Adams Avenue is well known throughout San Diego as the location of many, funky coffeehouses, a place to hunt antiques, its many bookstores and for it's cozy street fairs. The section of Adams Avenue that is suggested here is about thirty-nine blocks which run through the communities of University Heights, Normal Heights and Kensington.
In recent years the term "Adams Avenue Antique Row" has been adopted to describe the 20 or so shops that sell used goods, some genuine antiques and many collectables along Adams Avenue.
Serious collectors may not be so impressed with the items offered and the prices seem, to me, not to be very competitive. However, for those who love browsing used stores looking for unusual items or those who want the nostalgic feeling of searching for a fantastic find in an out of the way place, Adams Avenue is just right for you.
There are lots of restauarnts and bars on Adams as well and most are individually owned. This gives a mixed offering of Funky, Homey and Upscale feel to the area that is interesting
Fondest memory: Books are my thing and there are plenty of shops that offer first editions, various genre collectables and some new books as well. Over the years I have spent months worth of hours in these shops and even I attended a few writer's workshops on Adams Avenue, back-in-the-day.
The local street fairs held here at various times of year, are; "Taste of Adams," which offers a chance to taste the food from the many restaurants here. "Adams Avenue Roots Festival," focusing on the roots of musical styles and "Adams Avenue Street Fair," This is one of the largest street fairs in the state. Six stages offering music, three beer gardens, carnval rides and about three hundred craft and food stalls. A sort of Octoberfest American style held in September.
Check out the Adams Avenue link, above, for dates and details.
Originally, this was a long dusty road and until 1910 there were no businesses along it's side.
It was the only highway that connected San Diego to El Centro, a distance of about 127 miles. As the years passed and car travel became more popular, the main type of business that sprouted up, were Auto Camps, (motels) Gas Stations, Auto Repair Shops and Restaurants.
Throughout it's history The Boulevard continued to attract trades people who would make a road trip convenient for the traveler and looking closely at the style of the buildings from Park Avenue to 70th Street, that history can be seen.
Today: El Cajon Boulevard still runs west to east, and beyond. It is a long and broad street with seemingly little character. The broadness of this boulevard came from copying the great boulevards of Paris, unfortunately, it didn't inherit the charm.
Interstate-8 opened about forty years ago and took over from El Cajon Boulevard, the position of being the fastest and most convenient route east. Needless to say, The Boulevard became a depressed area and opened up an economic opportunity for start-up commerce.
Take a drive down this street and look closely. You may find many pockets of interesting aspects, such as the Colonial style, Lafayette Hotel and other such left-overs from the past. Further, you may see signs of Arabic, Ethiopian, Vietnamese and other older or newer immigrant communities, which have joined in the American Dream by opening their own business and offering us a sample of their cultures.
Fondest memory: I'll mention three of my favorite places on El Cajon Boulevard:
There is a Middle Eastern grocery store, butcher (halal foods) and cultural accessories where I shop for the ingredients to make Arabic food and some Asian foods.
Mid East Market and Halal Meat
4595 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA 92115
The Livingroom Coffeehouse
5900 El Cajon Blvd. San Diego, CA.
The Red Fox Steak House
2223 El Cajon Boulevard
Of course there are many more places that might interest a tourist, I'm just suggesting two of them.
North Park, a community of San Diego, just north of Balboa Park is on the up-swing.
North Park Main Street organization (Like, "Main Street USA.") has been active in it's goal of revitalizing the North Park neighborhood.
University Avenue is the main thoroughfare of North Park and most of the action takes place on or near this commercial street.
In the last four years North Park has offered the "Thursday Night Market" along University Avenue. "Ray at Night" celebrates the arts and art galleries in North Park. A "Taste of North Park," presenting an opportunity to try out the various restaurants, microbreweries and shops.
The Stephen and Mary Birch North Park Theatre has been restored and is the home of the San Diego comic opera group, Lyric Opera. Check their website for shows scheduled to play while you are in San Diego.
A plan to resurrect the old trolley line--with some of the original trolley cars from the past--down University Avenue and make North Park a walkable community again, is in the works.
Going west on Adams Avenue from Kensington, the next community is Normal Heights. Less affluent than Kensington, it seems to have an even greater sense of community and there are many street fairs offered throughout the year.
North of Adams Avenue, the homes are almost as nice as in Kensington, and the streets are just as winding. It's easy to get lost, but interesting to find a way out. This section is located on the rim of Mission Valley and many homes offer a great view, not to mention backyard canyons.
South of Adams there are many apartment rentals and the houses are not quite as impressive as on the north side. The price of a place is somewhat less than in Kensington, but not really that much difference.
This is a walkable community, and anyone who likes to socialize with neighbors or who loves getting envolved with community affairs, this is an excellent location.
Moving west on Adams Avenue, leads us to
University Heights. There is a crude pile of rocks, serving as sign post. On the plaque an Ostrich reminds us that in the early 1900's this was an ostrich farm.
In 1991 Trolley Park was dedicated as an Historic Landmark. Site of the Adams Avenue Trolley Carbarn which is at Adams, just before Park Boulevard. I have to admit, I've never seen a trolley there, but my grandchildren love to play there.
Make a left on Park Boulevard to the "commercial" section of the neighborhood. The history of this area is being honored by renovations to the exterior and interior of these buildings as well as newer buildings going up. It's all looking pretty nice. There are lots of Craftman bungalows and apartments in this neighborhood.
