San Diego: A Local Spin on the Tourist Hot Spots

San Diego — By meaghanclark on January 12, 2010 at 2:57 pm

While many spots seem like typical tourist destinations to anyone familiar with San Diego, add a local’s perspective and you’ll find another side to the looking glass – and discover why natives love it so much.

1. Balboa Park: Though the Balboa Park remains San Diego’s biggest tourist destination, it is very possible to enjoy the area without looking like a tourist. Home to the famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park’s rolling hills are also filled with museums, the Spreckels Organ Pavilion and the Globe Theater. If you want to save money, enjoy the simplicity of its luscious gardens, breathtaking architecture and people watch your way through a picnic in the park. Lawn areas are often filled with small parties, wedding receptions and more, making for a scrumptious and educational meal. Another pointer: if you make it on a Tuesday, take advantage of the free, rotating museum schedule.

2. Just a skip, hop and a jump across the water is Coronado, the city’s “island” that houses local boutiques, the Hotel Del and most importantly, the Navy base. Driving onto the island provides a quick view of the vast Navy vessels, while trekking through Coronado by foot or bike offers a more personal view. Colonial houses fill every neighborhood in this small section of San Diego. Following a walk through the Hotel Del, enjoy a quick cup of joe courtesy of Café 1134, where the locals embrace the tourists with friendly chatter.

3. Northpark is one of the region’s hidden gems; a renaissance area, this retro, southern city is now abuzz with activity thanks to off-the-wall boutiques, restaurants and bars (like the Beauty Bar, featuring salon style hair dryers), many of whom focus on the local. At night, bars lining every corner of 30th are filled with college students and professionals alike; stop at the Sea Rocket Bistro, where their family style dining offers “dinner and a movie” with projectors set up to view a film following dinner orders.

4. At the center of most visitors’ San Diego holiday is the Gaslamp district. Take advantage of validated parking at Horton Plaza and the small mall’s unique architecture, but venture out into the area’s landmark attractions – restaurants and chain boutiques line the alphabetical map. Venture into East Village for the San Diego staple, Pokez Mexican Restaurant and Vegetarian Cuisine, where locals chomp down on traditional Mexican fare with a tofu twist.

5. La Jolla Children’s Pool – Renamed “seal beach” by locals, the children’s pool still houses some of the area’s largest seal populations. Walk along the La Jolla landmark where at all hours of the day these barking beasts play music to unsuspecting passersby. Just a few short jaunts ahead is Windansea, the local surfing hot spot where everyone but experts gets pushed onto the rocky shores.

Wish this was already organized in a guide for you? Look no further. We’ve got you covered.

[Photos: “il Carca”, randomduck, ginsnob]

Tags: beach, hotel del, la jolla, landmark, local, san diego, san diego zoo, seals, tourist


  • Dave -nibbleanibble says:

    Seal beach was pretty good as I recall from my last visit. Definitely worth a visit if you happen to be in the area.

  • kayowe says:

    “…if you make it on a Tuesday, take advantage of the free, rotating museum schedule.”

    You must have proof of SD County residency to take advantage of the free Tuesdays..

  • Meaghan says:

    Free Tuesdays at Balboa Park museums are offered to residents only, but that is why natives love the area so much and should take part in this guide more so than tourists as it allows locals to celebrate the best destinations with a new perspective!

  • Toby Devaux says:

    Hey pretty good entry. Did you find to to watch last nights hanity and colmes? That’s some great writing material lol. Laters

  • oliver says:

    Hey !
    I came across your blog by doing a google search on San Diego (btw, I just luv it! :p )
    I’m in SD right now and seriously, this town is sick!!
    It’s like you’re in paradise here: sun, beach, parties.. The good life to sum it up! Plus, I’m really lucky cause I live in an apartment complex where there’s a swimming-pool, a jacuzzi and a fitness center! To be honest, I first thought it was gonna be like impossible to live in such a complex cause I was like “ it’s gonna be too expensive, bla bla bla …“ But actually, even if you’re on a low budget, there still is a possiblilty to live in such a place ! Awesome, isn’t it ? :D
    If you’re interested, you can check out the website I found it on the Internet and seriously, it’s really worth a peek !
    I hope it’s gonna be the same for you if you come to SD (and if it’s okay with you, we can also stay in touch to share our experiences). If you want to contact me, it’s dead easy : just search for Deborah on San Diego Student Housing fan page on Facebook. ;o)


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