I have been wanting to do a guide to San Diego for soooo long! I have lived in San Diego my whole life, and I wanted to present parts of San Diego that visitors don't usually go to. I love looking at guide books at the library for some reason, and I recently got a guidebook on California, and the San Diego portion was terrible. When I visit a city I want to visit the local spots, not the crowded tourist spots.
San Diego is SO spread out, so it is essential you rent a car, unless you plan on staying in the downtown area in that case taking the bus/trolley to nearby neighborhoods is fine. There are some spots in my guide that are a little out of the way for the normal visitor but I want to include my favorite spots! Most of the restaurants in my guide are vegetarian, because well duh I'm vegetarian but when I go on vacation, I always try to find out the local veggie spots in advance. And I picked the absolute best! I also included a lot of craft/bead/fabric shops because that's always important for shopping! I hope you guys find this guide helpful for your next visit to San Diego!! Or I hope you locals find some spots you want to try. If anyone has any things I should add to the list, let me know!
This isn't normally a location on any visitors guide, but I thought I would include a few highlights from this east county neighborhood because well its where I live! Downtown La Mesa is known for its antique stores, and small town feel.
Swamis- This is the second location, the first one being in Encinitas, and named after Swamis Beach in Encinitas. Its a casual healthy cafe that has lots of veggie options. I recommend the veggie club sandwhich with fake turkey/bacon, and the multigrain pancakes for breakfast (tastes like a churro!!)
Myztic Isle- New Age shop in a small shopping mall next to a Vons. A hidden gem of San Diego. They have all sorts of crystals, pendulums, beautiful jewelry, books, statues, and other goodies. Psychic fair every 1st Saturday of the month. Best psychic readings I have ever had. Past life readings by Cheryl.
Two Sisters and Ewe- Hands down best knitting shop in San Diego. They have every kind of yarn imaginable, classes, and a library of knitting/crochet books. (Check out dichrotic glass next door!)
Maxwells House of Books- Quaint used bookstore across from Swamis. Stroll in and shop around after grabbing a bite to eat
Farmers Market (Fridays) - Just down the St from downtown La Mesa, every Friday at 2 pm there's a farmers market. Try some fresh local fruit, tamales, ceviche and grab a bouquet of flowers.
Tandy Leather- If there isn't a tandy leather shop in your hometown, come get leather supplies, or take a class and learn the art of leathercraft. I come here for all my leather tooling supplies! (This is not downtown la mesa its just off of University and 70th st)
Mt Helix- One of the BEST views in San Diego. A 360 view of downtown, all the beaches, mountains and east county. This is in a wealthy neighborhood, and you will see some huge houses on the drive up. Its a private park open to the public and the gate closes sharp at sunset.
Del Cerro/ College Area
This is also not an area usually visited by tourists unless you are coming to check out SDSU. Del Cerro is a wealthier community of east county and also has an amazing view of San Diego from the top of the cerro (hill). From College, if you take University Ave or El Cajon Blvd (they're parallel streets) west, they will take you all the way to North Park/Balboa Park area if you want to take a more local route. You will pass the neighborhoods of Rolando, El Cerrito, City Heights and Normal Heights.
