What to Do in San Diego

For our ACLU colleagues, following is a small sampling of San Diego offerings. We hope you enjoy your time here!

Must-Sees

Balboa Park. San Diego’s equivalent of Central Park, full of historical, Spanish-Renaissance buildings built for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915.  It’s home to 15 major museums, The Old Globe Theatre, and the San Diego Zoo.

The Beaches. Chances are, wherever you’re from, you aren’t hanging out near a big body of water in January. But you can here.  Just head west.

Hotel del Coronado. Built in 1888, this is the iconic setting for Some Like It Hot. You’ll feel like a true (wealthy) Southern Californian if you splurge on some appetizers and cocktails on the patio. To do it right, rent bikes and take a ferry from the Embarcadero in downtown, and bike along Coronado’s lovely, well-kept streets. Coronado’s beaches are family-friendly.

Tidepools at Cabrillo National Monument. Besides breathtaking views of the city from the lighthouse at the tip of Point Loma, if you head down the cliffs on the Pacific Ocean side, you can commune with nature in the most San Diego of ways. Plan to hit the tidepools at low tide and you can see anemones, octopi, sea stars, sea slugs (a.k.a. deadman’s fingers) and beautiful sandstone cliffs and crashing waves.

TijuanaIt’s so close, and really does give you a glimpse of our border justice issues within seconds of crossing over. The State Department still issues traveler alerts for Tijuana, so be advised. Sticking to Avenida Revolucion and doing a little shopping and taco drinking/tequila shooting is probably what we’d recommend, even for our most adventurous visitors. There’s a great Arts and Crafts Market just off the Avenida – head down Calle Segunda to Avenida Negrete. If time or tension makes you nervous, you get a tiny bit of the feeling of Mexico in San Diego’s  Old Town State Park, created for the city’s bicentennial in 1969.

Attractions

Belmont Park3146 Mission Blvd. | San Diego, CA 92109 | 858-488-294-1549

Birch Aquarium | 2300 Expedition Way | La Jolla, CA 92037 | 858-534-FISH

LegolandOne Legoland Drive | Carlsbad, CA 92008 | 760-918-5346

San Diego Zoo2920 Zoo Drive | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-231-1515

San Diego Zoo Safari Park15500 San Pasqual Valley Road | Escondido, CA 92027
760-747-8702

SeaWorld500 SeaWorld Drive | San Diego, CA 92109 | 619-266-3901

Casinos

Barona Casino1000 Wildcat Canyon Road  | Lakeside, CA 92040 | 619-443-2300

Golden Acorn Casino1800 Golden Acorn Way | Campo, CA 91906 | 619-938-6000

Sycuan Casino5485 Casino Way | El Cajon, CA 92019-1810 | 800-279-2826

Viejas Casino5000 Willows Road | Alpine, CA 91901-1656 | 800-847-6537

Bars / Clubs

Air Conditioned Lounge (North Park) | 4673 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92116 | 619-501-9831

Babycakes (Hillcrest) | 3766 Fifth Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-296-4173

Baja Betty’s (Hillcrest) | 1421 University Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-269-8510

Bar Pink (North Park) | 3829 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92104 | 619-564-7194

Bourbon Street (University Heights)| 4612 Park Boulevard | San Diego, CA  92116 | 619-291-4043

Brass Rail (Hillcrest) | 3796 5th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-298-2233

El Dorado  (Gaslamp) |1030 Broadway | San Diego, CA 92101 | (619) 237-0550

Flicks (Hillcrest) | 1017 University Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-297-2056

Lei Lounge (University Heights) | 4622 Park Blvd. | San Diego, CA  92116 | 619-813-2272

Martinis Above Fourth (Hillcrest) | 3940 4th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-400-4500

Meze (Gaslamp)  | 551 J Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | (619) 546-5060

Urban Mo’s (Hillcrest)   308 University Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-491-0400

Vin de Syrah (Gaslamp) | 901 Fifth Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-234-4166

Golfing

Balboa Park Golf Course2600 Golf Course Drive | San Diego, CA 92102 | 619-239-1660

