Help me fall in love with my home.
September 22, 2021 9:57 AM   Subscribe

I moved to San Diego almost exactly a year ago, smack dab in the pandemic. Everyone told me I would love it here, but I don't. It is fine, but it doesn't feel special or like home. Can you help me love it?

I will be San Diego for at least two more years. I live in a single family home with a great yard in North Park, about 2 miles from the Zoo and the heart of all the things at Balboa. It should be perfect but it just...fine? I have a four year and a husband.

The park seems brown and crunchy all the time, the museums seem like museums from 30 years ago, not the interactive and engaging museums I would expect. (I was a museum professional 15 years ago so, I don't think I am just being overly critical, I know what standards most museums aspire to.) The playgrounds are almost utilitarian, there are often people living in the bathrooms there. EVERYTHING is build for and around cars and driving, so what should be a stress free (if not hilly) jog or bike to the park seems fraught and exposed and just not fun. The beaches are pretty but the water is freezing, I would have to get my preschooler a wetsuit for her to be comfortable in the water.

Everywhere downtown and in North Park smells like human urine. People everywhere are obviously and distressingly in mental health crisis and the young and hip and literally stepping over their shit to pose for the Insta. It all seems very fake and very staged, even the farmer's market. The restaurants are super gimmicky, expensive or both. Maybe it is just North Park, maybe it is me being 42, but I have lived all over and never not got into a place by the end of year one. I have also never lived on the West Coast, maybe this chill but distant (which reads fake to me) is just not for me. It is all BLM flags but no people of color, that feeling.

That is a lot to say, I don't know why people love it here. It just hasn't clicked with me yet I guess. Can you help me love it? I like biking and hiking and taking trains. I like nonprofit community arts stuff. I like hidden art and great bridges and public engagement. Some cities that always feel like home are Atlanta, Chattanooga, and my little cityside suburb of Yokohama. Denver was fun and laid back too.

I don't want this to be chatfilter, I would like to hear what you love about San Diego, what your day to day loves are or your special occasion loves. I want to love it too.
posted by stormygrey to Society & Culture (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How about reading The Tree Lady (a non-fiction kids book) with your kiddo and planting a native tree (or cacti)? It’s also about a San Diego transplant that made the city her own.
posted by childofTethys at 10:17 AM on September 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

I live in Northern California, but my (brief) impression of your neighborhood is that it's a place that probably hasn't been at its best during the pandemic- I'm guessing you haven't been able to spend that much time in local shops, cafes, etc, and really get to know your neighbors? I would think that it might be difficult to love any city in the circumstances we've been living through, though I've been appreciating the parks in Berkeley. Maybe things will improve. I also love old craftsman houses and your neighborhood is full of them.

I think there's some beauty in the golden colors of the dried-out landscape in California, even if I usually prefer the way things look in rainier areas. The state's in extreme/exceptional drought and it's good if the parks managers aren't watering lawns...
posted by pinochiette at 11:14 AM on September 22, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: There's a whole book about this! This is Where you Belong has concrete steps you can take to enjoy where you live more, and research behind the reasoning.

Anecdotally, I love where I live (though many people don't) -- when I read the book I saw that I was naturally doing most of the suggestions, and they were indeed responsible for the things I liked about my engagement with my city.
posted by Pwoink at 11:18 AM on September 22, 2021 [14 favorites]

I think you will like it more when your kid gets a bit older -sounds to me like the extreme stress of a small child plus a pandemic makes everything worse.

The average park is so sorry and sad and probably built by some middle aged dude who has barely even met a 4 year old, and the production of going to the beach with a small child just for them to spend 20 minutes in the water, get cold and want to go home is infuriating.

Just wait 3 more years and it will shift and you'll like it fine. Your kid will be able to hike a mountain, swim in the water, and give up those dinky playgrounds for the large lawns at the park and make their own fun.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:44 AM on September 22, 2021

Best answer: Two tiny tips:
1) Pizza. San Diego must be one of the best cities in the country for Neapolitan pizza.
2) Membership at the Zoo/Safari Park: it's remarkably reasonably priced, considering how expensive regular tickets are. It can change your entire experience to be able to casually pop into the zoo for just an hour or two.
posted by kickingtheground at 11:46 AM on September 22, 2021 [4 favorites]

Less about enjoying SD per se than about enjoying your time there: if you like plants at all I'd use the yard to raise and enjoy all the citrus trees and other plants that the local climate is particularly or uniquely great for.

