How to spend two days in San Diego
October 10, 2012 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Two days in San Diego ... how to spend them?

I've got an upcoming trip to San Diego, and I'll have a couple of days to myself. I'm staying at the US Grant, on Broadway part of the time, and at the Westin Gaslamp Quarter on Broadway Circle the rest of the time ... what kind of stuff is around there that is walking distance?

Things I like: cool bookstores, cool wine/liquor stores and bars, music and electronic stores, movie theaters, arcades

Things I don't like: anything sports related, clothes shopping, the beach

Where should I go and what should I do?
posted by jbickers to Travel & Transportation around San Diego, CA (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The Gaslamp Quarter itself has a lot of interesting shopping and restaurants. Past that, I'd recommend seeing if you can make it out to Balboa Park. The San Diego Zoo (in my biased opinion the best out there) and a number of interesting museums are in that area. I am partial to the Reuben H Fleet Science Museum.
posted by Tknophobia at 10:14 AM on October 10, 2012

Brewery Tours/tastings?

Not having visited any, I'd call Stone Brewery and Lost Abbey the two big don't miss breweries based on their beers alone, but a little website research would probably cook up the best one to go to for lunch, which for just a flight, etc.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:21 AM on October 10, 2012

what kind of stuff is around there that is walking distance?

Touristy stuff, nightclubs and restaurants. The Westin is right next to a mall, but it's a pretty cool mall if you can deal with super-postmodern 80s architecture. There might be a few decent bars sprinkled here and there, but you're probably going to want to head uptown a bit. Depending on your definition of walking distance, you'll want to get to Little Italy, Mission Hills and Hillcrest, which range from 1-3 miles away. Easy bus connection on the 3 or 11 lines though to Hillcrest.

Hillcrest and Mission Hills each have a ton of wine bars. There's also one closer to downtown that looks interesting called Wetstone, on 4th or 5th around Fir St.

Hillcrest has a bunch of bookstores, our big art house theater, and a couple little music stores. It's small, but M-Theory Music on Washington & Goldfinch over in Mission Hills has a decent selection of new and used, as well as sort of peripheral music stuff - I've gotten a bunch of the 33 1/3 books there.
posted by LionIndex at 10:23 AM on October 10, 2012

For music, check out Off the Record in North Park. Here is Nirvana playing there in 1991.
posted by Beardman at 10:38 AM on October 10, 2012

I came to second the Zoo. It's just amazing and really interesting from a conservation and preservation standpoint.

You should be able to find Zoo tours, or ways to get there, ask at your hotel.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:23 AM on October 10, 2012

For music, check out Off the Record in North Park. Here is Nirvana playing there in 1991.

Nitpick: the Nirvana clip is at Off the Record's old location on 5th in Hillcrest - they've since moved to University Avenue where Beardman notes. Still a great shop.

posted by LionIndex at 12:29 PM on October 10, 2012

The kind of stuff you like is abundant in Hillcrest/North Park, a little north of Balboa Park. San Diego is a world class city for beer if you're into it, and most of the beer pubs are in that area. Stone itself is way the heck north and you'd need a rental car and probably more time.
posted by slow graffiti at 12:56 PM on October 10, 2012

San Diego isn't much for walking. A lot of the sights will demand bus-taking from downtown.

Downtown San Diego is pretty touristy/bro-y. You probably want to get to Hillcrest/University Heights/North Park/South Park for the sort of stuff you're looking for-- the neighborhoods forming a 'U' around the north side of Balboa Park.

D.G. Wills in La Jolla is a nice little bookstore. You can gawk at Mitt Romney's house up there and other rich people things nearby, and look at seals near the La Jolla Cove.

Even if you're not the beach on its own, Sunset Cliffs & Cabrillo National Monument have a lot of natural beauty to offer.
posted by akgerber at 1:18 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Balboa park is a great urban park with cool trees, gardens, museums, a theater, etc. This scavenger hunt is is all kinds of awesome. You're suposed to be some kind of paranormal investigator...when you find these little hidden badges and call a number on your cell phone you hear the next installment of the story (related to local history).

Giskin Anomaly
posted by tracer at 2:58 PM on October 10, 2012

During my trip to San Diego, I thought that Wet Willie's was really fun. Its basically a bar where everything comes from a slushy machine.
posted by tinymegalo at 3:23 PM on October 10, 2012

Other people have covered the North Park/University Heights/Hillcrest/Kensington has pretty much everything you want angle, so I'll just speak to things that are within walking distance from the Gaslamp.

Gaslamp/East Village
Vin De Syrah, fancy wine bar.

Neighborhood on G and 8th. It is a gastropub with a speakeasy (text the number to schedule your visit) in the back. I don't share their negativity regarding ketchup but it is otherwise a good place to be.

Spreckels Theater - Open since 1912. Neat to just walk around it before a show starts. Check out their calendar.

Reading Cinemas has a similar "Old San Diego" vibe as the Spreckels Theater.

For the sake of completeness, I should also mention the House of Blues.

Little Italy
Little Italy is about a mile from you. Lots of great restaurants and bars in the area, as well as a few art galleries and furniture stores along India and Kettner. The weather has been very pleasant for walking lately, so I recommend making the trek!

I would suggest checking the listings for the Casbah. Shows are usually cheap and start around 10pm. It's an intimate (ok, grungy) little venue about a mile and a half from your hotels. One of my favorite places to be at night in San Diego.

Also, El Camino is a block away from the Casbah. Boasts not-entirely-authentic Mexican food, magaritas, and a nice jazz band on Wednesday nights.

There is also Bottlecraft nearby, where they sell fancy beer and let you drink it in peace with a sub you bought from Mona Lisa down the street.

Finally, 98 bottles is a pretty decent place to hang out and relax with a glass of wine.

Hope you enjoy your stay!
posted by rhythm and booze at 1:25 AM on October 11, 2012

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