Stay Classy San Diego
December 27, 2007 2:30 AM   Subscribe

I am taking a week long trip to San Diego for a week. Help me make the most of it.

Where/What are the best....
Thrift Stores
Record Stores
Shopping Districts
Day Trips
Must Sees ????

I am 22, male, have my car, don't mind driving, and want to live it up for a week.

There is no plan for this trip. Other than visiting OB and the Gaslamp Quarter, my brothers and I are going to wing it for a week. We are staying in La Jolla if that makes any difference.

Any recommendations at all are be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
posted by clearly to Travel & Transportation around San Diego, CA (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Sorry, 'for a week' is redundant.
posted by clearly at 2:33 AM on December 27, 2007

Response by poster: All 3 times.
posted by clearly at 2:34 AM on December 27, 2007

Isn't San Diego famous for it's zoo...? And you'll probably have the whole place to yourself at the moment...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:17 AM on December 27, 2007

Since you're in La Jolla already, why not go for a walk at the Torrey Pines State Reserve?

If you want to "stay classy", you can't find anywhere classier than the Hotel Del Coronado.
posted by SPrintF at 4:50 AM on December 27, 2007

I'll second the Hotel Del - if you're not staying there, DEFINITELY do their Sunday brunch.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:37 AM on December 27, 2007

Skip the trip to Tijuana. It's really pretty disappointing unless you have a specific reason to be there.

Investigate what's going on in Balboa Park. If there's a festival or an event, then you should go to it. For central San Diegans, Balboa is our front yard and we hang out there.

I'll ask Mr 26.2 about record stores. There's a great used media store in Encinitas, but I need to check on name. I think it's Lou's Records. A trip to Swami's for breakfast is pretty much de rigeur (and tasty!) when passing through Encinitas.
posted by 26.2 at 7:16 AM on December 27, 2007

Second Lou's in Encinitas. Comparable (in a smaller scale) to Amoeba in SF, Berkeley or LA. If you like music, bring some cash. Lou's has tons of bootlegs, boxsets and hard to find music.

The trip to Tijuana: the only reason that I would skip it is if there are long lines returning to the US. You don't have to drive in, but can park and walk across the border. Getting back in, obviously, requires a valid ID (don't ask me if they accept a US driver's license or not as valid ID--I know that the used to--but who knows anymore) and patience. The line to cross back into the US can be up to a few hours long.

Tijuana had (I believe it still has) a Jai Alai court. Pretty cool if it is in season and they are playing. I have seen a few matches. Always bet on the fat guy. They also have a bullfighting ring. Again, this is seasonal, but if you are into it, it is available.

Cuban cigars (not bs fake ones) can be found in Tijuana as well. There is a big department store on the far end of the Avenida Revolucion (the main strip) that sells them individually, or by the box. Know that the customs agent can seize them if they find them and level a fine. Smoke them there.

The bars and trinket shops are plentiful in TJ. Get a bucket of beers, unopened, and have them brought to your table. The drinks/beers can be watered down in TJ so, opening your own beer ensures you are getting your beer.

If you want to have a cool road trip, drive southeast and cross the border in Tecate. Not a whole lot happening in Tecate but it is an old Mexican town. The town square is quaint. See if there is a brewery tour going on. There are also wineries in the area that have tastings. Some pretty old vines too.

I used to live in TJ, so I know a bit more about the place.

You may want to take a spin into LA as you are already pretty close (being in La Jolla). The Getty Museum is great. Hollywood is interesting. Bel Air and Beverley Hills can be cool if you haven't been.
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:33 AM on December 27, 2007

Definitely the zoo, wild animal park, and Balboa Park (even if there's nothing explicit going on). PB has a good selection of thrift stores, as well as a ton of bars. Everything is pretty much on Garnet.

I'm a fan of Tiny's in OB, but if you want to hit a bunch of bars in one night, you'll want to be on Newport Ave, so you can walk.

SignOnSanDiego has a pretty good entertainment/dining section.

