San Diego Neighborhood Profile: North Park

North Park, San Diego
Sam Antonio Photography/Moment Open/Getty Images

North Park is a neighborhood in San Diego that is growing in popularity and is becoming a hot spot for nightlife in addition to being a desired residential neighborhood to live in. Cozy, tidy pockets of Craftsman homes on the north edge of Balboa Park (hence the name), dense apartments, and the pre-interstate retail stretches of University Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard make up North Park, San Diego


In the late 1800s, the James Hartley family bought 40 acres northeast of Balboa Park for growing lemons. Development in San Diego eventually spread to the Hartley property, which became Hartley's North Park. In 1911, son Jack Hartley developed the business district at 30th and University Avenue, which is still the heart of North Park.

North Park Home
 Dylan's World/Flickr CC 2.0 

What Makes North Park Special?

Besides its diversity, North Park is special for the architecture that predominates the neighborhood. North Park is home to Craftsman cottages and bungalows that reflect California's era of suburban development. Recent years has seen a resurgence of North Park and the gentrification of its sub-neighborhoods.

What Defines North Park

North Park is a diverse neighborhood in San Diego consisting of single-family homes, apartment complexes, businesses, and arts. It has a business district that is almost a mini-downtown unto itself -- unusual for a neighborhood. The intersection of University and 30th is a bustling central point of North Park.

University Heights, San Diego
Eli Pousson/Flickr

Things to Do

There's lots to do in North Park including dining, nightclubs, arts, entertainment, and shopping. It's self-sufficient, and it's close to other popular neighborhoods like University Heights, Hillcrest, Normal Heights, and Balboa Park.

Lafayette Hotel San Diego
 Dave Andrew [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Best Bets for Eats

North Park has a lot of neighborhood eateries, but the Chicken Pie Shop on El Cajon Blvd. is a venerable diner. Down the road is classic diner Rudford's. Red Fox Steak House at the Lafayette Hotel is pure old school. There are many more excellent choices and you may want to dedicate many San Diego nights to experiencing the eateries of North Park. For some gourmet comfort food in a hip atmosphere, check out West Coast Tavern or Urban Solace.

Red Fox Lounge
Red Fox Lounge 

Best Bets for Drinks and Entertainment

There's likely a place to fit your style in North Park. North Park is a great place for dive bars, with popular ones being the Whistle Stop, the Live Wire, Red Fox Lounge, and the Bar Pink. However, you can also find more upscale bars like Splash Wine Bar, Wine Steals, and Air Conditioned Lounge. For musical entertainment, North Park Theatre is home to San Diego Lyric Opera while Claire de Lune Coffee Lounge has local music.


In North Park, you'll find drugstores, grocery stores, banks, service stores, and some unique retail establishments like George's Cameras. Just about everything you need is in North Park. Gentrification has also brought more boutiques in recent years. 

How to Get to There

From I-805, take either the El Cajon Boulevard or University Avenue exits and go west. The neighborhood is roughly bounded by Balboa Park on the south, I-805 on the east, El Cajon Boulevard on the north and Florida Street on the west.