Coronado Municipal Golf Course2000 Visalia Road | Coronado, CA 92118 | 619-435-3121

Riverwalk Golf Club | 1150 Fashion Valley Road | San Diego, CA 92108 | 619-296-4653

Torrey Pines Golf Course11480 N. Torrey Pines Road | La Jolla, CA 92037 | 858-452-3226

Harbor Cruise

Flagship Cruises990 North Harbor Drive | San Diego, CA 92101 | 800-442-7847

Hornblower Harbor Cruises | 970 North Harbor Drive | San Diego, CA 92101 888.329.1787

San Diego Harbor Cruises | 800-303-7197

Museums – Balboa Park

Mingei International Museum1439 El Prado | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-239-0003

Museum of Photographic Arts1649 El Prado | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-238-7559

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center1875 El Prado | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-238-1233

San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum2131 Pan American Plaza
San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-234-4543

San Diego Museum of Art1450 El Prado | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-232-7931

San Diego Museum of Man1350 El Prado | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-239-2001

San Diego Natural History Museum1788 El Prado | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-232-3821

Museums / History (outside of Balboa Park)

California Missions [Map of all California missions]
San Diego de Alcalá |10818 San Diego Mission Road | San Diego, CA 92108 |
619-283-7319
San Luis Rey de Francía | 4050 Mission Avenue | Oceanside, CA 92057 | 760-757-3651

Chicano Park | National Avenue at Dewey Street (under the Coronado Bridge)  | San Diego, CA 92113 | 619-563-4661
Site of some of the best art in San Diego. The 50+ murals were painted primarily in the 70s and 80s, narrating the history of the neighborhood, Barrio Logan, which was bifurcated (and thus nearly destroyed) by the construction of Interstate 5 in the 1960s.

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

  – Downtown | 1100 Kettner Boulevard | San Diego, CA 92101 | 858-454-3541
  – La Jolla | 700 prospect street | La Jolla, CA 92037 |  858-454-3541

Museum of Making Music (Carlsbad) 5790 Armada Drive | Carlsbad, CA 92008 | 760-438-5996 or toll-free 877-551-9976

The New Children’s Museum (Gaslamp) 200 West Island Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-233-8792

USS Midway Museum | 910 N. Harbor Drive  | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-544-9600

Music

4th & B | 345 B Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-231-4343

Belly Up Tavern | 143 S. Cedros Avenue | Solana Beach, CA 92075 | 858-481-8140

The Casbah | 2501 Kettner Blvd. | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-232-HELL

House of Blues | 1055 5th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-299-BLUE

San Diego Symphony | 1245 Seventh Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-235-0800
Showing while you’re here: Jackson Browne (1/26), The Magic of Mozart (1/27), and The Joffrey Ballet (1/29)

Nature

Anza Borrego State Park California’s largest state park, with five hundred miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas and many miles of hiking trails. You’ve come this far– take a little time to experience the wonders of the California Desert. [Map and directions in link.]

Black’s Beach (clothing optional!) | 2800  Torrey Pines Scenic Drive | La Jolla, CA 92037 (see surf report)

Border Field State Park  | Southwesternmost corner of the U.S.! | 619-575-3613 |  Hwy. 5 south; exit Dairy Mart Road (exit #2). Head Southwest on Dairy Mart Road. Dairy Mart Road will curve right onto Monument Road. Turn right (West) on Monument Road until you reach the park entrance.

La Jolla Children’s Pool  850 Coast Blvd. | La Jolla, CA 92037 (tide pools and seal watching!)

La Jolla Cove1100 Coast Blvd. | La Jolla, CA 92037 (snorkeling)

La Jolla Shores | 8260 Camino del Oro | La Jolla, CA 92037 (see surf report)

Living Coast Discovery Center1000 Gunpowder Point Drive | Chula Vista, ca 91910 | 619-409-5900

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle | Kit Carson Park | 3333 Bear Valley Parkway |
Escondido, CA 92025 | 760-839-4691 (Sculpture garden by Niki de Saint Phalle)

San Diego Beaches

Surf Report:

