Best places to feel superior to Los Angeles
Aside from rush hour, you can actually use the freeways to get someplace faster than if you took the streets. What a novel idea!
Charles Bukowski has infused Hollywood Park with seedy charm, but from the lavishness of the Turf Club to the lawlessness of the Infield, is there a more democratic way to spend a Saturday afternoon that at Del Mar during racing season?
Safe, efficient and charming as hell, the little red cars of the San Diego Trolley run circles (literally) around L.A.'s light-rail system.
OK, so maybe the Padres don't have the Dodgers' history and hardware, but Petco Park offers that rare combo: great entertainment for adults and an unforgettable experience for the kids.Downtown L.A. is so deserted on the weekends you're likely to stumble into a movie filming a crime scene or end up the victim of one. Not so in San Diego's vibrant Gaslamp Quarter.—Jim Ruland
Best heat-wave treats
Why does it get so damn hot in the fall? I'm ready for sweater weather, but in the meantime I'll just eat ice cream. For low-cost frozen treats to cool down my internal thermostat, I go to Oasis Ice Cream Parlor in Imperial Beach (1832 Coronado Ave., www.oasisicecream.com), a family-run shop that makes homemade Michoacan-style ice cream with seasonal ingredients. The coconut ice cream is amazing, but other all-natural flavors include trail mix, horchata and walnut. Fresh fruits like watermelon and tamarind turn into refreshing sorbets or homemade paletas, or popsicles.
Honey Banana in National City (443 Highland Ave.) specializes in raspados, or Mexican snow cones of shaved ice topped with fresh-fruit syrups. The coconut-guava raspado has shavings of fresh coconut and chunks of guava; if you prefer a creamier dessert, get the optional drizzle of sweetened condensed milk. Most refreshing of all is the mango raspado, diabolito-style, sprinkled with sour, salty, sweet and spicy tamarind-chili powder.—Candice Woo
Best fried chicken
Livingston's in Ocean Beach has a dual personality. On one hand, it's a commendable hole-in-the-wall taco shop, with better-than-average nachos and burritos. It's also a first-rate fried-chicken joint, except they call it broasted chicken, which makes it sound way healthier than it is. The chicken is pressure-cooked in oil, a frying method that keeps the meat really juicy while crisping the skin, without a heavy crust. It's delectable—and cheap; two pieces of chicken and a roll will set you back just $3 and change. Livingston's rotisserie-style chicken is also good, especially on nachos. All food can be ordered and eaten in the little open-air shop (5026 Newport Ave.) or while you're having a pint at the adjacent Sunshine Company Saloon. —Candice Woo
Best candy paradise
When someone gifts you with a tin of Bacon Mints, a pilgrimage must be made to the source of such a strange and wonderful treat. That's how I found Powell's Sweet Shoppe (1000 Prospect St. in La Jolla, www.powellssweetshoppe.com), a candy emporium that's home to every candy imaginable, from the obscure to classic favorites, including a wall of Pez. Ratcheting up the sugar quotient are retro sodas, a gelato bar and gourmet chocolates. The air smells sweet, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory plays on continuous loop. It's every kid's—and dentist's—dream. —Candice Woo
Best dive bar you've never been to
Located next to a tattoo parlor and a medical supply store that proudly displays a “Specializing in incontinence supplies” sign is a gem that under different names has operated as a watering hole for more than 60 years.
The first thing you'll notice upon entering El Cajon's McKenzie's on Broadway (1337 Broadway, maximum occupancy: 50)—is a gyrating 7-Eleven-style wiener carousel. The second thing is the prominent array of vintage-beer-logo-etched mirrors hung on the blue cinder-block walls—from the rope-framed Pacifico to the rare Coors/Coors Light combo, they're all here.
“Some have been there since the '70's?… before I was born,” bartender Jason says of the reflective collector's items.
You'll also take in the sight of the ultimate sign of a dive, a shuffleboard table.
Above the restrooms propped up on shelf, a light-up plastic statue of namesake Spuds McKenzie keeps guard. Next to the bar is a brass bell that gets rung when someone buys the bar a round. “Sometimes it's ringed so hard it's been yanked off the wall,” the barman said. On top of the bell rests a plush likeness of Popeye's hamburger-loving buddy, Whimpy, wearing a Sharpie-inscribed T-shirt that reads “No Muff 2 Tuff.”
