Month: August 2017

Every veteran traveler knows that food is an intrinsic and extremely enjoyable part of traveling; sampling the local cuisine in a new place is like sightseeing for your taste buds, and in order to really fully experience the vibe of a new city, it’s necessary to dive in flavor-wise and savor the local gastronomy.

Unfortunately, however, eating out every meal isn’t an option for most travelers on a budget—thus enter Happy Hours, the frugal traveler’s best friend.


For those uninitiated, Happy Hour—aka “a cocktail hour or longer period at a bar, during which drinks are served at reduced prices”—takes place during a bar or restaurant’s slower times, usually in the afternoon on weekdays. It’s a way that restaurants can coax in customers during a typically dead time of day, which they do so by slashing prices and offering discounts and specials on food and drinks.

For those of us penny-pinching nomads, it’s a way to sample a restaurant’s offerings for a fraction of the price. Aside from being a steal pricewise, happy hour is generally a far quieter time of day, as it starts during traditional workday hours—meaning that you and your significant other, best friend, and/or new friends you met at Lucky D’s (woot woot!) can enjoy yourselves in a quieter, more relaxed setting. No having to put your name in the queue at the host stand, bumping elbows with other tables while trying to find a seat, or losing your voice from having to talk over the loud din.

It’s the perfect mid-afternoon interlude—a quick bite and tasty beverage to ease you into the late afternoon after a lengthy hike at Balboa Park, a sun-inundated afternoon bronzing yourself on the beach, or just to treat yoself because you’re on vacation.

Here we’ve compiled a list of our favorite Happy Hours in the East Village/Downtown area, along with a little bit about what makes each spot so special.


Located catty-corner from Lucky D’s is Neighborhood, a rustic-chic bar and restaurant that boasts an impressive selection of craft beer, both local and imported. The inside has a relaxing, artisanal vibe to it, filled with earthy, dark and wooden materials that are highlighted by the bar’s intimate mood lighting; the small astroturf padded patio outside is great for people watching along the corner of 8th Avenue and G Street. The menu flaunts a variety of vegan/vegetarian options, and the mac ‘n’ cheese remains a requisite favorite, particularly hamburger helper style if you’re up for it. In the back of the restaurant lies a speakeasy, which on weekends tends to get filled up pretty quickly—make sure to put your name in early!

HH Deal: Monday through Friday, enjoy 2 for 1 local beers from 4-7 p.m.!



A staff favorite, Half Door is an Irish-pub style brewery with a cozy, vintage ambience. Situated in an old house, the bottom patio that greets you upon entry is reminiscent of the old verandas from grand hotels of the Gilded Age, perfect for catching some sun and people watching on 9th & Island. Walk inside and it feels like you’ve entered a much cooler version of your Grandfather’s study, filled with unassuming upcycled cool—comfortably worn love seats, floral wallpaper, distressed coffee tables and repurposed church pews. The two-story ceiling to floor liquor cabinet creates a dreamy effect when progressing to the second level, the afternoon sunlight playing through the different bottles to cast a kaleidoscope of colors while walking up the stairs. The second story is even homier, full of leather chairs, couches and bookshelves filled with classic tomes; walk out onto the beautiful twinkle-lit outdoor patio and get a premier view of Petco Park and the intersecting streets below.

Normally pretty busy, the ‘happy hours’ are a more mellow time at Half Door; it’s an ideal place for solo happy-houring as much as social outings. Bring a book or laptop and ride solo, or come with friends and pick out a classic board game from upstairs! They brew their beers onsite, with most of the menu items being modern updates to classic Irish cuisine.

HH DEALS: Monday through Friday, from 4-6 p.m.
$5 house beers, $6 draft beers
$5 well wine
$5 well cocktails, $6 specialty cocktails
$5 fried goat cheese, $5 truffle fries, $5 mac & cheese
$6 pretzel bites
$7 ahi tuna taco
$9 sausage flatbread

Pro tip: We recommend the Mac ‘n Cheese with the Roark Red Ale.

Bubs at the Ballpark


Located on the same block as Petco Park, Bubs is a convenient stop for food and drinks before a Padres game. The Sports bar offers standard American bar fare, a wide variety of local craft beer on tap, and plenty of plasma screen TVs for gameday viewings. The garage door windows open up on sunny days, and the elevated patio provides a great boost for people-watching. They have an in-house basketball court, shuffleboard, and video games at the ready, a fun way to pass the time while waiting on food or a table. The kitchen is open til 1 a.m., for those nights when you need a feed a little later than usual. We recommend the burgers and the wings (half off during happy hour)!

