Downtown’s East Village neighborhood is home to 130 blocks of restaurants, bars, boutiques, hotels, the city’s main library, a baseball stadium, and countless other notable sights. With so much packed into one of the most urban parts of town, it can be tough to choose. Let us help you find a few things to do, see, eat, and drink to get started. Continue reading
Nestled along San Diego’s Pacific Coast is Bird Rock, a quirky but laid-back neighborhood known for beautiful ocean views, independent boutiques, and cozy cafes. Visitors and locals can easily stroll from one end of La Jolla Boulevard (Bird Rock’s main drag) to the other, making it the perfect destination for out-of-towners to explore unique mom-and-pop shops. No matter when you decide to visit Bird Rock, its casual culture mixed with upscale atmosphere means you should pack both your swim trunks and a sport coat or heels.
Eating & Drinking
No visit to Bird Rock is complete without a pilgrimage to Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, one of the most highly acclaimed roasters in the country. Grab a pastry and pour over before snagging a spot on one of the open window benches—there isn’t a better spot to people watch. For lunch, try Cafe Vahik, Seaside Surf Cafe, Don Bravo Grill & Cantina, or Wheat & Water for a wood-fired pizza and pint of local craft beer.
For something a little stronger, head to Beaumont’s. This eclectic eatery serves food all day, but it’s the live music and craft cocktails that attract the crowds. Nearby Pacific Beach caters to those who seek a late-night social scene, as most of Bird Rock beds down by midnight. Ocean views are best atop the new Waterbar restaurant, but tiki cocktail fans will go gaga for The Grass Skirt.
Biking is a popular Bird Rock pastime. Hop on the local bike path for an easy ride through the heart of the ‘hood. For a challenge, surfing at Windansea Beach is a picturesque but advanced surf spot. Use caution – the offshore reefs make for good waves, but bad wipeouts. When in doubt, just bring a camera to document the gorgeous scenery.
Another nearby Instagram gem is La Jolla Cove. This protected nook is home to herds of seals, pelicans, and other sea life. Get a closer look at the local marine life in a kayak or paddleboard (rentals are available).
La Jolla Culture
Cute shops line the length of La Jolla Boulevard. Mimi & Red, a local boutique specializing in millennial women’s fashion, is one of the most popular stops in Bird Rock. Just down the street, Bird Rock Surf Shop caters to the surfing crowd. There are also plenty of art galleries featuring the work of local and national artists. After you’ve had your fill of shopping, take a load off at one of La Jolla’s numerous spas like The Bird Rock Massage Studio, Birdie Day Spa, Lucky Ocean Spa, or Decorum Lash Bar & Spa. From facials to full body massages, there’s something relaxing for everyone.
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Just an hour away from the hustle and bustle of the city of San Diego is Julian, a sleepy little town nestled in the scenic Cuyamaca Mountains. A trip to this rustic hamlet feels like a voyage back in time, and rightfully so: It’s a California Historical Landmark dating back to the gold rush. Check out its many historic buildings and book a ride down storefront-lined Main Street in a horse-drawn carriage. And don’t pass up the chance to get a taste of what Julian has come to be known for – apples.
An easy day trip from San Diego, be sure to check out these offerings you can only find in Julian. And, if you time it right you might even see some winter snow.
All Things Apple
Seasonal apple-picking excursions are offered at several of Julian’s orchards. If you want the goods without all the work, you can get a slice of delicious apple pie year round at a number of spots around town including the Apple Alley Bakery, Granny’s Kitchen, the Julian Café, and Mom’s Pies. Or stop by the Julian Pie Company and take one home. Candied Apple Pastry makes a number of apple treats and, of course, candied apples. If cider’s more your thing, try the family-owned Julian Cider Mill. The 21-and-up crowd can sample the hard stuff at Julian Ciderworks or Julian Hard Cider.
Julian was the site of San Diego’s only gold rush. The Eagle Mining Co. offers guided tours of two of Julian’s historic gold mines. Kids will enjoy panning for gold and gemstones at the Julian Mining Company, open weekends. The town also embraces its roots with gold panning and gunfight reenactments during its Gold Rush Days festival.
