In the past, San Diego has been accused by writers of being a bit of a cultural wasteland, but these folks obviously haven’t met North Park, the edgy, eclectic borough recently named one of America’s “Hippest” Neighbourhoods of 2013 by Forbes. Take a look at our neighbourhood guide to San Diego for the best things to do in North Park.
The culturally diverse area northeast of downtown is home to great shopping, restaurants, bars and art galleries and deserves special mention in any guide to San Diego. For happy hour on steroids head to 30th on 30th – a monthly festival where all the restaurants on 30th Street offer food and drink specials on the 30th of each month.
San Diegans have a thing for craft beer and North Park is fast becoming a mecca for beer shops and urban breweries. Local boutique beer shop Bottlecraft opened its second San Diego location in North Park earlier this year. The shop stocks a finely curated mix of beers from around the world as well as San Diego. Thorn St. Brewery opened a brewery and tasting room on the edge of North Park in late 2012: the 7-barrel brewhouse features a reclaimed wood bar and specialises in beers using unusual ingredients, like the jalapeno spiked Chile Pale Ale. Renowned nano-brewery Hess recently opened its brand new brewery in North Park. The industrial facility features a tasting room, a sky-bridge and a canning line.
One of North Park’s main arteries, 30th Street, is lined with fantastic restaurants like upscale Urban Solace, located in a renovated French Quarter style building. Dig into innovative twists on comfort food classics such as chicken and buttermilk dumplings and gourmet meatloaf. Down the street, The Smoking Goat’s recently expanded dining room features cosy brick walls and reclaimed wood accents. The fare is French-American fusion and must try items include the duck fat truffle fries and decadent braised prime rib shortribs. On University Street, the casual Carnitas Snack Shack is a meat lover’s dream with most menu items containing locally raised beef or pork. If you have a huge appetite try the whopper Triple Threat Pork Sandwich, which includes pork loin schnitzel, pulled pork and bacon. All seating is on the covered back patio.
North Park is a vibrant arts district featuring many gallery spaces. Ray at Night – San Diego’s largest art walk – takes place on the second Saturday of every month. Visit Cirello for fine and often colourful contemporary art and jewellery. The new Protea Gallery on 30th Street focuses on culturally poignant art from around the world. Art Produce is a glass fronted gallery space designed to accommodate a variety of installations from digital media to sculpture. It’s also connected to Swoon – a tapas style dessert bar.
Shopping options in North Park feature local, independently owned boutiques like Aloha Sunday, a surf-inspired shop devoid of big name brands such as Billabong and Volcom. The boutique sells only handcrafted pieces like Peruvian coastline inspired Olasul board shorts and American made Thorogood leather boots. Wannabe surfers are welcome!
If you’d like to stay in North Park, the historic Lafayette Hotel is a great option. A former hangout for Hollywood elites during the 40s and 50s, the grand colonial style hotel recently went though extensive renovations and rooms now feature breezy beach bungalow style décor as well as flat screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. The property also has a swanky restaurant and a nearly Olympic size swimming pool.
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Have you spent time in San Diego's North Park neighbourhood? Where do you like to go when you’re in town?
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About the author: CaseyCasey Chiotti
Casey Chiotti has a passion for food and travel. She regularly crosses the globe to experience a destination restaurant and sniffs out bakeries like a bloodhound. A freelance food and travel writer, her work has appeared in Sunset, San Diego Magazine, and on thepointsguy.com. Casey lives with her husband in San Diego and shares her travel musings on her own website Travelproper.com.