KB Wine Cellars- Wine shop/ Upscale Sandwhich shop with microbrews. This opened just a few years ago and is made a name for itself in this area. Saturdays are busy with students and Del Cerro residents alike drinking microbrews, or a glass of wine enjoying salads, street tacos, fancy sandwhiches, and PubCakes! The wine shop has an excellent selection of wines from California and all over the world, as well as a decent selection of beer. (check out health food store next door for snacks and kombucha)
Trujillos- BEST MEXICAN FOOD IN SAN DIEGO. I have been coming here for years since my days at SDSU. This is their original location (with another down the st on el cajon blvd) and is extremely popular with students, probably because they are open until 2-3 on weekends and around 12 on weekdays. Its family owned, and they have the best burritos and tacos. I come here at least once a week. Limited parking; try parking behind the building, turn left at starbucks on the corner and a right into the alley)
Alforon- Best Mediterranean food in San Diego. This location opened recently and already has a huge following. Possibly some of the best felafel I have ever had as well as their specialty flat bread. (located on El Cajon Blvd
Yogurt Land- Good place to stop for a treat if you are in the area. They have about 10 flavors, both tart and sweet. Bonus discount if you are a student. (Also tapioca express, a boba store is in the same shopping center)
Awash Ethiopian- Technically I think this is in City Heights which is just further west down University. Authentic, hole in the wall restaurant. You can't miss its bright red and green exterior. Meant to be shared, and comes on a huge tray. Choose the veggie plater and share 4 dishes along with injari bread (big enough for 2-3)
The Neighborhoods of Kensington, Normal Heights, North Park, University Heights, South Park, Hillcrest, Mission Hills, Golden Hills are all adjacent and centrally located. These are the best areas to check out if you are not renting a car. They are all easy to reach by bus. The main streets are University Ave, Adams Ave, Washington St, 30th and 5th. They have some of the best shopping, dining, and sight seeing, even local flavor outside of the beach communities.
A neighborhood that has undergone a heavy amount of gentrification in the past 5 years. Now a hip community full of bars, vegetarian restaurant, and boutiques. One of the best neighborhoods to check out local dive bars, casual restaurants and coffee shops. Adjacent to South Park, Hillcrest and Balboa Park areas.
Urban Solace- American comfort food with a southern feel. They have few vegetarian options but their watermelon feta salad is delicious and so are their famous sweet potato fries! Try the bluegrass brunch on Sundays.
Ranchos- Delicious Mexican cuisine. A gem of north park. Large menu with lots of vegetarian/vegan options. Covered in plants outside, and adorned with frida kahlo pictures inside, a great spot for lunch or a dinner date. Try the vegan tortilla soup or the mole enchiladas! (they also have another location in Ocean Beach)
Morley Field- An alternative option for picnics, or frisbee throwing when balboa park is overflowing with people. They have a tennis court, swimming pool, playground and a disc golf course. Don't worry if you don't have any discs you can rent them for $2 a disc. A popular place to throw some discs and have a beer. 420 friendly.
Controversial Bookstore- A San Diego institution. Open for over 40 years, this bookstore offers books of topics of metaphysics, spirituality, astrology, eastern religion and the occult. They have a a huge selection of tarot decks as well as incense, jewelry, pendulums, candles and crystals.
Also worth noting: Bar pink: bar based on dumbos pink elephants, pink sparkly decor, $2 tecates, good specialty drinks. Bluefoot bar: casual bar with outdoor seating. Lady of the lake: new age shop across from Contraversial Bookstore, good selection of egyptian statues. Off the record: record store with old classics, new and used vinyl, and cds. Sea Rocket Bistro: local, sustainably caught seafood, intimate restaurant with veggie options,
South of North park, south park is a little more quiet and is adjacent to Golden Hill which has some beautiful Victorian houses. South park has experienced the same gentrification that North Park has in the past few years and a lot of independent boutiques and new restaurants have opened since.
Rebeccas Coffee House- A south park landmark, Rebeccas is a coffee house that is open late on weekends and furnished with dingy but comfy couches and chairs. The usual selection of teas, coffee. I hear the pasteries are delicious.Open Mic and shows on the small stage happen weekly so check their website for dates.
Whistle Stop- Dive bar across the street from Rebeccas. They have themed nights including vinyl jazz night on Sundays. Stop by and enjoy some spirits with a few friends.
Krakatoa- Technically in Golden Hill this is a quaint coffee shop offering sandwiches, salads and pastries as well. Built in a cottage house with trees and plants adorning the patio, enjoy your beverage outside with the sounds of birds in the background. Really good iced tea!
