Finding urban Zen in North Park

Mention North Park to just about to any San Diegan, and it's likely that images of hipsters on bikes, packed beer bars and that zoo of the intersection at 30th and University Avenue will come to mind. The notion of finding Zen here may seem impossible, or downright ridiculous, but this back-to-basics guide urges you to enjoy the simpler side of the neighborhood long revered for its open spaces and amazing views of the Coronado Islands on the north east corner of Balboa Park. Frisbee golf and water aerobics at Morley Field aside, there's no denying North Park's sizeable, ever-developing urban metropolis. That's why DiscoverSD Explorer is taking a two-part look at the neighborhood; check back next week for a comprehensive shopping, dining and nightlife guide of the area San Diegans affectionately poke fun at for its hip sensibilities. Start off your day a few paces slower at Paras Newsstand, where inside, perusing some 4,000 print titles, will make you feel as though you could be anywhere in the world, and certainly at an earlier time. It's the kind of place where you'll see some of everyone: Teenage skaters, cabbies, laced up businessmen and North Park oddballs. This diverse crowd ebbs and flows throughout the day thanks to the shop's opportune location near the 30th and University intersection - and owner, Junior Najor, still manages to remember your name, which gives the newsstand its undeniable, old-fashioned charm. 3911 30th St. 619-296-2859 Just a couple doors down, the uptown coffee roasting pioneers at Caffe Calabria pour delectable classic Italian espresso drinks, like the bicerin (espresso, steamed milk, Nutella). Stand and sip at the European-style espresso bar, grab a seat amid the tall, indoor trees, or sit outside at San Diego's first Parklet-a communal patio with tables and chairs built in a former parking spot. The space, aimed to resemble street-side café life in Italy, won an Orchid Award for its outstanding design in the annual contest put on by the San Diego Architectural Foundation. Sitting at the Parklet yields some of the best people watching in all of town. 3933 30th St. 619-291-1759. North Park's landmark breakfast joint, The Mission, is popular among pancake enthusiasts and health nuts alike for its "Urban Assault" dishes. It's best to brave the packed restaurant on weekdays, as weekend wait times are inevitable. Fuel up for your leisurely day in North Park with a braised tofu packed Zen Breakfast, or the popular chilaquiles with their unique tomato ginger sauce. 2801 University Ave., 619-220-8992. 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 After enjoying a storybook North Park morning in the neighborhood's center, start making your way toward Morley Field where several recreational points of interest await: Just above Morley Field at the corner of 28th and Upas Street, Bird Park is a local favorite for its sweeping views of the Coronado Islands and San Diego's big blue bridge. It's a popular summertime congregation spot for young and old alike, with an annual concert series, and all-out lawn party during the Fourth of July. As for its name, Bird Park was designed in the early 90s to have an aerial view of a bird shape, but, undoubtedly, its name implies the incredible vantage point that has been coveted by San Diegans since the late 19th century. Heading west on Upas Street, the Eucalyptus-lined stretch that dips down into Florida Canyon is a popular spot for both Yoga enthusiasts and runners. Just beyond the huge parking lot at Morley Field Sports Complex is the Balboa Tennis Club, which includes 25 courts that are open to the public (; the Bud Kearns Memorial Swimming Pool, where you can flex your water aerobics skills or swim laps in 14 lanes during designated hours; and at the west end of the complex, Morley Field Dog Park, pups can run free. 2229 Morley Field Drive. 619-692-4920 For a quintessentially San Diego afternoon, head over to the Morley Field Disc Golf Course with friends for some competitive fun. First, you'll want to stop at the pro shop for snacks, drinks and $1.50 disc rentals. The course is $3 to play on weekdays/$4 on weekends. Pro tip: The best time to play is weekdays around sunset, when the crowd has thinned. To read reviews and more tips regarding this popular course, visit and search Morley Field. Who knew there was such a vibrant culture of disc golfers? 3090 Pershing Drive. 619-692-3607. After a tough day getting back in touch with North Park's roots in outdoor recreation, put a nightcap on it with some craft beers from Thorn Street Brewery. The chill brewpub, with around a dozen house beers, is located in a residential neighborhood east of Morley Field and features different food trucks every night of the week. Visit and peep at their events calendar, which includes regular weekly specials like Industry Night and Trivia Wednesdays. 3176 Thorn St. 619-501-2739 Source: DiscoverSD
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