Best Towns 2013: San Diego, California

With killer farmers’ markets, quick access to adventure, and bike shares galore, these 17 towns redefine living well

hopped up san diego tasting beer collaboration project brewery MIHO brew mart gastrotruck food truck organic food lifestyle

A 2-course beer dinner at the MIHO gastrotruck.     Photo: Gary Allard

Population: 1.3 million (metro area: 3.2 million)
Median Household Income: $63,739
Median Home Price: $477,100
Unemployment Rate: 8.9 percent
Votes: 997

“For me there is no better place than San Diego,” says Josh Landan, president of Saint Archer Brewing, a company he started in the Miramar neighborhood along with—what else?—14 surfers and skaters.

“The weather is 70 degrees. You can skate everywhere, bike everywhere, hike, camp, surf. Want winter? It’s two hours to the snow.”

Indeed, seasons don’t mean much in this sun-steeped city, where hundreds of miles of trails, ample coast, and some 6,000 farmers with heirloom offerings make the living pretty sweet. “Everyone in the world is trying to get here,” says reader Alfredo Martinez Jr.

Food and Nightlife: Farmers’ markets are a daily occurrence, and some of California’s best chefs fight to get the freshest artichokes, squash blossoms, and peppers from the Chino family at Chino Farms in Rancho Santa Fe. “There’s no excuse not to eat healthy here,” Landan says. Reader Ryan Kephart agrees: “No matter what, it seems like you’re never more than five minutes from an amazing postride burrito session.”

Access: The green spaces here are mostly blue, with more than 70 miles of beaches and places like the 6,000-acre Underwater Park and Ecological Preserve in La Jolla, a popular snorkeling spot. Topside, hikers, horseback riders, and bikers head to Mission Trails for 40 miles of paths among the chaparral. “Sunset Cliffs has to be one of the most beautiful runs in the country,” says reader Chris Poole.

Surfing: You don’t have to be a hardcore bro to tackle the forgiving beach breaks that roll in along the two-mile stretch from Mission Beach to Pacific Beach, where anything from a northwest to a southwest swell is rideable. Swami Beach in Encinitas, a right point break, can be more challenging. Plus, “Sometimes you see whales and dolphins swimming while you surf,” notes reader Kalin Schmitz. Did we mention the 70 miles of coastline?

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