HH DEALS: 3-6 p.m., Monday through Friday
$4 select local drafts
$5 well drinks
50% off wings, 50% off all red baskets (chips, salsa & guacamole / seasoned fries / onion rings / regular or special tots)


Of course we couldn’t leave our downstairs neighbor off the list! Bootlegger has a laidback speakeasy-esque vibe and is a convenient place to grab a quick bite before heading upstairs for that much needed nap after a day full of San Diego sightseeing. Full of comfortable booths and trendy old timey décor, the place comes alive during weekend afternoons. In addition to have a daily happy hour, they have specials on certain menu items throughout the week, with two of our favorites being $2 tacos and $10 nachos (beer included!) on Tuesdays and $10 build-your-own-burgers on Thursdays (draft domestic also included). For Saturday and Sunday brunch, they have $15 bottomless mimosas from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

HH DEALS: Monday, Wednesday, & Friday from 3-7 p.m.
$5 wells & calls, house wines and draft specials
$5 small plates

Knotty Barrel


HH DEALS: Monday through Friday, from 3-7 p.m.
Discounts on select appetizers
$6 potato skins / house-made beer cheese
$7 Chipotle BBQ sliders / 3 way fries / fried pickles


The MO of Basic is simplicity, summed up in the name of the restaurant itself and evident in everything from its menu offerings to the general feng shui of the place. Simple, uncomplicated thin crust brick oven pizza is the order of the day at Basic, a restaurant that feels more like an open-air lounge with a chic industrial aesthetic. The building was converted from an early 20th century warehouse, with straightforward, efficient décor comprised of brick, wood and metal elements; the shag carpet is made from recycled rubber tires, and the building still has its original brick walls, with large garage door-style windows that stay open on beautiful days. Munch on free pizza samples while shooting pool during happy hour, or check out their Art Nights on Tuesdays evenings.

HH DEAL: Every day from 4-7 p.m.
$4 bottles and cans
$5 all draft beers & well cocktails
$6 Absolut or Jack Daniels cocktails
$7 all house wines
Free samples of Basic pizza (except on game days)

Tin Roof

Just a short 5 minute walk from Lucky D’s, Tin Roof brings a little bit of Southern charm to San Diego; though spacious, the Nashville inspired bar is an intimate spot where you can enjoy live local music and great people watching! They have tables for beer pong, jenga, and cornhole; on the patio outside is a large place to play shuffleboard. Bonus: they serve weekend brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, with bottomless mimosas and $5 bloody mary’s!

HH deals: Monday through Friday, 3-7 p.m.
Half off all drinks and appetizers

Weekly specials: $5 Jameson & Fireball all day, everyday
Tuesday: $2 Tacos, $3 Mexican Beer
Wednesday: $5 well drinks
Thursday: $3 Tall Boys
Saturday and Sunday: Brunch 10am-2pm, bottomless mimosas & $5 signature bloody mary

Gaslamp Quarter

Social center of the downtown area, with lots of bars and restaurants and a bustling nightlife. Stroll down 5th Avenue, the central vein of the Gaslamp, filled with fun bars, fabulous restaurants and quirky breweries.


LGBT heart of San Diego, with lots of great brunch spots and locally owned businesses including thrift stores, restaurants, bars, cafés and clubs. Amazing farmer’s market on Sundays with live music!

University Heights/Normal Heights/North Park


The hipster trifecta of San Diego, all with cool retro neon signs greeting you upon entry. Lots of trendy bars and breweries with unique atmospheres, cute vintage boutiques and art galleries

North Park

Named one of the best hipster neighborhoods in the US by Forbes, North Park is a culturally diverse neighborhood with lots of art galleries, coffee shops and boutiques. Thursday farmer’s market!


Normal Heights
Adams Ave (between Texas St on the west & Ohio St on the east) known as Antique Row, after all the antique stores there.

University Heights
Lots of restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, and artists’ studios.

South Park

Family oriented and very pedestrian-friendly area, with lots of grocery stores and great restaurants; 30th street has been called the nation’s ‘craft beer boulevard’ by Men’s Journal.

