San Diego summer getaway

What to do, where to stay, and where to eat in the city's three best neighborhoods for summer fun
Matthew Jaffe

We all know San Diego, right? Endless summer and endless tourist attractions: the zoo, Shamu, and all that coastline too.

But summer in San Diego isn't just about the beach. The opening of the San Diego Padres' new ballpark has helped reinvigorate downtown, which bustles with clubs and restaurants.

And few cities anywhere in the world can boast of an urban oasis with the architectural and botanical grandeur of Balboa Park.

Cool waves, baseball, and a touch of Europe too.

TRAVELING TO SAN DIEGO

We have focused on three great summer destinations in San Diego: Pacific Beach and Mission Beach, which lie north and west of Mission Bay, respectively; downtown's Gaslamp District and East Village neighborhoods, 10 minutes from the airport; and Balboa Park, on the northeast edge of downtown. August is high season, and rates at many area hotels drop after Labor Day. For additional information, contact the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau (619/236-1212).

WHERE TO STAY

Britt Scripps Inn. Elegant 1887 Queen Anne Victorian is perfectly situated for exploring Balboa Park. From $415. 406 Maple St.; www.brittscripps.com or 888/881-1991.

Hotel Solamar. Hip, urban hotel across the street from Petco Park is also home to rooftop hot spot Jbar. From $319. 435 Sixth Ave.; www.hotelsolamar.com or 877/ 230-0300.

Tower23. The hotel brings a new level of style to the funky Pacific Beach scene. Equally stylish is its steak and seafood restaurant, Jordan ($$$$). From $369. 723 Felspar St.; www.t23hotel.com or 866/869-3723.

 

WHERE TO EAT

Altitude Sky Bar and Garden Lounge. Rooftop bar with awesome people-watching. At the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter, 660 K St.; 619/696-0234.

Cafe Chloe. A gem in the emerging East Village neighborhood. $$; breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. 721 Ninth Ave.; 619/232-3242.

Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar. Contemporary American cuisine and a solid musical lineup have made this a Gaslamp institution. $$$$; breakfast and lunch Sat-Sun, dinner daily. 802 Fifth Ave.; 619/233-4355.

The Fishery. In Pacific Beach, it has some of the best seafood in town. $$$; lunch and dinner daily. 5040 Cass St.; 858/272-9985.

Kono's Cafe. Classic beachfront breakfast joint. $; breakfast and lunch daily. 704 Garnet Ave.; 858/483-1669.

Laurel. One of San Diego's top restaurants, it offers modern Mediterranean cuisine in an elegant room near Balboa Park. $$$; dinner daily. 505 Laurel St.; 619/239-2222.

The Prado. Mexican and Mediterranean dishes and an outdoor patio in the heart of Balboa Park; perfect for pre-Old Globe dining or a relaxing sit-down meal during a park visit. $$$; lunch daily, dinner Tue-Sun. 1549 El Prado; 619/557-9441.

Stingaree. Amid all the flash here, the food holds its own, especially such entrées as slow-braised Kobe beef. The rooftop bar has a pre-ballgame menu. $$$$; dinner Tue-Sun. 454 Sixth; 619/544-9500.

 

WHAT TO DO

Balboa Park. With its concentration of museums specializing in everything from photography to model trains, it has been dubbed "the Smithsonian of the West." Even excluding the San Diego Zoo, you could easily spend a couple of days here. A variety of tours are offered, and if you plan on hitting a number of museums, consider purchasing a Passport to Balboa Park ($30, $55 with San Diego Zoo admission), which covers admission to 13 attractions. For more park information, stop in at the visitor center (9:30-4:30 daily; 1549 El Prado). www.balboapark.org or 619/239-0512.

The Old Globe. One of the country's top regional theaters, it has three stages in Balboa Park. In Balboa Park at 1363 Old Globe Way; From $19. www.theoldglobe.org or 619/234-5623.

Petco Park. The new ballpark has transformed downtown, and it's well worth combining a game with dinner in the Gas-lamp. 100 Park Blvd.; www.padres.com or 619/795-5000.

San Diego Zoo. Rare creatures, including giant pandas, and sensitively designed habitats such as the Monkey Trails environment make this a must-see. $22. In Balboa Park at 2920 Zoo Dr.; www.sandiegozoo.org or 619/234-3153.

OTHER CLASSICS

Coronado. Drive across the landmark San Diego-Coronado Bridge or hop a ferry from downtown to visit this island, which is a world apart. Ferry $3 one way; departs from 1050 N. Harbor Dr., San Diego; www.sdhe.com or 619/234-4111.

Maritime Museum of San Diego. Vessels include the 1863 sailing ship the Star of India and a Soviet sub-marine. $12. 1492 N. Harbor Dr.; www.sdmaritime.org or 619/234-9153.

San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum. San Diego has a long naval history, and here you can tour the massive USS Midway. $15. 910 N. Harbor Dr.; www.midway.org or 619/544-9600.

SeaWorld. The marine park debuts a new Shamu show this summer. From $54. 500 Sea World Dr.; www.seaworld.com or 800/257-4268.