Travel advice for San Diego please!
October 16, 2016 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Hello MeFites! Due to some odd scheduling issues with my job, I'm going to be spending several days in San Diego fairly soon. I am almost totally unfamiliar with the city and would like some advice about where to go while I'm there. I am very excited to go to San Diego, because it's a big city with lots of amenities, but the downside is that it's so big that I have no idea where to start. I am a special snowflake traveler and details are under the cut.

Food: I am vegetarian with gluten and soy allergies. I love tacos and South and Central American food generally. I need to be able to ask questions about ingredients. I also would like breakfast recommendations for places that do things like gluten free pancakes or waffles, home fries with lots of other stuff in them, or grits. If there's a good raw foods spot or gluten-free bakery, I would love to know about that too.

Tea: I like tea. I power my brain with tea and am a bit of a tea nerd. I'd like to know where to get some decent tea and then sit around and do work or read. This must be an LGBT-friendly spot.

Cultural stuff: I'm going to be in San Diego for several days and would love to know about any cool museums, local arts communities, weird cool bookstores especially places that deal in zines, or similar.

Please note: I have arthritis and can't walk long distances or handle a lot of stairs. I will have a car. I do not remember where in town I am staying, but I think I am centrally located.

Thanks in advance!
posted by bile and syntax to Travel & Transportation around San Diego, CA (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For tea and a great place to work, you want Pannikin. This is a must-go place for us every time we're visiting family in San Diego. Their orange blossom oolong, if they have it, is amazing. Delicious breakfast/lunch/snack food, though not sure if it fits your snowflakes. Definitely LGBT friendly. The Pannikin in La Jolla is also right next door to a very cool, quirky bookstore and apparently also a rare map shop (!). Mobility-wise, there are maybe 3-4 shallow steps leading up to the cafe, and there's usually street parking within a block.

A lot of museums are in Balboa Park. Mr. bananacabana specifically recommends the San Diego Air and Space Museum. (They have an A-12 outside!) You should be able to drive to/park at individual museums. Balboa Park is also right next to Hillcrest, which is known for being a very LGBT-friendly neighborhood with lots of cool bookstores, etc.

San Diego is a great place! Have fun!
posted by bananacabana at 12:16 PM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

When we were there, we did not have a car. The public transportation was decent for our needs, though, and the end of the line (north) was Crystal Pier which was really gorgeous at sunset. It seemed like a quirky neighborhood, too. We also went to the San Diego Zoo, but I'm not sure if that's your bag, baby.

The end of the line (south) was San Ysidro at the Mexican border. Tijuana has a Tijuana Cultural center you might like. (Need your passport, of course) Line to get into Mexico via pedestrian bridge was short, but line to get back to USA by walking took a lot longer.
posted by jillithd at 4:42 PM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you'd really like North Park or Normal Heights - lots of restaurants, bookstores, coffee shops. Coffee & Tea Collective is nice. Tacos Perla is higher end fancier tacos and seems like the kind of place that would be able to adjust ingredients to your needs. Acai bowls are popular in San Diego and are a great raw breakfast option - you can find them pretty much everywhere, especially near the beaches. Bluestocking Books in Hillcrest is great.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 5:41 PM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

The best vegan-friendly Mexican place I know is Ranchos in North Park.

For art, if you are going to Balboa Park I recommend the Spanish Village which is a group of artist's studios and galleries. There is parking lot right alongside the complex. Some shops have a few steps but there's lots of places to sit and rest.
posted by buildmyworld at 6:20 PM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

The best vegan-friendly Mexican place I know is Ranchos in North Park.

There's also a location in Ocean Beach. Most of their menu is labeled for items that are vegan or vegetarian, or can be made so. I imagine they have gluten free stuff, but I don't specifically remember it from the menu. Avoiding soy might give them problems, but you'll have to ask. If you go to North Park, Ray Street used to have a few artist galleries around, but they've been disappearing with the higher rents as North Park gentrifies. Ocean Beach is an old hippie beach town, so it's a bit quirky, but it's hard to fend off the real estate industry.

I've never really been, but my vegan friends swear by Pokez.

You'd have to search pretty hard to find a coffee shop in metro SD that isn't LGBT friendly. I used to like Gelato Vero Caffe on India and Washington, just a bit west of Hillcrest. The first floor is more of a standard coffee shop, upstairs is more comfortable for working.

You'll end up in Balboa Park for museums. There's a modern art museum that has branches in La Jolla and Downtown by the train station, but Balboa Park around the Prado is the cultural heart of the city. Tons of museums, gardens, performance venues, and the zoo. There's a few art museums (the Timken is always free), a few science, a few history, and my favorite, the model railroad museum, which features a couple tiny reconstructions of real local railroads. If your "soon" ends up being early December, that could be a nightmare or a blessing depending on how you look at it - "December Nights" is the 2nd and 3rd. It's a huge winter festival and the whole place fills up with arts and crafts sellers, shows, and food and there's a huge beer garden and all the museums are free. Despite the name of the event, you can go on Saturday during the day, and it'll be a lot less crowded. There is no parking in the Park during the event, and streets get filled up for blocks in every direction around (I used to live two blocks away on the west side).
posted by LionIndex at 8:03 PM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was in San Diego a couple weeks ago at a conference at the Grand Hyatt, near the water and the USS Midway (and, less prestigiously, a huge Cheesecake Factory). There's a taco place called Puesto's that had three different varieties of very tasty vegetarian tacos. My non-veg friends loved it too.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 7:45 PM on October 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

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