The drinks are strong; the patrons' love for karaoke is stronger. Fridays and Saturdays it goes off, as regulars rock out from the convenience of black pleather stools. Any given song, the mic is passed around the place and you'd be hard pressed not to partake in the fun.
Hot dog: $1.
Tall-ass pitcher of Amber Rock: $9.
Getting your East County karaoke cherry popped to a forced rendition of REO Speedwagon's “Keep on Loving You”: priceless.—Enrique Limon
Best place to get the right kind of bike
What started as a guy building custom steel-frame bikes and selling them online eventually became Velo Culture, a small, low-ceilinged bike shop in Bird Rock. After a fair amount of work and decent sales, the crammed shop was recently reincarnated as a spacious, new bike shop in South Park with a slightly more concise name, Velo Cult (2220 Fern St., www.myspace.com/veloculture).
“This was the perfect building, on the perfect street in the perfect neighborhood,” says Sky Boyer, owner of Velo Cult, as he walked through his new shop. “It was perfect for this business.”
What sets Velo Cult apart from other bike shops isn't just the nice, new location, it's the inventory. Almost every bike in Boyer's store is a refurbished old classic Japanese, Italian and American steel frame, finished off with new chains, seats, handlebars and other gear.
“We specialize in steel bikes,” explains Boyer, “which the bike industry pretty much shuns these days. Steel bikes cost the most to make and have the lowest profit margin for the bike industry, so they shunned them; they talked down about them. But people who really know about bikes know the quality of steel and know how great it is for cycling and commuting and stuff like that, so that's our costumer base—people who know a little more about bikes.”
Velo Cult has been selling plenty of fixies (fixed-geared, or single-speed bikes, typically with no brakes) lately, because that's the current trend among hipsters. But Boyer's been checking the bike scene in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and he sees a change ahead.
He points to one of the bikes in his store with front and back racks, mud flaps, flat handlebars, comfortable cork handles and multiple gears. “Townies,” he says—“everyone's going to be riding one. You sit super upright, you get to hold a cup of coffee or look around while you ride. It's a whole different experience, and they're incredibly fun.”
But regardless of the current bike rage, Boyer has one goal in mind for Velo Cult. He says commuters are still riding fixies when they should be riding townies, and long-distance cyclists are still getting in their cars to run to the grocery store because their bikes aren't set up for short-distance rides that require transporting grocery bags.
“I just want people to get on the right kind of bike,” he says.—Kinsee Morlan
Best (and cheapest) ways to live out Fame fantasies
Admit it. You get all choked up watching So You Think You Can Dance. Truth is, you thought you could dance, but the first time you saw those agile athletes pirouetting and pop-locking across the stage, you realized that your version of dancing is merely shuffling and shrugging to the beat.
The good news is that if you're reasonably fit and have a modicum of rhythm, real skills are just a few lessons away. And if you're worried what other people think, Baryshnikov said it best: “I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself.”
San Diego's best dance bargain is at City College (www.sdcity.edu). An individual studio dance class typically costs between $10 and $15. At City and Mesa colleges, you can take an entire semester of classes for less than $40. San Diego's community colleges offer ballet, jazz, modern, “ethnic” (Latin), ballroom, improv, belly dance and American street. Though most classes take place during the daytime, there are a handful of evening options, too. The downside is that it's an actual college class, which means midterms and finals—both performance and written. And, if you happen to be older than the average 18-year-old student, strutting your stuff in a leotard can be a little awkward.
San Diego's best dance neighborhood is North Park. Eveoke Dance Theatre (www.eveoke.org) calls the hot 'hood home, and so do several studios. Learn to salsa at A Time to Dance (www.atimetodance studio.com), where men outnumbered women in a recent six-week, Level 1 “progressive” class. Stage 7 (www.stage7.com) takes a unique approach to ballet with lessons ranging from “bonehead” (for total beginners) to pointe and also teaches contemporary and international. At The Studio at North Park (www.thestudioatnorthpark.com), learn the art of burlesque or Latin-aerobicize with Zumba. And Vernetta's (www.vernetta dance.com), which claims to be San Diego's longest-running studio, everyone from toddlers to AARPs can tap, tumble and swing (among other things). —AnnaMaria Stephens
Best border town ever
I've heard the tales of old Tijuana, when it was a paradise of beaches, drunkenness and whoring. But these days, with dead bodies turning up like Easter eggs and border waits of more than two hours, it's just not fun anymore.
