Around Town: Explore San Diego

Things to do, places to eat, and getting around town
Aerial photo of the San Diego, CA waterfront.
Getty Images

Welcome to San Diego! The ACS Fall 2019 National Meeting has come to Southern California in the best season possible. It is the perfect time of the year to explore the city and its picturesque beaches. San Diego has something for everyone, so we hope you get a chance to enjoy the variety of food and culture that the city has to offer.


Petco Park: Located just blocks from the San Diego Convention Center, Petco Park has been home to the San Diego Padres since its opening in 2004. During the ACS national meeting, the Padres will face the Red Sox and Dodgers in this iconic stadium.

USS Midway Museum: The USS Midway holds true to San Diego’s roots as a military town. This decommissioned aircraft carrier was once the largest ship in the world, and it was the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century. Now a museum, the Midway allows visitors to peek into sailors’ lives at sea and tour an extensive collection of aircraft.

Waterfront Park: This recently constructed public park is located right next to the harbor. It is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the fresh air, interactive fountains, and art installations.

Balboa Park: Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre park dedicated for public use since 1868, making it one of the oldest parks in the United States. Balboa is home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, beautiful public gardens, performing arts, shopping, and museums, including  the San Diego Air & Space Museum, the Fleet Science Center, the San Diego Natural History Museum, and the San Diego Museum of Art. Get a Balboa Park Explorer Pass for access to five or more museums on one ticket.

Coronado Island: Hop on the Coronado Ferry from the convention center for just $5 or take a bus across the Coronado Bridge to get to this picturesque island located just across the bay from downtown. One of the most recognized landmarks in San Diego, the island hosts cute shops, a beautiful beach, and the famous Hotel del Coronado.

Old Town: Old Town is known for its many traditional Mexican restaurants that cook fresh tortillas right in their front windows. This neighborhood is the site of the first permanent European settlement in California in 1769. Visit the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park to experience the buildings and atmosphere of the Mexican-American era of the 19th century.


Gaslamp Quarter
Adjacent to the San Diego Convention Center, this historic district features 16 blocks of Victorian architecture, dining, and entertainment.

The Field Irish Pub ($$): Experience a mix of Irish and American food in this lively pub.

Chocolat Cremerie ($$): Satisfy your hunger and sweet tooth at this Italian cafe that features paninis, salads, and signature desserts.

Cafe Sevilla San Diego ($$): This restaurant encourages you to “party like the Spaniards do” while enjoying traditional tapas, flamenco dancing, and live music every night.

Little Italy
Between historic Balboa Park and the Pacific Ocean, Little Italy is the perfect place to grab a bite after a day at the beach or a park stroll. Dinner options can be pricey, but the food and upscale atmosphere cannot be beat. 

Bencotto Italian Kitchen ($$): Although it is known for its pasta, you cannot go wrong with any dish from this traditional Italian restaurant.

Salt & Straw ($$): With a perpetually long line out the door, Salt & Straw is a popular ice cream shop that offers a variety of homemade and delicious flavors. The employees are always happy to offer a sampler “flight” of four different flavors.

Juniper and Ivy ($$$): American-style food in a modern and trendy atmosphere with a selection of imported wines and good service.

Ironside Fish & Oyster ($$): Seafood restaurant with lobster, oysters, local catches, and a large wine selection. 

Northwest of Balboa Park, Hillcrest is a trendy neighborhood with coffee houses, brunch spots, and an active nightlife. The area is also known for its thrift stores as well as for being the hub of San Diego’s LGBTQ community. 

Hash House a Go Go ($$): A trendy spot for American-style breakfast/brunch with huge portion sizes. Popular choices include the Fried Chicken & Waffle Tower, Salmon Benedict, and the Iced Butterscotch Mocha. 

Bronx Pizza ($): Known for their thin-crust, New York-style pizza, Bronx Pizza is the place to go if you want to grab a quick bite or if you’re missing the East Coast.

Kous Kous Moroccan Bistro ($$): A sit-down Moroccan restaurant with a delicious selection of cocktails. Individual entrees are available along with “feasts,” which are multicourse meals that give you a taste of various dishes. 

Uncle Biff’s Killer California Cookies ($$): A bit of a local secret, Uncle Biff’s Cookies are downright delicious. They offer traditional favorites as well as newer flavors, such as almond toffee and Oreo-stuffed cookies. 

North Park
Situated just northeast of Balboa Park, North Park’s 30th Street offers an eclectic mix of restaurants, cafes, and bars—all within walking distance of each other.

The Taco Stand ($): An intimate taqueria that sells made-to-order tacos and burritos that’ll satisfy your cravings.

Poki One N Half ($): A local favorite down the street from The Taco Stand, you can grab poki made with a variety of fresh seafood.

Swami’s Cafe ($$): A San Diego classic with a massive menu that is sure to please everyone. Their locally famous acai bowl has been voted the #1 thing to eat in San Diego and might be the most pictured food on Instagram within the county.

Caffè Calabria ($): An Italian cafe that transforms into a neighborhood bar at night. It is well-known throughout North Park for its stone-baked pizzas and award-winning espresso. 


MTS Buses: MTS, or the Metropolitan Transit System, will take you to most places around the city and most of San Diego County for a small fee ($2.25-2.50 per ride). Day and multiday passes are available through the MTS mobile application as well.

MTS Trolleys: San Diego has three trolley lines: the Green, Orange, and Blue Lines. These trolleys are a fast way to travel outside of the city or to the neighborhoods on the outskirts of San Diego for $2.50 per ride. 

Old Town Trolley Tours: These hop-on, hop-off tours travel to most of the major sightseeing sites in San Diego with fun facts along the way. The daily tickets for these tours include free entrance to a handful of museums along the routes.

Rideshare: Uber and Lyft are easily available within the city and are often not much more than public transportation when split among a few people.

Rental Electric Scooters: Bird, Lime, and Spin scooters are easy to locate downtown and allow for easy access within the local area for a small fee.

About the Author

The Unviersity of California, San Diego, ACS Student Chapter is a community of more than 50 students who share a passion for chemistry. They expose undergraduates to various career paths in chemistry and foster a network of graduate students, faculty, and professionals. When not in lab, they enjoy sharing their love for chemistry with the San Diego community and synthesizing chemistry puns.