Clairemont Mesa might not be at the top of your list of neighborhoods to explore in San Diego, but this community - known for having mesa-top views of Mission Bay and an extensive canyon system surrounding it - is home to an assortment of heavy hitting ethnic eateries, unusual shopping options and well-preserved, wide open spaces. To kick off your travels, here are five ideas for how to spend your time exploring Clairemont Mesa.
Visit San Clemente Canyon
Marian Bear Memorial Park encompasses 467 acres of this ancient canyon, where underwater fossils dating back 40 million years are still found within its walls today. The area, long inhabited by Native Americans, is a popular hiking and biking destination, with its namesake trail providing six miles of flat terrain and multiple route options. Just frolicking among the native plants and animals in this unique habitat makes it a worthy escape from urban San Diego. 5544 Regents Road, (619) 525-8213.
Eat amazing food
There's enough great food in Clairemont Mesa to fill an entire book, so we've narrowed it down to our top three picks:
85°C Bakery - Don't dare visit Clairemont without stopping at this Asian-style bakery, packed with freshly baked breads, opulent confections and best of all, house specialty drinks that include iced coffee or jasmine tea seasoned with cream and sea salt. 5575 Balboa Ave., (858) 278-8585, 85cafe.us.
Yakitori Taisho - Get ready for a transporting culinary treat at this 12-seat, authentic izakaya where yakitori, aka various skewered chicken parts, are grilled just feet away before the chef himself serves you. 5185 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., (858) 753-0468.
Homestyle Hawaiian - Authentic island grinds like the standout kalua pork, Korean Fried chicken and deep-fried musubi are just three reasons why this east-Clairemont joint is always packed; phone-in orders are a must if you're on a short lunch break. 7524 Mesa College Drive, (858) 571-5828, homestylehawaiian.com.
Support a strange local bookstore
If the name Mysterious Galaxy Books of Martians, Murder, Magic, Mayhem and More sounds like your kind of hangout, then get ready for a nerdy paradise overflowing with sci-fi novels, murder mysteries, suspense thrillers and more. This independently owned and operated shop hosts regular events, including author meet-and-greets and signings, all of which you can find out about in Mysterious Galaxy's monthly newsletter and book review, The Plot Thickens.
5943 Balboa Ave. #100, (858) 268-4747, mystgalaxy.com.
Rent a photo booth for your next party
Remember that holiday work party where you ended up challenging the boss's daughter to a twerk contest? Of course not, but you can next time with Good Time Photo Booth, an independently owned operation that's been capturing priceless moments in high quality print since 2008. In addition to customizable photo strips, clients also get an online gallery to share images via social media. These portable booths are easy to use, include props and are available for both corporate and private events. 6871 Thornwood St., (858) 967-5770, gtphotobooth.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