I like the Shouthouse downtown -- it's dueling piano bar.
posted by natabat at 7:38 AM on December 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Balboa Park is a must - full of life, interesting faces all over the place, fountains, and, as I recall, a great view of Lindbergh Airport with airplanes making a seemingly impossible dip from the hillside onto a short landing strip. Drive the backroads, which I love to do, through the rolling citrus groves and Spanish style estates in Escondido. Curl around to Miramar and take in views of military fighter jets on training missions overhead. Walk the Mission Beach area for a view of the laid-back California lifestyle, with young people taking in the sun, skateboarding and pedaling art on the walkways. And get to the Gaslamp Quarter for a great meal in one of the many restaurants there. Sorry if I sound like the SD Tourist Board, but I do love that part of the country. Enjoy.
posted by terrier319 at 7:54 AM on December 27, 2007

I love eating at the Point Loma Seafood Market. Get the fish taquitos!
posted by mdiskin at 8:07 AM on December 27, 2007

- Have some fish tacos.
- The sun set from La Jolla or OB this time of year can be freakin incredible.
- Get some food in Old Town. The Old Town Cafe has a line for a reason. It won't blow you away or anything, but shouldn't be missed. Lot's of other great Mexican food in the area as well. Spicy Mexican Cafe is my favorite.
- Pick up the SD Reader and check for local events. It's much better for cool events than SignOnSanDiego. They are also on-line.
- The photo tours at the Wild Animal Park are pricey but really fun. Sign up very early.
- My recommendation for Point Loma Seafood - Get there right at 11, and have the scallop sandwich.
- For some "cut above" Mexican food, try El agave.
- You can easily spend all day in Balboa Park. It's one of the best things about San Diego in my humble opinion. The museums are small, but very numerous. And just wandering around is fun. If you go on Sunday there is a free organ concert at 2pm. Food at the Prado restaurant is very good. Be sure to sit on the patio.
posted by Ragma at 8:50 AM on December 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

1. Try Lestat's coffee shop one evening. You might want to catch the band that's playing in the venue adjacent... it's small and intimate and good if "indie rock" is your thing (it isn't mine... but I do like the vibe of the coffee shop and the fact that it is 24 hours.)

2. The North Park area has some interesting spots... try Claire de Lune and Heaven Sent Desserts.

3. Also try Extraordinary Desserts (Exorbitant Desserts) for some inspired creations.

4. Bread and Cie has about as international a clientele as San Deigo manages.... excellent bread and food.

5. Balboa Park has several museums and points of interest.

6. There is parasailing / hang-gliding / hot-air ballooning available in the SD area.

7. There are several interesting record stores in the North Park area.

8. You might find Adams Avenue to be interesting... Lou's record store is awesome for roots music but he also stocks a lot more.

9. If you so feel like it... head east one day and drive out to the desert. Salton Sea can be very interesting. Also, the dunes at Algodones.

Have fun!
posted by hellhammer at 8:50 AM on December 27, 2007

Thriftish/hipstery clothing stores can be found in Hillcrest (particularly 5th Ave., for a stretch of about two blocks south of University, and the immediate area around there) as well as Pacific Beach (centered around Garnet Ave., but really all over the place). BONUS: Hillcrest is right by Balboa Park, where you need to go, and PB is right by La Jolla, where you are staying.

Nthing the zoo, Hotel Del, Torrey Pines State Reserve.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:00 AM on December 27, 2007

On Tijuana: pretty soon, I don't know if it starts on January 1 or not, they'll start requiring you to have a passport for re-entry into the US. Something to keep in mind if you plan on going down there. If you do go, definitely go for the daytime-type stuff; the nightlife is really just for college kids who can't get into a real bar.

As for bars on this side of the border, the recommendations will kind of depend on what kind of bar you like. Downtown/Gaslamp is almost all trendy clubs and discos, generally popular with yuppie-type people in their late 20s and early 30s, as well as tourists. It might be something to check out for one night just to see it, and then go back if that's your thing. Garnet Avenue in PB has tons of bars and is where all the college kids and people who've just moved here after graduating college go; generally an early/mid-20s crowd. The bars there are generally okay, but they're basically giant meat-markets. I don't think I've gone there on a regular basis in more than 7 years. It's fairly convenient to you if you're staying in La Jolla, though. OB is kind of like our version of Venice Beach--an old -hippie-ish beach town. The bars on Newport are generally pretty divey, with the exception of the Sunshine Brewing Company, which seems more like it belongs in PB. I never thought I'd see someone else on here that was a fan of Tiny's--it's a good little bar that's expanded quite a bit in the last few years, and has a decent food menu and pool tables. They only have beer and wine though. Personally, my favorite place is the Aero Club in Middletown--kind of divey, with pool tables, a nice atmosphere, and one of the better jukeboxes in town. There are other places around too, like the Whistle Stop, Livewire, Scolari's Office, and Lancers, but if you want to go bar-hopping and hit more than one place in a night your best bets will be Gaslamp, OB, and PB. Sadly, La Jolla just doesn't have much of a nightlife so you're going to have to get out a bit.

