Have you heard? We just released our first travel series, “Go, Be You,” with Alaska Airlines! So we’re spending the next eight weeks highlighting every city we toured across the West Coast. This travel series is about more than the destination itself; we’re taking a look at why certain cities have the power to unlock the best versions of ourselves. As you get to planning your next trip, we hope you enjoy the suggestions that follow.

And don’t miss the San Diego episode at the end of this post!

Rediscovering a city can be an invigorating experience, and there’s nothing like a weekend getaway—but when time is limited, you need to spend it well. When thinking of San Diego, the bright blue skies and crisp ocean air are quintessential of this vibrant city, but a glance at the map will reveal many different neighborhoods that may be somewhat unknown to most visitors. 

My fiancé and I recently explored North Park and Hillcrest, and discovered so many amazing hidden gems: restaurants using fresh, local ingredients, outdoor activities incorporated into urban settings, and local shops featuring all-natural and ethically-conscious brands. 

Below we’re highlighting the unexpected places that add to the vibrancy of this city and all that it has to offer!

San Diego is a well-balanced mix of cultures, and we love experiencing this through its food. To satisfy any craving, head to Liberty Public Market, a converted Naval complex housing a variety of restaurants that began as food trucks with a focus on using locally-sourced, fresh ingredients.

The city is an indisputable beer lover’s paradise, and if you’re looking to sample some of the city’s best brews while eating Japanese noodles and comfort food, then head to Underbelly North Park. The industrial setting with large communal tables and fire pits creates the perfect space to enjoy a cold beer and Japanese fare — I’d recommend one of my favorites: Windows Up IPA from Alpine Beer Company.

Image via CUCINA urbana

For a laid-back dinner, head to CUCINA urbana, an Italian restaurant focused on hand-made pasta using locally-sourced organic ingredients. The bar features beautifully put-together cocktails like the Spotted Lynx, a mezcal and tequila cocktail with a hint of grapefruit bitters and honey that will please even the most hesitant when it comes to mezcal’s smoky flavor. Drinks here perfectly complement the fresh pasta dishes and the dim, yet inviting, dining room. It sets the mood for any occasion.

Visiting farmer’s markets while traveling is a great way to experience local offerings and Hillcrest’s farmer’s market is at the top of my list. Held every Sunday, the selection is vast and varied, offering locally-sourced goods including groceries, wine and beer, as well as food stands stocked with tasty breakfast and lunch options. Last time I was there, after grabbing a cup of coffee from a small coffee truck, I picked up two bundles of vibrant eucalyptus, a basket of ripe strawberries and the biggest avocados I’ve ever seen, all locally-grown.

For a mid-day pick-me-up, head to Holy Matcha, where the health benefits and antioxidant properties of this popular Japanese drink are celebrated through delicious and inventive concoctions and treats. Or, if in the mood for coffee, Communal Coffee, which works with San Francisco’s Sightless coffee roasters, serves an array of espresso drinks paired with an in-house floral shop and retail store. The bohemian decor and spacious seating area serve as a destination for respite from exploring the neighborhood.

Reconnecting your mind and body is essential, and Trilogy Sanctuary can provide precisely that. Hosting yoga classes on a 1,800 square foot aerial yoga studio, feeling the fresh ocean breeze as you practice creates such a restorative experience.

The bright blue skies and crisp ocean air are quintessential of this vibrantly diverse city

For a tour of San Diego with a unique perspective, consider an Urban Hiking tour hosted by Sara Kendrick. Her background in landscape architecture and horticulture ensures you’ll see the city from a different perspective. For example, we hiked through residential canyons through Little Italy, Hillcrest and Balboa Park, learned about San Diego’s early history seeing historic homes and how to identify plants that help shape the beautiful landscape.

Exploring the locally-owned shops in San Diego was a refreshing take on retail therapy. We explored boutiques that cater to natural beauty and sustainability lovers alike. While walking around the North Park neighborhood, we discovered Shop Good, a place focused on products that enhance healthy living. Their carefully-curated selection left us feeling nourished and looking naturally beautiful.

Image via Maven


A short walk around the corner will lead to Pigment; the popular retail space, which began as an art gallery, then blossomed into a store carrying a variety of plants and design-conscious homewares and gifts. We certainly did not leave empty-handed. A short drive north led us to Maven; a boutique focused on clothing, accessories and homewares made by independent designers and makers.

The variety of things to experience during our visit was impressive, and to say the neighborhoods of North Park and Hillcrest are up and coming would be an understatement. The next time you’re in SD, whether it’s for a weekend or an extended stay, skip the typical tourist spots and venture out to these small neighborhoods with big personality; they have so much to offer.

This post was sponsored by Darling’s airline partner, Alaska Airlines. All thoughts and reviews remain Darling’s own.

Watch “Go, Be You” Episode 8 – San Diego

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