Southern California vs. Northern California

Having lived in the Bay Area for a year now, I get asked this question a lot… “How do you like it?” It doesn’t take me long to respond, “I like it a lot!” It’s true, I do like the Bay Area quite a bit, but more than Southern California? That’s a tough call. Some may think that it’s still California, it couldn’t possibly be that different! That’s where you’re wrong, there are many differences that I would like to share.

Griffith Observatory

The view of Los Angeles from Griffith Observatory.

I was born and raised in Ontario, California, also known as part of the Inland Empire, the 909 or that city near Riverside with a lot of cows. I didn’t stick around much longer than necessary, I moved to Hesperia (High Desert, Hellsperia) with my older sister when I was 19. From there we moved to this beautiful cabin-like home in Wrightwood, 6,000 feet elevation into the glorious mountains. I eventually made my way over to Orange County, I liked it, but it was somewhat stale. Then San Diego happened(I miss it). So, I guess you can say that I know my way around Southern California!

Ano Nuevo

Seals and a creepy house in Ano Nuevo State Park.

My boyfriend and I ventured up to the Bay Area at the beginning of 2013, it’s been an interesting year. Being away from my family and best friends has been a challenge, but there have been many visits and Skype conversations. We live in the South Bay, but have visited and explored every inch of the Bay Area. It’s been an adventure checking out all of the restaurants, hiking trails, parks, touristy points. That said, I feel as though I can now make a relatively plausible comparison of the North and South. I shall go through the points that stood out to me the most.

NorCal – I’ll give the Bay Area some credit where it’s due, there’s endless possibilities with eating establishments! There’s always a new place to try, plenty of options in every little downtown area (even in the South Bay). One of our favorite things to do while living here is checking out new places to eat.

SoCal – As exciting and new everything is in the Bay Area, I still catch myself missing certain places in SoCal. Pho Ever in Vista, Port in Corona Del Mar, Flame Broiler, Zovs in Irvine, Trattoria I Trulli in Encinitas, Claire’s in Solana Beach… just some amazing places! I would say it’s easier to find a variety of great places in the Bay Area, but I’ve had more memorable meals in SoCal.

NorCal – Ok, I will say this without hesitation, I HATE NorCal traffic! I’ve never been around such slow, scared, bad drivers in my life… this is coming from someone that’s been in L.A. traffic her entire life. Even the freeways are different, the carpool lane is only the carpool lane during rush hour times during the week (5am – 9am and 3pm – 7pm). Most freeways only have 3 lanes total, including the temporary-carpool lane. This is my least favorite thing about living in NorCal. I used to love driving, now I cringe at the thought of it. Ugh! *shakes fist at NorCal traffic*

SoCal – Driving in SoCal is a dream after living in NorCal, traffic included.

Things to do:
NorCal – Obviously NorCal has San Francisco, which is pretty much one of my favorite cities ever. It’s so beautiful and unique compared to every other large city. I find something new to explore every time I head up to the city. There’s so many awesome day trips around here! Napa is a big one, Lake Tahoe, Reno, Yosemite, Santa Cruz. These are all a given, but even the smaller cities have a lot to offer. Bike trails that go on for miles, rolling hills to hike, parks galore, street fairs all the time, it’s pretty amazing up here.


An outing in the Redwoods.

SoCal – As someone from the Inland Empire, I know very well that you have to drive to get to anywhere interesting. I still stand by this. Yes, Southern California has a lot to offer, but only in certain areas. Most of SoCal is suburbia, simple as that. My family lives close to Mount Baldy, but you still have to drive 30-60 minutes to get there. Los Angeles has great museums, San Diego has beautiful beaches and Orange County has some decent shopping… but you have to drive to all of these places. Even if you’re lucky enough to live in these locations, the “sights” get old and you’re left driving somewhere new for something interesting. I love SoCal, but NorCal has kept me more entertained. 🙂


Camping in the Mojave Desert with my dad.

Living in general:
NorCal – Holy overpriced housing, Batman! Chris and I are living in a house out in the boonies because we wanted something nice, but within our budget. I’ll put this out there as well, we gave ourselves a hefty budget… and it still barely cut it! We could afford a sprawling estate with land and still have money to spare in the Inland Empire, with the budget we gave ourselves here. Buying is just as scary, luckily we don’t plan on buying anytime soon, especially in the Bay Area. If you want a modest family home in a relatively safe area, it’ll be about a million dollars. I’m not even kidding. I honestly thought San Francisco would be bad, but didn’t expect such madness in the South Bay! Aside from the horrendous cost of living and rage inducing traffic… it’s pretty great up here. There’s always something to do, something to see, something to eat. We’ve enjoyed our time here very much and look forward to the continuing adventure.

SoCal – Oh, how I miss thee. I remember thinking “there has to be something better than this place.” I was consumed with trying to find somewhere that could blow SoCal out of the water… I have yet to find it. Southern California definitely has it’s cons and is far from perfect, but I guess that’s why I love it so much. It’s home, it’s honest, it’s a crazy place that gives me the warm n’ fuzzies. I miss the beaches, the easy going people, the huge freeways, the Griffith Observatory, the variation in neighborhoods/towns but most of all, I miss my family and my friends. There’s nothing better than calling SoCal your home, it feels like it’s yours.

Lake Elsinore

Lake Elsinore from Hwy 74.


Running along a SoCal beach.

Perhaps being a Southern California native has a big influence on my comparison of the two, but I guess that’s just the way it goes. It’s home and at the end of the day, it’s about the feeling you get when you’re in the right place.

6 thoughts on “Southern California vs. Northern California

  1. searchingforwow says:

    It’s interesting to read your comparisons. I mainly agree and it seems like we have some things in common. I was born and raised and currently live in SD, but moved to Temecula for a couples of years, meanwhile my boyfriend (now husband) had moved from SD to San Jose for a few years. The housing prices are what brought him back to SD, but the bay area is amazing to visit! As far as temecula goes, never again… that’s all I have to say 🙂 Not sure how it is with the rest of Riverside County though. But I was always driving to SD for anything including decent food!

    • cobo0521 says:

      The funny thing is that Temecula is probably the nicest part of Riverside county! It’s just far away from everything. Haha
      San Diego has definitely been my favorite place to live. 🙂

  2. Jessica says:

    I completely understand, Courtney. I’ve lived in Ventura County for most of my life, but went to college in Berkeley. What a difference! I miss that area… the weather, the greenery, the restaurants, the memories. But I’m like you… SoCal will always be home.

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