A mostly Hispanic neighborhood with an big artist community, its going through a transition, opening up to become more of an arts district and leave behind it some its its sketchy reputation among non locals.
Chicano Park- A local landmark. Underneath the freeway to Coronado, here you can see beautiful murals painted by Latino artists. Visit the Emilio Zapata Statue. Its still a neighborhood going through transition so be mindful of your surroundings and try to visit during daylight hours.
Las Quatro Milpas- Another local institution. You will see people lined up around the corner during lunchtime. Handmade tortillas and tamales. Unfortunately there are no veggie options, but its a must try for all you meat eaters.
Also worth noting: Latte Mi Corazon: Mexican coffee house with garden makes amazing coffee, Cafe Moto another good coffee spot
Adams Avenue is a street that spans the neighborhoods of Kensington, Normal Heights, and University Heights. This area is well known for antique stores, restaurants and used bookstores. This area is somewhat less frequented than the adjacent North Park area. This is why its one of my favorites.
Jyoti Bihanga- One of the BEST vegetarian restaurants ever. They have a sister restaurant in San Francisco, but its no where near as good as this one. the restaurant is run by followers of spiritual master Sri Chimoy. The atmosphere reflects this with their white and blue walls and very serene, calm attitude. They have everything from salads, veggie burgers, burritos, hummus, but they are known for their "neetloaf" which is a veggie meatloaf. I can attest to the deliciousness of the neetloaf, as I have had it probably near 100 times. Try the neetloaf sandwhich which comes with the best mashed potatos you will ever eat.
Adams Ave Bookstore- A two story used bookstore located on the corner of 35th and Adams Ave. They have a wide selection of books at decent prices. Look out for the huge cat that soaks in the sun in the window.
Viva Pops- Local organic popsicle shop that opened a few years ago. They offer vegan,fruit based, sugar free and milk based flavors for $3.00 a pop. Just a few of their flavors are lavender lemonade, strawberry basil, apricot lemongrass, blackberry chocolate and tart plum. They are now available at local whole foods also!
Senior Mangos- Located on 30th st, this is a local favorite. Its a juice shop that also offers a delicious array of tortas, smoothies and fruit salads. Be prepared to wait in line during busy hours. Try the vampiro juice, veggie torta or any of the fruit salads!
Discount Fabric- Owned by Yardage Town, this location offers their discount selection of fabrics. They have more of a costume, home fabric feel. They do not have any cotton prints. Good selection of stretch fabric, trim, canvas, and sheer fabric. Worth checking out, as its right down the street from Jyoti Bihanga, and across from Viva Pops.
Also worth noting: Blind Lady Ale House: offers beer and gourmet pizza, Tiger!Tiger!: owned by BLAH, this is a new location known for their woodfired sandwiches and of course beer
San Diego's gay district. While not as flamboyant as lets say the Castro in San Francisco it is still a community with many thriving gay businesses. It is also known for its hip restaurants, vintage shops, and bar scene.
Balboa Park- Known as the nation's largest cultural urban park. There are 15 museums, lawn bowling, a rose garden, the Japanese friendship garden and teahouse, botanical gardens, organ pavilion and many hidden spots you can walk through and enjoy picnics in. Of course its also home to the San Diego Zoo! Take a whole day and explore.
Bread and Cie- One of the city's finest bakeries. They not only sell their delectable bread, but also sandwhiches, salads and soup. I love the arugula pesto sandwhich and the tomato soup is the best I have ever had. Dine in or take it to go. Check out their pastry display, the tiramisu is so good!
Baby Cakes- This cup-cakery opened just a few years ago and already its really popular and has tons of rave reviews. They have now expanded into a full bar with food menu also. They have big cupcakes with generous servings of frosting, with the perfect balance of sweetness. Try the blood orange or pomegranate flavors!
Spruce St Bridge- a local favorite. A suspension style bridge built in 1912 is found on Spruce street and 1st Ave. The bridge crosses a ravine to get you to the neighboring street on the other side. A fun stopover for those not afraid of heights. Run, bounce or jump across and let your mind wander back to those days in the playground on the moving bridge.