  • Black’s Beach (see above): This is the spot for expert surfers, considered by many to be the finest beach break in the United States. It gets best at lower tides and features heavy barrels.  (Use access trails from La Jolla Farms Road or the Torrey Pines gliderport.)
  • La Jolla Shores (see above): Consistent surf in the winter with lots of room to spread your wings. Good spot for beginners.
  • Oceanside: Boasts a beach break that picks up as much swell as anywhere; head here when it’s small everywhere else.
  • Tourmaline Surf Park: Long soft waves at the north end of Pacific Beach. Good spot for beginners.
  • Windandsea (see below) and Big Rock in La Jolla: This is where surfing was born (we humbly like to think).  It sports crowded reef peaks with long walls and nice bowls.

San Diego Botanical Gardens | 230 Quail Gardens Drive | Encinitas, CA 92024 | 760- 436-3036

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park | Sunset Cliffs Blvd. between Pt. Loma Blvd. and Ladera Street San Diego, CA 92107

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve | 12600 North Torrey Pines Road, San Diego CA 92037 | 858-755-2063

Windansea Beach6800 Neptune Place | La Jolla, CA 92037
This is where surfing was born (we humbly like to think).  It sports crowded reef peaks with long walls and nice bowls.

Neighborhoods

Gaslamp Quarter
Revitalized Old San Diego, with more than 120 restaurants, nightclubs, live music venues, art galleries, and boutiques. Petco Park is here too.

Hillcrest
San Diego’s gay-friendliest neighborhood is home to scores of restaurants, bars, clubs, and hip stores.

Little Italy
This is where our hip, sophisticated folk hang. There are lots of great Italian restaurants and shops, beautiful home design stores, and lots of funky art galleries.

Normal Heights
Besides loving its name, we love its affordable pubs, restaurants, coffee houses, antique shops, book shops, and burgeoning arts community.

North Park
Are you a hipster? Then we’ve got a home-away-from-home for you! Forbes named North Park one of America’s Hippest Hipster Neighborhoods.

Pacific Beach
If you want to experience the stereotypical San Diego upbringing, go to PB’s beaches and boardwalk (rent blades or bikes!) by day and stay and eat and party and any of the dozens of restaurants, bars, and clubs late into the night.

South Park
Our up-and-coming (actually, now arrived!) neighborhood; just a few small blocks filled with cafes, bookstores, pubs,  and boutiques.

Restaurants

Alchemy (South Park) | 1503 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92102 619-255-0616

Barrio Star (Bankers Hill)2706 5th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-501-7827

Bleu Boheme (Kensington) | 4090 Adams  Avenue | San Diego, CA 92116 | 619-255-4167

Bread & Cie (Hillcrest) | 350 University Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-683-9322

Burger Lounge (Coronado, Gaslamp, Hillcrest, Kensington, La Jolla, and Little Italy) (grass-fed beef burgers, free-range turkey burgers, quinoa veggie burgers)

C Level  (Harbor Island) 880 Harbor Island Drive | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-298-6802

Cafe Chloe (East Villeage-near the Ballpark) | 721 Ninth Avenue| San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-232-3242 (breakfast and lunch)

Carnitas Snack Shack (Hillcrest)2632 University Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-683-9322

Casa de Luz (North Park) 2920 University Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-550-1857 (vegan; raw)

Cowboy Star (East Village)640 Tenth Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-450-5880

Craft & Commerce (Little Italy) | 675 W. Beech Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-269-2202

El Camino (Little Italy) | 2400 India Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-685-3881

El Zarape (University Heights) | 4642 Park Blvd. | San Diego, CA | 619-269-9662

Evolution Fast Food (Bankers Hill) 2965 5th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-550-1818 (vegan; raw)

Extraordinary Desserts (Bankers Hill) | 2929 5th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-294-2132; (Little Italy)  | 1430 Union Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-294-7001

Fidel’s Little Mexico (Solana Beach) 607 Valley Avenue |Solana Beach, CA 92075 | 858-755-5292

Filippi’s Pizza Grotto (Little Italy & other locations) | 1747 India Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-232-5094

Food Trucks:

Hodad’s (Ocean Beach & other locations)  | 5010 Newport Avenue | San Diego, CA 92107 | 619-224-4623 (many think this is home to the world’s best hamburger)