First I'll mention the Buddhist Temple that is located here, as well as Buddah's Light Bookstore and that should help with your first impression. Vegetarian Cafes, Persian rug stores, art galleries are all part of the package. However, as with most neighborhoods of San Diego, you'll find many ethnic restaurants to choose from including Korean, Italian and American bar & grills. Coffee shops and Tea rooms abound.
University Heights seems not so active as Normal Heights and Kensington but it has its charm and the community is working to upgrade itself.
One--city--block south of Adams Avenue is El Cajon Boulevard and one--city--block south of The Boulevard is University Avenue.
Now don't worry, my intention is not to give a tip about every street in San Diego, my intention is to give an idea of the city east of downtown and the streets I've mentioned played a big role in it's history and in expanding the boundries of the city.
Trolley tracks were laid on University Avenue in 1907 and this made an impact on the development of this area. Remember the Trolley Carbarn Park on Adams?
University Avenue grew much in the same way as The Boulevard and in much the same way University Avenue is on the threshold of becoming revived.
The trolley tracks are gone now and University Avenue is traveled by car. North Park is the community this road runs through and though it might appear, in sections, to be a seedy part of town, the community is working heard to revitalize the area and it's reputation is beginning to change.
Fondest memory: Claire de Lune Coffee Lounge
2906 University Avenue
This modified Spanish Revival style building created in 1927 is a sample of the direction being taken by the community living along University Avenue. Reviving the past beauty and housing a community oriented business was the goal for Claire de Lune Coffee Lounge and it seems to be succeeding! Come in and see for yourself.
Note: San Diego City Neighborhoods
So many people ask about neighborhoods of San Diego because they are planning to move into the area. So, I've decided to add tips of various neighborhoods in the city of San Diego that don't have their own VT page as Hillcrest and La Jolla have. I'll try to give a general idea of the place as home and what may attract a visitor to the area.
Located about 6 miles northeast of downtown, the boundries of Kensington are Interstate-15 to Fairmont Avenue west to east and from El Cajon Boulevard to Interstate-8 south to north.
The main business street of the Kensington Park is Adams Avenue, which is well known throughout San Diego for it's neighborhood coffeehouses, restaurants used bookstores, antique/secondhand shops and most of all for the Adams Avenue Street Faires that are held throughout the year.
Kensington is at the east end of the neighborhoods along Adams Avenue and it is one of the oldest and most attractive. The prices of homes/rentals are higher in this area but well worth considering. The residential streets are winding and full of Spanish style homes, most with lovely well-kept yards. There is a strong sense of community here.
Many long time residents are known for instigating get-togethers and community type activities, such as a local parade for the kids or barbecues in the park on major and minor holidays. This is a community of people who like to jog, walk their dogs and ride bikes.
Fondest memory: Kensington Coffee Company, later called San Diego Coffee Company At Kensington and now the Kensington Cafe.*
There is a new Starbuck's on the corner across the street but the Kensington Cafe is still a favorite meeting place of mine. Coffees, Teas, Pastries and Lunch Fare is offered and served well into the evening. Everything I've tried was very tasty. It has just been renovated and is a truely neighborhood friendly place for pet owners.
While waiting for your order to be filled you'll notice, on the counter, a big bowl of dog biscuits, take one, they're free. Outside on the small "sidewalk cafe" section there is a doggie waterdish next to the hose for your thirsty pup. Along the wall, next to the tables are plaques in loving memory of favorite neighborhood dogs.
4141 Adams Avenue****(619) 280-9114
The Ken Theater
Originally this was the old neighborhood theater. It is still in business. However, it now offers Independent films--read foreign/artsy--that aren't usually shown at the major movie houses. So, if you are a fan of the unique film, this is a place you might be interested in coming to while on vacation.
San Diego is a warm comfortable area with much to do year round.
For beach life I recommend beach Mission or Pacific Beach. They are the cleanest and most popular.
I recommend Pacific Beach or the Gaslamp District Downtown. Depending on where you stay, you will probably have to take a cab or a car to Pacific Beach as the public transportation (except for buses) do no travel to this area of San Diego County. The PB Bar and grill and BUBs Dive Bar are great places to hang out and meet locals as well as other tourists.
The Gaslamp District is a mecca of fancy restaurants and bars, but be careful and arrive early for dinner or you might have to wait awhile. Gaslamp is safer that it used to be but beware of your surroundin as there are still alot of questionable people lurking about.
Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo Area (Wild Animal Park):
I highly recommend Balboa ParK. It has stunning gardens and truely unique museums. You can spend up to 4+ hours in Balboa Park and not see everything.
As far as the San Diego Zoo, is probably the cleanest and best maintained zoo in the country, but the "natural habitats" are less than natural. The Zoo is a must see if you are only in town for a few days, but for beter wildlif I recommend the San Diego Wild Animal park the is about 20 minutes northeast of the city. This is the real deal as far as wild life goes,. A minni Africa right here in Southern California.
LaJolla and the Lajolla Cove:
LajJolla (pronounced La HOY ah) is northwest of the city by UCSD (U of California San Diego) and right on the ocean. LaJola is an upscale community with fine shopping and dining (I highly recommend The Coffee CUp (beakfast) & Alfonso's and The Spot (Lunch/dinner)). the shopping will remind you of a mini Michigan Ave (Chicago).
A main attraction of LaJolla Cove are the seals. Hundreds of seals converge on the cove (seal beach). You can get within about 100ft of the seals in this protected area.
Fondest memory: The weather is the finest in the world. Pretty much 72 degrees year round
Favorite thing: It's not New York but I liked the skyline and skyscrapers of SD. Different views from different parts of the city, always blue skies behind, giving a "modern" touch to this southern, latin, relaxed city.