La Mesa is the 'burbs. It's where hipsters from San Diego migrate to start families, and for good reason: the "Jewel of the Hills" masters small town charm with its quiet neighborhoods, more affordable homes-with yards?!-and a downtown village that harkens back to simpler times.
The landscape is undeniably beautiful, with Mount Helix-named after a species of snail-reaching toward the sky at an elevation of 1,300 feet. Within the park, which is open from sunrise to sunset daily, there's hiking trails and an amphitheater where weddings and picnics often take place. There's even a power yoga class offered on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9 a.m. for those looking to get Zen amid the amazing views of San Diego and Mexico. Visit mthelix.org for information on programming and occasional park closures.
For an a-typical day trip, hop on the orange line trolley at Sante Fe Depot for a 40- minute ride east to the La Mesa Boulevard Trolley Station. Here, you'll be let off in downtown La Mesa, where the village offers a range of eclectic shops you could get lost in for days. Yep, there are more reasons to visit La Mesa besides its epic Oktoberfest each year, and we've got 5 ideas to get you started.
Kick-start the day
Get off to a slow start with a country breakfast at the locals' favorite greasy spoon, Shirley's Kitchen. This no-frills diner serves everything from killer French toast in the morning to pot pie for the early dinner crowd. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., the good eats and warm service here will leave a good taste in your mouth for quaint La Mesa. 7118 University Ave. (619) 462-5732
Score some sweet swag
In La Mesa Village, take a trip through Antique Alley, where you'll find everything from plate ware to stylish clothing and hat wear from another era. Granted, it's kind of like 100 sets of grandparents emptied their garages into one place, but an afternoon of digging could pay off with the "score!" of a rare mid-century hors d'oeuvres platter in mauve. Seriously, though-along with nearby Collectiquity (8600 La Mesa Blvd., 619-589-7773), these shops are great for nabbing reasonably priced, vintage home décor. 8320 La Mesa Blvd. (619) 469-1000
For the ladies, Sara's Selections Boutique has an interesting mix of retro inspired clothing. Though the place is small, it's packed floor to ceiling with everything from festival fashions to formal wear. If you ever find yourself getting into character for a themed party, this would be a great place to double down on a costume and everyday outfit in one. Heck, make it a family affair-this boutique prides itself on catering to fashionistas of all ages. 8376 La Mesa Blvd., saras-selection-boutique.com
More neighborhoods to explore
Anza Borrego, Balboa Park, Coronado, Del Mar, East Village, Encinitas, Fiesta Island, Golden Hill, Hillcrest, La Jolla, Linda Vista, Mission Beach, Mission Hills, North Park: Part 1, North Park: Part 2, Ocean Beach, Point Loma, San Carlos, South Park, University Heights
Quench your thirst
Belly up to the bar at Hooleys Irish Pub, where the house specialty is anything with corned beef, including tacos, and the Boxty. What is a boxty, you ask? The Irish specialty here includes a large potato pancake stuffed with meat and cabbage, rolled into tube-form. This heavy hitter is on the menu alongside more traditional Emerald Isle fare, like fish n' chips, curry and braised meats. Stop in for daily happy hour from 3-7p.m. and again late night from 10 p.m. till closing. Visit Hooleys website for their daily rundown of food specials. 5500 Grossmont Center Drive. hooleys.com
Don't go home hungry
Grill your own steak for dinner at the stylish Riviera Supper Club and Turquoise Room and watch out for stiff, classic cocktails, because you'll want to remember the way back to this joint. The mid-century building has served as everything from a DMV location to the previous locals' favorite cocktail den, Jamar, which opened in the '60s. When Riviera Room debuted in 2008, its owners decided to keep some of Jamar's décor, lending to the old school vibe you can experience today. Enjoy live music in the Turquoise Room, and happy hour daily from 4-6 p.m., and 9 p.m. to close Sunday through Thursday, for half-off appetizers that are big enough to call a meal themselves. 7777 University Ave., La Mesa. (619) 713-6777 rivierasupperclub.com