San Diego, California

Best Places to Retire in California


San Diego was founded in 1542 by a Portuguese explorer under the flag of Spain. Spanish rule ended in 1821 and it became a part of Mexico for about 25 years. In 1850, it became a part of California when statehood was achieved. 

San Diego today, with a population of nearly 1.3 million, is the second largest city in California, and San Diego County, which is approximately the size of Connecticut, is nearly three million. The median age of San Diego’s population is just 32, with two-thirds of its population less than 35, and only 10% over 65. Nearly one-third of its workforce over the age of 25 has at least a bachelor’s degree.

The county, which includes 18 cities and numerous other communities, has a diverse ethnic make-up including approximately 60% white, 24% Hispanic, 9.2% Asian/Pacific Islander, and 6% African-American. While the economy of San Diego has a significant defense-related component, its fastest growing industries are software, telecommunications, and high-tech medical equipment.

Its agricultural businesses remain strong with nursery and flower crops accounting for two-thirds of its value. Tourism is also important with San Diego ranked as one of the most desirable year-round vacation spots in the nation. Just about every day is pleasant in San Diego – need more be said? The weather is tempered by the Pacific Ocean, which results in relatively cool summers and warm winters.

There are a mere 1.5 inches of rainfall per month in the winter, which is considered the rainy season. The county, which is 65 miles north to south and 86 miles inland, ranges from sea level to gentle foothills, up to 6,500 feet elevation, and down to the 600,000-acre Anza Borrego Desert State Park. For beach goers, the San Diego area offers nearly 70 miles of ocean beaches. Some are great for surfing and divers and others are perfect for almost any activity.

There is a wide choice of performing arts, from ballet to folk dance, and from symphony performances to dramatic opera, Broadway productions, community theaters, and choral groups. There are many choices for fine dining and shopping of every kind. Attractions include SeaWorld and Legoland, plus Balboa Park which features 15 museums, numerous galleries, gardens, the San Diego Zoo, and the historic Old Globe Theatre.

There are outstanding opportunities for year-round outdoor recreation activities – including more than 90 golf courses. In addition, there are professional baseball and football teams, a major PGA golf tournament, and college athletic programs for avid sports fans.

Arts & Culture

The San Diego Public Library system has 35 branches throughout the area. 

The San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture works to ensure the stability, success and continued growth of the arts. It also serves as a partner and catalyst for artistic innovation. 

The San Diego Performing Arts League is a not-for-profit umbrella organization serving over 130 theater, music and dance companies. 

Broadway/San Diego presents the best of Broadway and around the world – from rock concerts and international dance, to Broadway musicals and drama. Performances are at the San Diego Civic Theatre. The season features as many as 18 shows.

San Diego Symphony Orchestra –

California Ballet Company, now more than 35 years old, has an active school program for children, intermediates, and pre-professional students. Its annual season is from December through May. 

City Ballet is a non-profit organization that produces classic and contemporary ballet programs. It also offers training programs for children and pre-professionals. 

San Diego Ballet offers a season series and operates a school that specializes in ballet, with a particular emphasis for children on future career training. 

The California Center for the Arts in Escondido has a 1,500-seat concert hall and an intimate 400-seat theater, both with exceptional acoustics. It also has a 25,000 square-foot facility for receptions, banquets and special events. Its art studios offer hands-on arts education, from visual arts to dance. The center’s performing arts season seeks to present the finest of performing artists of the day — from opera to country, and from ballet to tap performers. It also has extensive education programs that support the surrounding areas.

East County Performing Arts Center, with 1,098 permanent seats, is a major venue in El Cajon. 

San Diego Opera –

Lyric Opera San Diego offers an annual series. 

The Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park, San Diego’s largest arts organization, opened in 1935 to present abridged versions of Shakespeare’s plays as part of an International Exposition. In 1969 the Cassius Carter Center Stage, a 225-seat “theater-in-the-round” was constructed from the adjacent Falstaff Tavern. In 1978 the Globe Theater was destroyed by fire but was soon rebuilt as a 580-seat theater. A second fire in 1984 took the Globe’s first Festival Stage. It was rebuilt into a new 615-seat Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, an outdoor theatre that operates from July through October. On its three stages, the Old Globe annually presents at least 12 productions and 550 performances.

Onstage Playhouse in Chula Vista operates year round, producing six or more plays for its intimate audience of 60 patrons. 

San Diego Repertory Theatre performs at the Lyceum.

Mainly Mozart Festival is celebrated annually throughout June, featuring outstanding soloists and an all-star orchestra. Mainly Mozart also produces the Spotlight Series of world renowned chamber music ensembles (January – May) and educational programs.

San Diego Chamber Orchestra presents a full season, with nearly 35 performances. Its venues are from Imperial Beach to Escondido. Its Classical Series is performed in downtown at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in La Jolla at Sherwood Auditorium, and in Rancho Santa Fe at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club. 

