it is great and “the weather is just perfect”. But really? In winter I freeze my butt off at night because all these old, poorly constructed properties get so cold. Public transport is horrible so everybody drives everywhere (getting American friends to walk places is my ongoing challenge) and I have almost stopped drinking because I simply can’t get myself to spend $10 or more on a glass of wine – I used to live in Spain, anything over $3 was considered outrageous!
But I guess it’s exactly that what is my problem: I compare. We all tend to compare. Americans coming from cold, northern states love the year-round warm days and Americans from the humid south-east love the low humidity here. But I compare it with completely different places: with Europe; overflowing with culture, history and numerous affordable countries within easy reach to travel to and explore. I compare it with the Caribbean, where the water is actually warm enough to swim in without a wetsuit and with Asia where the food is cheap and delicious…
I shouldn’t do that though. I know better than most that no place is perfect, and I have to say, San Diego has so much going for it. And that is what I want to share with you here:
Why San Diego is a Great City
San Diego & Nature
Parks, beaches, hiking trails, coves, lakes, estuaries, nearby mountains, bays… San Diego has a lot to offer any type of nature lover and many people here like to boast how “you can drive up the mountains to go skiing in the morning and be sunbathing on the beach in the afternoon”.
San Diego & Arts and Culture
San Diego is home to Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in the U.S., that features 15 museums, numerous art galleries, beautiful gardens, the Tony Award-winning Globe Theaters and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. From art galleries to Symphonies, live theaters to operas, San Diego has a lot to offer. Add to this the exploding culinary arts scene with more than 7000 restaurants and counting.
San Diego & Neighborhoods
San Diego County is spread out over 4,500 square miles that include so many neighborhoods that you could be born and raised in San Diego and never see all of them. It is a city of eclectic villages each with their own vibe, lifestyle, and fun. From the amazing food and drink in North Park and Little Italy, to the nightlife and recreational options in Pacific Beach and The Gaslamp Quarter… there is something here for everyone’s taste.
San Diego & The Beach
This is my personal favorite: San Diego comes with 70 miles of coastline! And this coast offers a wide variety of beaches: family beaches, party beaches, scenic beaches, surf beaches, resort beaches, snorkeling beaches, dog beaches, and even a nudist beach. So whatever your favorite type of beach is, you will be able to find it here.
San Diego & Events
There seems to be something happening in San Diego every weekend, not to say every single day. Whether it’s a beer fest, a large fair, live bands, a major sporting event or horse races… you will never be able to say there is nothing going on in this city!
San Diego & Family Fun
San Diego has a lot to offer families: SeaWorld, San Diego Zoo and Legoland to name a few. But also an adorable seaside amusement park on the boardwalk, called Belmont Park, and an artificial surf wave generating machine at Wave House. Or go to Seaport Village for waterfront eateries, shops, and entertainment for all ages.
San Diego & Golf Courses
San Diego and the surrounding area features over 80 golf courses, making it a renowned golf vacation destination.
San Diego & Beer
San Diego is The Craft Beer Capital of America. There are over 100 licensed craft breweries and brewpubs in San Diego county. Its beer culture is a draw for tourism, particularly during major festivals such as San Diego Beer Week and the San Diego International Beer Competition. San Diego County breweries like AleSmith Brewing Company, Stone Brewing Co., Green Flash Brewing Company, and Ballast Point are consistently rated among the top breweries in the world.
San Diego & Mexican Food
Ok, nothing beats mexican food in Mexico, but San Diego probably boasts the best Mexican Food in the USA. And, it’s available 24 hours a day on almost every corner. You will find Taco Tuesday signs all over the city and this is the perfect opportunity to try out cheap and delicious tacos!
San Diego & Traffic
Like almost anywhere in the USA, San Diegans drive everywhere. Surprisingly though traffic is not too bad here. Yes, you will hear some complaints about San Diego traffic and during rush hour it can get a bit frustrating. But, if you compare it to nearby Los Angeles, traffic here is a breeze and driving around while being surrounded by palm trees and with great views of the ocean, beautiful bays and an attractive skyline is actually a treat!
San Diego & Climate
Although in my personal opinion it gets too cold here in winter and the water is definitely too cold year round, more people might probably agree with these sources: The United States Weather Bureau describes San Diego’s weather as the closest thing to perfect in America. Holiday Magazine described San Diego as the “only area in the United States with perfect weather.” Pleasant Weather Rating Service Poll voted San Diego as the best year-round weather in the nation, and the second best in the world.
San Diego & Lifestyle
San Diego has a very laid-back, “no worries” lifestyle. People show up to business meetings in shorts and brag about how you can wear flip-flops almost year round. The climate surely helps here and seems to make people a lot more relaxed and friendlier than in many other cities around the world….
San Diegans are also surprisingly fit and healthy. Yes, you can find a McDonald’s, a Burger King and all the others without even trying, but at the same time there are a lot of healthy alternatives and most San Diegans seem to prefer those. And then there are all the sports they enjoy… Whether you’re into surfing, wakeboarding, paddle boarding, mountain climbing, off-road racing, kayaking, snorkeling, biking, fishing, yoga, kick-boxing, or just walking along the scenic boardwalk, it’s available in San Diego.
The good and the bad
I feel very fortunate that I get to be here and experience this life that so many people talk about. I am lucky enough to be able to afford my overpriced room (even though only barely), to drive my rental car and live in one of the best areas of the city. But at the same time I see homeless people every day, a lot of poverty and shocking inequality. So could I ever call it a dream or the best place in the world? No, sorry San Diego, I will give you a lot of praise but I can’t give you that.
What I will give you though is this: San Diego, you are without a doubt one of the nicest places I have ever lived in, with all you have to offer you seem to be great at keeping me from getting bored with you, your skyline I enjoy every time I get a chance to stare at it and your beaches and blue skies do a good job at lifting my mood every day. For that I thank you!
Moving to San Diego
Have you decided San Diego is a great city and are you thinking about moving here? Feel free to ask me for tips or my very honest opinion about the pros and cons of this Californian city!
- What it Was Like to Move to San Diego From Europe
- What to See & Do on a Short Trip to San Diego
- 10 of the Best Rooftop Bars in San Diego
- San Diego’s 8 Best Coffee Shops to Work From / Study at
- 4 Of The Best Day Trips From San Diego
- Interview With an Expat About Moving to & Living in San Diego
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