I am proud to say that I’m mighty blessed to be residing in “America’s Favorite City”. In my exploration of this fantastic SoCal urban oasis, I’ve discovered and frequented an abundance of unique and compelling places from North County to downtown and all places in between. Perusing the museums, architecture and spectacular landscaping that fills San Diego’s iconic Balboa Park is one of my favorite ways to spend any day in San Diego.
In 1915, San Diego was named the first U.S. Port of Call for ships traveling north after passing through the newly inaugurated Panama Canal. A two-year Panama-California Exposition was promptly organized at Balboa Park to commemorate the opening of the Canal and introduce San Diego to the world. Over two million guests visited the Panama-California Exposition in 1915, and 1916 turnout was just under that number. The Balboa Park 2015 Centennial Celebration is a year-long festival of events designed to celebrate the past 100 years and promote the future 100 years.
Today, Balboa Park houses 17 museums, 19 spectacular gardens, a dozen restaurants, the San Diego Zoo and numerous performing arts venues. This magnificent and historical San Diego landmark is a premier cultural and entertainment destination for folks of all ages, and a must-visit for all residents and visitors to our fine city.
Urban communities neighboring Balboa Park grew rapidly as a result of the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition and the subsequent influx of people to San Diego. Cultural influences including craftsman-style homes, California bungalows, kitschy boutiques and trendy salons fill North Park, Hillcrest, and University Heights.
Beyond the shops and salons are wonderful dining establishments such as Cucina Urbana (CU) located at 5th & Laurel. Known for their craft cocktails and extensive in-house retail wine shop, this large, open-style restaurant also serves up tasteful seasonal menu items prepared from locally grown and sourced food products.
The innovation used in menu creation at CU is evident in the extraordinary and delightful flavors served up tableside. And the decor at CU is one-of-a-kind unique … so artfully designed and relevant for its diverse and historic neighborhood locale, that it’s tempting to empty my own home and re-decorate it “Urbana-style”!
North Park’s Smoking Goat Restaurant, located at 30th & Upas, offers locally and sustainably sourced menu items prepared in rustic European-bistro style. This North Park gem is intimate, cozy and organic — splendidly “refined-rustic”! Owner and Executive Chef Fred Piehl was trained at Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu, and has clearly perfected the art of rustic European cuisine. A glass of wine and appetizer of tartiflette oozing with brie and taleggio cheese, onion, bacon, diced potatoes and toasted ciabatta conjures special memories of France’s Alsace-Lorraine region, and dining fireside at Hotel-Arnold in the tiny village of Itterswiller.
The unique diversity found in the central bastion that is Balboa Park, and the trendy neighborhoods bordering it are the vestiges of cultural influences which converged 100 years ago, and were a foundation for the worldwide attraction that San Diego remains today.