Going into the water is a great part of being at the beach but not the only one. Sandcastles, burying people in the sand, drawing in wet sand, looking for seashells, flying kites, just watching the water, smelling the air, counting boats... there are a lot of ways to enjoy the beach.
posted by trig at 11:55 AM on September 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a native San Diegan, although I've lived out of the state for the last 7 years. So, one, I don't think you're necessarily "wrong" in most of your criticisms. Unhoused people in CA are a massive unaddressed issue, and the feeling from government on down just seems to be to ignore it and not provide any basic services (like public restrooms in urban areas) that would make the quality of life better for everybody. Balboa Park, and any park really, is going to be brown and crunchy - you're basically in a desert. Other parts of the country (I've lived in Virginia, Wisconsin and Michigan) are practically rainforests in comparison. 74 degrees is a miraculously warm ocean temperature at San Diego beaches. You'll probably need a car to really do anything.

That said, I think part of it is your location and your perception. North Park is the current trendy/recently gentrified spot, so you're going to be in the mix of trendy places with hipsters. Plus, San Diego is pretty heavily segregated historically, and with the need to have a car to really get anywhere you're probably not going to see much diversity unless you go looking for it. I'd recommend heading a bit east to City Heights before it disappears - I think it's the next area that'll be gentrified. Ocean Beach is probably slowly changing, but the community has aggressively fought to maintain its hippie beach community vibe. Leucadia is kind of similar, but not as walkable as Newport Ave.

If you like hiking, you'll probably want to pick up a copy of Afoot and Afield in San Diego County, but you'll want to get used to the idea of hiking being somewhere other than a forest/lake. (From the opposite side, after hiking in the SD area for years, going hiking in Michigan usually involves walking on flat ground through a forest and I just don't get it)

And get yourself to the Model Railroad museum.

2nding the zoo membership, especially if you're that close - parking is free, with a membership you can basically just walk right in and spend an hour or so just seeing one thing, like maybe take the kid to the Children's Zoo.

Also, an anecdote: I was once at a coworker's house party and there were a group of us standing around outside talking, and the subject turned to how lousy San Diego drivers are. As a native, I asked everyone in the group of ten or so to raise their hand if they were actually from San Diego - it ended up being me and one other person. So, maybe a San Diego mentality rapidly infects people, but the general "vibe" of the people that live there is largely the vibe of transplants. Find some natives (I'll be back permanently in a year).
posted by LionIndex at 11:56 AM on September 22, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Hi, I live in North Park too! I grew up in the rural part of SD County, and always thought I'd move somewhere "cool" but I ended up back here and I actually really like it. It's not as full of stuff as a bigger city like LA but I'm just one person and there is plenty for me to do.
I am a similar age but I don't have kids so I can't really speak to kid activities.
San Diego is truly a driving city, you just have to get used to that part. However I do walk almost everywhere in North Park, or down to South Park or even Hillcrest or Normal Heights if I'm in the mood for a longer walk. The side streets aren't so busy and should be totally fine for you and your kid--just stay off University or 30th and definitely do not walk or bike along Pershing Drive!
I get what you're saying about the restaurants in NP, they are definitely not my thing either. A few I do like: Soi 30th, Lefty's, Gelati e Peccati, Pomegranate, Tribute. I am happy to recommend other restaurants in parts of SD you'll need to drive to, though!
For cool bridges, try the Spruce Street suspension bridge. There are several other neat pedestrian bridges in the Uptown area.
I am not really a hike/bike person so I don't have much advice there, although I did recently go on a fun nature walk with volunteers from the Natural History Museum. I third the advice above to get a zoo pass, it's really nice to be able to drop in for an hour or so since it's right nearby.
Liberty Station is a nice place to wander around in and very kid-friendly.
I would avoid downtown altogether, it's kind of gross and weird and mostly for tourists. If you want interesting neighborhoods try exploring Barrio Logan or City Heights or Rolando or Convoy Street, but warning it generally isn't "pretty" if you are expecting that. I haven't been to Atlanta or Chattanooga and I find Denver kind of sterile? so I'm not sure this would be your jam. Southern California cities are fairly newly built and the interesting stuff tends to be in crappy looking strip malls rather than lovely historical buildings, unfortunately.
The beach cities are fun too, check out Azucar bakery in Ocean Beach!
Feel free to memail me if you want more specific recommendations or to meet up with a friendly face.
posted by exceptinsects at 12:10 PM on September 22, 2021 [6 favorites]

As an aside to my main points, culturally there are rather distinct differences between San Diego, SoCal, Bay Area, and various rural areas in California - let alone the PNW (also not a monolith), so I would caution against you generalizing from one urban area in California to any other area (just like you wouldn't expect Atlanta to be similar to rural Georgia to be similar to Jacksonville FL or Nashville TN (all much closer to each other than various points in California/West Coast. (I would not live in SoCal due to some of the cultural issues you mention, so I do get it, for what it's worth, but I do love much of NorCal and parts of the Bay Area.)

For beach going on the west coast, one needs to change the mindset from being IN the water to playing *with* the water and enjoying the scenery. With my small kids in NorCal, we bring LOTS of toys for playing in the sand (and buckets for hauling water) and the adults have books to enjoy while listening to the waves. Or we go to a rocky beach and walk around, hunting for cool rocks and neat driftwood, tidepools, etc.

Getting comfortable with the desert look and learning to appreciate it is critical for living in SoCal, I think. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous, but it's not forest and lakes, obviously. I'd recommend looking into novels and non-fiction, such as Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, to start seeing what others see in it.

One aspect of living in the west that is common across the region is that there's a lot of beauty, but there's distance to get there. Here in the Bay Area we regularly travel 1 - 5 hours one way to get to some of that natural beauty within the state, and consider that part of the value of our "home". Have you visited the Channel Islands? Joshua Tree? Weekend trips to amazing places are the best, and easily done in California, but if you're a homebody I can see how this might not be a big draw.
posted by Jaclyn at 12:25 PM on September 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I think moving to a new city just kind of sucks during the pandemic, I'm sorry to say. That said, please eat and appreciate a lot of good Mexican food for me. That's one thing Southern California can offer that most of the rest of the country can't! And maybe some day- or overnight trips? There's so much to see within a few hours.
posted by lunasol at 12:26 PM on September 22, 2021

Best answer: I lived in San Diego for about 10 years. For some of this I think your observations are spot on. For others, it sounds like you're bringing some expectations that just don't fit well with the local environment, and you're better off letting go of them and learning to appreciate the area on its own terms.
The beaches are pretty but the water is freezing, I would have to get my preschooler a wetsuit for her to be comfortable in the water.
Welcome to the Pacific! The San Diego area has the warmest ocean you'll get on the US West Coast. For warm-water swimming you'll have to go considerably further south (or to Hawaii). Personally, I can swim comfortably without a wetsuit during the warmest summer and early fall months but generally not at other times. I especially enjoyed swimming at La Jolla Cove. For other times of the year, just enjoy the warm beach and occasionally dip your toes into the chilly water—or get a wetsuit..
The park seems brown and crunchy all the time
That's expected to a certain extent seasonally, as the area gets just about all of its rainfall during the winter and almost none at other times of the year. California as a whole is also experiencing a major drought so you could be seeing water conservation in action.
the museums seem like museums from 30 years ago
Agreed, the museums in San Diego are pretty "meh". You're better off making trips to LA and SF . The zoo and safari park really are excellent though. The zoo and safari park really are excellent though.
EVERYTHING is build for and around cars and driving, so what should be a stress free (if not hilly) jog or bike to the park seems fraught and exposed and just not fun.
A lot of San Diego is very car-centric but North Park and neighboring areas like Hillcrest, City Heights, etc. are relatively less so. I know some people who live car-free there. Experiment with some different walking routes—if you keep to side streets rather than the main roads you can definitely enjoy a pleasant, low-stress walk from North Park to Balboa Park. I found bicycling to be more challenging due to the hilly terrain and number of aggressive and/or inattentive drivers.
It all seems very fake and very staged, even the farmer's market.
Have you been to the Hillcrest farmer's market? It's one of the bigger ones, and a great way to find unusual or seasonal produce that doesn't show up in regular supermarkets. The North Park market was never as good.
The restaurants are super gimmicky, expensive or both.
In my experience a lot of the best food in the area is found outside the trendier neighborhoods or outside the city entirely. Great Mexican food in Chula Vista especially. The mmm-yoso! blog is a reliable source of news and reviews for all kinds of restaurants in the area.
I like biking and hiking and taking trains.
The San Diego region is really, really excellent for hiking. That's one of a few things I truly miss about living there. In that region you have more variation by distance than by season, with easy access to everything from short city canyon hikes to miles and miles of coastline, mountains, and desert. Some mountain areas will get snow during the winter. The Anza Borrego desert park area, especially, has its own beauty that I found really grew on me. It's not lush and green but it's a striking landscape and full of life. Absolutely worth a trip out during the spring to see the wildflower blooms. Also highly recommended: Torrey Pines State Reserve for the sweeping coastal views and native plant species. It's one of my favorite natural areas.
posted by 4rtemis at 12:56 PM on September 22, 2021 [6 favorites]

