Warm breezes, sunny beaches and a vibrant nightlife are perennial magnets for travelers to San Diego, California. Most visitors leave content and satisfied, but the city has a few hidden treasures for the more intrepid, from families to foodies. While few venture away from the central hub, the spirit of San Diego is waiting a little farther out of town.
North - Solana Beach
True it’s a beach town but the culture, shopping and great restaurants here will surprise you. For a fun trip, take the Coaster Line from the Santa Fe station north to the Solana Beach train station. You can also venture across Highway 1 for lunch at one of many sparkling eateries and step down to Fletcher Cove for some beach time (mind the time as the small beach shrinks at high tide.) The new park has hoops, a stunning playground, public toilets and showers, and hosts movies on the lawn in summer months.
The other option is to walk down Cedros Avenue through the Design District. There are a smattering of specialty shops set up in reclaimed WW2 Quonset buildings that line the west side. Check the schedule at the Belly Up to see what celebrity artists are coming and perhaps have a bite at the California fusion café, The Wild Note. (Staff may let you peek into the nightclub briefly.)
Walk south and enjoy shopping for your pets, home, friends and family at dozens of stores or the two- story emporium of independent vendors, The Leaping Lotus. Before catching the train back, satisfy your sweet tooth or sip an iced coffee at the Zinc Café.
South – The Historic Arts District of Barrio Logan
Over the past few years the Barrio Logan neighborhood has grown up in a big way. Today it hosts a new National Historic Registry park, a vibrant set of art galleries and lofts, several eccentric restaurants and a Public Market featuring food vendors and local harvests.
From any one of several stops downtown, take the Trolley via the Blue Line South to the Barrio Logan stop and be prepared to walk a bit. You can text 75019 to find out the GO! System departure times. Walk north from the station to Caesar Chavez Boulevard and visit Ryan Brothers Coffee for a uniquely San Diegan roast before walking up to the Main Street Galleries. Turning east on Beardsley, take in some comfort food at the Blue Print Cafe (open only on weekdays) while sunning on the patio. For lighter snacks, walk half a block north on national Avenue to the new, cavernous Public Market. Check the schedule to see if they’re open before strolling south to Chicano Park, recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. The site is emblazoned with towering murals that climb the columns supporting the freeway overpass. Once the site of the Chicano-Mexicano struggle to stop an encroaching freeway overpass; today the plaza rings with the happier sounds of Mariachi music now that the murals are being preserved for generations.
East - The North Park Scene
Any serious foodie or mixologist will not be disappointed with a visit to the colorful 30th Street neighborhood. With a day pass on the SDMTS you can get to and from the area quickly or it’s a short taxi ride from downtown. A fan of whiskey? Then step into the lodge-like atmosphere of Seven Grand Bar and select from over 100 international brands. In the former Salvation Army outlet just a short walk away, plant-based cuisine is highlighted daily at Casa De Luz, which often hosts cooking classes on the upstairs mezzanine. The smart and swank, Wangs, is housed in an old JC Penney department store across the street. Tall sculptures disguise the escalator bay, private parties often fill the loft space that once housed accessories and artsy projections flicker on the walls. The food is delicious too. Vintage clothing, hookah lounges and some of the most innovative menus pepper other storefronts for blocks. Always in flux, call for reservations before deciding where to go and check the North Park Scene site for the latest events and openings.
Where do you recommend visitors go in San Diego?