With seven military bases, including the U.S. Navy’s largest West Coast base, it’s safe to say that the military loves San Diego. With great military heritage, gorgeous beaches and tons of family-friendly activities, it’s no wonder military families can’t get enough.
Here are just a few reasons why the military loves San Diego so much.
San Diego Is Diverse
San Diego is known for its cultural diversity which is a huge draw for many military families. Ever try to get a decent taco while you’re stationed in Fargo, ND? We didn’t think so. The city’s diversity is only growing, with Hispanics making up a third of the population (thanks to a close proximity to Mexico).
The Beaches Are Gorgeous
In San Diego, every day is a beach day. With perfect weather and 17 miles of gorgeous coastline, it’s pretty much a beach paradise.
With the sheer amount of coastline, there’s a different beach for every type of family. There are beaches coveted by the world’s top surfers, beaches for kids, beaches that are great for bike rides and beaches that let your dog romp around leash-free. Safety is also key.
San Diego has 33 beaches, all of which are patrolled by lifeguards who have nine permanent lifeguard stations. When summer rolls around, they ramp the safety and dozens of new lifeguard stands pop up.
The School System Is Awesome
If you’re a military family raising children, having a good school system is probably one of your top priorities. Luckily, San Diego has some of the best schools in California.
Top-rated public schools include Willow Grove Elementary, Creekside Elementary and Deer Canyon Elementary, but if you prefer private education for your little ones, San Diego is also home to a bevy of top-rated private schools. In addition, San Diego’s school system boasts an 85% graduation rate, which is higher than the 80% national average. Kids can enjoy small class sizes with a 19 to one student-to-teacher ratio.
The Weather Is Perfect
California is renowned for its sunshiny, mild weather, but let’s be honest, sometimes it can get too hot. That’s not the case for San Diego! Summer temperatures average a very comfortable 69 degrees (so you don’t have to sweat profusely when you’re taking advantage of one of the cities many parks).
If you’re expecting to bundle up during the winter, think again — winter temperatures are 57 degrees on average. Yes, you’re sacrificing having four seasons (you won’t see beautiful fall foliage like in the North East, and you won’t get to build snowmen with your little ones) but you’re trading that for the fact that you’ll have a perfect day almost every single day.
The Hospitals Are Fantastic
Having good health is one of the keys to having a happy, good life, and three of San Diego’s major hospitals have been ranked among the best in the nation. These hospitals include University of California San Diego Medical Center, Rady Children’s Hospital and Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.
According to the San Diego Tribune, UCSD Medical Center was rated highly in six specialties that included cancer, orthopedics, and psychiatry. Scripps (both Scripps La Jolla and Green Hospital) ranked nationally in heart and heart surgery. For military families with children, Rady Children’s Hospital is the best of the best and was ranked nationally in 10 pediatric specialties including cancer, cardiology, heart surgery and more.
There Are So Many Gorgeous Parks
Every San Diego resident knows that there’s always an excuse to get a breath of fresh air at one of the city’s gorgeous ocean-side running trails or nature reserves. Twenty five of San Diego’s parks have received a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor with La Jolla Shores Park and SeaWorld San Diego winning the 2016 Traveler’s Choice.
In addition to the large number of parks, the parks department also offers activities for children including youth soccer and volleyball, golfing and newly-opened nature exploration areas.
The San Diego Zoo Is One Of The Best In The World
The San Diego Zoo is renowned as one of the best zoo’s in the world, and we’re not going to lie, it’s a major draw! The zoo is home to a whopping 3,700 animals and over 650 different species and subspecies. San Diego’s parent company, San Diego Zoo Global, is one of the largest zoological membership associations in the entire world.
The San Diego Zoo was a pioneer of open-air, cageless exhibits. This isn’t only better for viewing an animal’s natural behavior, but it’s better for the animals, which get to live in a perfectly recreated version of their natural habitats.
The Housing Market Is Friendly To Military Families
San Diego’s housing market is a huge draw for families on a military budget and allows those stationed in the area to get a huge bang for their BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing). The average housing stipend for families stationed in San Diego is around $2,232. It doesn’t seem like a ton when you think about how costly California typically is, but there are so many two-bedroom units that are less than the average BAH.
31.8% of all two bedroom units listed in San Diego were less than 75% of a typical military family’s stipend. That means many families get to put 25% of their stipend right into savings.
Military Families Can Get Free Childcare
If you’re a single parent who is working in the military, it’s difficult to meet all of your childcare needs – especially when you factor in finding brand new childcare when you move from station to station. San Diego makes this transition easy.
The San Diego YMCA offers a number of resources to military families including Navy EFMP Respite Care, which offers 40 hours a month of free, in-home childcare. They also have a referral service for military families to help them find quality childcare off base if needed.
San Diego Has So Many Cool Special Events
San Diego’s near-perfect weather makes it the perfect city to host family-friendly events year round. The town certainly doesn’t skimp when it comes to seasonal entertainment.
San Diego is home to the Del Mar National Horse Show, where more than 3,000 horses compete over a period of two weeks. There’s also the Spring Busker Festival that has entertainers of all kinds – from sword swallowers and jugglers to wild stuntmen. If you like boats (any Navy families out there?), San Diego is home to the RC44 Cup, a boat race that spans four days and is continuously growing year-to-year.