The California Wolf Center is home to packs of both North American and Mexican gray wolves. The center is dedicated to the conservation of wolves in the wild. Public and private tours are available with a reservation.
Raise Your Glass
Several wineries call Julian home. Sample some vino in tasting rooms at Blue Door, Menghini, and Volcan Mountain wineries, or try a variety of San Diego mountain-based wines paired with sweets at Julian Wine & Chocolate.
Shop ‘Til You Drop
Stroll down Main Street and check out all the specialty shops along the way. Be sure to check out Julian Station, which is full of shops, tasting rooms, and eateries. Or venture off the main drag and find unusual collectibles, bird-feeding supplies, upcycled goods, loose-leaf teas, handmade fudge, or unique furniture.
Want to really treat yourself? Relax, recharge, and rejuvenate with one of San Diego’s most innovative spa treatments. We talked with three San Diego spas about what’s hot, what’s trending, and how you can experience the best new treatments.
Rock Spa at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego
The trend: Multisensory
Imagine relaxation set to a rockin’ playlist. It’s easy if you try. The Rock Spa’s Synchronicity massage, part of its musical Rhythm and Motion series of treatments, pairs Swedish and hot stone massage techniques with a blend of classic and modern rock. Master massage therapist Kyra scrubs, rubs, and drums you – lightly, but with real drumsticks – into total bliss while booming bass vibrations resonate up through the table and tunes stream down from a domed speaker just overhead. The soothing smell of essential oils adds another element to the mix. It’s easy to zone out during a massage, but familiar songs help keep you in the moment as Kyra matches her rhythm, pressure, and strokes with the playlist.
Spa Director Brooke Zarconi says the Synchronicity massage is becoming one of the Hard Rock’s most requested services because it’s cool, unique, and so different from your average spa massage. The treatment can also be customized. Choose from four playlists: soothing sounds, softer rock, classic rock and covers, and a combination that will transform the spa setting into a cozy, cool venue. “We’re not the typical spa – we’re dark and intimate and small.”
Another bonus: the Rock Spa uses organic products, such as the sugar foot scrub that kicks off the experience. “We’re all trying to get away from the toxins,” she says. Experience this mix of classic, modern, hard, and soft all coming together in perfect harmony at the Rock Spa at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego in the Gaslamp Quarter.
Where: 207 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about the Rock Spa at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego
The trend: Eco-friendly
We love our sunshine here in San Diego, but tanning isn’t exactly healthy. So what about the alternative, spray tans? What used to be orange has gone green at Urban Calm. The East Village sanctuary promises to give its clients a gorgeous, sun-kissed glow using all-natural, organic ingredients. Owner Heidi Olden says that when she started out in the spa industry nearly 20 years ago, she had to search long and hard to find products that were free of harmful chemicals but still effective. “When I became an esthetician and learned about how much of what we put on our skin is absorbed into the body, I became even more passionate about natural skin care products.”
Now her business caters to clients seeking organic skin care treatments and clean beauty services. That includes spray tanning. “I’ve always tried to educate my clients about the damaging effects of too much sun exposure,” she says, “so I really wanted to offer a natural sunless tanning option as an alternative to lying out in the sun.” Urban Calm uses an Australian sunless tanning solution that contains Eco Certified DHA and a handful of other organic ingredients like green tea, aloe, and coconut. Olden says there’s no odor, it doesn’t streak or turn orange, and it usually lasts for five to seven days. “I love being able to offer this alternative to my clients so that they can have that nice, healthy glow without subjecting themselves to prolonged sun exposure, which can lead to premature aging, wrinkles, and sun spots.”
