5 Great Neighborhoods in San Diego

There's a neighborhood for every lifestyle in San Diego. Which one's for you?
By: Aaron Heier

While others may disagree, San Diego can be completely defined by its neighborhoods. Incredibly close together in proximity, yet vastly different in makeup, these little villages -- or towns within the city -- speak volumes about the range and diversity of the city’s residents, businesses, visitors and topography.

MISSION HILLS

Grand and historic, yet not at all ostentatious, Mission Hills, along the city’s hilly central bay front, is divided into two parts: North Mission Hills (know as Mission Hills “proper”) and South Mission Hills (locally referred to in jest as the ghetto). Both neighborhoods, separated by Washington Avenue’s quaint Mission Hills Village of salons, boutiques, coffee shops and real estate agencies, have some of the most sought after real estate in the city. Large, impressive, often estatelike homes look like trophies amidst a sea of perfectly manicured lawns that seamlessly flow down curvy, tree-lined streets. 

The Neighbors: An eclectic mix of well-to-do gay couples, young “new money” families and wealthy, established baby boomer professionals

GASLAMP QUARTER -- DOWNTOWN

Once infamously known as San Diego’s red-light district filled with brothels and saloons, the Gaslamp Quarter has re-emerged as the city’s nightlife and dining epicenter. The area’s Fifth Avenue main strip runs from the city’s oceanfront Convention Center through the Gaslamp Quarter and Bankers Hill, and dead-ends in northern neighbor Hillcrest. Mixing progressive, contemporary architectural design with historic turn-of-the-century structures has restored and revitalized this popular downtown neighborhood. It now boasts several high-rise condo developments, galleries, theaters, boutiques, high-end hotels, outdoor shopping centers, more than 100 bars, nightclubs and restaurants, and Seaport Village, the city’s well-known waterfront tourist shopping destination. 

The Neighbors: Young urban professionals, entrepreneurs, artists and social hipsters

POINT LOMA

The quasi-posh neighborhood of Point Loma is located on a green, hilly peninsula that separates San Diego Bay from the Pacific Ocean. Marking the spot where Spanish explorer Juan Cabrillo (credited for discovering and naming San Diego) and his band of merry shipmates first landed in California, Point Loma is a bayfront community offering picturesque views that run across San Diego Bay to the downtown skyline and continue down the coast to Mexico. Home to large, window-filled homes, marinas, yacht clubs, wharfs, the world-renowned Point Loma Seafood Co. and one of the leading Christian universities in the country, the neighborhood has a surprisingly suburban feel, yet is only five minutes from the hustle and bustle of center city.

The Neighbors: Established, longtime San Diego families, executives, white-collar professionals

 

HILLCREST

The extreme diversity of Hillcrest and adjacent North Park is represented not only by its primarily LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) dwellers but also its vastly inconsistent landscape, ranging from incredibly upscale to cozy, quaint and affordable to downright dilapidated. Hillcrest’s long stretch of University Avenue from the edge of Mission Hills all the way east to North Park, City Heights and beyond is teeming with gay and gay-friendly businesses, bars, nightclubs, restaurants, boutiques, coffee shops, furniture stores, salons, tattoo parlors and, of course, gyms. The gayborhood’s ideal mix of activity and home has become quite popular with progressive straight couples who appreciate the area’s eclectic character, cleanliness and ongoing renaissance, making it one of the city’s more desirable locales to put down roots. 

The Neighbors: LGBTs, young families, singles, social hipsters

LA JOLLA

Literally “The Jewel” of the West Coast, La Jolla is like Beverly Hills on the beach, giving tourists and those wealthy enough to afford real estate here some of the most majestic coastline in California. La Jolla is one of the most expensive places to live, shop, dine or stay in the country. Opulent and architecturally magnificent multimillion-dollar, modern-day mansions careen up the hills that, like a funnel, surround La Jolla Village and La Jolla Cove at its core. The beautifully manicured streets and sidewalks in the Village are lined with designer fashion stores, luxury boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and posh hotels that all offer pristine 180-degree views of the Pacific Ocean. Known as a haven for celebrities, socialites and the moneyed elite, La Jolla’s year-round tourist draw brings in droves of gawkers, celebrity stalkers, window shoppers and families with kids wanting a glimpse of the seals that have taken up residence in tide pools along the Cove.

The Neighbors: Celebrities, professional athletes, royalty, CEOs, wealthy families

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