Pacific Beach



Ocean Beach


Often called the “Haight-Ashbury” of San Diego, Ocean Beach has a laid back bohemian vibe. The beach is a great spot for bonfires!

La Jolla


Called the Beverley Hills of San Diego, La Jolla is a beautiful suburban area with plenty of natural beauty and opportunities for outdoorsy fun. Check out the sea lions in the Children’s Pool, sunbathe in the buff at Black’s Beach, or go kayaking or snorkeling through La Jolla’s seven caves and swim with leopard sharks.

Old Town

The oldest settled area of San Diego and first European settlement in California, Old Town is full of Wild Western/Chicano cultural heritage. It’s an absolute must if you want to experience the culture of the American Southwest, and the center of the town almost feels like you’ve crossed the border.

Mission Beach

A great spot for young families, run, bike, or skate along the boardwalk to Belmont Park, the beachfront amusement park there.

Seaport Village




A beautiful beachfront shopping area, with lots of boutiques and souvenir opportunities; there is a century old carousel still in use today.

Little Italy

Full of charming little ‘piazzas’ as well as award-winning Italian eateries. Lots of good coffee shops, boutiques, artist galleries. Lots of festivals throughout the year, a weekly farmer’s market every Saturday, “el mercato”—the market, in Italian.

South of the Border


Just a 20 minute trolley ride from San Diego, every visitor should treat themselves to at least one day in this vibrant jewel of a border city. Formerly known as the Vegas of Mexico, TJ has been experiencing a cultural renaissance over the last 20 years, a bustling urban hub where you can experience an authentic taste (and drink!) of Mexican life and culture. With gorgeous, colorful murals and rustic kitsch shops around every corner, TJ offers some of the best street tacos in all of Mexico; incidentally it’s also where the Caesar salad originated, a Prohibition era treat which you can watch whipped up tableside at Caesar’s on Avenida Revolución.

Although Tijuana has shirked a lot of the murkier elements of its past, it’s still recommended to visit during the day and stick to the more populated areas—don’t stray out into the neighborhoods, and stay away from the Zona Norte. If you’re uneasy about going by yourself, there are a variety of quality guided tour companies—Turista Libre, Club Tengo Hambre, and Let’s Go Clandestino are all highly recommended companies that offer a variety of different sightseeing opportunities. Check out our posters around the hostel for information on the Tijuana craft beer crawl, which meets at San Ysidro (the last stop on the blue line) every Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Lead by a bilingual guide, the ticket price includes pickup, drop off and everything in between.

Other spots worth investigating are Telefonica Gastro Park—a semi-permanent food truck park with an array of savory Mexican street food—and Mercado Hidalgo, Tijuana’s permanent public market, full of colors and different tastes and smells that definitely merits a visit. Plaza Fiesta is worth a look as well, a veritable craft beer paradise.


Drive an hour and a half south of Tijuana and you’ll hit Ensenada, a dreamy little coastal town on the Baja California peninsula known for its fresh, delicious seafood, gorgeous oceanic views and plentiful vineyards. Check out the the sea cliffs of the famous marine geiser La Bufadora in the Punta Banda pensinsula with a fresh, savory fish taco in hand while gazing over the sapphire blue Pacific. Ensenada’s brewery and wine game is nothing to sneeze at either, with Valley Girl Tours and the Bodegas de Santo Tomas being great options for all the hard-core wine-os and the Old Mission Brewing and Wendtland brewery a must for all craft beer aficionados.

Northern Neighbors

Los Angeles

About a 3 hour drive from San Diego is one of the most famous cities in all of the states, the city of Angels. A large metropolis with a reputation that precedes it, we recommend taking a bus or the Pacific Coaster train for a no-hassle experience, though renting a car is always an option as well.


