A Locals Guide to The Best Things to Do in North Park San Diego
North Park is a vibrant artistic community in San Diego that is known for its hip restaurants, trendy coffee shops, craft breweries, and unique shops. It’s located northeast of Balboa Park and is bordered by University Heights to the north, Hillcrest to the west, Balboa Park to the southwest, and Normal Heights to the southeast. It is extremely centrally located which makes it a popular gathering spot for visitors and locals alike to experience this trendy neighborhood in Southern California. With that, there are endless things to do in North Park San Diego. So buckle up as this local is here to share the best of the best offerings!
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Attend a Concert at The Observatory North Park
The Observatory North Park is a live music venue in the heart of the neighborhood on University Avenue. Originally opened in 1939, the retro vibes are still intact today. They have concerts frequently as well as comedy shows. The theatre is intimate so it’s a great way to see some of your favorite bands and or comedians because you get an up-close personal vibe in this theatre. They also serve cocktails and light bites.
Spend the Evening at The Lafayette Hotel
The Lafayette Hotel in San Diego stands as a historic landmark, renowned for its classic California style and rich history. Located in the vibrant North Park neighborhood, this iconic hotel has been a fixture since 1946, offering guests a blend of retro charm and modern amenities.
The Hotel recently went through a major glow-up to the tune of a 26-million-dollar renovation. It was completed in the summer of 2023. It is giving me major Grand Budapest vibes (as all the employees wear purple uniforms that look JUST like the movie) mixed with maximalism which as we all know, Consortium Holdings (the famous San Diego hospitality company) does so well.
There are a few different spots to check out throughout the hotel:
- The Lobby Bar
- The Pool Bar
- Beginners Diner (open 24 hours)
- Quixote Mexican Restaurant
- The Gutter (a full-on bowling alley)
I highly recommend booking a room to stay the night to experience this beautiful hotel with its central location. Finally, in the warmer months, you can rent a pool chair for the day but it can cost you up to $80 for the chair.
Indulge in Tacos at Lucha Libre
Now most people will say City Tacos are the best tacos in North Park. However, I may be biased because I firmly believe that Lucha Libre holds that title. This San Diego icon is known for its delicious tacos (hello French fry taco) and over-the-top Lucha Libre-inspired decor. They do get quite busy on the weekends but don’t let that deter you from dining at this spot!
Best Coffee Shops in North Park
There is no shortage of great coffee shops in the North Park Neighborhood. Some are San Diego staples and others are trendy new up-and-comers. Here is a list of the shops to add to your list:
- Dark Horse Coffee
- James Coffee Co
- Communal Coffee (two locations)
- Lovesong Coffee
- Saigon Coffee
- Cafe Madeline
- Holsem Coffee
- Holy Matcha (not coffee but you get it)
- Jeni’s Ice Cream for gourmet ice cream
Dine at a Trendy Restaurant
There is no shortage of trendy restaurants in North Park. It is a culinary gem with a diverse array of restaurants catering to every palate, a foodie paradise some would say. Luckily I’ve been able to dine at a few so here are my top recommended spots to add to your list:
- Dunedin for New Zealand comfort food
- URBN for the best mashed potato pizza TRUST
- Underbelly for top-notch ramen
- The Smoking Goat
- Tribute Pizza
- One Door North
- Swamis Cafe for a casual brunch/lunch
- Cafe 21 for brunch
These restaurants, along with many others in North Park, contribute to the neighborhood’s reputation as a culinary destination where food lovers can indulge in a wide range of culinary delights.
Shop for Books at Verbatim Bookstore
One of the most unique bookstores in San Diego goes to Verbatim. Located on 30th Street in the heart of North Park, Verbatim is known for its eclectic range of gently-loved and antiquarian books. Along with that, the bookstore has the prettiest book wall for all my bookworms out there. Finally, they offer a service so you can sell your used books here to trade in for some new ones.
Visit a Brewery or Trendy Bar
North Park, San Diego, is a vibrant neighborhood known for its craft beer scene, boasting some of the city’s best breweries. One standout is North Park Beer Co., a trendy spot offering a diverse selection of brews, from hoppy IPAs to rich stouts, all brewed on-site. Their spacious tasting room provides a welcoming atmosphere to enjoy a pint with friends or family.
Another must-visit is Modern Times Flavordome, known for its innovative beers and quirky, retro-inspired decor. Meanwhile, Belching Beaver Brewery is famous for its creative approach to brewing, with a focus on experimental flavors like peanut butter stout and mango IPA. These breweries, among others in North Park, contribute to the neighborhood’s reputation as a haven for beer enthusiasts seeking quality and variety in every pint.
Finally, if beer isn’t your thing then consider visiting Seven Grand, a whiskey bar with a speakeasy in the back. Lastly, Part-Time Lover is new on the scene and is modeled after a Japanese listening bar serving up great cocktails and tunes.
Take Photos at the “Greetings from San Diego” Mural
The “Greetings from San Diego” mural in North Park is a vibrant and iconic piece of public art that captures the essence of San Diego’s culture and landmarks. The mural is designed as a postcard with large, bold letters spelling out “Greetings from San Diego,” reminiscent of vintage postcards that tourists would send home. Each letter is filled with images and scenes that represent different aspects of San Diego. Such as the beach, palm trees, the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, and the city skyline. The mural is a recognizable symbol of the city’s artistic spirit and diverse attractions. Finally, the address is 4225 30th Street, and is located in an alleyway behind Jersey Mikes.
North Park has a diverse range of local stores that cater to various interests. Its local stores embody the neighborhood’s dynamic spirit. For art enthusiasts, Art on 30th stands out as a haven for local artists and art lovers alike, offering a curated selection of unique pieces. Meanwhile, Pigment is a must-visit for those seeking eclectic home decor, stationery, and gifts, with its trendy and colorful offerings. For vintage lovers, check out day-to-day vintage and hunt and gather. Finally, you can’t miss Artlexia. A Mexican gift shop delivering handmade jewelry, art & more, plus weekly craft classes.
In conclusion, North Park, San Diego, offers a diverse array of activities that cater to a wide range of interests. Whether you’re a foodie exploring the neighborhood’s culinary delights, an art enthusiast discovering local galleries and murals, a nature lover enjoying the green spaces, or a shopper seeking unique finds in the local stores, North Park has something for everyone. Thank you for reading the “18 Best Things to Do in North Park San Diego”. Don’t miss more of my San Diego Guides!