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10 Things to Know Before Moving to San Marcos, CA

Written by Brittany Slagle

Situated in San Diego County’s North County region, San Marcos is a pleasant suburb located 35 miles north of San Diego city. Nicknamed the “Valley of Discovery”, this community is celebrated for its master-planned neighborhoods and top-notch school system. 

Incorporated in 1963 and named after Saint Mark, San Marcos has been occupied since the early 1800s. The city boasts a charming small-town feel just a short distance from the beaches and attractions of Encinitas and Carlsbad. 

Here are ten things to know before moving to San Marcos, CA.

1. The cost of living in San Marcos is 54% higher than the national average 

The cost of living in San Marcos is high compared to cities nationwide, with an index of 154, surpassing the national average of 100, largely due to housing costs. While costs for utilities, groceries, and healthcare are in line with national averages, transportation and miscellaneous expenses are notably higher.

When considering relocation to a new area, housing expenses often top the list of considerations. In San Marcos, the median home price stands at $925,000. For renters, monthly costs in this city exceed $3,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, in line with regional rental rates but notably above the national average.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, a household of four would require an annual income of $110,158 to comfortably afford living expenses in San Marcos.

2.  Live in neighborhoods like Twin Oaks Valley or San Elijo Hills

San Marcos, being highly desirable, offers a variety of great places to live. Located in the northern part of the city, Twin Oaks Valley is a top choice with its scenic desert views, spacious homes, and tranquil atmosphere, perfect for those seeking peace and quiet.

San Elijo Hills, located in the southern part of the city, is another sought-after neighborhood. This master-planned community is home to amenities like Anne’s Descent Trail and Questhaven Park, along with upscale, large homes perfect for families.

Other popular neighborhoods include Coronado Hills, Discovery Hills, and Rancho Dorado.

3. The weather is warm year-round

When you make San Marcos your home, be prepared to keep sunscreen and sunglasses handy year-round. The city enjoys a warm, arid climate that sustains lush cacti and desert flora. With moderate temperature changes between seasons, San Marcos offers a steady, appealing climate for residents who prefer consistency.

In summer, expect average highs around 81 degrees in August, while winter rarely sees daily highs below 60 degrees on average. February tends to be the cloudiest month, and the “wet” season typically lasts from November to early April.

4. Savor the food at Urge Gastropub & Common House or The Bellows

Upon relocating to San Marcos, there’s a plethora of local restaurants that should be on your must-try list, showcasing a diverse range of cuisines that never fail to impress the locals.

Urge Gastropub & Common House, known for its lively and contemporary atmosphere, is a standout dining destination in San Marcos. With a menu featuring a delightful mix of local craft beers and sophisticated bar bites, diners are in for a treat with the array of options available.

For seafood enthusiasts, Fish House Vera Cruz is a top choice, earning accolades for serving the best seafood in San Diego County. Emphasizing locally sourced ingredients and offering both indoor and outdoor seating, this restaurant is a favorite for various celebrations. Signature dishes like oysters on the half shell, Vera Cruz shrimp cocktail, fish tacos, and calamari steak highlight the menu.

For those seeking an upscale dining experience centered around farm-to-table cuisine, The Bellows delivers an exceptional experience. Renowned for its traditional cooking methods and selection of craft beers, The Bellows offers a unique dining experience. Open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 4 pm to 10 pm, it’s a perfect spot to savor a memorable meal.

5. There are 19 schools in the San Marcos Unified School District

Families residing in San Marcos have access to the highly-regarded San Marcos Unified School District, which comprises 19 schools and serves 20,873 students. Among the district’s top-rated schools are Double Peak K-8, San Elijo Middle School, and High Tech High North County School, providing excellent educational opportunities for children and teenagers in the area.

6. Palomar College and the California State University San Marcos campus are in San Marcos 

In addition to its exceptional K-12 schools, San Marcos is home to the highly -ratedPalomar College and the California State University San Marcos campus. 

Palomar College, situated in northern San Marcos, offers a wide range of educational programs with 250 associate degree and certificate options. Established in 1989, the Cal State San Marcos campus offers 44 undergraduate programs and over a dozen post-graduate programs, further enhancing the educational landscape of the city.

7. Explore the outdoors at Discovery Lake and Double Peak Park

San Marcos is an outdoor paradise, offering over 72 miles of trails, numerous parks, and a beautiful lake. The city is packed with parks, hiking trails, and lakes, providing endless opportunities to engage with nature. Popular spots like Discovery Lake and Double Peak Park offer stunning views and serene environments for relaxation and exploration.

In addition to its exciting outdoor activities, San Marcos boasts year-round friendly weather, with an average of 263 sunny days per year. This means you can enjoy the outdoors almost every day, making it an ideal location for those who love to be outside.

8. There are limited nightlife options

While San Marcos provides a plethora of options for daytime activities, its nightlife may not offer the same level of vibrancy found in larger metropolitan areas. This could be considered a drawback for individuals who thrive on the bustling energy of a vibrant nightlife scene. 

In comparison to bustling city hubs, San Marcos might lack the diversity and abundance of entertainment options typically associated with larger urban centers during the evening hours.

9. It’s easy to get around

San Marcos boasts a well-developed transportation system, particularly beneficial for students attending the local colleges. Thanks to this efficient system, students can easily navigate the city without needing a personal vehicle. 

Situated along Highway 78, which runs from the coast to the valley, San Marcos provides easy access to major routes like the 5 and the 15, ensuring convenient travel throughout the area. 

Despite its proximity to bustling cities, San Marcos enjoys lighter traffic, making for a pleasant driving experience. Additionally, the North County Transit District buses offer reliable and environmentally friendly public transportation options for residents and visitors alike.

10. Healthcare, social services, retail, and manufacturing are the major industries

San Marcos has seen a shift in its economic landscape over time. While retail trade and manufacturing were once dominant industries, today, health care and social assistance take the lead, closely followed by retail trade, manufacturing, scientific and technical services, and educational services. This evolution has made healthcare the city’s strongest economic sector, supported by a variety of related businesses and services.

Key employers in San Marcos include Hunter Industries and California State University – San Marcos, offering prime job opportunities. Retail enthusiasts will find plenty of options in the city’s shopping centers and stores. For those interested in health care, there are numerous job openings in doctor’s offices, clinics, and hospitals. Overall, San Marcos offers a diverse job market waiting to be explored.

Final Thoughts 

San Marcos, CA, offers a warm climate, scenic neighborhoods, and top-rated schools. Convenient transportation and a diverse job market are positives for residents, and the city provides a comfortable lifestyle, especially for those who value outdoor activities and a family-friendly environment. However, the high cost of living and limited nightlife options are drawbacks to consider when making the decision to move to San Marcos.  

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