Luckily, there's Tecate, a 45-minute drive east of San Diego. For a pleasant afternoon in Mexico, it can't be beat. Start at the Tecate Brewery, about a quarter-mile south of the border crossing. Take the tour. Some people recommend having lunch at the beer garden, but instead, walk a few blocks north to the town square for lunch. There are stalls selling cheap tourist crap, if you're into that sort of thing, but mainly the square is surrounded by taco shops. I ate at Taqueria Arcos, about a block east on Avenida de Benito Juarez, where the tacos cost less than $2, the pollo and carne asada are perfectly spiced and they have Mexican Coca-Cola, well known to be superior to the American stuff because it contains sugar instead of corn syrup. You can tell it's good, because locals file in and out even between meal times.
After lunch, stroll back to the square to listen to music or continue east on Juarez to El Mejor de Pan bakery, where they make fabulous Mexican wedding cookies, excellent apple turnovers and terrific fresh-baked bread. Instead of crappy trinkets, bring this stuff home for friends and family—they'll love you more for it.
Leaving Tecate is a breeze, too—just 30 minutes to cross at a busy time on a Saturday. Be careful, though, the crossing closes at 11 p.m., which means some people get stuck there. Then again, there are worse places to be stuck. —Eric Wolff
Best place to get a delicious, greasy breakfast, marvel at a menu that looks like it hasn't been altered since 1974, watch the most efficient short-order cooks in town and pretend you're in the beginning scene from Pulp Fiction.
Perry's Café (4260 Pacific Highway). 'Nuff said.—Todd Kroviak
Best group to LOL with
To the random jogger or average passerby strolling by the playground near Sixth Avenue and Upas Street in Balboa Park, the sight of a group that gathers there in a circle formation early Saturday mornings and laughs out loud might appear to be a troupe of hippies in the early stages of an acid high.
According to Psychology Today, “Uniquely human, laughter is, first and foremost, a social signal—it disappears when there is no audience, which may be as small as one other person—and it binds people together. It synchronizes the brains of speaker and listener so that they are emotionally attuned.” Another study conducted by doctors at Loma Linda University suggests that laughter has a positive effect on the immune system.
Medical findings aside, laughing for no good reason is pretty damn hilarious.
“The group has experienced tremendous growth this year” says attorney Michael Coleman, founder of the San Diego Laughter Yoga group (www.laughinginsandiego.com) that congregates in the park and a certified laughter-yoga leader and teacher. “There are now 10 free weekly groups with at least one group meeting every day of the week somewhere in the county.”
The class starts with a series of deep breaths and leads to exercises such as “the mirror,” in which participants pretend to hold a mirror either to their own face or someone else's and laugh uncontrollably. In another, you can pretend to open an envelope containing a bill and chuckle your financial woes away. After each exercise the crowd claps and exclaims: “Very good, very good, yay!”
One practice had everyone state their name and what they had for breakfast.
“My name is Enrique and all I had was leftovers and some black coffee,” I said. The crowd lost it.
Very good, very good, yay!—Enrique Limon
Best places for hoppy, buzzed shenanigans
I want a good beer and, no, Budweiser's new “ale” doesn't intrigue me. I want a dark-as-oil, deep-hued, chocolaty porter or a cask beer whose millions of bubbles cascade up the side of the glass ascending to the perfect one-inch head. I want a Belgian white with rich flavors of coriander, orange peel and—wait—is that a subtle hint of peach in there, too?
Hamilton's Tavern in South Park (1521 30th St., www.hamiltonstavern.com) and O'Brien's Pub in Kearny Mesa (4646 Convoy St., www.obrienspub.net)—aka the “hoppiest place on earth”—are well-known mainstays. But there are new contenders like Toronado in North Park (4026 30th St. www.toronadosd.com), where the beer selection is obscene; I counted 179 bottles of beer on their wall, from 11 countries—and that includes a $235 six-liter bottle of Duvel chilling proudly in the glass fridge behind the bar.
If you're looking to delve into classic San Diego beer culture, then the Tap Room in Pacific Beach (1269 Garnet Ave., www.sdtaproom.com) is a good place to start. Only locally brewed beers are featured on their taps, with drafts from Ballast Point, Coronado, Alesmith and Stone. Stuffed full of flat screens, the Tap Room is where Chargers faithful congregate on Sundays.
Newport Pizza and Ale House (5050 Newport Ave., www.obpizzashop.com) offers up great beer for the Ocean Beach crowd. With a sticker behind the bar proclaiming “no crap on tap” this low-key, beer-lovers spot doesn't disappoint. Enjoy your slice of “David Hasselhoff” pizza (just as cheesy as the actor himself), while you settle into a frothy pint of stout and watch O.B.'s eclectic mix of characters stroll by.
