The downtown San Diego area has undergone unprecedented revitalization over the past 20 plus years. As the center of one of the most amazing cities in the country, downtown San Diego gives its residents and visitors the best of everything the eighth largest city in the country has to offer yet maintains a cozy, small town atmosphere. The look of the city is amazing with a mixture of contemporary skyscrapers and turn of the century buildings that have been renovated to house offices, retail stores and wonderful restaurants. Additionally, lots of parks and green space make San Diego a picture perfect metropolitan city.
The Major Attractions of Downtown
Downtown San Diego is home to several major attractions as well as some of the best shopping and dining in the United States. Major attractions offer something for everyone. Military buffs like visiting the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum and the San Diego Maritime Museum. Other locals enjoy hitting Mercato Little Italy’s Farmers Market every Saturday to pick up the best and freshest local fruits and vegetables available year round in this part of the country. Another attraction, and maybe one of the most popular and well-known, is PETCO Park, home to the San Diego Padres.
For dining and shopping in downtown San Diego, Horton Plaza and Seaport Village are two very popular spots which attract visitors and local residents as do the restaurants throughout the Gaslamp Quarter. Art galleries and museums are plentiful in many of the neighborhoods within the downtown area. A favorite of art enthusiasts is the Evenings in East Village which is a gallery crawl of sorts throughout the popular East Village area.
As for annual events that are among the favorites of the locals are several parades including the Big Bay Balloon Parade, which is held in conjunction with the Holiday Bowl; the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade and Festival; and, the Parade of Lights featuring holiday-decorated boats on the Bay. Other favorite annual events that take place are Little Italy’s Mission Federal Artwalk in April and Summer Pops Concerts at the Embarcadero.
Neighborhoods of Downtown San Diego
Downtown San Diego is broken down into several neighborhoods each with its own character and draw for residents. Because each has its own charm, below is a brief description of each neighborhood.
East Village: As the largest district in downtown San Diego, this neighborhood is a rapidly growing, up and coming neighborhood. The area was once a warehouse district and began to be revitalized when the San Diego Padres new stadium opened its doors in 2004. Now the district is home to tons of shopping, restaurants and nightlife. In addition, East Village is also known as San Diego’s Arts district as it is spotted with artists’ homes, galleries and studios. Finally, the Harbor Drive Pedestrian Bridge provides easy access from the Harbor area to East Village.
Banker’s Hill: Also known as Park West, Banker’s Hill is primarily a pedestrian-friendly, residential area filled with upscale Victorian mansions and beautiful condominium buildings. One notable highlight is that the flight pattern from the airport passes over Banker’s Hill. It is very common to see residents watching planes fly overhead.
Columbia: As a neighborhood filled with healthy development, the Columbia neighborhood is very much a commercial neighborhood with affluent high-rise condominiums scattered throughout the area. Because it is located on the waterfront, Columbia is also home to the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum and the San Diego Maritime Museum.
Core District: As the central business district, the Core houses San Diego’s central government as well as major financial and corporate offices. Throughout the area, there is a mix of architecturally modern buildings and historic buildings that are being restored for retail, residential and commercial space. In terms of entertainment, the San Diego Civic Theatre and Copley Symphony Hall are located in the Core District.
Gaslamp Quarter: This district is probably the most famous neighborhood in the downtown area if not all of San Diego. Home to more than 100 restaurants and nightclubs, the Gaslamp Quarter is a big tourist destination. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places with a perfect mix of historical and modern development. Annual events like the Taste of Gaslamp, Mardi Gras in Gaslamp and ShamROCK are huge draws to the area.
Little Italy: Settled in the 1920s by Italian families who worked in the tuna industries, Little Italy is a thriving and popular neighborhood. In fact, other cities’ Little Italy districts use this neighborhood as a model. Several festivals and events such as Little Italy Festa held on Columbus Day weekend and the weekly Mercato Little Italy’s Farmer’s Market are huge draws for residents from all over the metro area.
Marina District: This district is undoubtedly the most desirable and beautiful area in all of downtown San Diego. Prior to the 1980s, the entire area consisted of warehouses and empty lots. Now, high-rise condominiums line the waterfront with tree lined streets surround Pantoja Park and lead residents eastward to wonderful cafés, shopping and cozy bed and breakfasts. Additionally, the Martin Luther King Promenade and Seaport Village provide more character to this neighborhood.
Cortez Hill: At the north end of downtown San Diego is Cortez Hill, named after the famed El Cortez Hotel. This district features perfectly gorgeous 360 degree views. This is a very intimate, pedestrian friendly neighborhood is home to shops and sidewalk cafes along Fifth and Sixth Avenues as well as a gateway to the waterfront via Ash Street.
Downtown San Diego is all about subtle sophistication and having something for everyone. It is a beautiful city and features so many attractions. No wonder it is so common to hear people say “I would love to live there” after a trip to this gorgeously perfect city!