Travel

9 San Diego Suburbs Worth Exploring

Enclaves for Indian and Filipino food, sea caves, desert adventures, and more.

Whether you’re a bonafide local or out-of-town visitor, there’s much more to San Diego than meets the eye. You know about the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, Legoland and the endless beaches—but let’s get down to specifics. Where do you drive to find an enclave for good Indian food? Where can you explore desert curiosities? Turns out, San Diego’s surrounding suburbs have all that and more, offering you the opportunity to branch out of your comfort zone and experience a new side of America’s Finest City. The best part? The proximity of these suburbs means that even a lunch break offers plenty of time to explore. Here are 9 San Diego suburbs that deserve your attention:

Encinitas

Located 25 miles north of Downtown San Diego, this community is known as the “Flower Capital of the World” due to the sheer amount of nurseries and gardens. Take for instance the San Diego Botanic Garden. Visitors to this garden retreat can bask in unique orchid specimens, learn about conservation and wander the immense 37 acres filled with thousands of plant species from around the world. For those looking to zen out while surrounded by koi ponds, there’s also the meditation garden at the Self-Realization Fellowship. To cap your day, bring a bit of greenery home with you from nurseries like Sunshine Gardens, Gardens by the Sea and The Madd Potter.

Coronado

Coronado translates to “the crowned one” in Spanish and it accurately defines this upscale San Diego neighborhood. Hotel Del Coronado’s red-roofed turrets seemingly rise out from the man-made peninsula, making this historic hotel a natural starting point for exploration up and down Orange Avenue. Bring your bike and don’t miss the white sand beaches hugging the Pacific Ocean on one side of the island (look for the sand dunes that spell out Coronado) and views of the bay on the other side.

Barrio Logan

Wander south of Downtown to Barrio Logan and it’ll be hard to miss Chicano Park’s colorful murals showcasing Mexican activists and local community. Designated a National Historic Landmark, Chicano Park is an obvious spot to acquaint yourself with the neighborhood. From there, meander through art galleries like La Bodega Gallery and independent shops like Casa XoVi. There’s no shortage of places to eat either. Fill up at Las Cuatra Milpas, La Fanchada and Panchita’s Bakery—just a handful of small cafes and restaurants that sustain the community.

Julian

For a little bit of country, locals head to Julian. Located about 60 miles northeast of Downtown San Diego, this quaint setting is nestled in the picturesque Cuyamaca Mountains. It’s no secret the area is known for apple pie and apple picking. When snow hits the mountains, the area is guaranteed to be packed with San Diegans looking to experience a bit of weather — but Julian offers more than weather and pie. Tour the Julian Gold Mine and learn about San Diego’s role in the California Gold Rush. Or make reservations for the California Wolf Center, a rehabilitation center that’s home to several gray wolves.

National City

Finding top-notch Filipino food is as easy as wandering into National City. According to the 2010 census, 19% of the population is Filipino and this influence makes itself known in the neighborhood’s restaurant scene. Reserve a spot for you and a few of your closest friends at Villa Manila to experience kamayan, the Filipino tradition of eating with your hands. Or follow your nose and visit one of many point-point joints like Tita’s Kitchenette to grab a styrofoam filled to the brim with lumpia, pancit, and chicken adobo.

Imperial Beach

This sleepy beach community connects the south end of Coronado via the Silver Strand to the rest of the county. With Mexico beaches bordering one side of the community, Imperial Beach is the most southwesterly city in the continental United States. Not surprisingly, beaches are a big draw but the area is also home to the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, a favorite of bird watchers hoping to spot native and migrating species on their way to distant destinations.

La Jolla

La Jolla’s exclusive neighborhood is home to much more than multi-million dollar homes and trendy shops—it’s also home to an amazing coastline filled with rugged cliffs and caves. Wear your hiking boots and head to Torrey Pines State Reserve where trails overlook the Pacific Ocean and lead down to the beach below. Or go by sea. Rent a kayak and begin your journey from Avenida de la Playa to one of seven caves, like the Clams’ Cave for up close views of marine wildlife.

Mira Mesa-Miramar

Mira Mesa-Miramar may fly under the radar when it comes to neighborhoods but the burgeoning Indian community makes this area a must-visit spot to expand your culinary horizons. Also known as “Little India,” the few blocks encompassing Black Mountain Road, Mira Mesa Boulevard, and Miramar Road include dozens of grocery stores and restaurants that cater to the Indian community. Start at Miramar Cash & Carry to stock up on fresh spices and make your ways one of several restaurants specializing in Indian food like Indian Tandoor, Charminar Indian Restaurant, and San Idli.

Jacumba

Buckle in for a day of adventure if you travel to Jacumba. While still a part of San Diego County, this unincorporated community accessed by traveling east on Interstate 8 and following Old Highway 80 is located right on the U.S.-Mexican border. Exploration abounds in the backcountry: start your adventure scrambling across rocks at Boulder Park and catch the sights from nearby Desert View Tower. For out-of-this-world sights and photo-ops, stop by Coyote’s Flying Saucer Retrievals and Repairs.

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Darlene Horn grew up in South Bay San Diego eating paletas at Oasis Ice Cream. You can find her perusing frozen food confections when she isn’t playing with her dog, Doctor. Find her on Twitter as @DarleneEats.
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