Pizza Port in Solana Beach (135 N. Highway 101, www.pizzaport.com/solana) separates itself from the rest by not only featuring beers from great brewers, but also brewing its own beers. Stand at the bar and take a peek over the ledge into the brewing area below, and if you're lucky, you might witness brewers Greg Peters and Yiga Miyashiro shoveling grain in and out of the mash tun or adding hops to the kettle, creating the very “Port grog” you hold in your hand.
How good are Port's homegrown brews? Every spot mentioned in this blurb carries them, and this year Pizza Port (there's also a location in Carlsbad) won an unprecedented eight medals at the American Beer Festival. With pillars wrapped in rope and old wooden barrels for trashcans, Pizza Port has the look of an old-time sailor hangout and gets just as rowdy as patrons squeeze shoulder to shoulder on benches downing pints and soaking 'em up with Port's signature “beer buddies.”—Jared Mason
Best cheap-eats bargain
A little more than two years ago, CityBeat published a small dining item singing—nay, screaming—the praises of a place called Hot Dog Station, that cute little train-shaped affair just off Downtown's Lyceum Theatres at 79 Horton Plaza. Scores of subsequent visits to venues that specialize in cheap eats haven't made so much as a dent in the upshot around here: This place gets a vigorous nod as the best single cheap-eats bargain in the city. You're not just buying a lengthy piece of meat—if you choose the Chicago Dog, you form a pact with tradition in spite of yourself. This thing is loaded with all the garden-variety goodies in the best Chicago hot dog tradition, and the big fat pretzels (which are meals in themselves) aren't far behind. Fork over $7 for your main course, chips and a drink, and you're good to go. The American Hot Dog Council says the people of this country eat a stratospheric 20 billion hot dogs a year. That's pretty impressive—but don't worry about stoking those lofty numbers. Only one entry from Hot Dog Station is enough to persuade you you've come to the right place.—Martin Jones Westlin
Best cheap drink
In case you ain't aware, Tecate is the new Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) and, aside from buying an 18-pack and drinking at home, the cheapest Tecate in town can be found at Bar Pink (3829 30th St., www.barpink.com). And aside from the cheap drinks, the new(ish) North Park bar is quickly becoming one of the best live-music venues around.—Kinsee Morlan
Best place to find obscure movies
It's pretty obvious why Blowout Video Sales (3026 Midway Drive) doesn't attract the casual renter. It has the largest adult-video section I've ever seen, and combined with its seedy location underneath the business headquarters for Déjà Vu strip clubs, it's practically the antithesis of “family friendly establishment.” Plus, the inevitably thick traffic and poor street planning of the Sports Arena area make it frustrating to get in and out of the parking lot.
During a trip there you'll witness a few skeezy-looking dudes in dark sunglasses (indoors, mind you) emerge from the saloon-style doors separating Blowout and the adjoining porn section only to quickly scurry out the front door, but it's worth enduring the awkwardness to pick through the insane selection of DVD rentals and sales.
Everything here is cheap (“blowout” isn't a misnomer), and the store has unique sections that were obviously put together by movie lovers. These include displays for the entire catalogues of Woody Allen and Alfred Hitchcock and a Midnight Movies area, which combines cult films, B-movies and a barrage of low-culture delights.
Unlike the similarly inclined Ken Video and Citizen Video, Blowout doesn't have the luxury of a hip locale, which makes it even more of a curiosity. How this place is still in business is anyone's guess, especially with $1.99 rentals and 99-cent late fees, but more power to 'em for carrying the movie-nerd torch.—Todd Kroviak
Best place to catch the coolest game on Earth
There's simply no place else but Stout (1125 Sixth Ave., Downtown) to watch a hockey game. OK, there are places that might occasionally have a hockey game on, but only at Stout will there always be a game on, and with sound, even. Only Stout attracts fans who live the game, who can argue Gretzky versus Mario or even Leetch versus Bourque. And during the playoffs, Stout is the place to find a crowd of hockey fans, rooting for everyone from the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers to the San Jose Sharks. The place does fine on the other bar fronts: The bartenders are decent souls, ready to help a fan drown his sorrows; the food is good and cheap; the other fans are friendly. It lacks a little in beer selection, but the beer is good enough. I guess this is the kind of bar we can expect when Canadians open up shop in San Diego. —Eric Wolff
Best new barrio
La Mesa is hot, both in temperature and the Paris Hilton sense of the word. While some born-and-raised La Mesans (La Mesanites?) who take their own city for granted might fervently disagree, this reporter and at least five other Yelpers agree that the quirky nature and affordability of the East County borough have earned it the unofficial title of “The Next North Park.”