I used to go to Lou's records all the time, but they've fallen on hard times lately and don't have quite the selection that they used to, mostly thanks to people buying music online. You can still find some unusual stuff there, but they've reduced their inventory by at least one third from what it was even three years ago. Otherwise, there's Taang records in Hillcrest on 5th Ave, which is also a bit of a record label (they release some Spacemen 3 recordings), Off the Record in North Park on University near 30th, and M-Theory in Mission Hills on Washington. Those places are all pretty small, though. There's a bunch of thrift stores in the area around Off the Record, but I don't know if those are the kind you're looking for--they're mostly just cheap stuff, not really great places for "vintage" clothing, although you may find something. The area around Taang records in Hillcrest is probably our best shopping district, with used clothing store across the street and right next door. Outside of that and some other areas you're mostly looking at chain stores and malls. If you're looking for super high-class shopping, you're staying in the right area--downtown La Jolla (basically Girard St.) is hard to beat. The art museum can be good too, depending on what exhibitions they have.

zerobyproxy mentions LA being somewhat closer since you're staying in La Jolla, but I live in center city, and La Jolla's less than 10 miles from me, so if you're thinking of going to the Getty Center or anywhere in the northern basin, you're chopping ten minutes of a 2.5 hour drive (on a really good day). Whoop-de-doo.
posted by LionIndex at 9:02 AM on December 27, 2007

In Balboa park, Prado's has an excellent happy hour starting at 4pm, appetizers and drinks at a much more reasonable price than normal. It's actually good food, as opposed to the usual happy hour crap.

I second "Bread and Cie," especially for breakfast. Of course, I think hot, fresh bread & jam makes an excellent breakfast.

I think Sea World is better than the zoo for a first time visit, most everyone has seen bears and apes by the time they're 22 but not everyone has seen a dolphin, killer whale or sea lion. Sea World also does more to appeal to the tourist with daily shows and such that are designed to be entertaining.

TJ can be safely skipped, it's become a tourist trap and the line back to the states is horrible (due to people not taking their passports and trying to get back in with just a driver's license or no id at all). If you do want to see Mexico, it's best to first drive out into the desert and then go south. It's still a line to get back to the States, but I feel that the overall experience is more positive.

The Adams avenue area has a lot of great stuff, I second the recommendation. (Lestat's, mentioned above, is on Adams).
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 9:03 AM on December 27, 2007

Prado's link. Meant to post.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 9:05 AM on December 27, 2007

I think Sea World is better than the zoo for a first time visit, most everyone has seen bears and apes by the time they're 22 but not everyone has seen a dolphin, killer whale or sea lion. Sea World also does more to appeal to the tourist with daily shows and such that are designed to be entertaining.

Granted, I'm a native, but I really, really have to disagree with this. I've gone to Sea World for free and felt like I was cheated. The whole park has no other motive besides profit, a concept that manifests itself by having basically nothing other than the shows and gift shops. Compared to the zoo, there's practically no exhibits and no pedagogical intent to anything, and it's ridiculously expensive for all of that.
posted by LionIndex at 9:14 AM on December 27, 2007

Granted, I'm a native, but I really, really have to disagree with this. I've gone to Sea World for free and felt like I was cheated. The whole park has no other motive besides profit, a concept that manifests itself by having basically nothing other than the shows and gift shops. Compared to the zoo, there's practically no exhibits and no pedagogical intent to anything, and it's ridiculously expensive for all of that.

