Candice

North Park and South Park: Hipster ‘Hoods for Art Lovers

North Park and South Park are two of San Diego’s hottest up-and-coming neighborhoods. Both locals and visitors flock to 30th Street, the neighborhoods’ main thoroughfare, for the newest and best restaurants, shops, bars and breweries. But when you’re done eating and shopping, set aside some time to explore the arts, because these neighborhoods are bustling with creative energy.

Discover the Arts and Culture of North Park and South Park

[youtube http://youtu.be/8eqt8pe3xw8]

Galleries Galore

North Park and South Park are home to some of San Diego’s most creative and unusual art galleries. Whether you want to take home an original piece of art or just spend your time browsing the unique works, there are many galleries worth a visit.

  • Left Hand Black in South Park doubles as a tattoo parlor, but the local art on display is a great reason to stop in, even if you’re not looking to get inked.
  • Protea Gallery  in North Park not only exhibits art by local and international artists, it also sells the flowers from which the gallery takes its name.
  • The streets or North Park and South Park are full of public and graffiti art, so take a stroll in the great outdoor gallery that is San Diego! Don’t miss the mural by Shepard Fairey at the intersection of 30th St. & Ivy or the multiple murals by local artists on the laundromat at the 30th St. & Redwood.
With art everywhere, North Park's streets are like an outdoor gallery

With art everywhere, North Park’s streets are like an outdoor gallery

Artsy Events

In addition to the galleries, music and theater venues open year-round, North Park and South Park offer seasonal events brimming with arts and culture.

  • The quarterly South Park Walkabout is when the neighborhood’s shops, restaurants and galleries offer extended hours, food and drinks, and the event often includes live musical or dance performances scattered throughout the streets.
  • Ray at Night is all about celebrating the arts. On the second Saturday of every month, North Park’s galleries get wild and crazy with demos, music, performance art, and much more.
  • The annual North Park Festival of the Arts is the biggest of the neighborhood’s celebrations, with thousands of visitors gathering to buy locally made goods, hear live music, and drink craft beer every May.

> Explore More of San Diego – Nine Arts Districts, One Vibrant City

Candice

Top Things to Do in San Diego: Nov. 27 – Dec. 1, 2013

Surfing Santa Seaport Village San Diego holiday event

The holiday season has definitely arrived in San Diego. This weekend, you’ll find lots of festive events, as well as live jazz and and a tasty chili fest to keep things a little spicy.

Here are the top things to do in San Diego, Nov. 27 – Dec. 1 , 2013:

San Diego Jazz Fest

san diego jazz fest

A New Orleans-style street band is just one of the jazz types you’ll find at San Diego Jazz Fest.

Presented by the America’s Finest City Dixieland Jazz Society, this annual festival features all types of jazz, ranging from traditional to ragtime to rockabilly and everything in between. Held every Thanksgiving weekend, the 34th Jazz Fest will offer big dance halls as well as small listening rooms to draw jazz lovers of every taste and style.

Where: Town & Country Hotel and Convention Center, 500 Hotel Circle North, San Diego, CA 92108
When: Nov. 27 – Dec. 1, 2013
Time: 7 – 11 p.m. (Wed. and Thurs.), 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. (Fri.), 9 a.m. – 11 p.m. (Sat.), 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Sun.)
Cost: Varies; single day tickets start at $15 and multi-day tickets start at $95
>Find out more about the San Diego Jazz Fest

Surfin’ Santa’s Arrival at Seaport Village

Surfing Santa Seaport Village San Diego holiday event

Take a picture with surfing Santa!

 

The magic of the sea comes to life at Seaport Village when Santa arrives by jetpack and soars above the ocean surface to greet kids and adults. This family event will include pictures with Santa surfing a giant wave, ornament making, live music and plenty of holiday cheer at this cobblestoned shopping and dining hub located along the Downtown waterfront.

Where:  Seaport Village, 849 W. Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101
When:  November 30, 2013
Time:  1 – 5 p.m. (Santa arrives at 1pm in front of the Pier Café)
Cost:  Free
>Find out more about Surfin’ Santa at Seaport Village

Jingle Bell Jump at Mission Marketplace in Oceanside

santa parachute jump

Where else can you see Santa arrive by parachute?

Kids and families will witness Santa parachuting from the sky to greet those who attend this fun-filled community event in the city of Oceanside. The festivities include photo opportunities with Santa, a complete snow playground, kids’ crafts, live music and much more!

Where:  Mission Marketplace, 471 College Blvd, Oceanside CA 92057
When:  November 30, 2013
Time:  12 – 3 p.m.
Cost:  Free
>Find out more about Jingle Bell Jump

SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off

SoNo Chili Fest San Diego

Enjoy chili, beer, live music and more at the SoNo Fest.

The neighborhoods of South and North Park come together in a friendly chili competition among 29 top local restaurants competing as guests try out their chili in hand-spun ceramic bowls. The event offers two free live music stages, great holiday gifts and crafts from local artisans, five food trucks, a game truck and a kids’ activity zone with free cookie decorating, and craft beer and wine garden featuring 10 local breweries.

Where: 3216 Thorn Street, San Diego, CA 92104
When: Sunday, December 1, 2013
Time: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Cost: Festival is free; handmade ceramic bowls with chili tastings: $20
>Find out more about the SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off

Luminaria First Light in South Park

buona forchetta south park san diego

Enjoy some pizza from Buona Forchetta or other tasty treats in South Park.

The historic craftsman neighborhood of South Park kicks off the holiday season with a beautiful display of luminarias presented by local businesses and homeowners. After 5 p.m. tree lighting, stroll the scenic streets to shop local boutiques and enjoy live music and tasty treats from neighborhood eateries.

Where: Beech St., between Fern St. and 30th St., San Diego, CA 92102
When: Sunday, December 1, 2013
Time: 5 – 9 p.m.
Cost: Free
>Find out more about the Luminara First Light in South Park

More Top Things to Do in San Diego

Browse the Event Calendar

What will you be doing this week in San Diego? Let us know in the comments.

Brent Bernasconi

Craft Beer Continues to Invade San Diego’s Uptown

Pint at Poor House Brewing

The Uptown region (especially North Park and Hillcrest) is well-known for its great food (coffee, vegetarian), shopping and nightlife. Locals and visitors also flock to Uptown in search of great craft beer, and these recent additions only make it better.

Craft Beer Fresh from the Tanks

Thorn Street Brewery

Thorn Street Brewery Craft Beer Tasting Room

On warm days, the upstairs roof of Thorn Street Brewery opens to blue skies.

Some of San Diego’s most notable home brewers teamed up to transform a home brewing store into a 7 barrel brewery and tasting room. This family-friendly brewery is a great place to enjoy a flight of Thorn Street Brewing’s eight house beers in the main wood-paneled tasting room or the upstairs area with barrel tables and booths. Watch out for the chile beer: it sits there unassuming in the line up and then bam, it hits you half way through your flight.

As of this blog post, Thorn Street can only serve flights which allows the space to be all ages. My nephew had a great time playing with the provided books and blocks.

Where: 3176 Thorn Street, San Diego, CA 92104
Growlers: Yes
> Find out more about Thorn Street Brewery

Poor House Brewing Company

Pint at Poor House Brewing

Grab a pint at Poor House Brewing

After Firehouse Brewing Company sadly bottled its last bottle, the founder Chris Finch had the urge to continue to brew. Beer lovers can now taste his delicious concoctions and more than 30 other beers at his new brewery/bar, Poor House Brewing Company in North Park. While enjoying a cold one, challenge an old friend or a new one you just met at the bar to a game of pool and shuffleboard. If it’s on tap, make sure to try the “Panty Dropper Ale,” an 18.5% ABV beast brewed with red hots!

Where: 4494 30th Street, San Diego, CA 92116
Growlers: TBD
> Find out more about Poor House Brewing Company

Mike Hess Brewing of San Diego – Opening Soon

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Et1wudaKTNc]

San Diego’s first nano-brewery is enlarging its 1.6 barrel system (50 gallons per batch) in a warehouse to a 30 barrel (1,100 gallons per batch) brewhouse in North Park. The pièce de résistance is a 50 skybridge that will guide craft beer aficionados over the brewery, located in the open air basements below, to the tasting room and back patio. Mike Hess Brewing will also be canning their 5 regular beers and using the original warehouse for experimental brews.

Where: 3812 Grim Avenue, San Diego, CA 92104
Growlers: Yes
> Find out more about Mike Hess Brewing of San Diego

Craft Beer Bottle and Tasting Shops

Bine & Vine

What happens when the former proprietor of the craft beer store, South Bay Drugs, and a professionally trained sommelier join forces? They create Bine & Vine, located in Normal Heights, a craft beer and wine store that has become my go to place for a craft beer bomber or two ever since it opened. Joey and Stephen (former Beer Train Tour Guide) have a passion for craft beer and wine, respectively, and it’s reflected in the ever-changing local and international selections.

Location: 3334 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Bine & Vine

Bottlecraft North Park

Bottlecraft North Park

Browse the fine selection at Bottlecraft North Park.

The wildly successful and original Bottlecraft in Little Italy (and a frequent stopping point for me when I worked in Little Italy) is expanding into North Park. Those visiting and living in Uptown can expect the same great selection and knowledge of craft beers, all within walking and/or biking distance. Unfortunately, the owners could not bring the tasting room with them, but don’t fret – there are plenty of amazing craft beer bars and restaurants nearby.

Location: 3007 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
> Find out more about Bottlecraft

Clem’s Bottle and Tap House

Will Ferrell Enjoying a Flight at Clem's Tap House

Looks like Ron Burgundy enjoys the flight selection at Clem’s Tap House. Photo courtesy of Clem’s Tap House.

Years ago, I went to Clem’s for Jolt Cola. Now I go to Clem’s Bottle House to pick up a local craft beer to enjoy at home or stop by the new Tap House to sample a flight of brews. Clem’s Tap House offers a rotating selection of four flights each offering four different styles of beer and/or a bottle list for those wanting to enjoy a full pint. Once you’ve ordered, snag one of the outside tables and enjoy your beverage of choice under the warm San Diego sky.

Location: 4100 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116
> Find out more about Clem’s Bottle and Tap House

> Enjoy more Craft Beer in San Diego

Been to one of the places above, or have another place in Uptown where you like to grab a craft beer at? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Brent Bernasconi

Top Things to Do in San Diego: February 7-10, 2013

LIttle Italy Carnevale - Top Things to Do in San Diego

It’s never too early to start planning your weekend celebration. From frisky nighttime parties to relaxing strolls through wildflower, here are our top things to do in San Diego this weekend that are sure to please a variety friends and family.

Little Italy Carnevale

LIttle Italy Carnevale - Top Things to Do in San Diego

Celebrate Carnevale Venetian Style at the family friendly Little Italy Carnevale

Revel in a Venetian style Carnevale celebration in San Diego’s Little Italy. The 10th Annual Little Italy Carnevale is a family-friendly event with plenty of fun including live music and dancing, stilt-walkers, art and mask-making for kids, as well as great Italian food.

Where: India Street between W. Fir and W. Cedar Streets (Downtown)
When: February 9, 2013
Time: 5:00 to 9:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about Little Italy Carnevale

Wildflowers in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Anza-Boreggo Desert State Park Wildflowers

Wildflowers in the Anza-Boreggo Desert State Park

The chance of showers on Friday means the chance to see the wildflowers bloom in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park on Saturday and Sunday! Make sure to call the 24-hour “Wildflower Hotline” at 760-767-4684 to get an update before heading out.

Where: Visitor Center – 200 Palm Canyon Dr, Borrego Springs, CA 92004 (East County)
When: Through April
Time: Dawn to Dusk
Cost: Free
> Find out more about the Wildflowers in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

The Red Ball 2013 – A Chinese New Year Celebration

The Red Ball 2013 - A Chinese New Year Celebration

Don’t forget to wear red to ring in the Chinese New Year!

Ring in Chinese New Year in style! As we bid farewell to the Year of the Dragon and welcome the Year of the Snake, guests are invited to dress in red and re-do New Year’s Eve with an official countdown at midnight to kick off the Lunar New Year, live music, DJs, tapas, cocktails and more.

Where: The Grand Del Mar – 5200 Grand Del Mar Way, Del Mar, CA 92130 (North County Coastal)
When: February 9, 2013
Time: 7:00 PM to 2:00 AM
Cost: Complimentary admission. Priority entry with Bottle Service, starting at $180.
> Find out more about The Red Ball 2013 – A Chinese New Year Celebration

Brazil Carnival Mardi Gras 2013

Brazil Carnival Mardi Gras - Top Things to Do in San Diego

Brazil comes to San Diego during this Carnival Mardi Gras!

Rich in beauty and color, the Brazil Carnival Mardi Gras presents a “Spectacular Samba Show” featuring dancers in glittering costumes adorned in sequins, beads and feathers accompanied by percussionists playing the authentic Batucada rhythms of Rio de Janeiro, even more carnival bands, capoeira, parades, and Mardi Gras beads!

Where: San Diego Museum of Art – 1450 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92108 (Downtown)
When: February 9, 2013
Time: 8:30 PM to 1:30 AM
Cost: $25-$99
> Find out more about Brazil Carnival Mardi Gras 2013

Ray at Night

Ray at Night in San Diego's North Park

Art, food, music and more at Ray at Night in San Diego’s North Park.

Join local artists, gallery owners, and hipsters alike during this fun, family friendly evening of art and creativity, music and food. Artwork on display includes paintings, sketches, sculptures, ceramics, blown glass, organic art and jewelry. Entertainment runs the gamut from jazz, blues and cultural music to poetry readings and performances by dance groups.

Where: Ray Street, between University Avenue and North Park Way (Downtown)
When: February 9, 2013
Time: 6:00 to 9:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about Ray at Night

San Diego Padres Fan Fest

Top Things to Do - San Diego Padres Fan Fest

Get ready for the 2013 season with Padres FanFest presented by State Farm. Meet the players, play on the field, get some tips on your pitching and hitting, buy unique padres gear, see what goes into opening day, and more.

Where: Petco Park – 100 Park Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92101 (Downtown)
When: February 9, 2013
Time: 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about San Diego Padres Fan Fest

San Diego Winter Brew Fest

Start off the weekend with The San Diego Winter Brew Fest and celebrate craft beverages from around California and beyond with live local music, food, and other vendors.

Where: Broadway Pier – 1000 North Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101 (Downtown)
When: February 8, 2013
Time: 6:00 to 10:00 PM
Cost: $40-$60
> Find out more about San Diego Winter Brew Fest

> Browse more top things to do on the San Diego Event Calendar

Know of some other top things to do this weekend? Let everyone know in the comments below.

Suzzanne

Top Things to Do in San Diego: November 29 – December 2, 2012

North Park Toyland Parade and Festival

The holiday season is officially upon us! If you are avoiding the stores (or even better…done with your shopping), get out and enjoy one of these San Diego events and things to do this weekend.

1. NCAA® 2012 Women’s College Cup

NCAA 2012 Women's College Cup

Catch the excitement of the NCAA 2012 Women’s College Cup for its first visit to San Diego

For the first time ever, the University of San Diego will be hosting the NCAA College Cup, the women’s Division I soccer national championship on November 30 & December 2, 2012 at Torero Stadium. Penn State, Florida State, North Carolina and Stanford will make their way to San Diego to play for the national championship.

Location: Torero Stadium, 5998 Alcala Park, San Diego, CA 92110 (map)
Dates: November 20 and December 2, 2012
Cost: $40 for all three games. Parking is free
> Find out more about the NCAA 2012 Women’s College Cup

2. LEGO Train City Exhibit

LEGO Train City Exhibit - San Diego Model Railroad Museum

All aboard the train to LEGO City at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum

If you have kids of a certain age, visiting this exhibit at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum is a must. The exhibit features LEGO trains, trestles, transportation, skyscrapers, canyons, mountains, an ocean boardwalk and town buildings. Little ones can also enjoy playful learning in a LEGO Brick City zone filled with interactive, creative and educational activities.

Location: 1649 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 (map)
Dates: November 20, 2012 – January 18, 2013
Time: 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM (Closed on Mondays)
Cost: Included with admission. Adults – $8, Seniors – $6, Children 14 and under – Free
> Find out more about the San Diego Model Railroad Museum’s LEGO Train City Exhibit

3. Holiday Lights at the Del Mar Fairgrounds

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObT5PiEu2Fk]

Enjoy the largest animated drive-through light show on the U.S. West Coast with more than 400 brilliant holiday light displays. Themed for the holiday season, the Holiday of Lights is a spectacular drive-through light show with crowd-pleasing, family oriented displays organized into themes, which include: Candy Cane Lane, Toyland, San Diego County Fair, Treasures by the Lake, Del Mar Racetrack, the Twelve Days of Christmas and Elves at Play.

> Find more Christmas light displays in San Diego

Location: Del Mar Fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Boulevard, Del Mar, CA 92014 (map)
Dates: November 22, 2012 – January 1, 2013
Times: Sunday-Thursday: 5:30 to 10:00 PM. Friday-Saturday: 5:30 to 10:30 PM
Cost: $15 per car, up to 5 people. $20 per vehicle, 6 or more people. $50 per bus. $10 per person for the Holiday Hayride
> Find out more about Holiday Lights at the Del Mar Fairgrounds

4. North Park Toyland Parade and Festival

North Park Toyland Parade and Festival

Get swept up in the holiday spirit during the North Park Toyland Parade and Festival

Celebrating its 49th year, the North Park Toyland Parade and festival includes vintage cars, marching bands, dance groups, beauty queens and city officials. Keep your eye out for Santa Claus and his sleigh, as he jingles all the way down the parade route.

> Discover even more Holiday Things to Do in San Diego

Location: Click here for the parade route
Date: December 1, 2012
Time: Parade starts at 11:00 AM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about the North Park Toyland Parade and Festival

5. SoNo Park Holiday Fest & Chilipalooza

SoNo Park Holiday Fest & Chilipalooza Collage

Chili, Shopping, Chili, Beer and Wine, Chili and Family Fun at the SoNo Park Holiday Fest & Chilipalooza. Did we mention there will be chili?

For the past 3 years, the two neighborhoods of South Park and North Park come together for the SoNo Park Holiday Fest & Chilipalooza. This family friendly festival offers a kids zone, shopping from local artisans, music, local craft beer and, of course, chili made by local restaurants and residents. Stop by to taste some chili and vote for your favorite in the “People’s Choice Award.”

Location: 32nd Street and Thorn, San Diego, CA 92104 (map)
Date: December 2, 2012
Time: 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Cost: Festival is Free. $20 for a ceramic chili bowl, 5 restaurant tastings and unlimited community tastings
> Find out more about SoNo Park Holiday Fest & Chilipalooza

> Browse more great things to do on the San Diego Event Calendar

Know of any other great events going on in San Diego this weekend? Let us and others know about them in the comments below.

Candice

From Pour-Overs to Fresh Roasts: A Few of San Diego’s Best Coffee Bets

Coffee & Tea Collective San Diego

As winter approaches and the temperature in San Diego drops from a balmy 70 degrees to a chilly 60 degrees (Ok, I realize our seasonal weather changes are a bit modest), a hot cup of joe is the perfect complement to a brisk day exploring San Diego.

Thanks to several top-notch coffee spots, the Pacific Northwest has nothing on San Diego’s coffee culture. These local coffee houses feature some of San Diego’s best bean brews:

Ryan Bros. Coffee

Ryan Bros. Cofffee San Diego

Ryan Bros. Coffee in Barrio Logan

Ryan Bros. Coffee has been a family operation since 1994. Grab a cup from this micro-roastery before heading out to explore Chicano Park and San Diego’s up-and-coming Barrio Logan neighborhood, recently profiled by the New York Times.

Coffee & Tea Collective

Coffee & Tea Collective San Diego

Pour-over coffee at Coffee and Tea Collective

Opened in 2012 in the North Park neighborhood, the Coffee & Tea Collective is part art gallery and part minimalist coffee-house. They take their coffee so seriously, you might consider each cup a work of art in its own right. Every beverage is lovingly hand crafted: beans are roasted in-house, espresso is pulled from a lever-operated press and drip coffee is made one cup at a time through the pour-over method.

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters San Diego

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in La Jolla

Winner of the 2012 “Roaster of the Year” by Roast Magazine, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters selects only the best organic green beans to roast by hand. The coffee bar also utilizes the pour-over method for a sweet, bright cup of coffee you can enjoy on your way to the nearby beaches.

Have a good tip for San Diego-bound coffee lovers? Share it with us!

Sandra

Cool Neighborhood Shopping in San Diego

True San Diego fashionista’s know about the urban-chic areas to shop at. For those of you who may not know, I thought I would share some of the areas that have a cool-factor and can accomplish most shopping missions. Three of my fav’s are Hillcrest, North Park and South Park. These neighborhoods offer a unique shopping experience for both women and men with clothing, vintage, accessories and home goods.

Hillcrest

Browse Pretty Please, Mint Shoe, Frills and Cathedral in Hillcrest.

Starting with Hillcrest, one of my favorite places to shop for women’s clothing and accessories is Frills Boutique. This boutique offers a variety of blouses, dresses, and jeans. They always seem to have just the right outfit of choice for any casual event that you may be shopping for.

Shopping at Pretty Please Fashion won’t break the bank and will be sure to keep you in style! I love their featured ensembles by color. It is very easy to navigate through and their layering and bandeau choices are endless.

Flashbacks is a vintage/retro shopping haven! I love going here to find for both women and men retro styles that are reflective for today’s fashions.  I can find one-of-a-kind accessories here like clutches, shoe clips and jewelry.

Twirl Boutique is a great place for women to find that perfect going-out-on-the-town ensemble. They are usually spot-on with the current trends with great price points.

Carrying the latest urban-chic styles for both men and women, Mint Shoe Boutique is the place to find that stand-out shoe. They are known for carrying the latest retro-chic tennis shoes for men and super-chic heels and flats for women.

Pure Boutique offers great value for both women and men’s clothing and accessories. I love their selection of shoes and wood jewelry that is perfect for San Diego’s style!

If super-chic candles and home goods are your thing, then be sure to shop at Cathedral. I can always find the perfect one-of-a-kind home gift or addition to my vase collection here.

North Park

Explore Hunt & Gather and Mimi & Red in North Park

One of my must-see boutique’s for women is in North Park at, Mimi & Red. Carrying a wide variety of California-chic styles and at great prices, I never leave empty-handed.  I love the dresses, blouses and accessories here!

Hunt & Gather Boutique, a unique boutique for both women and men, specializes in vintage and new clothing, plus re-worked vintage. This is a modern-spin on the usual vintage boutique. The goal is to offer one-of-a-kind affordable pieces that are on track with today’s fashions.

South Park

Find Junc Life & Style, Bad Madge, Make Good and Mythology in South Park.

Start your South Park shopping adventure at the ever-inspiring vintage boutique, Bad Madge & Company. Bad Madge appeals to shopper’s of vintage furniture, knickknacks, clothing, books and jewelry.

I love Junc Life & Style Boutique for women, men and home goods.  This forward thinking boutique offers everything from up-cycled furniture, original artwork, mixed in with rustic-chic fashions for both men and women. The jewelry is fabulous here!

Make Good features over 120 local San Diego and Tijuana artists for handmade jewelry, art, crafts and re-sale clothing.

The Mythology Eco Boutique carries affordable cool organic tees, clothes and accessories for men, women, and children.

> Browse Even More Great Shopping Options in San Diego

Tell me in the comments below, where are your favorite places to shop in Hillcrest, North Park and/or South Park?

Candice

Candice’s Perfect Day in San Diego

The colorful (and delicious) sights of the Little Italy Mercato, including fresh uni.

It’s Saturday morning, and India Street is bustling as usual, with colorful tents and even more colorful produce on display at the Little Italy Mercato, one of the city’s best farmers markets. The Mercato’s highlight is freshly caught sea urchin, which Poppa’s Fresh Fish will happily crack open and hand over with a fork to so you can devour the delicacy immediately. But today, I’m saving my appetite for brunch at PrepKitchen. The chef takes his inspiration and ingredients from what’s available at the market that morning, so there’s a good chance I’ll be feasting on some of the Mercato’s spoils. After brunch, Little Italy’s indie boutiques beg for a little exploration.

Shopping at Little Italy’s Vocabulary boutique; brunch at PrepKitchen

My shopping itch not yet scratched, I head a couple of miles East to the South Park neighborhood, where I could spend hours wandering from boutique to boutique. If you happen to stop by on a Saturday afternoon, don’t be surprised to see a pop-up flea market in one of the grassy lots along Fern Street.

Shopping spills out into the street along Fern Street in South Park

Knitting books? Handmade jewelry from local designers? Craft beer bottles recycled into drinking glasses? A vintage ceramic ashtray in the shape of a Dachshund? Not matter what I’m looking for, I’ll probably find it at one of South Park’s crafty and quirky shops.

Make Good, Junc Life & Style and Graffiti Beach are just a few of the unique shops you’ll find in South Park.

After all that shopping, I’ve worked up a little appetite, so I make my way down to Barrio Logan, an epicenter of San Diego’s Hispanic community. Street tacos at La Fachada are the perfect fuel before stopping to admire Chicano Park, where vibrant murals beneath the San Diego-Coronado Bridge overpass portray the struggles of the Mexican-American community.

Tacos at La Fachada; the murals of Chicano Park

Before the sun sets, I make my way to the beach to soak up summer’s welcoming weather. The beaches of La Jolla are some of my favorites – La Jolla Shores’ vast stretch of sand full of surfers and lifeguard towers feels quintessentially Southern Californian, while the rocky tidepools of La Jolla Cove are almost Mediterranean in appearance. But today, I set up camp beneath the towering sandstone cliffs of Torrey Pines.

