San Diego may be the perfect family getaway, but it also offers great restaurants and neighborhoods for grown-up fun. next time you’re looking for a quick getaway, consider these San Diego destinations.
Ocean Beach is a funky seaside community in San Diego. From surfing to shopping, this neighborhood is a favorite among visitors. Ocean Beach has no high-rises, no glitz, no Gap or Starbucks and few luxury sedans. You are more likely to see an ancient VW van than a luxury Lexus.
It blossomed in the 1960s and 1970s as a bastion of the counterculture, San Diego’s “hippie” center. Many people claim Ocean Beach exists in a 1960’s time warp. There is no dispute that Ocean Beach is a tight-knit community that exudes SoCal beach-village funkiness.
To get to Ocean Beach, take Interstate 8 west almost to the ocean, then go left and follow the palm trees on the right.
Ocean Beach is a square mile or so of tidepools, tennis courts, surfing, cliffside trails, scenic bike paths and an impressive fishing pier.
Breakfast Republic, 4839 Newport Ave., San Diego
An inventive breakfast restaurant serving everything from Breakfast Shrimp and Grits to Crab and Crawfish Bake Benedict. Try the Oreo Cookie Pancakes, too.
Forbes magazine named North Park as one of America’s best hipster neighborhoods, noting that “culturally diverse North Park is home to Craftsman cottages, cafes and diners, coffee shops, several microbreweries, boutiques and the North Park Farmers Market. The North Park Theater and the Ray Street Arts District are also bastions of creativity in the area.”
North Park seems to have it all, art galleries, boutiques, trendy bars with handcrafted cocktails and local brews as well as eclectic, “must try” restaurants.
The Ray Street Arts District is home to “Ray at Night,” a gallery walk held the second Saturday of every month. It is the largest and longest running art walk in San Diego’s history.
To find North Park head east on I-8, take I-805 South and exit at University Avenue. After you merge onto Boundary Street, turn left onto University Avenue. Head west to the heart of North Park.
Polite Provisions, 4696 30th St., San Diego
Manufacturers of local tonics, elixirs and cures. This bar offers a selection of unique cocktails, spirits, beer, and wine that rotates daily.
San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter is the historic heart of San Diego. Guests can immerse themselves in rich Victorian architecture and history, dine with world-renowned chefs and dance the night away at nationally recognized nightlife venues. The Gaslamp area is accessible via the freeway and several trolley and bus lines.
Pushkin Russian Restaurant, 750 Sixth Ave., San Diego
One of San Diego’s only destinations for Russian food, Pushkin serves up quality borscht, pelmeni, Armenian dishes like grilled salad and a hearty selection of specialty vodkas.
A quartet of “must try” restaurants in San Diego:
2461 San Diego Ave., San Diego
Select from more than 100 tequilas for your fresh, frosty margaritas, then watch Mexican Tortilla Ladies make fresh tortillas to accompany your meal the traditional way “a mano” (by hand).
Listen as strolling mariachis fill the flower-scented air with festive music in the colorful outdoor courtyards. Splashing fountains add to the atmosphere in the Esplanade framed by Spanish architecture with colorful Mexican murals and decor.
Voted Best Mexican Restaurant in Old Town San Diego 15 years straight, Café Coyote serves traditional authentic Mexican food.
The Smoking Goat
3408 30th St., San Diego
The Smoking Goat is credited with pioneering a culinary renaissance in a once-sleepy corner of North Park. Regulars come here for the reliably exquisite staples: French onion soup with what’s essentially an open-face grilled cheese sandwich in rich veal broth, duck fat truffle fries with pecorino romano and mustard aioli, and other creations that blend traditional French tastes with sustainable, organic San Diego-sourced ingredients.
Juniper & Ivy
2228 Kettner Blvd., San Diego
For a place that’s best known for its buttermilk biscuits, Juniper & Ivy touts its “Left Coast Cookery.” Trendsetting chef Richard Blais of “Top Chef All-Stars” fame, is known for starting with American classics and elevating them.
Try the semi-secret menu item: In-N-Haute burger, made from a blend of short rib, brisket, chuck and dry-aged beef, wrapped and seared in cheese atop an egg bun. Reservations a must.
Ironside Fish & Oyster
1654 India St., San Diego
The “holy grail” of raw bars, where the large platters come in Big, Bigger, Biggest and (Even Bigger). This last assortment could include 24 oysters, 14 shrimp, 14 mussels, two pounds of lobster, two ounces of sustainable royal white sturgeon caviar, a portion of rockfish ceviche and some kanpachi crudo (the mix changes daily according to what’s fresh). There’s also an impressive bar, where 11 categories of whiskey are represented.
Now for something different
3803 Ray St., San Diego
At this colorful corner store in North Park, Mexican handicrafts reign supreme. Pick up such gifts as hand-embroidered pillows and table runners, hand-painted wooden stools, glassware and rainbow huaraches.
This store is the brainchild of Elexia de la Parra, who grew up in Tijuana, studied culinary arts in San Diego and then globetrotted before starting her business. It celebrates Mexico’s vibrant artisanal culture and supports its makers, a percentage of each sale is donated to an organization that provides no-interest loans to female entrepreneurs in Oaxaca. Before you visit, check Artelexia’s events calendar for evening crafting workshops.
7812 Girard Ave, La Jolla
The nation’s oldest continuously family-owned and -operated bookstore is Warwick’s in La Jolla. William T. Warwick entered the book business in 1896 in Iowa. He came to this dreamy stretch of the Pacific Coast, where he bought an existing bookstore, then married the widowed former owner, Genevieve Redding. The business is now run by their great-granddaughters.
Check Warwick’s events listings when you’re in town, because chances are, so is an actor, politician, or celebrity chef who’ll be reading from a newly released book.