So... you're finally there and want to know where to go first. Well, as one of the most vibrant metropolitan regions in the U.S., San Diego has over 100 unique neighborhoods, each with its own personality and culture; so we're sure you won't run out of things to do. Here's a quick run-down of San Diego's Neighborhoods:

Core District

This neighborhood is the heart of the city's downtown and is the main business district. City Hall is located here, as are several large entertainment venues, including Symphony Hall, the Civic Theater, and the House of Blues. There is a trolley line running from east/west on C Street, and Broadway serves as the main thoroughfare for pedestrians, cars, and busses. Cruise ships also dock at the west end of the Core District. Just two blocks east you'll find the Santa Fe Depot train station.

Marina District

Located southwest of the Core District, this area is considered the most residential of the downtown neighborhoods. It is best known as the home of the USS Midway Museum, which showcases several restored aircraft and numerous exhibits. Once largely host to warehouses and vacant lots, the area now wows visitors with many attractions such as Seaport Village, a car-free area with more than 70 restaurants, galleries, and shops. Other popular locales are the San Diego Convention Center and Pantoja Park, the oldest park in the entire city.

Gaslamp Quarter

This 16½-block neighborhood located east of the Marina District is known as ''The Historic Heart of San Diego" and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the 1800's, this area was once the "red light" district. Today, it's home to the majority of San Diego's oldest buildings, most of which have been restored and are well-maintained. Some of the city's most popular restaurants and hottest nightclubs are here, so if you love trendy venues, this neighborhood is sure to impress.

East Village

Located directly east of Gaslamp Quarter, East Village encompasses 130 blocks and is the city's largest downtown neighborhood. Its centerpiece is Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. The area is bustling with more than 700 businesses and continues to grow with the addition of both retail and residential projects. Shop for the latest fashions from around the world, enjoy cocktails with a rooftop view, shoot some pool, or just window shop.

Little Italy

Located to the northwest of the Core District, Little Italy is a lovely neighborhood which was originally settled by Italian fishermen and their families. You can still hear Italian being spoken as you indulge in delicious authentic Italian food in one of the many restaurants in the area. You can also peruse the art galleries and Italian retail shops. And, don't miss the Mercato, the weekly farmers market; not only will you find an array of fresh veggies, pesto, and cheeses, but also lots of great people-watching.

San Diego Neighborhoods Image


This neighborhood is located just a few minutes north of downtown and the Popular Balboa Park and is the hub of the city's LGBT community. Hillcrest offers up an eclectic mix of vintage clothing stores, nightclubs, casual restaurants, trendy boutiques, record stores, authentic Mexican fare, and a dash of you-name-it... all wrapped up in fabulous.

North Park

Located northeast of Balboa Park, this hipster haven is the place to go for coffee houses, art galleries, and local craft beers. It is also proud of its restaurants featuring locally grown and raised goodness, as well as its nightlife showcasing local bands. Don't miss the historic Birch North Park Theater and its live concerts, ballets, and movie screenings.

Barrio Logan

Known for its dynamic Hispanic culture, Barrio Logan was once a haven for Mexicans fleeing the revolution. Today, it is the centerpiece of San Diego's Hispanic community, and also plays host to the influx of artists and young people who have been making their way here. Have an itching for some of the yummiest Mexican food north of the border? Then Barrio Logan has a taco de pollo ready for you. Don't miss Chicano Park, featuring an impressive display of sculptures and colorful murals.

University Heights

 Just east of Hillcrest, University Heights emits a warm, welcoming vibe that attracts those who embrace all things hip, but in an unstuffy environment. Restaurants here tend to be elegant but laid-back, and exotic but unpretentious. Make sure to stop by Folk Arts Rare Records, featuring (drum roll, please.....) rare records of every sort, and its Lou Curtiss Sound Library containing more than 90 years and 90,000 hours of vintage recordings. While there, plan a visit to the Diversionary Theater, one of the oldest continually-producing LGBT theaters in the U.S.

Old Town San Diego

Northwest of Balboa Park and south of I-8, you'll discover what life was like in California in 1850. This neighborhood was the city's first "downtown", and was home to the first Spanish settlement on the west coast. Here, history comes to life with nearly 20 historic points of interest, period attire docents leading tours, early California-style restaurants, mariachis, a museum, and loads of free live entertainment. Grab a buddy tight and visit The Whaley House, an officially designated haunted house that  has "witnessed more history than any other building in the city." And of course, the Mexican fare is to die for.

Ocean Beach

Situated right along the Pacific, and at the estuary of the San Diego River, Ocean Beach epitomizes the SoCal beach culture. Also known as O.B., you'll find something for every style of beach lover. Here you can have a drink at a rambunctious bar, lounge in a quiet cafe, buy a surfboard, or get a tattoo to remember your amazing trip to San Diego! After all this, get your nosh on with everything from fish tacos to French cuisine.

Pacific Beach and Mission Beach

Sandwiched between I-5 to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Pacific Beach is a surfer's fantasyland and seaside hotspot, especially for college students and the younger crowd.  Locally known as P.B., it's loaded with bars, coffee houses, and casual restaurants.  Mission Beach, directly south of here, has many well-known bars. While in Mission Beach, plan a visit to Belmont Park, home of the "Giant Dipper" roller coaster, a National Historic Landmark.

La Jolla

Located directly north of Pacific Beach, this hilly seaside community is known as "The Jewel of San Diego'' and certainly earns its moniker. Home to first class golf  courses, art galleries, luxury hotels, and upscale shopping and dining, La Jolla is one of the most coveted vacation destinations in the state. The beaches here are simply gorgeous and provide ample opportunity for all types of water activities. And everyone will enjoy a trip to La Jolla Cove to admire the sea lions basking in the sun. Divers will appreciate the La Jolla Underwater Park and Ecological Preserve. If you prefer dry land, take a hike at Torrey Pines State Reserve or do a little golfing at the Torrey Pines Golf Course, home of the 2008 U.S. Open. If neither sea nor land fit the bill, head to the gliderport for a little paragliding. After all that activity some award-winning dining is certain to hit the spot, and La Jolla has plenty of scrumptious options from which to choose. Also, make sure to check out the La Jolla Playhouse, Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Birch Aquarium at Scripps for your cultural fix.

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Edited/Contributed by: John C. Derrick
Published/Updated on: 11-15-2020

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