Welcome to Old Town and Uptown
Old Town and Uptown are northwest and north of Balboa Park, respectively. Access to Old Town is easy thanks to the nearby Old Town Transit Center. Ten bus lines stop here, as do the San Diego Trolley and the Coaster commuter rail line. Two large parking lots linked to the Old Town Historic Park by an underground pedestrian walkway ease some of the parking congestion.
Uptown is best explored by car, although several bus routes do serve the area. Both metered street parking and pay-and-display lots are available.
Top Reasons to Go
Step back in time: Experience the early days of San Diego, from its beginnings as a remote military outpost and mission to the development of the first town plaza.
Architectural delights: Take an architectural journey through San Diego’s history. Discover the pueblo- and clapboard-style structures of Old Town and the ornate Victorian gems in Heritage Park. Then head up the hill to view wonderfully preserved early-20th-century homes in Uptown.
Scare yourself silly: A nighttime visit to the Thomas Whaley House Museum, "the most haunted house in America," is sure to give you goose bumps.
Tortillas and margaritas: Enjoy the convivial atmosphere at one of the many Mexican eateries in Old Town.
Live like a local: Explore the vibrant shopping, dining, and nightlife of Uptown’s unique neighborhoods.
Bread and Cie Café. Its delicious loaves are distributed around town, but visitors can go to the source in Hillcrest. Pastries, soups, salads, sandwiches, and plenty of bread are served in a bustling atmosphere; there's also outdoor seating. 350 University Ave., Hillcrest, San Diego, California, 92103. 619/683–9322; www.breadandcie.com.
Fiesta de Reyes Snacks. If traveling back in time has left you tired and hungry, Old Town's Fiesta de Reyes has several options for a quick recharge. To the right when you enter from the plaza, La Panaderia serves sweet and savory empanadas, homemade churros (strips of fried dough), and hot chocolate. Nibble Chocolate, in the rear of the courtyard, has vegan pastries, specialty coffee drinks, and locally made chocolate. If you're visiting between Friday and Sunday, look for the booth marked Street Tacos for a quick meal. 4016 Wallace St., Old Town, San Diego, California, 92110. 619/297–3100; www.fiestadereyes.com.
Planning Your Time
It takes about two hours to walk through Old Town. Try to time your visit to coincide with one of the daily tours given by costumed park staff. Tours are $10 and depart at 11:30, 1, and 2, from the Robinson-Rose House Visitor Center. If you go to Presidio Park, definitely consider driving up the steep hill from Old Town.
The highlight of an Uptown tour is exploring the heart of Hillcrest, located at the intersection of University and 5th avenues. Plan to drive or catch a bus between neighborhoods, then explore on foot.
The Uptown neighborhoods host a variety of events throughout the year. Hillcrest hosts the annual LGBT Pride event every July. In late summer, Cityfest rocks the neighborhood with live music, food stalls, and beer gardens. Old Town celebrates Cinco de Mayo and the Old Town Art Festival held in early fall.
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