San Diego Is One Of The Happiest Cities In The U.S.
We’re not sure if it’s the fact that seasonal depression doesn’t really exist in such a bright sunshiny city or if San Diego is really just that great, but the city consistently ranks as one of the top 10 happiest large cities in the U.S.
Military family members stationed in San Diego may be looking for work (as many military salaries don’t cover 100% of a multi-child family’s expenses. Having to find work when you move from state-to-state is a pain, but San Diego ranks extremely high in workplace happiness. In 2014, Forbes rated San Diego as one of the top three happiest places to work.
There Is So Much You Can Do For Free
One of the major upsides to living in San Diego is all of the free, family-friendly activities! We’re not just talking about the already-awesome free things you can get as a member of the military. There are so many free things for all residents regardless of your active duty status — whether you like drive-in movies, car shows, fly fishing or more.
Those living in San Diego can enjoy free access to the gorgeous San Diego Botanic Garden on the first Tuesday of every month. Almost every museum in San Diego offers a free day for residents and the summer concert series offers free concerts all over the city.
San Diego Is The Craft Beer Capitol Of America
Lovers of beer, unite! San Diego is one of the best beer towns in America and was recently named the craft-beer capital of America. San Diego is home to over 100 craft breweries and brewpubs – a number that’s doubled since 2011.
San Diego’s breweries are top-of-the-line. San Diego took home 14 medals at 2014’s Great American Beer Fest (which is a huge, huge honor). In addition, the city has a huge home brew culture.
San Diego Has So Many Military Resources
Military commissaries are renowned for being filled with junk. If you’re looking for cheesy puffs and canned veggies, then sure, they’re great, but overall, they’re lacking. This isn’t the case in San Diego which is home to the world’s largest commissary and NEX (Navy Exchange). San Diego’s commissaries carry everything from organic produce to healthy snacks, and NEX has everything from a fully-stocked garden section to designer bags.
If you have family visiting from out of town, the Navy Lodge offers great accommodations – plus, it’s right on the beach and has a pool! There are also so many bases located within a few miles of each other making these resources not only necessary but constantly-updated and plentiful.
You Can Have A Small Town Feel And Live Near A Big City
For those who want to feel like they’re living in a small town but still want to have access to city living, Coronado offers the best of both worlds. This quaint town is home to some of San Diego’s best schools, and you don’t even need a car. Most people drive around in golf carts or bike to work.
For those stationed in NAS North Island, Coronado offers the easiest commute (especially if you live on the island!) allowing you to avoid bridge traffic during rush hour. The island has a number of small stores that let you get almost anything you need without ever leaving.
San Diego Is Very Accessible To Out Of Towners
When you’re stationed away from your family, it’s really important that you live somewhere accessible. You want Grandma and Grandpa to be able to visit as much as possible without too much of a headache. Luckily for those stationed in San Diego, there’s so much accessibility.
San Diego has its own major airport in the heart of prime military area. Most bases are located within a 15 to 20 drive (which is more than you can say for much of New York and its largest airport, JFK). Downtown San Diego also has a major train station that services Amtrak.
Public Transportation Is Easy (And Often All You Need Is A Bike)
Just about everything in San Diego is easy to get to. Sure, you always have the option of driving, but there’s no reason to be tied to your care and some of the most expensive gas prices in the country (Sorry, San Diego just doesn’t do well when it comes to that regard).
San Diego is extremely biker-friendly, but if biking isn’t your thing, there are cabs, pedicabs and ferries that make transportation easy. San Diego also has tons of gorgeous walkways and running trails, plus an easy-to-navigate bus and trolley system.
Military Families Get So Many Discounts In San Diego
Since San Diego is home to numerous military and naval bases, there are a ton of offers for families stationed in the city. San Diego offers so many military discounts it’s hard to keep track of all the places you can save.
If you’re looking for family friendly activities you can save on, Birch Aquarium offers $2 off tickets for active duty military, and Del Mar Racetrack admits military families for free. Those are just a couple of the options – everywhere from the San Diego County Fair, San Diego Zoo and Sea World to the USS Midway Museum, Sycuan Casino and Hard Rock Cafe offer discounts to military families.
There Are 250 Acres Of Free Wi-Fi
You’d be lying if you said access to Wi-Fi wasn’t pretty important in today’s digital age. While it’s not make or break, having plenty of access to quality, free Wi-Fi is a major bonus to living in San Diego.
San Diego has a whopping 250 acres of free Wi-Fi. Balboa Park public Wi-Fi now covers huge areas like the San Diego Zoo and Spreckels Organ Pavilion. It’s all thanks to a $1 million tech grant from the James Irvine Foundation as part of 2015’s centennial celebration. Connecting to far away loved ones while you’re stationed in San Diego is easier than ever.
San Diego Offers Lots Of Resources For Military Children
Kids in military families often get the short end of the stick – they’ve got to travel around and catch up to various school curriculums. It’s not easy to get ahead, and it’s even easier to fall behind. Because of the amount of military bases in the area, San Diego offers a number of resources to help children of military families perform well in school.
San Diego Unified, California’s second largest school district — which teaches over 13,000 military-connected students — offers free, 24/7, one-on-one tutoring to military children through Tutor.com. They also make transitioning to different schools across state lines easier than ever with Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity.