San Diego or La Jolla?
January 11, 2010 11:05 AM   Subscribe

Travelfilter: Business trip to San Diego (La Jolla) mid-February. Should I stay in SD proper, La Jolla, or somewhere else?

SD folks, I've got a business trip (weds-fri/sat) up to the Salk Institute in La Jolla (next to UCSD and Scripps) mid-February. The recommended hotel is outside of La Jolla proper, and doesn't look to have much in the way of nightlife. I'm mid-20s, and looking to enjoy myself while I'm not at the meeting. The last thing I want to do is call it a night at 5pm and hang out in my room. I'm from the frigid east coast, so I want to enjoy the nice weather (if any) as much as possible! I also want to be able to walk in the evening from my hotel to a restaurant and find some quiet nightlife in the evening. I like dive bars, brewpubs, and Belgian beer to name a few things. I'm not into night clubs, and I can tolerate a wine bar. I'm working off the federal per diem, so take that into account.

My initial impression is to stay in downtown San Diego/Gaslamp District, and commute up to La Jolla. How awful is the traffic in the morning? Would allowing a half hour driving from downtown San Diego get me to La Jolla at 8:15am? Would I be better off staying in the Village of La Jolla (the little downtown area next to the ocean)?

Any recommendations for hotels, restaurants, bars would be much appreciated.

Bonus question: Take the redeye back to the east coast, or stay an extra night and fly back in the morning?
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto to Travel & Transportation around San Diego, CA (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Apologies, I need to get to La Jolla at 8:45, not 8:15.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 11:40 AM on January 11, 2010

You want to stay at the Lafayette Hotel, in the heart of North Park (uptown San Diego). You'll be looking at around a 25 minute drive with traffic to UCSD/Salk area, so about half an hour with traffic. You'll be a short walk from Livewire, which is one of my favorite dive bars in the area, and a short cab ride or drive from Toronado, Blind Lady Ale House, Hamilton's Tavern, Ritual Tavern, and basically anywhere else worth going to in San Diego, if your interests are dive bars, brewpubs, and Belgian beer.

Since those things are also among my favorite things, MefiMail me if you'd like to grab a drink while you're here! O'Brien's Pub is another that's the closest place worth drinking to the UCSD area. La Jolla proper is very posh and mostly made up of old, rich people, so I don't think you'd want to go that route. The Gaslamp is a bit further from La Jolla than Uptown is, and mostly full of shiny, fancy clubs and frat guy type places.
posted by booknerd at 11:46 AM on January 11, 2010

The Lafayette is also home to the Red Fox Room. Yes, it's a steakhouse, but has a great easy to meet people kind of place.
posted by snsranch at 12:05 PM on January 11, 2010

Yeah, avoid downtown. My understanding is that it's improved significantly in the last ten years since I left, but not in the direction that it sounds like you (or I)'d be interested in.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:51 PM on January 11, 2010

Response by poster: I do appreciate the North Park shout-out, those spots you mentioned seem excellent. Definitely would give Philly a run for its money by sheer amount of taps.

Unfortunately, I need to be in a more central location, with a more ... shall we say ... upscale hotel. When I travel for fun, I will stay in all kinds of places, but I need to be on the ball for work, being guaranteed a good night's rest is important, and I'm willing to pay for that. The Lafayette seems like a great value in a hip neighborhood, but not appropriate for business travel, at least in my case. Reviews of thin walls, intermittent hot water, and such are not encouraging me there.

Back on topic, it sounds like y'alls are really down on the downtown, so perhaps it's better to spend a few days at the beach...
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 12:52 PM on January 11, 2010

Jeez - Everyone seems to be really down on the Gaslamp District. I go to San Diego about twice a year on business I really enjoy myself in that area. There are tons of great restaurants and bars and yet are still business friendly hotels. You can also easily walk around all night and feel safe. There are also a few roof top bars which are fun this time of year. I usually stay at the Marriott Gaslamp District, which is just across the street from Petco Park, although you'll be there too early to see a game. The hotel is nice and new and has all the amenities you'd expect.

Yeah the Gaslamp District is sort of a bar scene, but La Jolla is very boring unless you are 40+ in my opinion. (I am also in my mid 20s). Also, no matter where you stay in La Jolla, you need a car to get around.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:43 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Your instinct about the recommended hotel is right on -- you're literally across the street from UCSD, so your night life options within walking distance would be roughly limited to Porter's Pub and the Che Cafe. The Pub has an OK selection of beer and the Che has good music. They're popular with grad students, so you wouldn't be out of place demographically.

At the Estancia, you are within walking distance of Black's Beach, which is a well-known surf spot (not recommended for beginners though) and nude beach (though I believe that part isn't as popular as it used to be and was towards the north end anyway). Take Blackgold (or the unnamed road that Blackgold turns into) right down the cliffs. La Jolla Shores is also a short drive away.

There are a couple of hotels in the UTC area that would also be close, but they're pretty bad in terms of walkable nightlife as well, especially for what you want. If you end up in that area though, I'd second O'Brien's as a must-visit.

With a little bit of research, you'd probably enjoy yourself just fine downtown. It's not all thumping music and shiny things (the Shouthouse is fun, if boisterous), so you could find places that are more your style. Plus, that's your best bet for business hotels.

You may want to look into Solana Beach, about 15 minutes north of UCSD, as well. It skews a bit younger than La Jolla, and Pizza Port and The Belly Up are always busy. I can't make any specific hotel recommendations though, and I'm not sure what the commute would be like.
posted by natabat at 3:28 PM on January 11, 2010

Pretty much wherever you stay in San Diego, you need a car to get around.

The recommended hotel does not look to me like a place that you can get a room under federal per diem, but I didn't see a government rate on their site.

If you're picky about a business-travel-appropriate hotel, then that probably rules out a lot of dive bar locations. Your best bet is probably either sticking to downtown/Gaslamp and picking out the good spots (there's a lot of choices), or actually driving to your hangout spot. I don't really recommend the latter unless you've really got somewhere in mind (and of course you plan to be sober going home).
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 3:29 PM on January 11, 2010

Solana Beach is nice; Del Mar is right next door and more upscale and ritzy, if you'd prefer that, but they have some great beachside restaurants and bars where you can grab a microbrew or two.

When I go to San Diego, I usually stay in Del Mar, but that's because my uncle's got a condo down there that he rents out sometimes; if that's unavailable, we stay at the Lafayette, as recommended above. But Del Mar, Solana Beach, and La Jolla are all really pretty beach cities.
posted by infinitywaltz at 4:02 PM on January 11, 2010

Response by poster: When I referred to the per diem, I was more referring to meals and incidental costs rather than the room, which I won't have a problem with. I think the rate is $147 for San Diego, and that's just not going to happen.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 4:16 PM on January 11, 2010

Best answer: I commute from Hillcrest/Mission Hills to downtown La Jolla every day around 7:30, and traffic ain't that bad for the stretch I drive, with about half the travel time actually being after I get off the freeway driving on surface streets to my office. Downtown La Jolla isn't really all that great for much of anything. There's a couple restaurant/bars, but most things are geared towards either really rich people or tourists, with some exceptions on Pearl Street.

Jeez - Everyone seems to be really down on the Gaslamp District. I go to San Diego about twice a year on business I really enjoy myself in that area.

But you see, twice a year is all anybody can really handle. So us folks who live around here get fed up with the place.

There's a bunch of hotels on Pacific highway near Little Italy that might be good - there's a couple bars around there, like the Waterfront or the Princess Pub, as well as a bunch of restaurants (mostly Italian, duh). I've also heard T's up on Hawthorne is good. You'll also be right by the 5, for ease of commuting. Little Italy has gentrified a bit in the last 10-20 years, but it's plenty safe, has a pretty good nightlife, and Filippi's pizza grotto, which is a San Diego institution (which in this case, means it's been around since 1948).
posted by LionIndex at 9:39 PM on January 11, 2010

Basically, Little Italy is the area bounded by Pacific Highway on the west, the 5 on the east, Laurel on the north, and Ash on the south. I've also walked by this place a few times and wondered what it's like.
posted by LionIndex at 9:44 PM on January 11, 2010

Response by poster: Little Italy seems like a pretty good fit for what I'm after. Not charging the boss a lot of cash helps too. California continues to make absolutely no sense to me, but I do appreciate all your help. I'll let y'alls know how i make out.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 8:03 AM on January 12, 2010

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