El Zarape- A taco shop located in the University Heights neighborhood which borders Hillcrest. They are open late and offer a good selection of vegetarian eats. Some menu items include lobster burrito, potato rolled tacos, scallop tacos, burritos and nachos. Try the veggie supreme burrito! Its full of potatos!
Evolution- Vegan drive through restaurant. The name has changed several times over the years, from Kung food, to Nature's Express and finally settling on Evolution. They offer a variety of vegan/vegetarian burgers, fries, and also a small selection of juices, smoothies and raw items. They have a few decent raw cakes sold by the slice as well as raw brownies. It may be called vegetarian fast food but they are known for being notoriously slow.
Also worth noting:
Five Guys Burgers, Mint: shoe store with unique selections for both men and women, Flashbacks: vintage clothes, Buffalo Exchange: vintage mixed with new and used clothing, Bluestocking Books: used bookstore, 5th Ave Books: larger used bookstore right across st, Thirsty Moon Records: located in small st behind Rite Aid, Taang Records: punk music store, Snooze: new hipster breakfast hotspot, Hash House A Go go: known for their enormous portions and their potato skillets, Landmark Cinima: movie theater showing independent movies
One of my favorite neighborhoods. Directly Adjacent to Hillcrest, this neighborhood is much quieter with its own set of shops and restaurants. Its beautiful to drive through with its mix of quaint craftsman cottages and larger stately homes most of which are perfectly manicured. You can drive from Hillcrest to Old Town by taking a detour through Mission Hills and you will end up at the Presidio in Old Town.
Pioneer Park- a beautiful tree laden park sits at the northmost part of mission hills. It has a large grass area interspersed with trees providing shade, perfect for picnics. You would never know it was built on top of a cemetery. At the far end of the park you can see a cluster of tombstones that were once laid out on the grass, but when the park was built they just moved them to the edge. Grab a slice of pizza from the Bronx and bring a blanket for an afternoon picnic.
Bronx Pizza- Delicious New York Style Pizza. No fuss or frills pizza shop with a huge following in San Diego. Try the lunch special with two slices and a soda for $6.
M-theory Records- Independent music store right on Washington in the heart of Mission Hills. Both new and used vinyl and cds. Whether you are looking for electronic music or classic rock they are likely to have it here. Look out for in store performances and sidewalk sales.
This is the Italian district of San Diego. They do have some delicious Italian eateries but its also a district known for its art galleries, design studios, and modern architecture.
Venture here on a Saturday and visit on of the cities larger farmers markets or “mercatos”.
Blick Art Store- Formerly Dick Blick, Blick art store will have every supply you can dream of; Paint, charcoal, markers, sketchbooks, pastels, canvas, how to books and even a gift section with little design trinkets and scented pencils. Hard to find street parking, they have a tiny lot but make sure to get it validated inside.
Papalecco- Sidewalk gelato café. They offer a caseful of mouth watering gelato flavors like strawberry, nutella, lemon, blood orange, and white chocolate. Be sure to try their authentic Italian pizzas, salads and paninis.
Blue Water Sea Food Market & Grill- This casual seafood restaurant is a hidden gem. Its located down the hill on Washington past Mission Hills. Arrive at 11 am and you will be sure to already find a handful of dedicated customers waiting. This restaurant serves up local, fresh seafood with delicious sandwiches. It’s very small inside, and you order before you sit down, so it’s hard to get a table with more than 4 people.
South American Imports- This is the BEST store in San Diego if you are into crystals, gemstones and minerals. Its hidden in a small mall behind Café Coyote. They have South American handicrafts, tumbled stones, raw crystals, and jewelry all at really good prices.
