Exploring San Diego beyond Mission Beach

By Sara Butler


When many people think of San Diego, one thing often comes to mind: the beach. This is no surprise, as San Diego is a coastal city and home to lots of different beaches along its 70 mile shoreline.

However, many college students, including those at USD, limit themselves to Mission Beach. This may be due to its proximity to campus and its popularity among the students.

When riding the tram to class this week, I overheard a conversation between a girl and her two guy friends, and it went a little something like this:

“So what’s going on this weekend?” the girl said.

“I think we’re going to a party at Mission Beach on Saturday…” her friend replied.

The girl groaned and rolled her eyes in response, replying that she was tired of the predictable weekend scene

While Mission Beach is a great area of San Diego, having a “go-to” place may discourage students to explore other beaches. Some people, such as the girl I overheard, may be tired of Mission Beach. However, they may not be aware of other options, such as Ocean Beach.

In fact, in a survey done this month in a USD public speaking classroom, only one out of the 20 students surveyed listed Ocean Beach as their favorite beach.

As a San Diego native, there is so much of the city left to explore that some USD students may not be aware of, on and off the coast.

Ocean Beach, also known as OB, is a unique community nested on the coast of San Diego.

There are many negative perceptions and stereotypes of the area, especially by those who are not local to the city. In my experience, I have noticed a trend among my college peers.

My friends who are not from San Diego are often reluctant to go to OB, while those who are local readily accept, and tell me their own stories about the times they visited the area.

However, local organizations, companies and residents have a more positive perception of the area.

In an online article titled “Ocean Beach: a laid back, mixed bag of wonderful” from the U-T San Diego published this month, the U-T writer talked to Brandon Loftus, an OB native and San Diego realtor.

“OB has it’s own personality and attitude. You just get a different feeling there,” Loftus said. “OB is a very local neighborhood with a lot of family-owned businesses, so it appeals mostly to the kind of person who wants a small-town feel in a big city.”

Aside from its beautiful, sun-soaked beaches, OB is home to Dog Beach and the OB Street Fair, as well as a variety of shops and restaurants.

While there are many great attributes of OB, I want to focus on one in particular: the Farmers’ Market.

According to the San Diego County Farm Bureau, the OB Farmers’ Market is one of over 50 Farmers’ Markets located in the San Diego County.

The OB Farmers’ Market occurs every Wednesday all year long, from four p.m. to seven p.m. in the winter and to eight p.m. in the summer.

During the event, Newport Avenue is closed off from oncoming traffic and the street is lined with various booths and stalls. There is fresh produce, flowers and art, as well as live music being played by local bands.

Surprisingly, OB locals are not the majority of people attending this weekly event. In fact, a recent survey done at the Farmers’ Market by the Ocean Beach MainStreet Association, 55 percent of those surveyed did not live in OB.

This means that more than half of the people attending the event are not local to the region, and come from all over. OB is a great place for people from different areas to spend an afternoon together.

Overall, OB has a lot to offer. The area is home to one of the famous San Diego beaches, as well as a variety of local events. This makes it a very intriguing community in San Diego County.

Stepping away from the beach, North Park is another great place within the city of San Diego. Similar to OB, it hosts diverse events including the annual North Park Festival of the Arts and the San Diego IndieFest.

Further, the city is a very health friendly area, with a variety of yoga studios and vegetarian restaurants, such as Veg-N-Out and Sipz. Additionally, there are many vegetarian options on the menus of other traditional eateries

North Park is also home to many unique cafes. You can go on a coffee date at The Mission and grab dessert at Heaven Sent Desserts.

One of the places that is unique to North Park is Claire de Lune Coffee Lounge. The coffee shop has received many local awards from organizations such as San Diego CityBeat and The Reader.

Not only is the cafe famous for it’s coffee and dessert, but it showcases a collection of live music. According to the business’ website, Claire de Lune “host[s] the best local and touring bands, as well as San Diego’s top artistic creative talent.” It also reserves their dance floor for different dancing troupes and encourages participation from the customers.

Last March, I went out with my best friend Renee to celebrate our birthdays. By luck, we stumbled upon Claire de Lune after we finished dinner nearby. As we sipped our warm coffee and devoured our chocolate cake, we watched as professional swing dancers twirled to live jazz music on the dance floor around us. They tried to get us to join in, and I ended up as the dancing partner of a kind, old man. This crazy night reminded me of all of the hidden gems that are left to explore in San Diego.

Ocean Beach and North Park are not the only interesting towns in our county. There are many more communities settled within the area, full of beaches and mountains, as well as different cultures and groups of people.

This month, the San Diego Film Fest is happening at the Gaslamp in Downtown San Diego. Also, the annual Oktoberfest happening in La Mesa, El Cajon and Pacific Beach. Some more areas worth exploring include Silver Strand, Hillcrest and Torrey Pines, but the list is endless with possibilities.

I encourage you to channel your curiosity and explore all the different parts of San Diego, starting with Ocean Beach or North Park.

You may be surprised by how much you enjoy the change in scenery, and you might even find a new college hangout. There is much more to San Diego that lies beyond Mission Beach that is just waiting to be discovered by college students like yourself.