I haven't been to Sea World since I was... eight? Whenever the Shark Encounter thing was new. I don't really miss it, but every time I go back home to San Diego I have to see the zoo again.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:46 AM on December 27, 2007

In order of preference I say: Wild Animal Park, San Diego Zoo and then Sea World as a distant, distant third. It's a personal preference thing obliviously, so YMMV. The Wild Animal Park animals seem to be in the most acceptable environment so I like it the best. I don't think there are any "shows" there, but it's cool. Go in the morning or early evening to see the animals at their most active.

Here are some season ideas - these really depend on the time of year of your visit.
Cinema Under the Stars. People from cool weather cities always find it fun. You can go out for drinks in Hillcrest afterwards.
• Whale watching (on a boat or off the coastline by the Point Loma lighthouse).
posted by 26.2 at 9:48 AM on December 27, 2007

The Wild Animal Park animals seem to be in the most acceptable environment so I like it the best. I don't think there are any "shows" there, but it's cool.

There's at least a bird show and an elephant show, but there's a lot more going on than just those. Nonetheless, for me, the bird show is the best animal park show in town.
posted by LionIndex at 9:50 AM on December 27, 2007

the last time i was there, i went kyaking. it was a blast.
posted by lester at 9:53 AM on December 27, 2007

Get some carne asada french fries from a taco stand. Especially good after a night partying.
posted by zabuni at 10:01 AM on December 27, 2007

Thirsty Moon Records, Record City, Off the Record and M-Theory in central SD. Lou's is further north (as mentioned), in Encinitas. However, if you've never been to Amoeba, you should just drive to LA and record shop to your heart's content. SD record stores are all teeny tiny in comparison.

If you like beer, I'd recommend Hamilton's, in South Park. I'm not really going to throw other bar recommendations out because if you plan to visit OB and the Gaslamp, you probably wouldn't like any of the dive-y bars I go to. Shopping/walking areas that I like include North Park, South Park, Hillcrest, Mission Hills -- basically all of central San Diego. All of those record stores are in these neighborhoods too, and lots of cute little restaurants and bars, as well as all the thrift shops and second hand clothing places.

The Cohn Restaurant group has a number of classy, delicious restaurants (included the Prado in Balboa Park), but I particularly love Mr. Tiki's Mai Tai Lounge. That's in the heart of the Gaslamp, so there's also a lot of shopping around and bars and whatnot, so you could definitely make an afternoon/evening out of shopping, dinner, and drinks.

You shouldn't skip Balboa Park and the zoo. They're really the best part of San Diego, by far. Also, I'm 23 and a San Diego native with entirely too much time on my hands, so send me an email if you want a tour guide while you're here. :)
posted by booknerd at 11:09 AM on December 27, 2007

No, no, no, avoid the Cohn restaurants unless you like plastic, overpriced food. (Sorry booknerd, but really!) I guess the happy hour at the Prado is okay, more for the atmosphere than the food.

Check out Mmm-Yoso for great recommendations of amazing ethnic cuisine, or if you scroll down here there are some great places on the sidebar of that page that are a bit fancier.
posted by exceptinsects at 12:08 PM on December 27, 2007

For the record, I've never had a bad meal at any of the Cohn restaurants. They aren't the pinnacle of great gourmet cuisine in San Diego, but they're certainly worth the money, and worth trying.
posted by Ragma at 1:32 PM on December 27, 2007

I'm really not a fan of the Cohn restaurants either - I had a deeply mediocre meal at the Prado. La Jolla & the Gaslamp, in my opinion, are overpriced. I recommend:
- The Linkery in North Park (yummy handmade sausages)
- Jyoti-Bihanga in Normal Heights is a weird cult vegetarian place that has amazing food & yummy chocolate milkshakes
- Crest Cafe in Hillcrest for downhome style cooking & burgers.
- Mama Testa's in Hillcrest for Mexican

For entertainment, San Diego City Beat has good music listings. The zoo/wild animal park are always fun, and the baby panda has just started being displayed at the zoo. If you want to see whales, skip Sea World and go on a whale watch - the grey whale migration has just started. (You can also watch for the spouts at sunset from the cliffs in La Jolla or Point Loma).
posted by ilyanassa at 6:13 PM on December 27, 2007

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