The beaches are pretty but the water is freezing, I would have to get my preschooler a wetsuit for her to be comfortable in the water.

I know nothing of San Diego, but just on this one... so buy your kid a wetsuit? Maybe look into a second hand one if they're going to grow out of it quickly. You might feel irked that you should have to do that when you're living somewhere you feel it shouldn't be necessary, but the kid won't know or care what it "should" be like. Just go with it and enjoy their joy at splashing about, especially if the beaches are otherwise one of the highlights of the place.

FWIW, I live in Scotland where kids go happily in the sea without wetsuits in summer and the water temperatures here top out at 16C/61F at the most. Looks like San Diego's sea is pretty much that temperature or warmer all year apart from Dec-Apr and your air temperatures are higher so better for warming up afterwards. You don't stay in forever when you're four, you splash about and laugh, have some warm clothes and maybe a flask of warm drink for afterwards and everyone has a lovely time. I don't mean it in a "harden up!" kind of way, more that you can maybe challenge your preconceptions a little bit on this one and give it a go and it might turn into a really nice fun, adventurous thing for you to do.
posted by penguin pie at 1:07 PM on September 22, 2021 [6 favorites]

Former east coaster now living in the Pacific Northwest. Before I moved here, I lived in a desert place. I like green, too, and I did not love the desert. Chattanooga and Atlanta are humid and green. That’s not San Diego. So I say… try to learn to appreciate the desert or at least someplace that isn’t lush in the same way. Learn about the different plants and birds. Don’t expect an east coast beach experience. Don’t try to categorize or define people. Learn about weather patterns. Try to see what’s different because this place will be meaningful to your child when older.

Also, it looks like San Diego is about 65% white folks, and your neighborhood is 56% white (based on quick Googling). Atlanta has fewer white folks but Denver is 76% white (as comparisons to cities you’ve mentioned). If you’re not seeing folks of color, it might be your specific neighborhood, so maybe try to figure out which neighborhoods have higher populations of folks of color and explore those.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:11 PM on September 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Riffing off of what penguin pie said, when I first moved to Oregon and my kids were little, if they ever objected to going out in the rain, I’d say, “We are rugged Oregonians!”

I’m not sure what the San Diego equivalent is, but adopt that mantra and hit the beach, etc.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:13 PM on September 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

I can't speak to the culture, but I can speak to appreciating and learning to enjoy the nature. I've never lived somewhere with warm ocean water, but as a kid I absolutely swam in California's chilly oceans and had a great time. You don't do it for hours, but people absolutely do go in the water and they do it without wetsuits and it's fine. As an adult who values my comfort a little more, my partner and I have been known to go and play tag with the ocean - try to dip our feet in and get our toes wet and touch the water without getting our pants wet. And then laugh together a bunch when one of us inevitably goes chasing after a retreating wave and gets hit from the side and wet to the knees.

