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There are plenty of things to do in South Park, the sister of San Diego’s hipster North Park, amid its boom of small businesses and natural areas. While North Park often gets all the hype, South Park has a smaller, more local vibe. A canopy of trees hovers over the main road, Fern Street, where you’ll find most of the neighborhood on a weekend. This Balboa Park-adjacent neighborhood is perfect for pedestrians, cyclists and dog-owners. Everyone from coffee-obsessed gym rats to vintage-loving musicians has a place in this neighborhood. Read on for our guide to San Diego’s South Park.
An en plein air offshoot of the North Park location, South Park’s Communal Coffee breathes trendy but vintage minimalism. It’s teardrop trailer houses locally baked pastries and creative drinks, including craft coffee, to sip while you browse its boutique filled with handmade jewelry, flowers, candles and more.
They partner with a wide variety of local businesses, including a handful of Black-owned businesses, to bring you items like bar soap, earrings, baby booties and turmeric latte mix. Try the lavender lemonade for a hot afternoon and the seasonal espresso for a morning pick-me-up. The café features an independent San Franciscan coffee company, Sightglass Coffee, to make their signature floral lattes. Sit out on the beautiful patio scattered with succulents to enjoy the endless San Diego sun.
Vinyl Junkies Record Shack
Open daily for browsing from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Vinyl Junkies Record Shack has an eclectic selection of new and used CDs, vinyls, cassette tapes, turntables and more. Bring your musical memorabilia of any genre to sell. We recommend spending that money on new memorabilia like a vinyl of unpopular Fleetwood Mac songs.
Eric Howarth established the store in 2012. He originally created Vinyl Junkies as a mobile record shop with pop-ups all over Southern California. Tim Mays and Howarth partnered to bring you the brick and mortar location in South Park. You can’t go to Junkies without scavenging for cheap music in the Digger’s Den, a tiny room with US$3 records. It’s filled with gems, both common and obscure.
Among things to do in South Park, why shouldn’t having a brew be at the top of your list? You can find this traditional neighborhood alehouse in the heart of historic South Park. Operating with booze for more than 75 years, the building is the oldest beer and wine licensed location in San Diego. Once known as Sparky’s dive bar, Hamilton’s opened in 2006 to serve craft beer and ale from all over the world. What’s on tap? Drinks from Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Ireland and Belgium.
The Book Catapult
Located on Juniper Street, the border of South Park, The Book Catapult is a fairly new independent bookstore that began as a blog about books. The massive wall of fiction paired with the small room dedicated to children’s literature makes it a must for San Diegan bibliophiles. When you approach the store you might find a selection of free books for avid readers. Make sure to check out staff recommendations that range from investigative journalism and books on food to new fiction and classic.
Italian food has never been so elegant and delicious in a non-Italian city. Forget San Diego’s Little Italy, you can eat at this less expensive local favorite. They don’t take reservations, unless it happens to be an occasion like Valentine’s Day, so be prepared for a long wait. Lunch or dinner at Buona Forchetta is meant to last at least an hour.
Order the artichoke appetizer doused in olive oil and herbs, and get a cheap plate of the airy focaccia (gluten-free option available). Feast on the Neapolitan pizza baked in a handmade oven. You can find other locations at Liberty Station, Coronado and Encinitas.
Discover San Diego’s diverse population in Juniper Canyon, one of the city’s many natural spaces based in a canyon. Beware of rattlesnakes in these canyons, especially if you enjoy bringing along your dog for a stroll. They tend to lurk in shady spots, although you may almost step on one blending into the dirt. You’ll find Scrub Oak and Yerba Santa on the wide trail. The spring rain allows colorful wildflowers to emerge.
South Park Yoga and Wellness
Formerly known as Ginseng Yoga, South Park Yoga and Wellness offers classes to keep you in shape and help manage stress. With a mix of in-person and virtual yoga sessions, the studio has a wide variety of classes, including Happy Hour Vinyasa, Yin Yoga, Kundalini Mantra and Meditation and Yoga Wall for Healthy Backs.
Try to incorporate Yoga Wall into your schedule, especially after a year sitting at your desk in Zoom meetings. The poses target the hips and the spine to encourage healthy alignment. South Park Yoga and Wellness has a large and versatile team of yoga instructors ready to help you develop your practice, whether you’re an advanced yogi or a beginner.
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