San Diego is a place near and dear to our hearts. That’s where we moved a month after we were married and where Milana was born. We go back every so often, and love all the kid friendliness the city has to offer. Our most recent trip was over Valentine’s weekend 2016. We stayed at the Renaissance downtown hotel (got it on Priceline).
Our first stop was Soda & Swine in University Heights. If you find yourself in San Diego from another state, rent a car and explore the city. There are so many wonderful neighborhoods in SD (Hillcrest, University Heights, North Park and Kensington are some of our favorites) and most tourists tend to stick to downtown/Gaslamp/La Jolla. So many good restaurants in those neighborhoods, you certainly won’t be disappointed! On to Soda & Swine. The concept is really cool, you select the type of meatballs you want (swine, hen, bovine, etc) and the way you want it (skillet, bun, etc). We had the swine skillet, bovine sliders and a hen slider. Everything was so good! We will definitely come back the next time we are in San Diego. And of course, they have lots of unique sodas to choose from, hence the name!
The next morning, we went to our favorite coffee place in San Diego, Caffe Calabria located in North Park. The coffee here is really good (we had the mochas) and Milana loves their little salami/cheese sandwiches.
Our Sunday tradition used to be walking to the Hillcrest Farmers Market when we lived within walking distance. It’s still the best farmers market we have ever been to, with a ton of prepared food vendors, serving everything from African and Mediterranean to vegan and Polish food. So much to choose from, definitely come hungry! And of course, since this is a farmers market, there are lots of fruits and vegetable vendors as well. Daddy bought Milana some pink flowers at the farmers market and she proudly carried them around all day.
Some of our favorite items at the market are Thai coconut pancakes (so good and 4/$1), cookies from the Cravory (they used to only sell at farmers markets but now have a store front in Point Loma), probiotic kefir soda, agua frescas in so many flavors (Milana chose watermelon) and cheese! We all love cheese and Milana loved doing a taste test as she calls it, giving a thumbs up to every cheese she tried.
After all those cookies and cheese, we had to hit up the produce portion of the market and left with lots of fresh, organic berries.
After the farmers market, we headed over to Balboa Park. Our first stop was the 6th Ave playground, one of Milana’s favorites.
After she played, we went into the park and enjoyed the awesome February weather. It was in the 80s that day!
San Diego has lots of great Thai restaurants, but our new favorite (opened up just 2 months ago) is Veganic Thai Cafe in Hillcrest. Everything we ordered was amazing, and being vegan is a huge plus!
Chicken Satay (Milana loved this!)
Pad See Ew with mock duck (this is one of Milana’s favorite Thai dishes)
Tom Kha soup, with vegetables.
For dessert, we went to the Gaslamp because Milana asked for “chocolate like they give at Disney,” meaning Ghirardelli. She got her free samples of chocolate and we all shared the Ocean Beach sundae.
The next day, we became parents of the year and took Milana to our favorite cupcake place anywhere for breakfast. We had coffee and she had a cupcake (ok, I did too!). If you’re looking for an excellent dessert place, BabyCakes is not to be missed! It’s located on 5th Ave in Hillcrest, and has several parking spots out front which is important to note since parking can be scarce in the area.
Down the street from BabyCakes in Banker’s Hill is a vegetarian drive thru restaurant called Evolution. This is a hidden gem, not many people know about it but it is so worth a visit! So much healthier than your typical fast food, and it tastes better too. We used to frequent this a lot when we lived in the area, I wish we had something like it in OC!
Before heading home, we stopped at the new Waterfront Park. It was over 80 degrees in February, so the splash pad area was filled with bathing suit clad kids. Milana had a blast running around and getting soaked. This is a must do if you’re visiting San Diego with kids! You can watch the planes land at the nearby SAN airport while you soak up the rays and the kids splash and play in the water. There are two sections with water play. One is just water play, and not very crowded. The second area is right next to the playground, and that area was very crowded. We stayed by the splash only area until she was ready for the playground, then we walked over to the actual play area. The biggest complaint we had (and we heard from others) is the lack of shade anywhere. It was a really hot day and the playground equipment was getting really hot, with no shade anywhere.
Our final stop before heading home was Bronx Pizza in Hillcrest. The West Coast lacks severely in the pizza department, so much in fact that Milana who devours anything refuses to eat pizza here. She had no problem eating it when visiting family in Jersey and in NYC, but West Coast pizza is just not her thing. Until she tried Bronx Pizza that is! This is the first time she actually finished a slice of pizza and enjoyed it. If you’re looking for NY style pizza, this is the place to be. They’re always packed, but they have lots of pies ready (they sell by the slice, so many options to choose from) so you won’t wait very long.
White pizza the way it should be, with no alfredo sauce!
Another time we were in San Diego, we had breakfast at Snooze, which is in Hillcrest. The wait on weekends can be long, so go early or be prepared to wait! The food is really, really good so definitely worth the wait.
Cinnamon roll and peanut butter cup pancakes:
On this trip, we also visited the New Children’s Museum . Honestly, not our favorite. Of all the children’s museums we’ve been to all over the country, this is probably our least favorite. We haven’t been back!
Our hotel that time was connected to Petco Park, which has a little kids playground inside it. You can enter Petco Park during the day and walk around the area, something to keep in mind if you want to see the stadium without going to a game.
A must visit while in San Diego is Carnita’s Snack Shack, located in North Park. When we lived there, this was a Vietnamese tiny little shack. Now it’s been remodeled, is much bigger and has amazing food. The line is usually all the way down the street, but moves quickly and is so worth the wait!
Cucina Urbana in Banker’s Hill has been our favorite restaurant for years. Their jars are amazing! Our favorites is the chicken liver pate and burrata. The food is kid friendly too, Milana loves everything we have.