Bright Lights, Big City: The West Coast

Author: Alecia Pirulis


A high-rise apartment with windows overlooking the city landscape shows off towering sculptures of concrete, steel, and glass. On the streets below, busy people in suits carry briefcases and talk on cell phones as they hurry along. Cars, cabs, and buses fill the narrow streets, horns blaring as traffic backs up. The neon lights of a live theater flash the latest production, and the cheerful striped awning of a coffee house offers a gathering place for those who want to stop and gossip for a moment while ordering their lattes and cappuccinos to go. Small boutiques and corner markets come alive as the shop owners set out crates of vegetables and fruits and chalkboard signs advertising the day’s specials. The noises and scents fill the air as the skyscrapers are backlit by the shimmering light of the morning sun. It’s another day in the big city.

An urban lifestyle has its benefits – as well as its drawbacks. For many, the benefits far outweigh the negatives: the ability to walk or bicycle everywhere, the availability of mass transit, the culture, the nightlife, the career opportunities, and the flavor of city life. The drawbacks include congestion, noise, crime, and expense. Once you’ve weighed the pros and cons and you are ready to move forward, it’s time to decide on a city.

The West Coast is a unique blend of hip and cool, sleek and sophisticated, and creative and arty. From the palm trees of LA to the coffee houses of Seattle, there’s verve to the cities along the rocky coastline of the west. Here are the cities that make the West Coast hum:

Los Angeles, California – Skyscrapers, palm trees, opulence, and a dash of glamour permeate the LA landscape. This is one of the world’s most densely populated cities, and definitely one of the most creative. As the leader in entertainment – movies, television, video games, music – LA is home to many stars and star-makers. It is a place to see and be seen, and its neighborhoods include iconic Hollywood, Bel Air, Century City, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Wilshire, and Venice. If you want to live among the actors, musicians, writers, artists, and filmmakers, then LA may be the big city for you.

San Francisco, California – Where LA glitters, San Francisco sparkles. From its cable cars to its iconic hills to the landmark Golden Gate Bridge to the treasured Painted Ladies, San Francisco is a city like no other. This is the home of Alcatraz and Chinatown, the Fisherman’s Wharf and the comical sea lions of Pier 39. San Francisco’s neighborhoods are so famous you probably are already familiar with most of them: the Mission District, Haight-Ashbury, the Castro, Embarcadero, Pacific Heights, South Beach, and Presidio. San Francisco is the most walkable city in the US, and the cool summers and foggy mornings will inspire you to get out and enjoy this City by the Bay.

San Diego, California – With one of the best climates in the world, San Diego is located on the Pacific Coast in Southern California along the border of Mexico. And while you may think everyone in this beachside city is enjoying the miles of coastline, the mild year-round temperatures, and the awe-inspiring surf, well – you’d be right. But there’s more to San Diego than beaches and bikinis – this is an economic powerhouse, centered on biotechnology, manufacturing, military, international trade, and tourism. San Diego isn’t a typical beach town – the city is hilly with mesas and canyons carving the cityscape into populated areas on the mesas and green, open spaces in the canyons. San Diego is the third-largest city in California, and with its beautiful waterfront, strong economy, and near-perfect weather, it’s easy to see why so many are deciding to call San Diego home.

Seattle, Washington – This coastal seaport is the hub for the “green” industry as well as biotechnology, technology, and manufacturing. It is famous for its “grunge” music that produced groups such as Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Nirvana. The indie scene represents Seattle’s progressive and independent spirit, an attitude that sets Seattle apart. Seattle’s landscape is ideal for those who crave the city but still love outdoor adventures that include hiking, camping, sailing, skiing, and bicycling. The Emerald City is multi-faceted green, with its sustainability, its strong economy, and its gorgeous landscape. With the nearby Cascade and Olympic Mountains, beautiful waterfront, and a multitude of parks, Seattle is a fit, healthy city.

Portland, Oregon – Environmentally friendly Portland is one of the “greenest” cities in the world, but it is also one of the most colorful. Portland is the “City of Roses,” home to an abundance of rose gardens that include the International Rose Test Garden. Strands of parkland adorn this impressively pretty city, from the smallest park in the country to one of the largest. Portland is probably most famous for its food carts and coffee houses, but this West Coast treasure also has several wineries and distilleries and a thriving performing arts scene that includes ballet performances, operas, symphonies, and live theater. As one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, Portland residents enjoy over 200 miles of bike lanes. Portland is an economic powerhouse, as well, with several tech companies headquartered here, including Intel – the area’s largest employer.