If someone is looking for a full-service spa, where do you send them?
Spa Pendry (550 J St., Tel: 619-738-7065, www.pendry.com/san-diego/wellness) is the best of the best, if you’re staying downtown. They offer organic herbal steam showers, tranquil treatment rooms, relaxing garden cabanas that feel a world away from the bustling Gaslamp Quarter around you, and a refreshing rooftop pool. The adjacent lunch restaurant, The Pool House offers an excellent menu of local favorites. I’m originally from Hawaii, and I love the Big Eye Tuna Poke!
Designer labels for less—do you have any suggestions for the smart shopper?
Every major city has outlets, and sometimes you find amazing deals, but if you’re only in San Diego for a day or two, I’d explore neighborhood consignment stores first.
Leo Hamel Boutique (1851 San Diego Ave., Tel: 619-333-3520. www.designerfashionconsignments.com/san-diego/shop-preowned-vintage) specializes in designer labels like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Chanel at affordable prices in its popular consignment store, located between Old Town and Little Italy.
What are the best gay/lesbian bars in the city?
If you’re looking to be in the center of everything, Flicks (1017 University Ave., Tel: 619-297-2056, www.sdflicks.com) has been a staple of Hillcrest for decades. It’s an always-lively video bar that fills to capacity on weekend nights.
I really like Number One Fifth Avenue (3845 Fifth Ave., Tel: 619-299-1911. No website), which has operated in Hillcrest since the early 80s, wedged in a tree-lined stretch of shopping on Fifth Ave. The bar offers popular theme nights like karaoke on Thursdays and a great Sunday afternoon tea-dance on the back patio.
And for a historic watering hole, you can’t beat The Hole (in the Wall) (2820 Lytton St., Tel: 619-996-9000. www.theholesandiego.com), which is nearing its 100th anniversary, having been a local institution in the Point Loma area since 1924. Its Sunday Funday event always fills its multilevel outdoor space.
What are the most popular gay dance clubs in the city?
Rich’s (1051 University Ave., Tel: 619- 578-9349. www.richssandiego.com) is still the gold standard after nearly 30 years. I was actually a doorman there in the mid-90s, and the DJs (including my best friend DJ Taj) still pack the dance floor every night, Thursday through Sunday. They frequently have guest performers and over-the-top events, with state-of-the-art lighting and sound, and a women’s night on Thursdays.
Where can someone go at 3 A.M. for a good meal?
A good meal at 3 A.M. for San Diegans usually means an all-night taco stand or a vintage diner. Saguaro’s (3753 30th St., Tel: 619-291- 7746. www.saguarosmexicanfood.com) is a drive-through taco stand in North Park that never closes. Rudford’s (2900 El Cajon Blvd., Tel: 619-282-4485. www.rudfords.com) has offered 24/7 diner fare in North Park since 1949, and Lestat’s (1045 University Ave., Tel: 619-564-6616. www.lestats.com) is an all-night coffee house next to Rich’s in Hillcrest, which also has locations in Normal Heights and University Heights. And Brian’s 24 (828 Sixth Ave., Tel: 619-702-8410, www.brians24.com) in the Gaslamp is notable for its enormous mahogany bar, which was once owned by Joan Crawford.
What is the iconic tourist souvenir, and where will we find it?
San Diego is such a multifaceted city, from its Hispanic and Latin influenced architecture and cuisine, to its expansive beaches and its draw as a surfer’s paradise. It has a world-renowned zoo and park system and abundant sea life, and it’s known for its military presence, so finding an iconic souvenir depends on what you think is your favorite thing about San Diego.
One option that represents this diversity is SoCal Candle Company (various locations, www.socalcandleco.com), which is locally owned and operated, and pours soy wax candles using essential oils to create scents representing San Diego’s different neighborhoods. If it’s a souvenir for yourself, it’s nice to leave with a scent tied to your specific experience. They sell them all over town, including the Ace Hardware stores in Hillcrest and in the Gaslamp Quarter. I also love buying vintage postcards for people at antique shops like the ones in the Ocean Beach Antique District (4926 Newport Ave., Tel: 619-223- 6170. no website), instead of sending modern mass-produced postcards.
Please finish this sentence: Don’t leave the city without…
Visiting the charming Little Italy neighborhood, which has become the new hub for chic restaurants and trendy lounges, yet retains its old-world charm with tree-lined streets and piazzas to sit and enjoy a gelato and people watch. The weekly Little Italy Mercato Farmer’s Market (Saturdays from 8am to 2pm on West Date St. between Front and Kettner, www.sandiegomarkets.com/markets) is one of the most popular farmer’s markets in the city, offering over 150 vendors selling fresh produce, meat, flowers, artisan crafts and more.
Spending at least a couple hours in La Jolla, from shopping in the boutiques along Prospect Street to strolling along the oceanfront walk above La Jolla Cove to visiting the Cave Store (1325 Coast Blvd., Tel: 858-459-0746. www.cavestore.com) with its 145 steps descending down through a sandstone tunnel to a sea cave where waves have crashed below the viewing platform since 1902.
Tasting a fish taco at Lola 55 (1290 F St., Tel: 619-542-9155. www.lola55.com) in the East Village, which was recently awarded a Bib Gourmand nod by Michelin, or ¡Salud! (2196 Logan Ave., Tel: 619-255-3856. www.saludtacos.com in Barrio Logan. I’m a fan of every taco both places offer, but fish tacos specifically are a San Diego tradition.
Exploring Balboa Park and strolling through its extensive gardens and sprawling museum campus. This 1200-acre park is one of the oldest public parks in the nation, and many of its buildings were constructed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, which celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal.