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Where to Shop

in San Diego  


Downtown San Diego

Whether your treat is a hearty lunch or a light midday snack, downtown has a wide variety of eateries to fit the bill. The Gaslamp and downtown in general have a wide variety of shops, boutiques and imports stores to browse on a sunny afternoon. G.I. Joe's army surplus store has lots of cheap threads. Last-minute tickets and entertainment ideas for the evening can be found at the Arts Tix Booth. You'll also find everything from pop stores like Urban Outfitters to thrift stores. Downtown's prime time is evening, with tons of restaurants, clubs and bars to check out. Sure, there are the popular standby restaurants, but there's also cuisine from almost every part of the globe. From upscale Mexican (Candelas) to Brazilian steakhouse-style (Rei do Gado) to tasty Thai (Royal Thai). The nightlife is buzzing with the remodeled E Street Alley and its martini-swilling upstairs neighbor, Red Circle Café. The downstairs locale, mood lighting and great DJs make The Onyx Room a favorite.

Old Town

Old Town has been called the portal of San Diego, because of its proximity to other attractions and the transportation system. The Old Town Transit Center is the neighborhood's portal to San Diego's trolley system, an inexpensive way to get to San Diego's main destinations. Starting at 9 a.m. every day, the Old Town Trolley Tours stop at the city's eight top tourist destinations including the San Diego Zoo, Seaport Village, Coronado Island and Balboa Park. Restaurant choices abound! Old Town Mexican Café serves up righteous huevos rancheros. For a coffee and a pastry, investigate the Living Room, a coffee shop with a relaxed vibe. Take a stroll through one of the area's beautiful parks or museums. Experience some Victorian houses down the hill from Presidio Park where you'll find a gift shop and Mrs. Burton's Tea Room. And Old Town's main drag is lined with touristy shops and restaurants providing the perfect backdrop for a lazy afternoon of window shopping.

Coronado Island

This peninsula is a short ride away from San Diego and is rich in treasures. With more than 200 boutiques, restaurants and galleries lining Orange Avenue, this slice of local shopping heaven is a definite stopover for all shoppers, serious to window. If you need a break from shopping, stop in at the Coronado Museum of History and Art. The museum offers an impressive historical view and also serves as Coronado's official visitor's center. Ferry Landing Marketplace, Coronado's bayside shopping, dining, viewing and cruising stop along First Street, is the place to be every Tuesday afternoon where you will find a farmer's market. Enjoy dinner and live theatre at Lamb's Players Theatre or the Coronado Playhouse. From the upscale and trendy to the casual and fun, Coronado Island's restaurants have got it covered down Silver Strand and off Orange Ave.


Carlsbad Village is the heart of coastal Carlsbad. Along its easy-to-walk streets, you'll find antique shopping, restaurants, and historic structures dating back to the 1880s. After a day of antique shopping or beach living, take a seat outdoors, fireside at the Coyote Bar & Grill. Swirl a margarita as you listen to live music, or head inside for dinner. The Coyote is right next to Neimans seafood restaurant. After dinner click your heels over tapas at Sevilla, or show your Irish pride at Hennessey's or Tom Giblins.


This popular surf town has more than boards and waves. Swami's Cafe is a great, healthy place to start an energy-filled day (for lunch, too). In the sunshine, stroll Quail Botanical Gardens and enjoy the quiet reflection found throughout the Self-Realization Fellowship's gardens. Swing by 101 Artists Colony for a brush with artists on the rise, and step into the new Nofufi Sculpture Gallery next to Moonlight Beach.


Offering some of the best breakfasts in town, taste the lemon-ricotta pancakes at popular Crest Cafe, or the pancakes stuffed with Cap'n Crunch and blackberries at funky Cafe on Park. No Sunday morning is complete without a trip to the Hillcrest Farmers Market. Hillcrest offers ample shopping on Fifth Avenue between University and Robinson, the main Hillcrest drag. Find vintage gowns and accessories at Wear It Again Sam and new CDs and rare vinyl at Off The Record. Someone else's trash is your treasure at resale clothing shops like Buffalo Exchange. For dinner, the famous New York-style Bronx Pizza has 'em lined up awaiting a slice, while '50s-themed Corvette Diner fills with teens and families ready to bebop. After dinner, nightlife options are plentiful. Have a drink at campy Nunu's or local landmark The Brass Rail, or get crazy on the dance floor at gay-friendly Rich's, with a dance night for everyone, or The Flame, a true girl-power hot spot. And if you want to be entertained, cabaret-style restaurant/bar Lips has the drag queens who know how to deliver an evening of fun devoted to drag queens and divas.