About an hour’s drive north of San Diego lies Temecula, a favorite among SoCal visitors. Known for their enchanting wineries—many of which offer tasting rooms and private tours—that’s not all you’ll find in this charming little town: Temecula is full of sensory delights, boasting many wine-centric resorts, artisan olive oil boutiques, a modern casino with a rooftop nightclub and pool, and a variety of luxe, verdant golf courses. Old town Temecula is certainly worth a look while you’re there, with a host of shops, museums, and restaurants to peruse. The first weekend of June is the annual Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival, which features hot air balloon launches and wine tastings from over 20 of the area’s vineyards

San Clemente

Called “the Spanish village by the sea,” San Clemente is located halfway between LA and San Diego; known for its phenomenal views of the mountains and the Pacific Ocean, and beautiful ‘Spanish colonial architecture,’ San Clemente is also a major surfing destination with great swell year-round. One of the most visited state parks in California, San Onofre state beach is an idyllic spot to while away an indulgent, sun-drenched afternoon; on Del Mar street in the downtown area you can find many boutiques, restaurants, and artisanal shops in the charming mission style streets. If your consumer lust hasn’t yet been sated, on your way back to San Diego be sure to check out the San Clemente Outlet Mall!

Orange County

California’s third-most populous county (which includes the aforementioned city of San Clemente) is the infamous Orange County, which is included in the greater LA-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA metropolitan area. Being home to several legendary SoCal cities, you’ll hardly have trouble finding things to do; spend the day hanging out with Belle, Snow White and the gang in the original Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, or live out your Game of Thrones fantasies in the sidelines of a jousting match at Medieval Times in Buena Park. Visit the iconic Huntington beach pier, one of the longest on the West Coast, or the stunning old Spanish mission of San Juan Capistrano, the oldest building in California that is still in use today. The striking red sandstone cliff faces of ‘the sinks’ in Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve are not to be missed, nor is a visit to Watson’s Soda Fountain & Café, a throwback classic retro style diner.


Less than an hour north from San Diego lies Oceanside, a beautiful laidback SoCal beach town with wide sandy beaches and charming beach bungalow neighborhoods. Check out the 130 year old Oceanside Pier, one of the longest wooden piers on the West Coast, and the Mission San Luis Rey, a pristine example of Spanish colonial architecture. The California surf museum resides there as well, chock full of the evolution of the art of surfing, and the Oceanside Sunset Market, where thousands gather each week to peruse specialty food, gifts and jam to live music.


Often called “the Village by the Sea” by locals, Carlsbad is a charming seaside resort city just north of San Diego. Legoland California is based there as well, a theme park and aquarium based on the Lego toy brand, kid-friendly but equally fun for those young at heart. There’s plenty of opportunities for surfing in this gorgeous seaside town, with the quiet beaches there offering a more private experience of the Pacific. Every spring California the floral ‘superbloom’ takes place, creating a stunning array of brilliant ranunculus blossoms, sweet pea fields, and rose gardens in the Flower Fields at Carlsbad. Swoon!


Less than an hour north, downtown Encinitas is a salute to California beach culture, an embodiment of the bohemian SoCal surfer vibe with plenty of surf shops, record stores and cafés. The San Diego Botanical Gardens features more than 37 acres of exhibits, with a variety of forestry and vegetation from all over the U.S. and the world! Check out the ‘surfing Madonna,’ a creative mural depicting a surfing Virgin of Guadalupe in downtown Encinitas; initially an object of ‘graffiti’ over which opinions were starkly divided, it has now been accepted as a treasured installation of the area. Have a nighttime barbecue or bonfire at Moonlight Beach, or check out the swell at Swami’s Beach, which inspired the iconic Beach Boys hit “Surfin USA.”

East of San Diego

Borrego Springs & Julian



For all the nature lovers, head east!

Don’t miss the Anza Borrego Desert State Park in Borrego Springs—the largest state park in California, the park boasts 110 miles of hiking amid the Colorado Desert. Hiking and biking are permitted, and the august life-size metal sculptures of prehistoric creatures in Borrego Springs are incredible—the perfect backdrop for an Instagram-worthy photoshoot. Just make sure to bring lots of water!

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park offers a completely different outdoors experience altogether; due to its higher elevation it is considerably greener there, with pine, fir and oak filled forests covering the hillsides and snow capping the peaks of the Laguna mountains. Trails for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking can be found there, as well as a number of lush campgrounds.

The park is located in Julian, CA, about a 45 minute drive from downtown. Julian is also known for Julian Apples, and renowned for making the best apple pies—be sure to treat yourself to one on the way out!


In one day’s time, you can find yourself wandering the desert in Borrego Springs, hiking the snowcapped Laguna mountains in Julian, and be back on the beach in time for sunset.