Whenever I’m asked where I live — and answer, “San Diego.” — the questioner often says, “Oh, beautiful San Diego! You’re so lucky!” San Diego is beautiful and I am lucky. But because of that generalization, I often have to explain a few things when out-of-towners visit, including that San Diego is not always sunny.
1. It’s not always sunny in San Diego.
San Diego has May Gray and June Gloom, so I always give warnings to friends and family who want to visit during those times. Throughout May and June, the sky along the coast is cloudy and overcast, producing cooler temps. Fortunately it usually burns off mid-morning to early afternoon, but some days the cloud-cover doesn’t dissipate. It is a persistent marine layer, another thing I inevitably have to explain.
2. We have Marine Layer.
Marine Layer is when gray low altitude clouds hover over San Diego’s coast, bumming a lot of us out. The way I explain it to out-of-towners, is that when the California deserts east of us heat up, they draw moisture from the Pacific Ocean to cool the air. If visitors really want to see sun, they can either hope that the marine layer burns off, or head a few miles inland.
3. Dress in layers.
I have to teach my guests to dress in layers. It may be sunny and 83 degrees at noon, but once the sun disappears, you will feel a slight chill in the air, since the temperature often dips into the mid 60s at night. Always dress in layers in this town. Always.
4. You can wear flip flops everywhere.
Once I convince my guests to bring a sweater or light jacket with them when we head out to dinner, I also remind them to not get too gussied up. Casual is a way of life in San Diego. Flip flops are wardrobe staples and the best way to fit in is to wear them everywhere.
5. Not everyone surfs.
While most locals engage in the SoCal vibe by wearing flip-flops, not everyone in San Diego surfs — not everyone is tan, either. We have jobs.
6. The ocean is not warm.
For some reason people tend to associate San Diego with a tropical climate and assume the Pacific Ocean will be like bathwater. When people visit in April and want to go to the beach, I point out that the Pacific is cold — C.O.L.D.!
7. We have the most farms in America.
San Diego County has the most farms in the country with over 5,700 at last count. With all of those farms, we have a lot of farmers markets. San Diego produces the most avocados in the U.S. That’s right. Holy guacamole!
8. It’s pronounced La Hoyah.
La Jolla is a lovely coastal town bordering North San Diego, which is often visited by travelers. Almost everyone from out-of-town pronounces it incorrectly saying La Joe-la or La Jaw-la. It’s pronounced La Hoyah.
9. All freeways are prefaced with “the.”
Ask for directions in San Diego and you’re going to hear something like this: “Hop on the 163 South then over to the 52 West. From there you can catch the 5 North.” Many out-of-towners will comment on the use of “the” in front of freeway names. Why the definite articles? SoCal built freeways long before the interstate system was official and therefore had already named many of its own highways. It makes the road feel so much more established. It’s not just any old Interstate 5, it’s THE 5.
10. We don’t have air conditioning.
Our temps are so mild year-round in San Diego that most homeowners along the coast don’t have air conditioning. Now, it’s a different story east of the 5, but if out-of-town guests are staying at my place they will find a ceiling fan and an open window. San Diego bonus: we really don’t have bugs here so screens are not a must-have and people often keep their front doors open to allow the breeze to flow through.
11. We have a significant military presence.
San Diego is home to multiple bases; including the Marine Corps bases in Camp Pendleton, Miramar and the Recruit Depot in San Diego. Plus, there’s the Naval base on Coronado Island, Point Loma and San Diego. The U.S. Coast Guard also makes its home here.
12. Oh, didn’t you know? We LOVE beer.
I don’t care whether my out-of-towners like beer or not, they will be forced into a brewery tour so they can enjoy a sampling of the 150+ breweries throughout San Diego County. Now, oddly enough with so many breweries, we still aren’t ranked top brewery city in the U.S. Some day, my friends, some day…
13. Public transportation is not an option.
I explain to all my guests that they will need a car to get around the city. Don’t be fooled by our busses and trolleys. A car will be needed. Fortunately, because of services like Uber and Lyft, my guests don’t have to rent a car or rely on me driving them around. The good thing is that most everything is only a 20-minute drive away and traffic is nowhere near as horrific as in Los Angeles.
14. Mexico is so close you can see it.
San Diego is a border town, which is why it’s a vibrant multi-cultural spot for vacations. And Mexico is only 15-minutes by car from downtown San Diego. But even if my out-of-towners don’t want to venture that far South, they are guaranteed amazing Mexican food everywhere in San Diego.