Indigo Grill (Little Italy) | 1536 India Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-234-6802

Jaynes Gastropub  (University Heights)  | 4677 30th Street @ Adams Avenue | San Diego, CA 92116 | 619-563-1011

Jyoti Bihanga (Normal Heights) | 3351 Adams Avenue | San Diego, CA 92116 | 619-282-4116 (vegetarian)

Lestat’s Coffee House (Normal Heights) | 3343 Adams Avenue | San Diego, CA 92116 | 619-282-0437 (open 24 hours)

The Linkery (North Park)3794 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92104 | 619-255-8778

Living Room Cafe & Bistro (Point Loma & other locations) | 1018 Rosecrans Street | San Diego, CA 92106 | 858-222-6852

Loving Hut (North Park) 1905 El Cajon Boulevard | San Diego, CA 92104 | 619-683-9490 (vegan)

Lucha Libre (Mission Hills) 1810 West Washington | San Diego, CA 92110 | 619-296-8226 (contender for our favorite taco shop!)

The Mission  (Mission Beach & other locations) | 3795 Mission Blvd. | San Diego, CA 92109 | 858-488-9060

Monsoon (Gaslamp) | 729 4th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-234-5555

Peace Pies (Ocean Beach) 4230 Voltaire Street | San Diego, CA 92107 | 619-223-2880 (vegan; all raw)

Ponce’s (Kensington) | 4050 Adams Avenue | San Diego, CA 92116 | 619-282-4413 (our favorite taco shop)

Plumeria  (University Heights) | 4661 Park Boulevard | San Diego, CA 92116 | 619-269-9989 (vegetarian)

The Prado at Balboa Park | 1549 El Prado | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-557-9441 x 210

Prepkitchen (Little Italy & other locations)  | 1660 India Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-398-8383

Ritual Tavern  (North Park)  | 4095 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92104 | 619-283-1720

Sipz Fusion Cafe (North Park)  | 3930 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92104 | 619-795-2889 (vegetarian; vegan-friendly)

Smoking Goat  (North Park)  | 3408 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92104 | 619-955-5295

Snooze (Hillcrest) | 3950 5th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-500-3344 (breakfast and lunch)

Uptown Tavern (Hillcrest)  | 1236 University Avenue | San Diego, CA 92103 | 619-241-2710

Urban Solace3823 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92116 | 619-295-6464

Vagabond (South Park) | 2310 30th Street | San Diego, CA 92104 619-255-1035

Shopping

Bazaar del Mundo Shops (Old Town) | 4133 Taylor Street | San Diego, CA 92110 | 619-296-3161

Fashion Valley Mall

Las Americas Premium Outlets (South Bay) | 4211 Camino de la Plaza | San Diego, CA 92173 | 619-934-8400

Little Italy Mercato  | Date & India Streets | Little Italy

Viejas Outlet Center (Alpine)  | 5005 Willows Road | Alpine, CA 91901 | 619-659-2070

Westfield Horton Plaza Mall

Westfield Mission Valley Mall

Theatre

Balboa Theater  (Horton Plaza) | 868 4th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-615-4000 Showing while you’re here: Mariachi Mania

Cygnet Theatre (Old Town) | 4040 Twiggs Street | San Diego, CA 92110 | 619-337-1525 Showing while you’re here: August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean

La Jolla Playhouse  | 2910 La Jolla Village Drive | La Jolla CA, 92037 | 858- 550-1010 Showing while you’re here: DNA New Work Series

Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company930 10th Avenue | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-342-7395  (No shows while you’re here…but if you return, this is the place to see socially releveant, responsible theater!)

San Diego Civic Theater3rd Avenue & B Street | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-615-4000  Showing while you’re here: The Daughter of the Regiment (opera)

San Diego Repertory Theater |  79 Horton Plaza | San Diego, CA 92101-6144  |  619-544-1000 | Showing while you’re here: Clybourne Park

The Old Globe (Balboa Park) | 1363 Old Globe Way | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619-234-5623 Showing while you’re here: Pygmalion and The Brothers Size