Fun, street-art photo op, geeky things to see in San Diego?
March 28, 2016 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Me, my elementary-age kid and spouse will be traveling to San Diego in several weeks. Things I would love to see there: fun street art (eg - a giant Mario on a brick wall, murals, pop art, etc) cool outdoor sculptures that kids are allowed to climb on, etc.

Anything breathtaking, possibly outdoors to take photos of, that we all (or at least two-thirds of us) can enjoy. We *may* go to Legoland but not certain.
posted by 41swans to Travel & Transportation around San Diego, CA (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Consider going up to UCSD in La Jolla. Downtown has street art, but the UCSD campus has more and it is in better shape. The Geisel Library is architecturally interesting and houses the Dr. Seuss Collection. Parts of it are sometimes on display. A statue of Dr. Seuss (aka Theodore Geisel) and The Cat in the Hat is out front.

The pedestrian bridge in downtown is breathtaking and relatively new. You can fly kites on The Embarcadero and there is some kind of kite store there. Pretty much every weekend, there are (or were, when I was there) giant kits being flown there that are a sight to see.
posted by Michele in California at 2:04 PM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can't speak for the climbable art, though they did just open a fancypants new park downtown/embarcadero with fountains and whatnot to splash around in. It's a stones throw from Seaport Village and seems to be a hit with kids so far.

Street art is EVERYWHERE, I *think* there are some guides online easily google-able but frankly I just enjoy stumbling on them as I walk around each little neighborhood. SD is super, super spread out so driving around tracking down a map location could be a bit of a chore. My favorite are the utility boxes on Ocean Beach street corners painted all funky and some of the newer things in Barrio Logan and the East Village, which is more or less walking distance from the Gaslamp.

The Salk Institute in La Jolla has some really cool architecture to photograph. You can also get some pretty wicked photos at the Prado in Balboa park, built in 1912 and recently renovated. The Prado also has a great sculpture museum (no climbing), greenhouse/plant building and photography museum.

As for breathtaking, so many:

- Tidepools in La Jolla at low tide
- Hit up Cabrillo Monument for a stunning 360 view of downtown, mexico, the pacific and more tidepools
- Walk along Sunset sunset.
- View from Mt Soledad
- Check out the glider port near TorreyPines, in fact Torrey is a great little hike with killer views
- Drive down from Carlsbad to Torrey on the coastal road, hugging the ocean and zipping through Leucadia (funky hippy town) and Del Mar (snooty posh snobby town)
- Hotel Del on Coronado is really cool to photograph, but not much to do other than have a drink on the megapatio with 200 other people.

Legoland is....well it's not my thing but is a massive hit with elementary kids. But honestly, if you are zoo type people the San Diego Zoo is just outstanding (truly world class) and the Safari Park near Escondido is equally great. Bring your walking shoes though, both take 3+hours to walk and are hilly.

Super Cocina El Camino down the end of India Street in Little Italy is a mexican place with an outdoor patio in the back. No big, hundreds of those here in SD.....BUT, it is directly beneath the landing flight path for the airport, every 90 seconds a plane WHOOOSHES overhead so close you can almost touch it. I always bring out of town guests there to see their reaction with the first plane. Kids are welcome.

Welcome to SD!
posted by remlapm at 2:56 PM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: On the way out to the Safari Park is a truly amazing mosaic sculpture garden. Only open April 9th for the near future.
posted by gryphonlover at 3:04 PM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh my gosh, gryphonlover! Niki de Saint Phalle?! We may not be able to make it that day, but I really really hope we can!
posted by 41swans at 3:12 PM on March 28, 2016

Best answer: Others have mentioned most of these already, but to second a bunch of stuff:
The UCSD Stuart Collection is lots of fun - especially the Sun God (especially especially since you are excited about Niki de Saint Phalle), Fallen Star (which has public open hours at the link above), the Snake Path and the Bear. These are my favorites and all pretty close together. If you go on the weekend, the campus can be nice for biking, scootering, or other wheeled transport even for little kids. I wouldn't recommend that when classes are going on though since it's very busy.

Also the glider port (people jumping off cliffs!) and the Salk institute (mentioned above) are both right by campus (you can walk between them). To make a day/afternoon of it, Bella Vista is right by the glider port/salk and has good food and good views (plus parking they validate for). Bella vista will be busy at peak lunch hours during the work week. Or a short drive away is Torrey Pines golf course, which is a lovely golf course perched on cliffs over the mountains. The Grill is nice for lunch, though you really can't see much unless you sit outside.

Also the Zoo and the nearby Cactus garden (free), are great for amazing botanical awesomeness.

Chicano Park in Barrio Logan, maybe paired with Cafe Motto for coffee and tacos.

I feel like there are a lot of building murals here but am not coming up with a good guide or map.

Oh, and not sure if your familiar with San Diego weather, but visitors are often surprised at how chilly and cloudy it can be in the mornings (especially near the coast this time of year) and after the sun sets. I think because it's so dry, the difference between direct sun and shade can feel pretty dramatic. Layers are your friend.
posted by pennypiper at 5:52 PM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

There is a fun, colorful structure to climb on right outside the Mingei Museum of Art in Balboa Park. Balboa Park is beautiful and has tons of cool photo-ops, including a huge outdoor organ pavilion just a few steps from the Mingei. Spending a day there is a blast. There are a bunch of unique museums and outdoor areas, and it's right next to the Zoo if that interests you.

Tons of beautiful street art can be found in the North Park and Hillcrest areas. University Avenue has a few gorgeous murals and is peppered with street art, and the avenue travels from Hillcrest (hip queer area) to North Park (hip straight-guys-with-beers-and-beards area). Many of the electrical boxes in this area are painted by local artists as well. Nearby is the Lafayette Hotel, which is neat if you want to feel transported to 1960's Hollywood and take a dip in a pool. Downtown San Diego is home to some street art as well, but it is harder to spot. You can find space invaders and a cool piece on the wall of the Horton Plaza mall parking structure.

In terms of gorgeous outdoorsy stuff, I really like the Cabrillo National Monument area. It's like 5 or 10 bucks to get in and you can run around the tide pools and if you poke around enough, you can see and climb on old concrete bunker-type structures.

p.s. I love LegoLand!
posted by sweetjane at 1:01 PM on March 30, 2016

I believe the sculptures sweetjane mentioned (outside of the Mingei Museum) are also Niki de Saint Phalle. She's actually got a ton of pieces all over San Diego. You should really really try to make Queen Califia [self link]. Fun for kids and adults! Though beware if it's a hot, sunny day - all the mirrors and tile make it much warmer inside the sculpture than outside, and some of the surfaces get HOT.

Mira Mesa also has painted electrical boxes, though I don't think it's worth going there just for those.

I don't really consider myself an art person, but the Stuart Collection was a big plus for me when when I was deciding where to go to school (I ended up at UCSD). My roommates and I wandered around to all the different pieces after graduation, and it's one of my favorite memories of college.
posted by natabat at 2:14 PM on March 30, 2016

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