While visiting San Diego, we at the Ocean Park Inn have a few “secret” places we’d like to recommend. While these spots may not seem top secret to locals or frequent visitors, we do consider them our own hidden gems that the tourism community at large tends to look over. While SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo will always be major attractions for vacation fun, we think there are a few of more intimate venues that might add to your San Diego adventure. From food to drink to film, here’s a list of 10 – in no particular order.
1.) Hungry for a hamburger? Local favorite Rocky’s in Pacific Beach, near Ocean Park Inn, will not let you down. At Rocky’s, they figure keeping it simple is the best way to produce delicious food, and great atmosphere. “Do what you do best, and do it the best you can,” is a motto they’ve really taken to heart.
2.) Looking for a cup of java in a serene atmosphere? Crown Point Coffee’s got you covered! A true neighborhood joint, Crown Point offers gourmet coffees, teas and smoothies. This can be a great spot for a light breakfast, or a mid-afternoon pick-me-up to keep you going during those fun-filled vacation days.
3.) The museums, architecture, and atmosphere of Balboa Park is hardly a secret to most who visit San Diego, but it does boast an unofficial, and little-known attraction that we think you should check out. The Hummingbird Sanctuary is off the beaten path, and hidden from the general view of visitors. The local lore is that a security guard from the San Diego Museum of Art named “Wally” created this little pocket by purchasing and hanging dozens of hummingbird feeders, filled with nectar in varying in colors. This is a great place to check out some natural wonder while you’re in San Diego.
4.) If you’re a foodie, stop by Isabel’s Cantina in Pacific Beach to enjoy upscale cuisine in a casual atmosphere. The website for this hidden gem boasts that: “At Isabel’s Cantina, Chef Isabel Cruz fuses Latin and Asian cuisine into sensual and creative concoctions that are both remarkably addictive and surprisingly healthy.” Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
5.) How about a picnic? As you might know by now, if you enjoy a nice bottle of wine with your picnic fare, you’re out of luck on the San Diego beaches and most public parks. However, one of the best parks in the area for picnicking is still within bounds on that front. Grab some sandwiches, snacks and some vino and mosey on over to Kate Sessions Memorial Park for great views and a small piece of picnicking heaven.
6.) San Diego is rich in history. One of the best historical attractions is located right in the center of Old Town. The Whaley House once housed the only commercial theater, the county courthouse and a general store all in the same location. The Whaley House is preserved as a museum, and opens to the public for a variety of informational tours which meld interesting facts with the structure’s surprising paranormal history.
7.) Spanish Tapas. Enough said, right? Okay, maybe not. Tapas refers to a traditional Spanish style of eating in which all the dishes are appetizer size, and everyone shares a little bit of everything. Just down the road from Ocean Park Inn is a locally known Tapas bar called Costa Brava. With amazing food, wine and atmosphere, Costa Brava is the perfect place to sit down for a family meal.
8.) Have you ever seen a garden at a private residence that looked so cool that you wanted to snoop around in it? San Diegans Edna and Alex Harper boast a home garden so gorgeous you’ll be itching to take a closer look. The good news is that they welcome visitors to wander around at will. Harper’s Topiary Garden is a site to see and enjoy.
9.) Speaking of wine, need a fun and relaxing “Grown-ups” evening? Tucked into a little known social district at the base of Mission Hills, Wine Vault & Bistro’s unassuming location provides intimate prix fixe meals that will definitely fit the bill. Typically these are 3-5 course meals and often include wine tasting, and range from only $20-30 per person – which is a great value!
10.) Drive-in theaters are all but extinct, but that doesn’t mean you can’t see a movie under the stars! Cinema Under the Stars is a unique little spot that features classic movies in a fun, relaxing space underneath the clear San Diegan sky. If you want dinner and a movie, there are a couple of great neighboring restaurants, including Olivetto Café & Wine Bar which offers special discounts to movie-goers.
With this many hidden gems surrounding the Ocean Park Inn, we’re sure that your next San Diego vacation will be brimming with exciting new places to see, eat, and enjoy one of the greatest cities on earth.