Redefining the Neighborhood  in San Diego’s North Park

Redefining the Neighborhood in San Diego’s North Park

We all come from somewhere. A city, in a state- a street, down the street from your neighbor. A neighborhood. The concept of which, arising from the social attitudes of the early city planners, crystalized out of the 1900’s when Clarence Perry modeled residential development in growing urban areas. Just another collection of lines on a blueprint; just another place to rest at the end of the day. But what really exists in the places we call home? Shops, restaurants, hotels: the places we meet and connect, work, eat, celebrate. North Park, in San Diego is no different. With a visible history that began more than 100 years ago, around the advent of the term “neighborhood,” the streetcars that lined John D. Spreckels’ San Diego Electric Railway ran along University Avenue and 30th. Creating, passenger by passenger, the heart of the community.

Bringing residents, shopkeepers, and business investors alike, those who came to the neighborhood then and now were greeted by the tallest commercial building on the block: once, the home of real-estate partnership between William Jay Stevens and John “Jack” Hartley, the eldest son in the Hartley family, and whom the 40 acres that lay between Ray, 32nd, University, and Dwight were named after. “Hartley’s North Park” stuck, and has remained the city’s Busy Corner ever since. The neon sign signifying North Park’s Busy Corner hung from 1935 to 1967, and was replaced after years of community advocacy in 1993: bringing light back to a neighborhood containing some of the area’s most beloved art galleries, studios, performing art venues, sushi stops, vegetarian cafes, coffee shops, and brunch spots in San Diego.

The Lafayette Hotel

Bringing the truest meaning of community to Clarence Perry’s “neighborhood”, The Lafayette originally opened its doors in 1946. Only a couple short miles from the world famous San Diego Zoo, and Balboa Park’s 1,200 acres of culture and nature, the hotel still holds tightly to the Hollywood charm it brought the area upon opening. An eclectic collection of rooms awaits each eager guest, and an amenities list as long and varied as the sea life in San Diego’s sparkling waters ensures there is no low point in your modern travel experience. Priding itself on being great at everything it does, the Lafayette Hotel boasts great food, great people, and great beds.

Lafayette Hotel poolDive into the historic Johnny Weissmuller-designed Olympic Pool or take a lap around the hotel’s two classic restaurants: HOPE 46 or The Red Fox Steakhouse. Get recommendations from locals on North Park culture and history, and dive into San Diego’s finest with a long list of to-do’s from the Lafayette’s well-traveled circle of friends. And, with over 15,000 square feet of flexible meeting space both within the hotel and without, there isn’t a community space quite like it in the neighborhood.

Lafayette Hotel guestroom

San Diego Zoo Inside Look Tour of Penguins & Friends at the new Africa Rocks exhibit

Entrance to Africa Rocks courtesy Ken Bohn San Diego Zoo

Newest to the neighborhood is the African penguin colony at San Diego’s own Africa Rocks exhibit. With an insider tour offering unique views of the penguin’s home beach and nesting area, guests learn how zoo caretakers are working to conserve the birds in the wild. The zoo, a haven for animals ranging from savannah to sea spotlights the incredible diversity of species found on their native African continent. Penguins are just the tip of the zoological iceberg, joined by the Nubian ibex, ring-tailed lemurs, leopards, meerkats, and West African dwarf crocodiles. A tour for all ages, each takes place under the watchful eye of a knowledgeable guide. If that doesn’t sound like enough of a day to you and the family, plan your trip to the Zoo and Wild Animal Park around an immense list of activities and animals destined to make the most out of your visit.

African penguins at Africa Rocks courtesy San Diego Zoo

San Diego Museum of Man • California Tower

The recent winner of The Nonprofit Institute’s Kaleidoscope Award for Good Governance, San Diego’s own Museum of Man was recognized for celebrating and promoting good governance propelling their organization’s performance and fulfillment of its mission. A huge hit for all ages, guests can explore the human connection in a dynamic environment, reflect on one’s place in the global community, and strive together to push the boundaries of human invention. Exhibits range from the newest, opening in April 2018, to tours of the historic California Tower: reopening after being closed to the public for the last 80 years. Climb seven floors, sneaking glimpses of the beauty that awaits at the top, emerging into the sunlight where panoramic views of Balboa Park, and its majestic history await below. Inspired by the churches of Mexico and Spain, the tower was closed to the public shortly after the 1935 Cal Pacific Exposition: and is now the hottest attraction in North Park for adults and families alike!

Urban Solace restaurant

Stepping into the neighborhood means being welcomed home, and what says home more than a classic American meal, artfully crafted from locally and responsibly sourced seafood, veggies, and meats. If their handmade craft cocktails weren’t enough to welcome you to the table, the hustle and bustle of this North Park favorite serves up some of the most incredible comfort food in town. Having committed years ago upon their first meal to ensure they produced with the most natural ingredients possible, Urban Solace features antibiotic free meats, the best boutique wines, and a unique selection of craft beers. Matt Gordon, chef and owner of Urban Solace, set out on a mission to create a place where he felt good about the product they served, down to the most basic and rudimentary ingredients. Just like his family table at home, Matt and his wife created the menu taking no food item for granted: down to the pure cane sugar that goes into each soda in the restaurant.

The Prado Restaurant at Balboa Park Photo credit The Prado

The Prado Restaurant

Located in the intensely charming North Park community, The Prado restaurant helps set the scene with colorful decor and patio seating, inside a gorgeous Californian hacienda, akin to the newly reopened Museum of Man’s California Tower. Hearkening back to the original Golden Coast charm San Diego has grown famous for, The Prado looks like a castle plucked out of the temperate hills of Spain: with designated date nights, happy hours for the most seasoned vignerons, and a two course theatre menu featuring their very own Prado favorites, like Pan Roasted Sea Bass and Mustard Crusted Pork Chop. Going out on the town has never been so delightful, nor delectable. With weekly live music in the Prado Lounge, the restaurant boasts the height of hospitality, from the first course of the day, to dessert at the very end. Taste historic California in the heart of San Diego one bite at a time, at the Prado Restaurant, Balboa Park.