Presidio Park- Located at the top of the hill behind Old Town, this is the best spot to get a better look at the view of Sea World, USD, Sports Arena and the beach communities. Explore the Presidio itself, have a picnic, roll down its grassy knolls or just enjoy the view. If you keep driving up the hill and into neighboring Mission Hills this is a shortcut into Hillcrest area.
Downtown Library- This library used to be located a few blocks over in its original building, but a new state of the art library has been built with some interesting architecture. Many locals come to see the views from the top!
Pokez- Located across the street from the old library, this is the best vegetarian Mexican food around. (they also have meat dishes). Known for its punk rock, hipster clientele and staff, there’s often complaints of rude behavior but I have never experienced that. Amazing potato rolled tacos, tofu fajitas are incredible, as is the veggie torta. Metered parking in the street can be hard to come by.
Cemetery- Greenwood Memorial Park is one of San Diego’s largest and oldest cemeteries. I love coming here and looking at all the old mossy gravestones. The Orange Line trolley runs through here but it’s a bit of a walk as there is no direct stop. It’s a bit off the downtown map, east in the Mountain view neighborhood on Imperial Ave.
Seaport Village- this is one of those touristy things I do from time to time. A little shopping village on the water with overpriced food and souvenirs. It is however a really good view of the bay and Coronado. Stroll through here, and walk along the bay towards the embarcadero and Spanish landing park. Or rent a bike and take a ride on the ferry and bike Coronado!
Point Loma/Ocean Beach
Both of these neighborhoods lay side by side on a map. Ocean Beach is San Diego’s most casual, hippie beach. This is reflected in the attitude of locals, and the shops you see here. Walk along the pier or stroll along the beach where you will often find people playing guitar, drumming or lots of people walking their dog to the dog friendly beach that’s located towards the east end.
Sunset Cliffs- If you are looking for a romantic, beautiful view, look no further than sunset cliffs. Watch joggers, surfers, old people, young people stroll by as you watch the sunset, or just look at the view. There are also small “locals only” beaches you can hike down to but be careful along the cliffs.
Antique Stores- Ocean Beach is known for their antique stores along the main drag of Newport Ave. They are all located on the upper end of the street, farthest from the water. All are decent shops with good prices and a variety of furniture, clothes, jewelry, home items, and odds and ends.
In Harmony Herbs and Spices- A tiny hidden shop behind a Mexican restaurant that sells dried herbs, essential oils, candles, jewelry and fresh herbs on the patio outside. Really friendly staff who will help you find just what you are looking for.
Black Bead- Next door to The Black smoke shop/gift shop. It’s a small hippie bead shop with every kind of bead. Seed beads, glass beads, bone beads, silver beads, ethnic beads, as well as charms separated by category. They also have chain by the foot, leather, hemp and friendly staff who will help you with your project.
Hodads- An Ocean beach institution. This place often has a line around the block. They sell just burgers and fries. Menu is a simple offering a list of different burgers, drinks, and you can make your burger a basket (add fries). The fries are amazing! Delicious seasoned tiny potato slices. Definitely one of the best burgers in SD. They also have veggie burgers! Inside décor is license plates wall to wall, and they even have a vw bus you can sit in to eat your meal.
Beach Sweets- Next door to Hodads, this little candy shop will satisfy your sweet tooth. They have bulk candies, as well as packaged candies, and old fashioned candies. This place will dip anything in chocolate. They sell chocolate covered chips, jalapenos, oreos and a variety of other foods.
Peoples Co-op- If you are looking for healthy snacks to take to the beach look no further than People’s. It is a co-op grocery store located off the main St in a two story building. The upper level has a vegan café where you can order sandwiches or get cold/hot food to go. Be aware that it is a Co Op so you pay yearly to be a member, so if you are not a member they charge you 10% extra.
Con Panne- Hands down one of the best bakeries in San Diego. Its located in a newer food only shopping center (liberty station) with both indoor and outdoor dining. They have some of the best bread I have ever tasted. Try the bread sample platter, their chocolate bread and if you are feeling something a little more on the sweet side, the best thing to try is the chocolate twists or their brioche cinnamon rolls!