Getting involved in identifying and learning about the native or local plants helps a lot too, it makes walks more interesting and, for me, has turned the San Francisco succulent gardens and grasslands from a weird barren or alien landscape into something I can admire and appreciate.
posted by Lady Li at 1:17 PM on September 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Former midwesterner who moved to the SF Bay Area, spent 10 years there, and had the misfortune of moving back across the country right before the pandemic started and... yes. Yes to all the people said that nowhere is its best during the pandemic, on top of that it's so hard to meet people or feel settled into a community when you're scared to go outside or talk to people. I'm not a regular anywhere because I wasn't *going* anywhere for over a year. I had to set my clock back 18 months on how settled I expected to feel at this point because it was such a strange introduction to a new place.

I also wasn't impressed when I moved to California. The oceans were cold, the suburbs looked faded and like they were built in the 60s, everything was SO expensive, the grass was brown, the city smelled like pee, and what's with it being so cold at night? But somehow when I left 10 years later, I missed the big vistas, the hiking*, running by the ocean, driving to world class skiing, and even the cool nights. Maybe you can learn to love them too, just give them some time (and make sure you get out and hike in March/April when everything is at its greenest).

My only San Diego-specific tip is that the San Diego Zoo was fantastic and absolutely deserted when I went in the pouring rain one December. I definitely would put on my rainproof jacket and go back in the rain to avoid crowds.

*Never do a "waterfall hike" in a dry part of California. Signed, a person who hiked 10 miles round trip in 90 degree heat to see a trickle of water and really was not impressed by the experience.
posted by A Blue Moon at 3:22 PM on September 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Another San Diegan here. The thing I love MOST about San Diego is all the hiking. So Cal chaparral and desert don't hit your over the head with beauty, but give it a chance and they might grow on you. Some of my favorite hiking:
Annie's Canyon
Mission Trails (Oak Canyon specifically, but the views from any of the 5 peaks on a clear day are incredible)
Torrey Pines Reserve
Iron Mountain
Corte Madera
Anza Borrego

Join Hike It Baby - it's an international family-focused hiking group, and the San Diego chapter is one of the largest and most active. They've just started hosting hikes again, so it's a perfect time to join up.

The local chapter of the Sierra Club is also just gearing up to host hikes again. I highly recommend the Wilderness Basics Course if you have a modicum of interesting in backpacking (and even if you're already an experienced backpacker) -- it's a really great introduction to hiking and natural history in the area. Caveat -- the core part of the experience is 4 overnight trips, which is kind of rough as a parent of a young kid. Supposedly, they're also starting up a family focused group, so keep an eye out for that.

Other things I love about San Diego - the beer, the Mexican food, the Convoy district for just about any kind of Asian food you can imagine, the near perfect weather all the time (though admittedly the lack of variety is a downside for a lot of people). I'm not a beach/water person, but there's lots of opportunity for water sports -- sailing, kayaking, snorkeling, etc.
posted by natabat at 3:50 PM on September 22, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I spent two years in Los Angeles, and now live in the upper Midwest. For what it's worth, I've always found that the one-year mark is the toughest time in adjustment to a new place: that's the time when the fun of exploration has worn off, but it doesn't actually feel like home yet.

That said, here are some things I miss about southern California:
  • Jacaranda trees with their sweep of purple flowers.
  • Smelling orange blossoms in the air.
  • Different kinds of avocados.
  • All kinds of citrus, especially the Meyer lemon tree that used to be in my backyard.
  • Wild lizards doing pushups.
  • Pomegranates!
  • Independent donut stores in basically every strip mall. I'm not actually sure whether this phenomenon is unique to Los Angeles or shows up in San Diego too, but it's worth looking out for.
  • Getting pizza and then walking along the beach.
Southern California Amtrak is also very nice, especially if you avoid the Coast Starlight and stick to local trains. You can go from San Diego straight into downtown Los Angeles and check out museums there, or keep going up the coast to Santa Barbara.
posted by yarntheory at 4:59 PM on September 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

I grew up in San Diego and still visit regularly.