The reincarnation of The Turf Club, after all, is opening its doors in La Mesa this month as the bigger and better Riviera Supper Club and Turquoise Room at 777 University Ave. Now, if that ain't some hip shit, we don't know what is. So venture east on Interstate 8 and head down La Mesa Boulevard to La Mesa Village, where you'll experience a little bit of country and whole lot of fun.
Between the old, strange-smelling gift stores and antique shops, you'll find gems like Maxwell's House of Books (8285 La Mesa Blvd., www.maxwellshouseofbooks.com), which sells reused books of “philosophy, history, literature, poetry, literary criticism and more.” It's a scholarly sort of place, to say the least, and the owner, Craig Maxwell, is a well-read, political man who likes to hang newspaper clippings covering La Mesa's mayoral misdeeds in his storefront window.
Just down the street is La Mesa's most happening Italian-food and pizza joint, Sanfilippo's Pizza (8141 La Mesa Blvd.). The pizza comes with more cheese than you've probably ever seen on a pie this side of Interstate 15, and the small orders of pasta are enough to feed two.
Just next door is Sara's Selections (8376 La Mesa Blvd.) a boutique that takes full advantage of the more affordable rent and offers decent prices and a big selection. And across the way is Johnny B's Burgers & Brew (4738 4th St.), the last of the good dive bars since Joe & Andy's Hole in the Wall shut down and Pete's Place closed for remodeling. Johnny B's is the type of place that leaves black sugar containers stuffed with packets of mayonnaise on each table, sells cheap beer, serves greasy-but-good food and always has a games on its many TVs.
You may see some McCain-Palin bumper stickers while you're in La Mesa, but don't let the backward politics of the place get in the way of a good time.—Kinsee Morlan
Best hike for beginners
My general diet of take-out meals, cigarettes and beer doesn't bode well for a consistent exercise routine, and at 25, I'm already starting to feel the effects of bodily negligence. I'd rather stab myself in the eye with a disease-ridden syringe than spend my after-work hours at a gym, so spending the occasional weekend day outdoors is a viable alternative. It makes me feel, uh, “one with nature” or something.
My initiation to San Diego's trails took place at Iron Mountain, which begins just north of Scripps Poway Parkway on Highway 67. On a hot day, just about any hike can be excruciating, but despite the 90-degree weather, the trail was surprisingly manageable and (gasp) enjoyable, even for aerobically deficient cretins such as myself.
Winding through the shrub-covered hills between Lakeside and Poway, Iron Mountain provides an escape from the nearby business parks and strip malls of North County. On the right day, you can see all the way to the coast from the 2,700-foot peak, and the view is certainly worth the 5.6-mile roundtrip.
We urban dwellers might forget we're actually an oasis in the middle of a giant fucking desert. It's a healthy reminder that there's still plenty of untouched land left to explore.—Todd Kroviak
Best place to chill out in Mission Valley
The CityBeat office is right next to Interstate 8 in Mission Valley. Basically, the location sucks walnuts, and the staff rightly complains about the area's lack of good restaurants or any distinguishable characteristics that separate it from the rest of the county (Qualcomm Stadium, right across the river, doesn't count).
However, there are a few gems scattered around CB headquarters; it just takes more digging than can be accomplished during an average lunch break. One such diamond in the rough is the Longhorn Café (6519 Mission Gorge Road), which inconspicuously sits in an aging strip mall between a Vons and a Bank of America.
As a relic from a bygone age (the mid-'70s), the Longhorn is the kind of bar and restaurant that wouldn't last two months if it were opened in San Diego today. Its high factor of deep-fried menu items should easily scare the average Whole Foods shopper away, and the amusing, old-timey vibe isn't sleek enough to appeal to modern families, but it's gained enough of a reputation as a takeout joint and convenient happy-hour location to keep a steady flow of patrons.
