No San Diego trip is complete without a visit to the vibrant and quirky city of North Park. Once a somewhat overlooked residential neighborhood, this eclectic community has grown exponentially in popularity. If you’re looking for San Diego tours that are fun for the whole group, North Park is the place to be. Its lively streets have become a hipster hotspot for dining, trendy cocktail spots, arts, shopping, entertainment, and nightlife. From activities like art walks to bar crawls, in this neighborhood, there is always something to do:
#1 – Explore North Park’s Wild Art Scene
North Park is a spot that just pulses with great art. Its ever-increasing array of art galleries, studios, performing arts venues, shows, street art, wall art, and architecture are great reasons to visit the eclectic neighborhood. North Park Main Street sponsors many of the art-based forums and festivities and draws in huge crowds from all over the city of San Diego. In all honesty, you can enjoy the beauty without even having to walk inside of an exhibition. With art everywhere, North Park’s streets are like an outdoor gallery.
#2 – Watch Live Entertainment
Symbolic of the community’s burgeoning art scene is its performing arts jewel, Observatory North Park, once known as the Birch North Park Theater and converted into an intimate, red velvet-seat, live theater and concert venue in 2005. The Observatory venues hundreds of concerts, shows, private parties and events a year. It also neighbors the popular West Coast Tavern, where you can get cocktails at the bar before or after your show.
The Observatory isn’t the only place to enjoy entertainment. With the many dive bars in North Park (including Whistle Stop, Live Wire, Red Fox Lounge, and Bar Pink) and upscale bars (such as Splash Wine Bar and Air Conditioned Lounge), the North Park Theater (home to San Diego Lyric Opera), local music and lounging at Lestats Coffee House, spoken word at Queen Bee’s, and Wine Wednesdays at Caffe Calabria, no matter what your taste, there’s likely a place to fit your style and have a great time.
#3 – Shop Local at a North Park Specialty Store
In North Park, you’ll find drugstores, grocery stores, and banks, but you’ll also find some interesting service stores and unique retail establishments like George’s Camera. In fact, North Park’s lineup of shopping stores and boutiques is just as eclectic and diverse as the neighborhood itself. From unique home decor to vintage costumes, to rare records, to dog photographers, just about everything you need (and don’t need) is in North Park.
Many people love that the neighborhood consists of small businesses, and shopping local, not only supports small business owners, but benefits the community at large, assures friendly, personalized service, and gives both its visitors and the locals a sense of community.
#4 – Shop Fresh at North Park Thursday Market
Photo: San Diego Dining Dish
Another way North Park gives the community an opportunity to shop local is it’s very popular Thursday Market. This farmer’s market takes place rain or shine and is a family-friendly, community-focused event. Farmers and vendors fill more than 90 tents at this market, selling locally grown produce, artisan grocery items, prepared food, and hand-crafted jewelry.
Popular local brands, such as Bitchin’ Sauce, GreenFix Organic smoothies, Witts Pickles, Maya’s cookies, Gourmet Tamales, and Sabor Piri Piri’s tastes of Africa are just a few reasons why the locals find their way to this market every week. Folks also show up for the SD Vintage Flea section, home crafters, live music, games, and friendly people!
#5 – Eat and Drink and Drink and Eat
The epicenter of North Park is the intersection of University Avenue and 30th Street, which holds claim to being “the best beer neighborhood in the nation.” If you’re in the mood for a cold one, there are more venues than ever where you can quench your thirst. Although the actual production of beer in San Diego is spread from the coast to the mountains, there is no location in town with more enthusiasm or a higher density of craft beer-centric establishments with unique beer flavors than the eclectic North Park neighborhood.
The hipsters in this neighborhood know their beer, but they also know their food, and they also know their coffee. The neighborhood houses some of the most unique eateries and restaurants, such as premium sushi, vegetarian and vegan cafes, gourmet coffee shops, amazing brunch spots, delectable desserts, and more, all within walking distance of one another, and is a foodie’s dream. For great comfort food in a hip atmosphere, check out West Coast Tavern or Urban Solace. For a fun brunch with Mimosas and Bloody Marys, there’s Breakfast Republic, The Mission North Park, and Atypical Waffle Company. There is just so much to choose from! For more ideas on what to drink in North Park, check out our North Park Brewery Guide.