Downtown San Diego is a wonderful place to live, work, dine, shop, and play. It’s also easy to navigate and combines 19th Century elegance with modern upscale action. You can bike, head to nearby beaches, and catch the San Diego Symphony in action.
For winter 2020, the San Diego Symphony has moved its performances to digital channels. You can enjoy the symphony’s virtual performances on its Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube accounts.
In recent years, because of rising residential and commercial developments, many California residents have moved to San Diego’s downtown neighborhoods.
“Exciting,” “laid-back,” “fun,” and “friendly” are some of the adjectives used to describe Downtown San Diego.
Below, we take you on a whistle-stop tour and highlight the features that make Downtown San Diego a vacationer’s hotspot.
The Six Neighborhoods
Essentially, Downtown San Diego is made up of six neighborhoods. Little Italy, Columbia, and Marina District are on the waterfront. In central Downtown, we have Cortez Hill, Core (which is the eastern extension of Columbia), and the Gaslamp Quarter, with East Village marking the eastern edge.
Each neighborhood has its own unique features, and each is seamlessly connected to the others. The accessibility of attractions makes Downtown a tourist haven.
A number of hi-tech employers, such as Procore, Reflexion, Mitek, and Goformz are based in the Downtown region. Living in one neighborhood and working in another is possible since the average commute time is only about 20 minutes.
Little Italy is a trendy neighborhood with a 10,000-square-foot gathering point named Piazza Della Famiglia, a European-style piazza. At one time, it was the largest Italian community in the country.
Meanwhile, Core-Columbia has luxurious waterfront properties and some of the best restaurants in the entire city. In comparison, Marina District is more sedate and tranquil.
All three have beautiful waterfront views.
Fourth on our list is Cortez Hill, the highest point in Downtown San Diego. It offers breathtaking panoramic views of San Diego Bay and nearby Balboa Park.
Next, the Gaslamp Quarter is San Diego’s convention center and is a premier entertainment spot, with a variety of nightclubs, restaurants, bars, and retail shops. Last, but not least, East Village is the largest neighborhood and is Downtown San Diego’s sports center.
Getting Around Downtown San Diego
Before we explore entertainment, dining, and retail options, let’s take a look at Downtown San Diego’s level of accessibility. To do this, we refer to Walk Score, which designates any neighborhood that attains a score of 90 points as “a walker’s paradise.”
Based on Walk Score, Cortez Hill gets a 95. East Village hits 98. Meanwhile, Marina District scores 96 for walking and an impressive 87 for biking, jostling for the #1 spot with Core-Columbia, which scores 97 for walking and 86 for biking.
If walking isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll want to try public transportation. All buses, trolleys, and trains stop in Downtown San Diego. There’s also adequate parking, so getting to a transportation stop is easy.
Beaches and Waterfronts in Downtown San Diego
Some of our nation’s finest beaches are within easy reach of Downtown San Diego. Walk, bike, surf, swim, or just laze in the sun: you’ll wash away your cares at these premier beaches.
At the top of our list is Coronado Beach, a favorite spot for families. It lies across a spectacular road bridge and is located just 13 minutes from Downtown. If you’re the adventurous sort, consider a kayak tour that lets you see breathtaking sights such as the USS Midway Museum, Naval Station Island, and the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
Mission Beach is also just a 13-minute drive from Downtown and is great for surfing, sunbathing, and playing beach volleyball. And, while you’re at it, don’t forget to visit Belmont Park, San Diego’s top beachfront amusement park. This December, you’ll enjoy 15-foot holiday sculptures and Illuminated Winter Nights, where you’ll race under brilliant lights in the new Go-Kart Track arena.
For three miles of boardwalk, try Pacific Beach, located just 14 minutes from Downtown. It’s very popular with the younger set due to its casual cafes, trendy bars, and chic boutique stores.
Finally, the beaches of Ocean Beach are located just 12 minutes away from Downtown. The most popular are the Santa Monica Avenue Beach, Voltaire Street Beach, Niagara Avenue Beach, and Newport Avenue Beach. If Fido is accompanying you, you won’t want to miss the leash-free Dog Beach.
Restaurants and Coffee Bars in Downtown San Diego
Downtown San Diego offers great dining options, from fine dining to casual menus. We’ll highlight three of our favorites.
First, the award-winning Top of the Market is a premier restaurant offering expansive views of the Coronado Bridge. It serves fresh seafood, provides private dining for special occasions, and offers fantastic waterfront views.
For a West Coast dinner with an Asian touch, try Animae, located just south of Broadway on Columbia’s Pacific Highway.
If you prefer Italian food, you’ll love Biga, a short distance from the Convention Center. The restaurant is famous for its warm, welcoming ambiance and artisanal cuisine. And, if you’re a foodie, you won’t want to miss Little Italy’s “Top Chef Alley,” featuring world-class restaurants such as Uniper & Ivy, Kettner Exchange, and The Crack Shack.
High-quality specialty coffee is also very much a Downtown attraction. From Turkish to traditionally roasted coffee, you’re spoiled for choice here. If you’re a coffee connoisseur, you’ll want to check out Lofty Coffee in little Italy, Coava Coffee Roasters in Horton Plaza, or the Bean Bar in East Village.
Shopping in Downtown San Diego
The Seaport Village waterfront location offers 14 acres of stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues. You’ll find everything from designer boutiques to tobacconists here.
When you arrive, you’ll feel as if you just walked into a harborside scene from 100 years ago. For your dining enjoyment, you have a choice of 13 casual eateries or four fine-dining restaurants.
Close to Embarcadero Park North, you’ll find The Headquarters at Seaport, another fine location for shopping and dining.
Connected by a boardwalk to the Convention Center, it’s easily accessible and a wonderful destination for designer clothes, artisan-crafted merchandise, and bespoke sunglasses.
In the heart of Downtown San Diego, you’ll find the historic Gaslamp Quarter, which offers everything from designer boutique shops to trendy gyms.
As can be seen, Downtown San Diego has it all — Old World charm, a sumptuous dining scene, premier shopping opportunities, and world-class entertainment. If you’re thinking about moving to or heading back to Downtown San Diego, just click here and leave your details. I’ll get right back to you.