In certain eyes it'll be no more than kitschy, but the restaurant is genuinely charming, and if it weren't stuck next to a grocery store and a bank, the Longhorn would qualify as a little slice of inland Americana. If you've ever been to Boll Weevil, you get the gist—family-friendly comfort food, red vinyl booths, waitresses that call you “hon” and plenty of knick-knacky wall decorations.There are numerous small details that make this spot more than the sum of its parts. From the back room filled with John Wayne memorabilia to the unexpectedly challenging trivia napkins, it's the perfect place to go for drinks at the end of the day to pretend that you don't work in a mishmash of condos, strip malls and business parks.—Todd Kroviak
Best extreme sport you have yet to try
Ultimate Frisbee. That's right, ultimate.
“It's like rugby, but with no contact,” says German-born San Diego Ultimate Frisbee meetup organizer Michael Wibbeke, who started the group in May after moving down from Northern California.The sport drew heat in the past by Wham-O, which owns the Frisbee trademark, and is now referred to simply as “Ultimate” in professional circles.
The sport's a bit of a cross between football (in that the goal is to put the disc into an “end zone”) and soccer (because you pass it among teammates in order to get it there). But don't let nostalgic memories of tossing the Frisbee fool you—this game (www.sdulti mate.com) is anything but subdued. It's fast-paced and changes direction frequently—once the disc hits the ground, the other team gains control)—and you have to be in good shape to be successful.
What you don't need, apparently, is footwear. During a recent game at Kate Sessions Park in Pacific Beach, Peter McNenly decided to have a go at it sans shoes. I asked him if this gave him any sort of extra on-field agility.
“No,” he said, “it's just that I can't really afford good shoes.”—Enrique Limon
Best place to play some serious volleyball
Being a high school athlete is kinda like being an alcoholic—once a jock, always a jock. I hide my athleticism well, for the most part, but every now and then my T-shirt sleeves scrunch up and my unnaturally bulging female biceps pops out. Or, even more embarrassing, during a nice quiet game of Uno, I'll get all aggressive and competitive, tell people they're “going down” and throw my arms up in gloating victory as I brutishly slap down my last card.
The last few years, though, I've decided that rather than hide my jock side, I needed an outlet in order to quell these random outbursts. Volleyball is my sport, so I set out to find the best social league in San Diego. Beach volleyball on Mission Beach was out—I tried it few years back and discovered that the skill level is a bit beyond even my varsity, all-state, MVP (twice) league. So I signed up for Vavi, a social sports club that includes adult kickball as one of the offered sports. I paid my $60-something fee, signed on as a free agent to the coed four-on-four social beach volleyball league and showed up to Ocean Beach this summer ready to pat some asses after good plays.
But good plays turned out to be few and far between. My teammates were nice—a few were even fairly good—but the old jock in me rounded out the season feeling completely unsatisfied. I like to play a nice leisurely game of volleyball, sure, but I like to play a highly competitive, spike-in-your-face kind of game a hell of a lot more. I did some Googling and got a list of all the open gyms offering volleyball in San Diego, which is something I should've done about six years ago when I moved to this city.
The second I stepped foot into the Balboa Park Activity Center (2145 Park Blvd.) that first Monday night for free open play, I knew I'd found my niche. Anywhere from three to six courts are going at one time every Monday and Wednesday night from 6 to 9:45 p.m. (it's also open 9 a.m. to noon on Sundays) and each court is assigned its own skill level. While I did see a beginner court going once, most of the time, it's people just like me—recovering high-school jocks who can't wait to hit the ball again and play a competitive but fun game of volleyball.—Kinsee Morlan
Best local wine area
To those who think Temecula is the only option for nearby wine-tasting, I say head south, fellow winos. The Valle de Guadalupe region in Baja is less than a two-hour drive from San Diego, and its wines might someday challenge the stuff coming out of Napa or Europe. The valley is still fairly undiscovered, which means affordable bottles and relatively tourist-free areas—in other words, heaven. Mogor-Badan, a sustainable winery with an onsite organic farm, makes my favorite red, and Paralelo's impressive winery is worth a trip just to see this temple of high-design, fashioned from recycled materials. Make a weekend of it and spend the night in a local hotel so that you can fit in a meal at Laja, one the best farm-to-table restaurants on either side of the border. —Candice Woo
Best place to sing badly
Chorus Karaoke and Café (4428 Convoy St.) is not your average karaoke joint. You get your own room and you can bring your own booze (snuck in via water bottles while the owners conveniently look the other way). I vaguely remember the last time I was there: I recall couches, a coffee table, 10 of my closest friends and me somehow ending up under the coffee table singing 4 Non Blondes' “What's Up” while my friends faces stared down at me in confusion. Good times, people, good times.—Kinsee Morlan