Where: 726 Ninth Ave #3, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about Urban Calm
The Spa at Fairmont Grand Del Mar
The trend: Detox
Several treatments at the five-star Spa at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar in the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve center around flushing toxins from the body by stimulating the lymphatic system. Manual Lymph Drainage, a type of light, rhythmic massage, removes toxins and ushers in deep relaxation. A half-hour treatment focuses on the face and neck and can alleviate symptoms of sinusitis and congestion, improve the condition of the skin, reduce the appearance of puffy eyes and dark circles, and help speed up the recovery process after facial surgery. If that wasn’t enough to make you feel renewed, longer treatments are said to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and promote further healing.
The Spa at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar also uses dry brushing techniques to stimulate the lymphatic system in its touch-therapy treatments. In the “Refined” option, a full-body dry brushing is followed by a sea salt body scrup and finished with hydrating body oil. Detoxifying Epsom salts are also used in the spa’s hour-long Herbal Relexology hand and foot treatment.
Where: 5300 Grand Del Mar Ct, San Diego, CA 92130
> Find out more about the Fairmont Grand Del Mar
Stretching three miles from east to west, Adams Avenue spans at least four neighborhoods and crosses two major freeways in a central part of San Diego. Lined with historic Craftsman houses and populated by young families and the artsy millennial crowd, it offers an impressive lineup of hip eateries, boutiques, and bars. Start in the middle or work your way from one end to the other – you can’t really go wrong in this hipster-friendly ‘hood.
Food & Drink
Soda & Swine / Polite Provisions
Customize your own meatball meal via sub, slider, or spaghetti, and rinse it down with a creative craft cocktail from the next door speakeasy.
Where: 2943 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Soda & Swine / Polite Provisions
San Diego is experiencing a ramen boom, and Tajima is leading the charge. The Normal Heights location offers bowls for all different tastes and diets, like a delicious vegan ramen with spinach noodles.
Where: 3015 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Tajima
Dark Horse Coffee Roasters
Dark Horse has taken the local craft coffee scene to the next level with its Hawaiian-inspired small-batch roasts and cold brew growlers.
Where: 3260 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Dark Horse Coddee Roasters
This is where you’ll find San Diego’s top bartenders drinking on their day off. The 70s-inspired bar has a menu of artisanal cocktails and liquors, plus occasional live bands.
Where: 3391 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Sycamore Den
Blind Lady Alehouse
Get your craft beer with a side of pizza at this casual, vegan-friendly brewpub. Also worth a visit? BLAH’s sister restaurants Tiger!Tiger! in North Park and Panama 66 in Balboa Park.
Where: 3416 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Blind Lady Alehouse
Little Miss Brewing Company
Still a relative newcomer on the San Diego beer scene, this female-owned brewery is outfitted with a World War II theme and offers a varied lineup of house-made beers.
Where: 3514 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Little Miss Brewing Company
Take your pasta-eating experiences to new heights at the latest addition to Urban Kitchen Group’s already-impressive roster of Italian eateries.
Where: 4055 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Cucina Sorella
Kensington Brewing Company
This small neighborhood brewery didn’t actually have a tasting room in Kensington until fairly recently when it moved into a former video store. For a real flavor bomb, try the Apricot Wheat.
Where: 4067 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Kensington Brewing Company
Clem’s Tap House
Kensington’s original family-owned brewpub keeps plenty of beers on tap and boasts actor Will Ferrell’s seal of approval. For a beer to go, Clem’s Bottle House next door offers a wide selection of bottles.
Where: 4108 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Clem’s Tap House
Stocked with chic indie brands such as Laura Lombardi jewelry and Charlotte Stone shoes, Maven features carefully curated lifestyle products perfect for souveniers and gift giving.
Where: 2946 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Maven
Kiko & Sven
Formerly known as Niche, this Kensington shop combines Japanese and Swedish-inspired design, unique gifts, and even a monthly subscription box program.
Where: 3723 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Kiko & Sven
Located next door to always-open coffee shop Lestat’s in the heart of Normal Heights, this music venue hosts regular shows, open mic events, and comedy nights.
