City of San Diego
It probably goes without saying but living within the city of San Diego is an expensive proposition. Single family home prices push most families well outside the city leaving singles, couples and young families renting apartments, townhomes or smaller homes. There are plenty of popular neighborhoods including:
1) Downtown: very popular for young service people who want to be a walk from the great majority of the bars, restaurants and cafes in the city. Tons of apartment options here with Valentina and Del Oro two of the most highly rated options. Check out the Yelp reviews of the Top 10 apartment buildings in the downtown area.
2) Little Italy: This Downtown neighborhood is a really interesting mix of luxury high rises and beautiful, renovated historic buildings. Along with the variety of housing options you also get amazing authentic Italian eateries, groovy gelato shops and plenty of festivals, farmer's markets and scores of boutique shopping spots. If you're looking for a bit more community and historical character than other downtown spots then check out Little Italy.
3) North Park: another interesting option for young families that want to be downtown but also be in a neighborhood with a more family-friendly vibe, including excellent local public schools. Although home ownership is available in North Park, there are plenty of homes for rent as well as apartment/townhome rental options. Check out Blvd North Park or Winslow for highly reviewed options. Yelp has thorough reviews of The 10 Best Apartment Buildings in/near North Park. For citywide rental options we'd recommend using HotPads. It's an extremely thorough listing site for rentals.
4) South Park Adjacent to Balboa Park and a short walk to all the parks and open greenery of Balboa, this downtown neighborhood is filled with restaurants, bars/breweries, cafes and art galleries. It has smaller homes for families who want to live in a walkable space and plenty of smaller apartment buildings for renters. K1 is a popular apartment rental option (5.0 out of 5.0 ratings on yelp). Valentina by Alta is another highly rated option. Check out the Top Ten Apartments by ratings on Yelp.
5) Hillcrest: if you favor the beach lifestyle then check out Hillcrest. It's just north of Downtown so you get quick access to all the social options there but you also get walkable beach access and a more chill lifestyle than the zaniness of the center of the city. It has its own restaurants and bars and plenty of apartment and townhome options for those looking to rent. Strauss on Fifth and Hillcrest Place Apartments are two of the most favorably reviewed apartment buildings in the neighborhood. Check out the Yelp reviews to get a feel for all your options.
Central San Diego
Central San Diego includes plenty of family-friendly neighborhoods the area is popular in part for the "suburban vibe" and the easy commutes to the bases. It includes a heavy food culture that includes the best ramen, Korean BBQ, sushi, Pho, curry, and Thai in the area. The neighborhoods have older homes and a big military presence.
1) Tierrasanta: Many personnel are drawn to Tierrasanta by the military housing and end up staying in the neighborhood to be in a tight-knit community. There is a mix of housing options including single-family homes for purchase and rent. Families also have lots of Apartment Home rental options that have both plenty of space and tons of amenities like pools, gyms and play spaces for the kiddos. Check out Tierrasanta Ridge Apartment Homes for one of the great family options.
2) Mission Valley: Mission Valley is popular with with military personnel who take advantage of the massive apartment complexes built amidst the tons of big box stores, malls and neighborhood restaurants. If convenience is important to your or your family then you couldn't pick a better spot. You're right next to the area freeways and every thing you could possibly need for shopping and going out is within a mile.
3) Bay Park: Bay Park is popular with growing families due in part to the fact it has bigger homes than neighborhoods closer to the coast. It's also popular because the schools here are excellent, including Holmes Elementary that gets an A on niche.com and Marston Middle School that gets an A- on niche.com. The blocks are quiet and safe, and living here means you're close to Mission Bay and Seaworld!
The Inland Empire is 60+ miles from Naval Base San Diego so you'd be right in thinking that's a bit far to commute. However, when your family is ready to buy a home then cities like Temecula, in the IE (Inland Empire), are popular. In part this is due to the big volume of military families in the city, plenty who serve at Camp Pendleton, and plenty who make the long commute to San Diego because of the affordability of the housing and the quality of the schools.
Temecula is a suburban city for sure. But it’s distance from LA and San Diego means it’s one of those crossover places that has its own lifestyle rather than just a classic suburban appendage. It has a downtown called Old Town, an historic district that looks like a scene from an old western movie, but its also experiencing growth as the city builds out its infrastructure to support an influx of wfh’ers and work from home most-of-the timer’s. The lifestyle is increasingly more like a rural growth city than a suburban tract development and so locals enjoy more of what’s local than what’s available at a distance. Young professionals would find it boring but families and DINKs looking to buy and have some social life amidst great and more affordable housing like it here. There is tons of outdoor space both in town and nearby so you and the kiddos can live a healthy lifestyle. Palomar Mountain State Park and Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park are in your backyard so a short drive gets you stunning hiking, biking, camping and general outdoorsy play every weekend you’re in the mood.
Temecula also has tons of in-town parks, like Temecula Creek Trail Park, with beautiful open spaces for kiddo and doggo play, and hiking and biking paths for more serious unwinding. The schools are excellent and the town has enough restaurants and pubs to keep the kids full of burgers and the parents full of vino and brews.
Schools in Temecula - Grade A
The schools in the Temecula School District are excellent, receiving an A on niche.com. Families that bail on LA or San Diego are thrilled to pick Temecula as a less expensive alternative for this very reason. There is some variance in the quality/scoring of the schools, with some weakness on the western side of town so if you care about that kind of think check your neighborhood carefully.
Check out our full write-up on Temecula including a summary of the different neighborhoods in the city.