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San diego shopping
6 great neighborhood shopping districts
Spring fashion season has arrived, so it’s time, once again, to take a look at San Diego’s unique neighborhood shopping districts.
Last November, we explored one-of-a-kind items and qualities of Encinitas, Solana Beach, Coronado, South Park, La Jolla and La Mesa. Now we check in on some other popular destinations, from the South County to North County to Temecula.
“It feels kind of old-fashioned, kind of traditional, to buy what I need in a neighborhood instead of at a mall,” said avid North County shopper Mitzi Daniels. “I like knowing the shop owners; it makes me feel like I’m part of a community.”
$: You can find great items between $1 and $25.
$$: Items range from $30 to $75.
$$$: Expect to spend from $75 to $150.
Price range: $$ to $$$$
Signature piece: Succulents in glass or ceramic planters.
What you’ll find: If you’re there strictly to shop and not eat, head straight to the cottages on West Fir Street. There you’ll find Be Beauty, where you can buy a new dress and get a manicure or facial. Rosamariposa has sustainable jewelry from Bali and India; and Carol Gardyne is locally beloved for her hand-painted silk clothes and accessories. Throughout the neighborhood there are additional art galleries and clothes and shoe shops like the lovely Melero Boutique. Blick Art Materials has notebooks, stickers and fun gifts to go along with all that paint.
What’s for lunch: You’re in Little Italy, so you’ll find some of the city’s best Italian restaurants, like Bencotto Italian Kitchen and its new sister restaurant, Monello; the trendy Underbelly has ramen and sake; local chains like Burger Lounge and Prepkitchen are represented; and Influx Cafe is the spot for coffee and homemade pastries.
Nearby shops: Venture a few blocks away from the main drag to find Mixture, one of the most sophisticated décor shops in town; Bottlecraft Beer Shop and Tasting Room carries hundreds of beers from around the world; and the French Garden Shoppe is a favorite European home furnishings store.
Del Mar Village
Parking: There are designated pay parking areas — just follow the signs. You can also park at Del Mar Plaza and score free hours with validation. And if you find a spot along the street, you obviously have good parking karma.
Price range: $$ to $$$$
Signature piece: A cuff bracelet with a touch of ocean-themed whimsy.
What you’ll find: Plan to spend the day walking, shopping, eating and playing in the sea. Some standouts include Pebbles by the Beach, a New York-like boutique where teens pick up $150 Wildfox cutoff denim shorts; Fair Trade Décor, a colorful store that carries 100 percent fair-trade items; Durante’s Menswear for men who appreciate good clothes; and high-end Western wear at The Frustrated Cowboy.
What’s for lunch: There’s everything from family-friendly lunch spots like Del Mar Pizza to fancier fare at Sbicca. Local favorites like Bully’s Del Mar, Prepkitchen and Smashburger are also found here.
Downtown Chula Vista
Price range: $ to $$$
Signature piece: A bright, formal gown.
What you’ll find: If we’re being honest, unless you’re planning a quinceañera (traditional Mexican party for girls turning 15), this isn’t a fashion mecca. There are, however, some one-of-a-kind specialty shops. Harper’s Music Store has a varied collection of instruments and sheet music; Urbn Sk8 carries unique skateboard gear; the massive South Bay Bicycles has so many options; those with wide feet can shop at Jon’s Wide Shoes; and there’s plenty of fun to be had at Maria’s Wig Shop.
Old Town Temecula
The area used to be mainly antique stores and malls, but in the past few years it has become a centerpiece for the city of Temecula by adding boutique shopping, wine tasting, dining and entertainment.
Gifts for: Moms, grandmas, kids and cousins.
Price range: $ to $$$$
What you’ll find: Historic buildings like the one that houses Old Town Antique Faire, which features dozens of antique dealers, and the Palomar Inn Hotel, which is part working hotel and part wine-tasting room. Mixed in among the antique and boutique craft and home décor and gift shops are tasting rooms from some of the Temecula Valley Wine Country vineyards. For entertainment, the growing number of bars have music each evening, and the area is home to the Old Town Temecula Community Theater.
What’s for lunch: The Public House on Main Street is a newer spot, offering pub-style food and a quality wine and beer selection. Mad Madeline’s Grill is always packed with folks looking for a good burger with fries. Right in the heart of the town, Rosa’s Cantina provides quick and tasty Mexican food. Front Street Bar & Grill on the south side of the strip offers a step up in dining, as do The Edge, The Gambling Cowboy and many others. The Swing Inn is Temecula’s unofficial cafe of choice.
It’s not all smoke shops and tattoo parlors along this eclectic area.
Price range: $ to $$$
Signature piece: A necklace made out of shells or beads.
Best for: Jewelry makers, hippies at heart, antique collectors.
What you’ll find: There’s a true mix of beachwear boutiques, popular dive bars and antique shops along San Diego’s most notoriously funky beach neighborhood. The most popular shop is The Black, which is a smoke shop but it also has posters, books, tapestries and other counterculture favorites. Blondstone has sophisticated silver jewelry; South Coast Wahines, located next to South Coast Surf Shop, carries surf gear for ladies only; Ocean Gifts & Shells may be touristy, but it’s so fun to browse through sea stars and conch shells.
What’s for lunch: This street is home to the original Hodad’s, which many San Diegans argue is the best burger in town. Locals also claim that South Beach Bar & Grille has the best fish tacos. And if you’re in the mood for a cocktail, Pacific Shores continues to serve stiff drinks at low prices.
Price range: $$ to $$$
Signature piece: A light, flowy top
What you’ll find: Though it’s long been associated with antiques, Carlsbad Village has a surprising number of clothing and specialty shops. Coolest Shoes in California carries only comfortable shoes, including some with a yoga mat sole; Fairen Del is a fancy travel store that also carries trinkets and accessories; Old Ivy Gifts and Antiques makes seashells and sand dollars look chic; O’Ireland carries all things from the Emerald Isle; and no one with a sweet tooth will be able to resist a treat at the Carlsbad Chocolate Bar.
What’s for lunch: People drive to this neighborhood specifically for the food and beer at Pizza Port. You’ll also find a variety of mom-and-pop spots like the locally popular Grand Deli. But the most fun is Boxd, a waffle stand that also has a patio where kids can run around and lawn chairs where parents can sit and chat.
Jeff Pack contributed to this report.
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