Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions from visitors and recent transplants about San Diego—where to eat, what to see, where to go outdoors. And I must say, I’m honored. In the mere 2.5 years I’ve lived here, my day job as a food and travel magazine writer has forced me to get a firm handle on this city in a short amount of time, and now I can confidently recommend wonderful parks to visit, restaurants to try, and shops to peruse through.
So I wanted to launch a series of San Diego guides that pay homage to the never-ending joy I get out of giving people recommendations. Here, the first of five guides for how to spend 24 hours in San Diego. (I know what it’s like to zip around this city in one day, so I was very realistic with how many things to do during those non-dormant 24 hours. At the end of each post, I’ll offer more options for the ambitious tourist.)
If you love mid-century design, art museums, Instagram-worthy cacti, and the like, you’re in luck. Today, I’m tipping my tour guide hat to the Design Lover.
Take a look:
Breakfast at Juice Saves/Coffee & Tea Collective: Coffee or pressed juice? At this hybrid East Village spot, you don’t have to choose. On one side is the Third Wave-worshipping Coffee & Tea, and on the other—separated by a sleek and slender wooden high table—is Juice Saves, a trendy juice, smoothie, and acai bowl cafe with funky drink names like, “Aloe Vera Wang” and “Grow a Pear.” The design is industrial, heavy metal, and hipster all at once. It’s also where the cool kids hang. (Bottom photo by Derrick Tran)
Shopping at Pigment, Geographie, and Nok Nok Living: Once the clock strikes 11 a.m., you can enter San Diego’s design temple, better known as Pigment in the happening ‘hood of North Park. This home decor shop, which I included in my Best San Diego Home + Gift Boutiques post, has a well-organized selection of kitchenware, jewelry, stationery, and more. To flex those design muscles, make your own succulent arrangement at their plant station, which is stocked with planters, colored sand, cacti, and more. A few blocks away is Geographie, a relatively new boutique with paper products, beautiful cutting boards, leather goods, and more, much of which is locally made. (Like Pigment, Geographie has a ridiculously cute shop dog.) As long as it’s a Tuesday-Saturday, you can then drive or Uber it to the nearby neighborhood of Golden Hill, where you’ll find vintage mid-century furniture designs at Nok Nok Living. Saarinen, Danish Modern, Herman Miller—the gang’s all here. (Photo via)
Lunch at Cucina Urbana: You’ll be thankful you had that light breakfast once you see the lunch menu (served Tuesdays through Fridays; Saturdays at their Del Mar sister restaurant) at the beautiful Cucina Urbana, located in Bankers Hill. Housemade pastas (gluten-free available!), pizzas, and paninis are ripe for the taking, but my favorite is the vasi platter. Imagine a serving of excellent bread with mini mason jar accompaniments, like burrata with roasted garlic. Developed by London-born restauranteur Tracy Borkum, Cucina shows off her love of haute design. The Cucina space is huge and gorgeous, or if you have extra time to make the trek north (25-30 minutes) to Del Mar’s Cucina Enoteca, the latter is even more stunning. (Photo by Singler Photography)
Museums and more in Balboa Park: Time to walk off the carbo lunch. Fortunately, Balboa Park is a hop, skip, and jump away from Cucina Urbana. Take a stroll down El Prado to the various museums, including the San Diego Museum of Art, Mingei International Museum, and Museum of Photographic Arts. Head further east, cross Park Boulevard, and you’ll find yourself in the wacky and whimsical Desert Garden. The crazy formations were rumored to have inspired late San Diego-based author Dr. Seuss. Pause to choose the best Instagram filter.
Snack at Panama 66: Time to refuel! Back track until you’ve reached the San Diego Museum of Art. Part of the Museum’s Sculpture Garden is the cool brewpub Panama 66, backed by the same team behind Tiger!Tiger! Tavern and Blind Lady Ale House. Beer + art? What could be better? I’ll tell you: Those fries with truffle and shaved Parmesan. (Photo by Found Creative Studio)
Dinner at The Pearl Hotel: Go back to your hotel, friend’s apartment, or Airbnb because it’s time to freshen up for dinner. And at this retro Point Loma hotel-restaurant, you’ll want to look your best. The 23-room boutique property feels like a slice of Palm Springs, and its restaurant, EAT, offers a great mix of indoor-outdoor charm. The menu is comprised of small plates and entrees, and if you’re there on a Wednesday, the hotel hosts a weekly Dive-In Theater, so you can watch a movie during your meal.
Drinks at Starlite: Ready to keep this train going? Then head 4 miles south to Starlite, a lounge that looks nondescript on the outside and positively gleaming on the inside. The den-like space is large without feeling cold, sparkly without feeling Disco, and it was even featured on Design Sponge. Starlite is a unique and classy spot, and one of the few places in San Diego for late-night dining that doesn’t involve take-out taquitos. (Photo via Soma Magazine)
Stay tuned next Thursday for the next 24 Hours guide!