The ocean is colder, but you or at least the kid will probably get used to it. Before all the recent warming, 68 was a balmy water temperature that kids would be in and out of all day. Also you might try Mission Bay, the shallower areas there will be warmer. I remember when visiting the east coast, I didn’t enjoy the Atlantic Ocean that much because it felt like a bathtub and was not conducive to actually swimming.

Seconding the Zoo and wildlife park. There’s an aviary where you can get a cup of nectar and have lorikeets sitting on your shoulder.

Birch Aquarium, which is up near UCSD, is great for kids and adults. They have sea dragons and pipefish, and also a kelp forest and petting tide pools and an amazing view. It’s small enough that it’s not overwhelming, but still full of interest.
posted by expialidocious at 10:07 PM on September 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: 1. I'm so sorry it's not clicking. That stinks. But I hope I can spitball a few different ideas. I wasn't in San Diego when I was 4-years old but I think I would have loved it.

* Zoo membership (San Diego Resident) - totally worth it particularly with a 4 year old
* Follow the North Park Library on facebook and look for events. University Heights, Mission Hills and Mission Valley are also within a radius of you, though admittedly the Pandemic has made a once bursting-with-craft and story time library system a bit less bursting.
* The ocean is more than swimming: check out Dog Beach in O.B. (or the one in Del Mar) if you like to look at dogs, or anywhere along Pacific Beach and Mission Beach with fewer teenagers and walk on the beach, dip a toe in, make sandcastles, look for shells. The summer season is over so beach parking lots are far less impacted. Me, I'm going basically daily to the Jetty right now.
* The ocean is more than swimming: low tides make for great times to explore tidepools. Keep track of water quality on and water temp on magicseaweed.
* Some folks swear by the California State Beaches like Torrey Pines - they offer an annual parking pass that several people I know swear by.
* YMCA is a pretty good deal and have family swim times you can drop in
* (Perhaps you can tell I love the water and ocean from the above)
* Also, your kid's tolerance for the cold water and your own is greater than you think. But there are wetsuits under $50 for a kid. Some folks buy used wetsuits at Play it Again Sports
* San Diego has a fair number of parks of many kinds, try Civita Park in Mission Valley, further afield and with limited hours but also VERY MAGICAL FOR SMALL CHILDREN AND ADULTS OPEN TO WONDER: Niki de Saint Phalle's Queen Califia's Magical Circle in Escondido. But open up your maps app and look for green sections and give them a try. I suspect you'll find *something* with the right mix for you.
* Books! Verbatim Books is a tremendous bookstore, as is the much newer Libélula Books.
* Hiking is something people love to do, and while Cowles Mountain is probably not for every 4 year old there are plenty of spots with interesting canyon walks. I'd start with any of the spots along Marian Bear, or maybe Sunset Cliffs (being cautious! no rails there!)
* It pains me to say it, but we have always had pretty hospitable Malls here. I'd say Westfield UTC is probably the most "entertaining" what with fountains and such to look at. But Fashion Valley is a great place to kill time too.
* Aquariums: Birch/Scripps in La Jolla but also Living Coast Discovery Center would be perfect day trips.
* Get on a train! The Pacific Surfliner can get you all kinds of great places for day trips. It needn't all be car.
* See it all, I say.

Look, any city in California is a HUGE VARIEGATED THING. There's no single identity. I am a bookish beach bum, so that's what I see day in day out. But I could be a craft beer and sports nut and only see that here in San Diego. San Diego is an absolutely huge place with a lot of different stuff. No, we don't have a Golden Gate Bridge, or a Guggenheim, or a Field Museum, but we are within striking distance of a lot of amazing stuff.

