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Ask A Concierge: Local Favorites in San Diego, California

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If you’ve already caught up on the places you should see during your first trip to San Diego, take time to explore some popular sights and some lesser-known neighborhoods. From the historic Cabrillo Monument to the trendy North Park area to the always bustling Gaslamp Quarter, there is plenty to discover. Sarah Dandashy of Ask A Concierge shares her tips for discovering the local favorites in San Diego.

Cabrillo National Monument

The Cabrillo National Monument celebrates the landing of Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo on the area known today as the Point Loma Peninsula. The monument itself is not too imposing, but it is located in a park that offers wonderful views up and down the coast. The park is also one of the best places in the San Diego area to observe a variety of wildlife, especially in and around the many rock pools. Also located in the park is the 19th century Point Loma lighthouse, and this stretch of coast is one of the best places in the state for whale watching. An ideal way to enjoy the views of the Pacific Ocean is from the 3-mile-long Bayside Trail. The park is a popular place for a picnic and also hosts several events and festivals during the year.

North Park

This area—voted one of the country’s hippest—was one of the city’s original suburbs and has been the focus of gentrification, after declining in the 1970s and 80s. North Park is a good place to enjoy some of the best in contemporary art, as well as sample some craft beers, shop at boutiques and thrift stores, or simply soak up the somewhat Bohemian atmosphere. 30th Street is the heart of this hip neighborhood and boasts dozens of ethnic restaurants and trendy places for dessert or coffee. The farmers’ market is considered to be one of the best in the country, and the North Park Music Thing festival held every fall has also helped to put the area on the tourist map.

Gaslamp Quarter

This downtown neighborhood, on the register of historic places, is undeniably touristy but is also home to some of the city’s most popular restaurants and bars. The Gaslamp Quarter was once known as Rabbitville—because of the many rabbits—was also home to 50 gas lamps. Today, a few reproductions help to give the area some atmosphere. Almost 100 historic buildings, mostly dating from Victorian times, can be seen here. One way to experience the area’s colorful past is to take one of the available Gaslamp walking tours. Many restaurants are family-friendly, and kids can also enjoy the nearby New Children’s Museum. There are several hotels and bed and breakfast inns in the few blocks comprising the district, and a short stroll away is the East Village, another enclave of shops, restaurants, and bars.

La Jolla

This seaside resort within the city of San Diego has an almost Mediterranean charm to it, and it’s easy to see why its many wealthy residents have chosen to live along this seven-mile stretch of Pacific coastline. La Jolla is known for its upscale shops and art galleries—as well as some excellent and exclusive restaurants—and is home to the University of California. This section of the coast is also known as Sea Lion Beach, and there are several places where you are virtually guaranteed to see hundreds of them swimming or simply lazing on the rocks.

For more travel tips from Sarah Dandashy of Ask A Concierge, check out:

By Sarah Dandashy and Nino Gordeli for