Also worth noting: Tender Greens for some of the best salad you will ever have, also located in library station, Point Loma Seafood: A San Diego institution for good seafood but it can get crowded, Point Loma lighthouse: stunning view of the harbor, bay and downtown as well as a nearby cemetary
Mission Beach/ Pacific Beach
Both of these are tourist hotspots as well as the hunting/mating grounds for college age bros. Not a real fan of “PB” as the locals call it, but it does have a few interesting spots.
Kate Sessions Park- This used to be well known by college age kids for it was one of San Diegos only public parks with alcohol being permitted. The city has now outlawed this so no more drunken slip and slides and wild parties. This is probably the park with the best view of the city. Its located at the top of a hill and has a view of all of the beaches. It’s a great choice for a picnic spot.
The Mission- Mexican inspired breakfast spot that’s very popular. This is one of its three locations in San Diego. They have a whole vegetarian section with vegan chorizo dishes. Hearty servings will not leave you feeling hungry. They also have blackberry pancakes, a “zen breakfast”, huevos rancheros as well as pastries and delicious coffees and chai lattes. Look for a coupon in the City Beat for ½ off your 2nd entrée.
Zanzibar- Located in the heart of PB on Garnet Ave, Zanzibar is a great lunch spot if you are in the area. They have gourmet sandwiches, pizza and salads. It used to have a more laid back vibe but has undergone some restoration in the past years and is now has a bit more of a upscale feel.
La Jolla means “the jewel’ and that it is. This is one of my favorite beach towns, because of its turquoise blue waters and Mediterranean feel. La jolla’s residents are of an older age and are definitely wealthy. There are some large homes here. There is also a shopping district that has a distinct European feel. Peruse the art galleries, and overpriced clothing stores.
Museum of Contemporary Art- This museum is located seaside. It is free for people 25 and under, and is open late on Thursday nights. Come see contemporary art instillations, pop art, drawings and paintings. The “art” here is always a hit or miss, but the view from the wall to wall windows in the back is always a hit. The gift shop has some interesting design items, jewelry, books and shirts.
The Cove- A small beach on an inlet has gorgeous turquoise waters, and often you will see seals, snorklers, and kayakers. You can pay a small fee to go under the cove, but the small beach located next to it is one of my favorites. You can find tidepools when the tide is low. Parking and space in this area is hard to come by. Stop at the café across from the cove for a iced coffee, Italian soda or snack.
Georges on the Cove- This 3 story building has Georges bar, Ocean Terrace, and California Modern. The latter two are high priced, but George’s bar not only offers delicious drinks but lunch and dinner as well for a moderate price. Lunch is around 15 and drinks are similar price. Specialty drinks can be made virgin for more than half the price! Come here to enjoy a glass of wine and a salad and enjoy the gorgeous view.
Mt. Soledad- A war memorial with controversy surrounding the cross that has been going on for years. But aside from all of that, this is a well known spot to get a birds eye view of La Jolla below. Come for the view, come for a picnic, or just to see what the fuss is all about. A guaranteed good time.
Pannikan Coffee- Located off Pearl Ave, this is a quaint coffee shop to stop at after a long day of shopping, and sightseeing. Good coffee, and they even have a giant chessboard inside! Check out the bookstore next door!
Located further north, about 40 minutes from downtown, Encinitas is a rich hippie town. Full of vegetarian restaurants, yoga studios and even a spiritualist center, Encinitas is one of the more eclectic upscale neighborhoods.
Lotus Café- Always a favorite on my stops in Encinitas, Lotus Café is has a huge menu of both vegetarian items and fish and chicken dishes. Casual atmosphere that attempts a zen eastern vibe. They have a small selection of smoothies and juices as well as vegan cakes. Grab a menu, order at the counter and find a table. Everything is self serve including glassware and silverware.