La Jolla

Walk along the streets of The Village and you'll stumble upon many small galleries, museums and boutiques. La Jolla's Museum of Contemporary Art is an oceanfront architectural splendor. La Jolla's upscale streets are lined with countless boutiques and department stores where you can spend your hard-earned (or inherited) cash. Check out Neroli Lingerie's fine selection of delicates, and the Shimada Japanese Imports, the place to go for Japanese treasures. New-agers and the curious enjoy the incense-scented Psychic Eye Book Shop. For restaurants, you'll find everything from Roppongi's "Asian fusion" to the healthy House of Natural Foods and Wahoo's Fish Tacos with its surf-culture décor and yummy tacos.

La Mesa

Plan an afternoon tea party by visiting All Things Bright and British, an import shop. The Village Garden Restaurant is an after-church Sunday Mecca. Discover evening gowns, vintage dresses, designer suits, Armani ties and toddler togs at super resale shops for men, women and children. Gypsy Treasure Costumes is a complete shop for professional and amateur theatrical makeup and check out Steel Magnolias' vintage collection.

La Mesa's Christian roots intertwine with the community's emerging interests in Eastern philosophy and alternative therapies. You can find holistic remedies and homeopathic recipes at Healing Therapies, a Center for Healing Arts, or you can center yourself with classes at B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga Center.

Burgers and a beer at Johnny B's are as local as you get. Go caliente with machaca or mole tortas at La Torta's outdoor patio. Or you can visit Centifonti's Chocolates for some savory sweets. La Mesa is also San Diego's best antiquing neighborhoods. Best days to shop are Tuesday through Saturday when all the stores are open. Browse some of the stores that line La Mesa Boulevard. The summer's Thursday Night Car Shows, where people line up to grab a seat on the street-side patio usually enlivens Mexican Mario's de la Mesa. There's not much nightlife in downtown La Mesa, however you can always find something to do.

Little Italy

You'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't kick off your morning with a hot cup of coffee and a pastry. Sample a bold espresso or an authentic caffé macchiato. Two gourmet coffee cafes to check out are Café Zucchero and Caffe Italia, excellent for people watching and catching up on the newspaper. Mimmos Italian Village offers a mouth-watering assortment of subs, pastas and salads and a quiet, shaded patio out back where you can enjoy them. Trattoria Fantastica's menu has many choices for traditional mangia, from rich lasagna topped with béchamel to margherita pizza. For art lovers, pursue through the string of galleries on Kettner Boulevard. There are plenty of opportunities to spend in Little Italy as most of the charming boutiques are open from early afternoon to early evening, so make sure to set aside a chunk of time to shop. If you're still hungry after shopping, stop by Indigo Grill where the world meets in their "fusion cuisine", or choose from the many Italian ristorantes.

North Park

The densely populated North Park neighborhood is one of San Diego's oldest, busiest and most ethnically diverse, home to young, to old and immigrants alike. Restaurants selling delicious, exotic food can be found on every block, and at night, North Park attracts scores of San Diegans with its hip bars and coffeehouses. Every year, the Lions Holiday Parade and Spring Festival draw visitors to the neighborhood, as does the monthly Ray at Night art walk (Second Saturday of every month. 6 - 9 p.m.). Have an espresso at Caffe Calabria, where you can warm up by the fireplace on the rare, chilly afternoon. Nosh on cheap, tasty Middle Eastern food at the "hole in the wall" Mama's Bakery & Lebanese Deli. Discover robust Russian cuisine at the cheerful Pomegranate Russian Georgian Restaurant. At night, head over to Claire de Lune or Hot Monkey Love Café, where aspiring musicians take stage.

Ocean Beach

Ease yourself into a sweet morning with a stop at dog-friendly Jungle Java or surfer-friendly Newbreak Coffee Co. or step into organically fresh Eatopia. After a stroll on the beach and maybe some surfing, try Ranchos Cocina, for a Mexican morning. Check out O.B.'s Antique district, the largest in San Diego. Ocean Beach's antique row on Newport Avenue is a trip back in time. There you will find many dealers selling a range from retro to vintage. Also check out the many metaphysical centers offering yoga and meditation, and their shops offering crystals and herbs to lift your spirits.


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