SAN DIEGO: California’s southernmost major city, ready for vacation with miles of surfable beaches, several Michelin-starred dining options, and a public green space that overtakes Central Park acre for acre. But dig deeper and you’ll find that San Diego’s cultural fabric is woven into its border-city identity.
A lively celebration of that character is located close to downtown at Barrio Logan, part of San Diego’s oldest Mexican American neighborhood. Spectacular murals adorn the concrete highway underpass that divides the neighborhood, painted in the 1970s when the city announced plans to build a highway petrol station on the land instead of park residents.
Today, Chicano Park is a National Historic Landmark and thriving arts district, revived thanks to the community’s creative resilience and events such as the weekly Walk the Block Day Market on Saturdays, when pop-ups and tricked-out lowriders take over Logan Avenue, the main thoroughfare.
A staple since 1933, Las Cuatro Milpas has a well-earned and ever-present line outside the door, with locals and visitors alike with patiently rolled tacos and bowls of pinto beans and chorizo with corn or flour tortillas. Along with it is made fresh every morning.
On a mission to provide nutritious bread for all, Amanda Estrella, founder of Cottage Bakery pop-up Pan del Barrio, crafts organic loaves and pastries such as seeded sourdough and conch (a traditional pan dulce, or Mexican sweet bread), all Sliding scales during Walk the Block sold on one.
¡Salud! Chili draws crowds for Relleno, shrimp ceviche, and more, while speakers blast everything from Phil Collins to Rock ‘n Espaol. Its 14 types of tacos are layered liberally with toppings, such as churro ice cream, filled with three pieces of cinnamon-sugar pastry and drizzled with a salted caramel sauce and Tajin seasoning.
Mexican American flavors rule the tap at craft brewery Border X Brewing, where the Horchata Golden Stout has hints of vanilla and cinnamon, and hibiscus and agave Saison is as refreshing as it is inspired by Agua de Jamaica.
Thorn Brewing Company shares a huge warehouse with several employee-owned businesses, Rebrew Spirits. The craft distiller uses draft beer as the base for gin, vodka, and limited-edition whiskey at the end of its shelf life, all clarified with charcoal from the on-site Texas-style barbecue. The flavor profiles match what you’d expect from each spirit but with a definite je ne sais quoi essence from the leftover hop oils.
Simone Limón is a one-stop shop for gifts for all occasions, from elegantly packaged cactus soap to handmade jewelry and canvas totes printed with “Buenos vibras” (good vibes). The grape-hued, cactus-mural storefront measures just 180 square feet but represents more than 40 manufacturers from either side of the range.
Founded by two childhood friends dissatisfied with limited, basic bathing-suit options, Hola Swim features affordable pieces designed with a Latinx flair.
Dozens of original works line La Bodega Gallery, a cornerstone of the arts district that recently moved into a new 3,000-square-foot space. Regularly rotating, mixed-media exhibitions highlight established and emerging local artists. In the summer the Frida Kahlo-inspired show, Friducha, traditionally attracts thousands of gallery-goers.
Where to Stay in San Diego
Pendry San Diego
All of downtown lies at the doorstep of the Pendry San Diego, a 317-room hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter with a skyline view from the rooftop pool, six on-site drinking and dining options, and a Moët vending machine to help your night out. should be needed. after the last call.
Hotel del Coronado
Timeless and iconic, the 760-room Hotel del Coronado has been considered the jewel of the city since its opening across the bay from downtown on Coronado Island in 1888. Last summer, the beachfront property debuted 16 elevated seaside rooms, steps from the private firepit on the lawn.