Soulscape- Next door to Lotus Café, this shop is worth a look around. It’s a sort of boutique new age shop. They have a lovely selection of jewelry, candles, home goods, cards, books and tarot cards.
Self Realization Center- You can’t miss this as you drive by you will see the white structure with golden turrets. This center was founded by Paramahansa Yogananda and focuses on spirituality and meditation. They are open to the public and its free. The meditation gardens are beautiful and when you get to the end you are overlooking the ocean atop a cliff surrounded by cactus and flowers. This is a place I always bring visitors.
Peace Pies- I have had the best meals of my life here. This is their second location, with the original in Ocean Beach. They are an all raw food restaurant. Its very small with only a few items on the menu. No matter what you try, you can’t go wrong. They have homemade kale chips that taste just like parmesan cheese, raw pizza, wraps, and if you are lucky you will come on a day when they have their ravioli or tostadas. They also offer a variety of raw cakes, and a few drinks. Hard to see from the street its located behind Mozys Café.
Beads, Crystals and More- has some of the most exquisite crystal specimens. This place is a little more expensive than other crystal shops but it’s worth the price when you see the quality of stones they carry here. They are clearly handpicked so that every stone is of the highest quality. They also have lots of beads, and silver jewelry.
Black Sheep- Large yarn shop with every yarn imaginable. I could spend hours in here drooling over the different yarns. If you are a knitter or crocheter this shop cannot be missed!
3rd Corner- Wine shop/restaurant located on the 101. Their other location is in Ocean Beach. Buy a bottle of wine in the shop and have them uncork it, or order wine by the glass. They have salads, pasta, seafood and meat dishes. Small selective menu with quality ingredients. They also have the best shoestring fries ever!
A bit out of the way from downtown, but if you are visiting the now Safari Park formerly the Wild Animal Park, there are a few things to do out here. If I can manage a drive out here just to play disc golf you can too!
Stone Brewery- Famous stone brewery home to Arrogant Bastard Ale and Stone Ruination IPA. This brewery has its own garden where you can stroll around with a beer in hand. They’re menu is made of all organic, locally grown produce and farm raised meat. It’s a little on the pricey side for the food but you can honestly taste the difference. I had a salad and the greens were the most tender things ever. During summer time they have late night movies in the garden. Take a tour, enjoy a meal or fill up your growler with a selection of beers.
Kit Carson Park- A HUGE park located on Bear Valley Parkway next to a mall. They have ponds, a huge new skatepark, disc golf, and queen califas magical circle. Queen Califas circle is a tripped out interactive sculpture garden made entirely out of gemstones, mirror pieces and glass. Its quite the spectacle. The reason I come here is for their huge 17 hole disc golf course. It winds through the entire park and is completely free. There is a pro shop if you don’t have any discs, they are some of the friendliest people who helped me pick out the perfect beginners disc.
Wild Animal Park- Now called San Diego Zoo Safari Park, this has always been my favorite over the zoo. Its much more spread out with a more natural environment for the animals. Take the tram for the best upclose view of giraffes, rhinos, zebras and other wildlife. Bring your own water and food unless you like spending $7 for an ice or $5 for a small bag of chips.
Harmony Grove Spiritualist Association- a spiritualist community tucked away in the hills of Escondido. This is a bit off the beaten path, and its only open to the public on weekends.(well you can come by and look around but nothing is open). You can rent a cabin for a decent price and stay a few days. They have classes on mediumship, healing, meditation and they hold a psychic fair the first Saturday of the month from 10-4. This is really a hidden gem that even I didn’t know about until recently.
Baltimore Snowball- An amazing drive through shave ice spot. I have never even heard of drive thru shave ice but its definitely a good place to stop if you are in the area. Try the jellybean cup with lime sherbet on the bottom! Yum!
Dancing Bear Indian Trader: Amazing bead store specializing in Native American beads, crafts and fabric. They have a wonderful selection of seed beads in every size and color. They even have glow in the dark beads! They also have a lot of beautiful Alexander Henry print fabrics and also pendleton wool.