I have moved a lot in my life (22 years San Diego, 39 years California, 51 years total), and I recognize the feeling of not feeling home yet, and the times I've beaten that feeling is deciding that home is where I and my family are, and make the best of what's around, but to make the best, you gotta sample it all. And if after sampling it all it still sucks, well, lesson learned. Maybe the next country / city / town will work better. It's hard to make connections, it takes a certain kind of effort to make things click, to not feel alone, even with family. Reaching out here is a great start! I hope your stay in San Diego improves!
posted by artlung at 7:20 AM on September 23, 2021 [4 favorites]

Your connection to Yokohama prompts me to mention - when I go to Mitsua they have a free paper publication in Japanese focused on local San Diego/SoCal stuff that might be of interest and useful to you if you're looking for (expats? Yokohamans? people who love Japan?).

The whole Convoy area is heavily populated with Asian culture, including several shops, groceries, restaurants (OMG so many ramen choices!). I'll also mention we have a Book Off which is great all around.

Also: Japanese Friendship Garden.

One of my favorite things as a teen/twentysomething (and less now, but when I have a toy robot I want to buy I definitely hit the road for it) was a day trip (driving) to Little Tokyo in L.A., you could get there on the train + cars/buses/etc.
posted by artlung at 7:41 AM on September 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, a few years back I made this list of 75 things to eat in San Diego and I'd say at least 75% of them are still around.
And PS I also used to live in Japan, not too far from Yokohama, in Machida!
posted by exceptinsects at 10:10 AM on September 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

The streets smelling like human urine
San Diego and California, more generally, is in the grip of an epic drought. A couple years ago, residents and cities were asked to take major steps on water-saving measures, including cutting back on lawn/landscape watering and street washing. That is why the parks are bone-dry and the streets smell awful. In fact, cutbacks in street/sidewalk cleaning directly contributed to an outbreak of hepatitis amongst the unhoused a couple of years ago.

The unhoused
No excuses, the situation is deplorable. The county and its cities are failing these people in a big way, and the need is enormous. Downtown San Diego has a temperate climate and offers (marginally) more services than surrounding areas, which may cause people to congregate there.

The cold ocean and brown parks
The water is warmest around late summer, but give it a year and your kid will reach the age at which the cold water is suddenly no barrier to spending all day at the beach. Meanwhile, get a canopy and a sand-shedding blanket and check out the beaches north of Del Mar, especially in the off-season (September thru May); they tend to be less crowded.

The brownness of the region is a sensory shock if you come from wetter climes, but you get used to it eventually. The only time it’s green in San Diego is November thru March, when the area gets most of its rain.

Expensive restaurants
Highly suggest trying happy hour for better pricing and ambiance. Also, try the northerly beach towns like Solana Beach, Encinitas and Carlsbad for interesting outdoor dining.

Places to explore
The Quail botanical garden, or the gardens at the Self Realization Fellowship (Swamis), both in Encinitas. Stroll Encintas’ main drag along the 101 now, before it finishes gentrifying.

The campus of UCSD is nice and much of it is open to the public. Visit the glider port and maybe the Scripps Aquarium while you’re there.

Joshua Tree Park, a couple hours’ drive north and east of SD, is fantastic except during peak heat season (that’s mid-June through September), though you might not want to camp there in winter as nights are quite cold. The Palm Springs Tramway to the top of Mt. San Jacinto is great anytime but especially in winter. You just need to hike a half mile from the tram’s top to shake the crowds, and if you’re burly you can summit the 10,800 ft mountain as a day trip. Check the Long Valley Webcam at the ranger station to monitor snow conditions. If you’re worried about Covid, maybe sleep on this one until after your child reaches vaccination eligibility, or wait for case counts to drop and wear masks on the tram.

Daly Ranch, Mt. Palomar, and Cuyamaca Peak for hiking; all are less-crowded and interesting anytime except July-September when it’s beastly hot inland.

There’s a walk through a slot canyon in Solana Beach that is honestly pretty neat; a day trip could start at the beach, stroll the 101 or the arts district (that’s knickknacks and architecture, not street art, though), hike the canyon, and then grab a craft beer and a slice at Pizza Port.

In June and early July, seriously consider visiting the Eastern Sierras along the 395, and use the towns of Lone Pine, Bishop or Mammoth Lakes as a home base for jaw-dropping day hikes.

All the above are worth multiple repeat visits.
posted by disentir at 2:00 PM on September 23, 2021 [5 favorites]

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