For dinner, it’s of to 30th Street in the North Park neighborhood, where the Linkery has been serving up farm-to-table food for years before it became a staple of the national foodie vocabulary. And nothing washes down one of their housemade sausage links better than a local craft beer.

Craft beer and the farm-to-table tastes of the Linkery; Bar Pink’s kitschy-cool decor and drinks

Before calling it a day, I cross the street to Bar Pink. Their signature drink, the Sneaky Tiki, seems to sum up San Diego in a glass: beautiful, of course, but with some surprising flavors and just a bit of punch that sneaks up on you when you least expect. Before you know it, you’re drunk on the San Diego’s charms. What a perfect way to end my day.

Suzzanne

3 for Free This Weekend in San Diego

It’s festival season in San Diego and what better way to enjoy the city than to enjoy it for free! Here are our 3 for Free this weekend in San Diego:

Sicilian Festival in Little Italy 2011

Sicilian Festival in Little Italy

1. 18th Annual Sicilian Festival

The music, dance, culture and cuisine of Sicily come to the streets of downtown San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood on May 20 with four performance stages, a parade of costumed dancers, musicians and more.

North Park's Festival of the Arts

2. 16th Annual North Park Festival of the Arts

On May 20, head over to North Park for this free festival that has grown into a local tradition embracing a diverse line-up of bands, dancers and artists into one marathon day of performances spread across six stages. The North Park Festival of the Arts celebrates all types of art forms in its Juried Arts Area with over 40 artists. There will be something for everyone including the kids as the Hands-On Arts area returns offering children the chance to participate in free, interactive activities designed to stimulate and inspire their imaginations to create their own masterpieces.

San Diego Museum of Art's Target Free Family Festival Day

San Diego Museum of Art's Target Free Family Festival Day

3. Target Free Family Day & Festival at the San Diego Museum of Art

Families and visitors to Balboa Park are invited to the Museum to participate in a free day of outdoor and indoor art-making activities, performances, artist demonstrations, and docent-led tours inspired by a chosen featured exhibition. Three to four art-making stations offer insights into artist techniques and ideas about making art. These all-ages art-making activities are led by Museum educators and professional artists. The Festival is held on Sunday May 20 from 12:00 – 4:00 pm and admission is complimentary.

What are your “free” plans for the upcoming weekend in San Diego?

Candice

San Diego’s North Park: A Vegetarian’s Delight

Vegetarian dishes from Sipz and Casa de Luz

Vegetarian dishes from Sipz and Casa de Luz

San Diego’s North Park neighborhood has a lot to offer: great bars, cute boutiques, quirky art galleries, a historic theater presenting live music…the list goes on and on.

You can also add to that list a plethora of vegetarian dining options. Thanks to the recent additions of Casa De Luz and Sipz, the intersection of 30th Street and University Avenue boasts so many spots catering to the all-veggie crowd, you can find meatless dishes in all style of cuisine.

It’s long been known that eating less meat can be better for not only your own health but the health of the environment as well. So with Earth Day just around the corner, why not put down the burger and try one of this creative and cravable vegetarian eateries:

Sipz

This Asian fusion restaurant has long been a favorite of meat-free San Diegans who visited their first location in the Clairemont area. Their new second location in North Park brings their enormous all-vegetarian menu closer to the downtown crowd. Try any of the dishes featuring barbequed “pork” – you’ll be mystified at how close it tastes to the real thing.

Ranchos Cocina in North Park

The staff at Ranchos Cocina tempts you with margaritas and soy chorizo burritos

Ranchos Cocina

This Mexican restaurant features plenty of the usual meat-filled staples, as well as scrumptious tacos and burritos filled with options like tofu or potatoes. The smoky soy chorizo tastes great paired with a fresh margarita.

Casa de Luz

One of the newest addition’s to North Park’s vegetarian scene, Casa De Luz’s cuisine is 100 percent vegan-friendly. Their menu is so focused on offering the freshest, most seasonally based entrees that it changes daily.

Spread

It’s hard to decide what to love more about Spread: the unique and playful dishes the prepare or the super mod stylings of the dining room. Of course, one of my favorite features is that you can buy their tantilizing line of peanut butters to take home with you, in flavors you’d never expect. Dark chocolate lavendar peanut butter, anyone?

Tell us in the comments below, where is your favorite vegetarian restaurant in San Diego?