Summers Past Farms- This is another one that’s out of the way. I love coming here. It’s mostly an herb & vegetable plant nursery with some beautiful gardens and unique shops. They have a café in the middle where you can enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and get away from it all. Get handmade soap, lotion, dried herbs, lavender, seeds and garden accessories. They have a sweetpea maze, and lots of flowers and different nooks and crannies you can find some solitude in.
Clairemont is most well known for being the Asian district of San Diego with most of its Asian markets and restaurants being concentrated here.
Yakitori Yakyudori & Ramen- Great yakitori (Japanese grilled skewers) and ramen place that recently relocated here from Hillcrest. It has a huge following, which makes it hard to get a seat in this tiny restaurant. There is often a long wait. Its best to come here for an early dinner if you don’t want to wait. They have all kinds of grilled skewers, fish, chicken, even vegetables. They have some of the best ramen I have ever had. Only place to get decent veggie ramen.
Tajima- Another popular Japanese restaurant that’s open late until 2 am. They have two locations, one which is smaller and more popular with the younger late night crowd. They have ramen (with both vegetarian and vegan choices!), rice bowls, curry, and lots of small bites.
Yogurt World/Tapioca Express/Crepes- This is the trifecta of delicious treats. This one shopping center has both frozen yogurt, tapioca drinks, and crepes! The parking lot however is not a treat, it’s a nightmare and always packed at night. But if you can find a spot its worth it. Yogurt world has 20 flavors with tons of toppings including exploding boba (like little balls of juice) which is the only yogurt shop that offers this. Tapioca express is always full of students, is blaring with loud music. You can trade your id to rent a variety of boardgames to play while you enjoy your drink. The crepe store is not Japanese style, but the soft moist French style. Nutella and strawberry crepe anyone?
Mitsuwa- Japanese supermarket that also has a bookstore, tea shop and toy store. You can find a variety of Japanese grocery items, as well as candy, snacks, frozen treats and a well displayed selection of cold beverages. If you are looking for a quick meal you can pick up some freshly made sushi, bento boxes, or sit down in their restaurant for a bowl of noodles.
Marukai Value- This store is in a corner mall with 2 other stores under the Marukai name. This is the value store where you can get everything in the store for $1.89. You need to stalk up on holographic origami paper, hello kitty pencil case, cute baking supplies, chopsticks, paper goods, gift wrap, nail polish, toys or candy? They have it all here!
South Sun Bead Store- This is the ultimate bead paradise. Do you make jewelry? Make sure to stop by this giant warehouse store to stock up on beads. They have it all, gemstone, shell, glass, seed, wood, silver, Czech glass beads as well as chain by the foot, in every metal and all the things you need to make your project. Be sure to stop by near holiday times because they often have sales up to 60% off. They also have an outdoor sale section every day!
Also worth noting: Picasso naturals: one of the only vegetarian/natural food restaurants in the area with small grocery and sprouting supplies, Da Shack: shave ice stand near Mesa College, Nijiya Market: another Japanese grocery store with food items to go
Punjabi Tandoor- This is a bit out of the way, and in a strange business center, industrial furniture district, but it’s not that much of a secret anymore. This is a hole in the wall Indian food place with great prices. Its some of the best Indian food in San Diego. I often drive the 25 minutes just to eat here. It gets busy weekend nights and during lunchtime when they have a lunch special for around $8 with 2-3 curries, naan and desert. If you are already in La Jolla its only about a 10 minute drive east on local streets, or if you are heading down from Escondido on the 15, its worth the stop!
Wahini Kai Shave Ice- Some of San Diego’s only shave ice. Strange but true. Not even the beach communities have shave ice. It’s located in a strip mall next to a Japanese restaurant and a Greek restaurant. Popular with the locals it’s a great spot to get authentic Hawaiian shave ice with or without ice cream and condensed milk.