My favorite San Diego neighborhoods

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In addition to having awesome beaches and a world-famous zoo, San Diego has a bunch of cool neighborhoods with their own interesting character. These are some of the spots I enjoyed most in the city.


Old Town

Old Town was the site of the first European settlement in what became California, and the town acknowledges its long history with a state park of the same name.

The park and open-air market area are a popular tourist attraction. The park runs regular “living history” re-enactments by workers in costume. On this particular day, they had a Mormon battalion parade in honor of the group’s 2,000-mile march from Iowa to San Diego.



I could easily live in Hillcrest. With excellent thrift stores, bookstores, affordable food options, bicyclists, and cute residential streets, what’s not to like?

Sitting outside on the patio of a Thai restaurant for lunch with a friend in the 80 degree January sun is one of my favorite memories from my last San Diego trip, because it features everything I love about the city: good food, nice weather, cool neighborhood.


University Heights

Another fun walkable hood near Hillcrest is University Heights, which boasts a number of eclectic restaurants, bars, coffee shops and other fun spots. I had occasion to grab drinks at Lancers and Small Bar. At the latter, I discovered Wells Banana Bread beer, which was as fantastically delicious as it sounds. Do yourself a favor and seek it out!

having a drink

wells banana bread beer

North Park

San Diego’s most formidable hipster community is North Park, where I ended up spending a lot of time on my last visit. Besides cool dive bars, art walks, local theater, quirky retail stores, farmers markets and music festivals, North Park also has some local flavor that gives the neighborhood character:


Ocean Beach

Of all the beaches in San Diego, Ocean Beach seems to be the most hippie. There’s such a laid-back feel where no one’s in a hurry and people are content to just chill, have a few drinks, and hang out on the water. I can really get used to this slow pace of life. I should make this my winter residence.


Point Loma

The residential seaside hood of Point Loma has two cool attractions going for it. One is Sunset Cliffs, a great place to surf, people watch, and take in the sunset. The other is the Cabrillo Monument, an underrated attraction and great place to see whales and view the city skyline.



San Diego has one of my favorite urban downtowns. The famous Gaslamp Quarter is part of downtown. That’s a vibrant area with nightlife, retail and food options like Gaslamp Strip Club, which is actually a steak restaurant – get it?

Albino alligators, upside down jellyfish, and sharks at the California Academy of Sciences


You can also find a weird shopping mall called Horton Plaza and the Chinese New Year Festival, which takes place in January.

And when I was in town in 2009, I stopped by Stout Public House, the only San Diego hockey bar I could find. They had the Stanley Cup finals on tv so I was able to watch the Penguins start their march toward the Cup.


  1. I feel like San Diego does a really good job differentiating their neighborhoods – everyone KNOWS what neighborhood they live in there. In Denver, it’s not quite like that. We have a few major ‘hoods, but the rest are only known in name by real estate agents.

    1. Yeah, it probably helps having giant street signs introducing each one. In Pittsburgh, they have the names of the neighborhoods posted on each street sign. That’s another good idea.

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