As always, we at GuideAdvisor recommend hiring an urban guide to show you around the city and help you discover the secret gems. The crew at GuideAdvisor spent time with Lance Jordan and Natalie Richards of So Diego Tours and Jeanette De Wyze of San Diego Insider Tours and all of them took us to great spots and entertained us with their great story-telling along the way.
Whether you’re looking for antiques, boutique shopping, or a one-of-a-kind art piece, you’ll find it in one of these fabulous San Diego shopping districts.
#1. Gaslamp Quarter
This National Historic District has been around for 150 years, with trendy shops housed in traditional Victorian buildings. While it’s home to big-name retailers, you can also find small, independent retailers here, peddling everything from hats, jewelry and apparel to art and home décor. It’s also a great place to hear about the colourful history here (it was once an infamous brothel district) as well as just go for a stroll. (You can rest your weary feet in one of the neighbourhood’s many spas.)
#2. Industry Showroom
This “DIY retail experiment” offers up art, design and fashion in a collective environment, allowing small entrepreneurs to launch and grow their business. And for shoppers, it’s a chance to pick up that one-of-a-kind item. Once a month, it hosts a Bohemian Market, with “crafty” vendors and live entertainment.
#3. Little Italy
For fine art and modern furnishings, head to Little Italy’s Kettner Art & Design District, with shops and galleries clustered along Kettner Boulevard and India St. (from Laurel to Date streets). Friday nights are “Kettner Nights,” featuring several open-house events.
#4. Fir Street Cottages
This block of colourfully painted cottages offers one-of-a-kind items from independent designers. You’ll find everything from silk scarves to glassware, tea sets, tableware, jewelry, accessories and shoes.
#5. La Jolla
For high fashion, head to upscale La Jolla (around Prospect St. and Girard Ave.), where it seems the local past time is shopping. Here, among luxury retailers, you’ll find trendy shops such as Rumors Boutique and Glidia Kay. Even if you can’t afford to shop here, it makes for great window-shopping and people-watching. One stop you might consider is Bob’s Casa Del Habano, a unique cigar store that carries a wide selection, including the coveted Fuente Opus X.
#6. East Village
This former warehouse district is now home to trendy restaurants, rooftop bars and live music venues. Head here for stylish shopping in boutique shops, featuring high fashion and urban street wear.
This uptown neighbourhood – the hub of San Diego’s LGBT community – offers chic boutiques and vintage shops alongside bistros, cafes and clubs. Head to University Ave. and Fifth Avenue, where you’ll find the latest designer apparel, as well as vintage clothing, used books and records, and quirky novelty gifts.
#8. Adams Avenue
If you’re on the lookout for vintage finds, head to the shops on Adams Avenue from Arizona St. to Normal Heights. This area used to be known as Adams Avenue Antique Row – these days, there aren’t as many antique shops, but you’ll find vintage boutiques, second-hand bookstores and plenty of cafes, pubs and restaurants.
#9. Pacific Beach
If you’re on the hunt for a bathing suit or anything surf-related, head to Mission Boulevard and the side streets of Ingraham, Cass and Felspar (you’ll also find a great selection of small, independent shops here). Close to the Crystal Pier, Pangaea Outpost showcases dozens of local merchants and artists under one roof. If it’s antiques you seek, head over to the Ocean Beach Antique District on Newport Ave.
#10. Cedros Avenue Design District
For original art, home décor, furniture, collectibles and antiques, head to this design district along South Cedros Ave. in Solana Beach. Here you’ll find two-and-a-half blocks of one-of-a-kind shops, boutiques and galleries. There’s also a farmers’ market every Sunday afternoon.