San Diego Convention Center is a world-class facility and important venue with over 900,000 square feet of facilities. It houses the 3,000-seat Civic Theatre, which is the city’s major cultural venue. It also includes a 103,000 square-foot ballroom and 32 meeting rooms. The Civic Theatre is home to San Diego Opera, California Ballet, La Jolla Chamber Music Society and the Nederlander Presentation Broadway Series.

San Diego Master Chorale is comprised of over 100 of the area’s finest singers.

San Diego Museum of Art is located in Balboa Park. 

Camarada is a chamber orchestra that was founded in 1994. It is committed to creating and performing its chamber music in venues such as museums, artist’s lofts and private salons. It also partners with artists in the visual arts, dance and theatre.

Grossmont College’s 75-member ensemble performs at the East County Performing Arts Center. 

La Jolla Symphony & Chorus presents a concert series.

La Jolla Music Society offers seasonal performances of jazz, contemporary music, and dance programming. Its programs are a “Celebrity Series, ” a “Discovery Series,” and a “Revelle Series.” It also offers special events and a Summerfest. 

“In aChord” men’s ensemble –

Diversionary Theatre –

Sweet Adelines “The San Diego Chorus” –

SPEBSQSA “The Sun Harbor Chorus” –

Community Actor’s Theater –

Coronado Playhouse –

Cygnet Theatre Company –

San Diego Dance Theater –

Patio Playhouse Community Theater –

National Comedy Theatre –

North coast Repertory Theatre –

The Lamb’s Players Theatre –

Lower Left (dance collective) offers performances, workshops and classes.


The city’s Parks & Recreation Department provides recreational, environmental, and educational opportunities throughout the city. Its vast array of resources, facilities, and programs includes four regional parks, seven open space parks, numerous recreation centers, community parks, swimming pools, two great golf courses, and more. Mission Bay Park is a 4,000-acre aquatic park with a wide range of activities, soft sand beaches and excellent surfing conditions.

Balboa Park, a 1,173-acre urban park, is home to 15 museums, arts and cultural associations and the famous San Diego Zoo. It also features the Morley sports complex, which includes tennis courts, a bicycle track, a swimming pool, picnic areas, recreation and seniors centers, Balboa Park Golf Course, and canyon native trails. 

Torrey Pines Golf Course, home of the Buick Invitational and host to the 2008 U.S. Open Tournament, and Balboa Park Golf Course are both operated by the city’s Parks & Recreation Department. The Balboa Park Course, located near the heart of downtown, features an 18-hole championship layout and a nine-hole executive course. 

The Parks & Recreation Department operates 54 recreation centers throughout the city offering a wide variety of recreation activities. 

The following Web site lists the characteristics of 29 beaches in San Diego County.

QUALCOMM Stadium, owned and operated by the city of San Diego, is home to the San Diego Chargers, San Diego Padres, San Diego State Aztecs, and the Holiday Bowl. It has a capacity of 70,000 people for football and 66,000 people for baseball. 


The San Diego Community College District serves nearly 100,000 students each semester through three colleges: San Diego City College – (enrollment 27,000), San Diego Mesa College – (enrollment 21,000), and San Diego Miramar College – (enrollment 8,500), and six Centers for Education and Technology. 

San Diego State University – (enrollment 32,000).

University of San Diego is a private four-year institution with an enrollment 7,000.

Point Loma Nazarene University is a private four-year institution with an enrollment 2,800.

Kelsey-Jenney College is a private two-year institution with an enrollment of 700. 

Thomas Jefferson School of Law, enrollment 600, is a private four-year institution.

Platt College – San Diego, is a private two-year institution with an enrollment of 350.

The Art Institutes offers Bachelor’s, Associate’s and non-degree programs in the creative and applied arts, including design, media, fashion, and culinary arts.

Metropolitan Education Theatre is a non-profit educational organization that lets young people be participants in the dramatic process as actors, singers, and dancers. All who register and complete the workshops and rehearsals are assured of a role on stage. Senior Programs The city’s Parks & Recreation Department has a program of Senior Services. (619) 236-6905


Scripps operates Scripps Green Hospital, Scripps Memorial in Chula Vista, Scripps Memorial in Encinitas, Scripps Memorial in La Jolla, and Scripps Mercy Hospital, San Diego.

University of California San Diego (UCSD) Healthcare has two major hospitals. 

Alvarado Hospital Medical Center in Tenet. 


San Diego International Airport (10 minutes from downtown) –


San Diego is considered by many to have “nearly perfect weather.” Temperatures are rarely below freezing and their 90-degree weather — and above — is usually with very low humidity – below 20 percent. 


San Diego Union Tribune –

Property Taxes

San Diego County Treasurer – Tax Collector –

State Taxes

Chamber of Commerce


La Jolla – 15 miles Coronado – 5 miles Dana Point – 65 miles Palm Springs – 139 miles Los Angeles – 124 miles

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