When I moved to San Diego in 2010, I was instantly struck by how downtown is a pedestrian’s paradise. The terrain is flat, with uncluttered sidewalks that lead past parks, historic buildings, and vibrant restaurants.

Little Italy is known for its lively dining scene and the bustling Saturday farmers’ market. The East Village is downtown’s optimistic upstart, with ambitious residential buildings, pop-up community spaces, and exciting food and drink options. In between are Marina and Core-Columbia, where residents rest and the city’s work gets done. Later this year, Seaport Village 2.0 will take shape. In the meantime, the seawall serves up stellar views of the sunset.

The best way to fully experience downtown is on foot. Park the car and strap on your city legs for an urban adventure.

Image: You & Yours Distilling Co.

Where to Stay

Accommodations range from frugal motels to trendy builds with rooftop pools. The Guild Hotel is a new, centrally located boutique option that once housed the Army-Navy YMCA. Rooms are sparsely decorated with all of the essentials, like sultry showers, comfortable beds, and plush bathrobes, accounted for. Luca, the onsite restaurant helmed by chef Justin Vaiciunas, a Detroit transplant previously named Best Chef by Detroit Metro Times, is a worthy choice for Sunday brunch. Try the parfait French toast.

Image: Lola 55
Image: Parakeet Café.
Image: Lola 55
Image: Parakeet Café.


Pantoja Park

The oldest park in the city is home to several giant fig trees and pretty palms. Yoga One offers a free yoga class on Saturday mornings.
W G St., between Kettner Blvd. and State St.

Locals (and their dogs) gravitate here for coffee and craft brews. Colorful murals provide a few fun photo opps.

1301 Market St.

Park at the Park
This grassy oasis is the perfect spot for a coffee break with views of Petco Park.
840 K St.

Where to Eat & Drink

East Village

Choose from a dozen different pour-overs at Achilles Coffee Roasters—like the East Village, with notes of honey, pecan, and grapefruit—plus seasonal lattes and breakfast sandwiches served all day.

At Lola 55, chef Drew Bent’s menu of modern tacos is all hits, no fillers. Try the vegan squash blossom relleno and pork belly al pastor with mesquite pineapple.

You & Yours Distilling Co. recently debuted small plates, including crab-stuffed mushrooms and sweet potato empanadas. Check the menu for suggested cocktail pairings.

Little Italy

Parakeet Café is a fun pick for a functional beverage and a savory small plate like magic mushroom matcha and eggs Benedict on toast with flavored hollandaise that changes seasonally.

Every Sunday from 10am to 4pm, Lane Field transforms into an international food market with umbrellas and blankets for lounging. Offerings include Korean BBQ, local shellfish, empanadas, and dessert dumplings.


Coava Coffee Roasters slings caffeinated beverages in an eco-chic space on the ground floor of The Westin. Try the honey latte sweetened with Bee Local Honey Water.

In-the-know locals love the $12 burger-and-beer happy hour special at The Lion’s Share, available alongside a smattering of apps and discounted cocktails from 4 to 6pm daily.

Animae showcases Asian-inspired plates in a theatrical space. Try the butter and escargot dumplings with razor-thin slices of Wagyu carpaccio, the snow pea salad, or malasadas with green curry ice cream.

Budget-friendly AAHARN by Koon Thai specializes in authentic Southeast Asian dishes like beef rendang, khao soi, and nourishing bowls of laksa lemak that deliver layers of flavor.

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