Where: 3343 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Lestat’s West
This neighborhood dive bar and venue has two parts: a bar area with seating and a pool table, and a separate room for concerts. Check it out for eclectic local San Diego bands, karaoke, and cheap drinks.
Where: 4079 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about the Kensington Club
Art FORM San Diego
This Normal Heights nonprofit promotes creative re-use by hosting art education workshops where discarded items are transformed into art.
Where: 3316 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Art FORM San Diego
Browse a colorful collection of folk art and handmade gifts from around the globe, or attend one of the shop’s many DIY workshops.
Where: 3564 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Back from Tomboctou Gallery & Imports
Adams Avenue Street Fair
Southern California’s largest free two-day music festival has been taking over Adams Avenue for a weekend in September for the past 36 years.
> Find out more about the Adams Avenue Street Fair
Adams Avenue Unplugged
This free musical walkabout features live music staged at different locations throughout a two-mile stretch of Adams Avenue during the last weekend of April each year.
> Find out more about Adams Avenue Unplugged
Taste of Adams Avenue
Wear loose-fitting pants to this annual tasting event featuring bites from over 40 of the area’s hottest eateries, cafés, breweries, and bars.
> Find out more about Taste of Adams Avenue
Making its debut in San Diego just over a year ago, ultimate night spot FLUXX rivals anything you might see in Las Vegas. In fact, FLUXX was named “Best New Nightclub of the Year” by the 2011 Nightclub & Bar Awards for the entire nation!
The thing that I particularly like about FLUXX is that, like its namesake, it is always in flux! Every 6-8 weeks the club changes themes, uniforms, design, etc. The current Fluxxuation is “Fluxx-adelic” (an awesome 60’s theme) running through Memorial Day, but in the past they’ve done such themes as Primal (unleashing the inner animal), Odyssey (space/extraterrestrial themed), Fetish (does that really need an explanation?) and Jet Set (airplane themed). These guys have a lot of fun and are incredibly creative with their staff uniforms/costumes. They’ve also got dancers performing throughout the night on various stages/platforms/props. You never really know what you’re going to get on any given night at FLUXX. (which is why you need to keep coming back for more!)
But its not just the decor changes and hot uniforms that makes FLUXX stand out. They consistantly have some of the top perfomers from around the world performing on their stage. Past perfomers include Usher, Snoop Dogg, Lupe Fiasco, Bruno Mars, Method Man and Big Boi. And for those who enjoy electronic music more, FLUXX’s EDM performances are out of this world with international performers like Above & Beyond, Benny Benassi and Sander Van Doorn! (This month featured performances by Mark Knight, Crystal Castles, Markus Schulz and Ferry Corsten)
Obviously Bottle Service in a club like this will up your “Baller” status, but even if you’re just going to dance till your feet bleed, you WILL have a good time. I recommend getting there before 10:30 as this is a VERY popular venue and the entrance lines can be long. (And if you ARE going to get Bottle Service, I’d suggest the treehouse. Treehouse you ask? What is that? You’ll see, my friend…You’ll see!)
THREAD Show, the multi-city shopping event promoting emerging designers and artists will be in San Diego on April 3, showcasing 100 of the best independent designers alongside complimentary music, art, food and entertainment.
This year, attendees can purchase a new Premium Ticket for $25.The ticket will be available to the first 300 people at the door and will provide a complimentary cocktail, a THREAD Show gift bag and one-hour of reserved entry (11 a.m. to 12 p.m.), prior to doors opening for general admission at noon.
Also new this year is a DIY Lounge with seminars by local craft experts; Nail Bar providing complimentary manicures all day; THREAD Wellness Lounge featuring massages and holistic living tips and products, and Man Cave with beer, magazines, darts and entertainment for male shoppers.
THREAD Show will be held at the Westfield Horton Plaza shopping mall in downtown San Diego from noon to 6 p.m. General admission tickets are $5 with pre-registration and $10 day of at the door.
Want to win two tickets to THREAD Show? Comment below by 10 a.m. PST on Friday, March 25 for a chance to win; one winner will be chosen at random.