North Park-trendy hood north of Balboa Park. 30th Street and University Avenue is the main intersection. Holy Matcha, Pigment, Waypoint Public. Cute to walk around and shop.
Downtown/Gaslamp Quarter: Historic district downtown. Filled with farmers markets, cheap to high end eats of every kind and fun to walk around. Currant Brassierie, Osteria Panevino, Provisional Kitchen, Biga, Copa Vida Coffee, Lou and Mickeys, The Donut Bar, Connects to Little Italy
Little Italy: Modern trendy and very pedestrian friendly. Has a waterfront area with a sidewalk up the entire way. Saturday farmers’ market. Monello, Bencotto are 2 amazing homemade pasta known restaurants (owned by the same person)
Corranado: a little island (drive over the bridge to enter the area) the historic Hotel del Coronado resort.. super cute and fun to walk around inside or on the beach.
La Jolla: beautiful ocean views, high end boutiques, fine dining. Walkable area. Go to La Jolla Cove for the ocean views and see some SEALS! Live Beaming, Living Room Cafe, Richard Walkers Pancake house, Harrys Coffee Shop, Sugar and Scribe Bakery, The Taco Stand, Rubicon Deli
Encinitas: a bohemian beach town; Coast Highway 101 is the main drag with restaurants, shops, and cafés. Nectarine Grove— the plantain crusted chicken on salad was amazing!
Mission Hills: Upscale neighborhood right above the San Diego airport/north of Downtown. Goldfinch & Lewis Street is where all the mom-and-pop shops and cafés are located. The Patio on Goldfinch, Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill (long wait usually but great seafood), With Love (cute gift shop).
Pacific Beach: This beach area north of Mission Hills has a boardwalk and is super laid back. Lots of casual restaurants and bars. Check out The Mad Beet for açaí bowls, The Patio on Lamont Street, Oscars Mexican Seafood (fish tacos), Better Buzz Coffee, Fig Tree Cafe.
North of San Diego —
San Clemente/Dana Point: Has a little bit of a Spanish feel. Great area for surfing and beach walks. Head to Old Town San Clemente for cute streets for shopping and an area for beach/pier walks. Dana Point has a huge marina; near there I loved the juice bar Organic Tree!
Costa Mesa/Newport Beach: Cosa Mesa is a suburban area in Orange County that feeds into the cute costal upscale city of Newport Beach. Visit Fashion Island (A large mall, Soul Cycle, True Food Kitchen, Whole Foods, etc). Try out Sidecar Donuts, Vibe Organics (Vegan; salads, smoothies, “burgers”, etc), Outpost Kitchen (Vegan; smoothies, toast, etc), Coffee Dose for great coffee and fun coffee cups, Cafe Gratitude, Seabirds Kitchen (located at “The Lab Mall”- a little area for shopping), Kit Coffee, Pressed Juicery for amazing date sweetened ice cream and Malibu Farms (@ Lida Marina Village a really cute area for walking/shopping/waterfront brunch in Newport Beach.