San Diego’s Spanish and Mexican roots are most evident in Old Town and the surrounding hillside of Presidio Park. Visitors can experience settlement life in San Diego from Spanish and Mexican rule to the early days of U.S. statehood. Nearby Uptown is composed of several smaller neighborhoods near Downtown and around Balboa Park: the vibrant neighborhoods of Hillcrest, Mission Hills, North Park, and South Park showcase their unique blend of historical charm and modern urban community.
Dense with Mexican eateries, Old Town is the place to be for quick and easy access to house-made tortillas. The neighborhood is also home to historic adobe shops and museums. East of Old Town is Mission Valley, a suburban maze of freeways, shopping centers, and Hotel Circle, where many spacious and inexpensive lodging options are located.
San Diego's Uptown area—Hillcrest, Mission Hills, North Park, South Park, and University Heights—is close to the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park. There are few hotels, but the area offers pedestrian-friendly shopping—it's known for its mélange of funky bookstores, offbeat gift shops, and nostalgic collectibles and vintage stores—and many of San Diego’s venerable craft beer bars and breweries. The diverse communities boast bistros, gastropubs, and ethnic restaurants that range from Afghan and Indian to Russian and Vietnamese.
Hillcrest is a popular area for LGBTQ nightlife and culture, whereas just a little bit east of Hillcrest, ever-expanding North Park features a diverse range of bars and lounges that cater to a twenty- and thirtysomething crowd, bolstering its reputation as the city’s hipster capital. Tucked between Hillcrest and North Park, the charming neighborhood of University Heights is home to several notable bars and restaurants. The thriving nightlife and dining scene continues down Adams Avenue and into neighboring Normal Heights, which is a more laid-back alternative. Whichever of these neighborhoods strikes your fancy, a cab from Downtown will run about the same price: $15.