What to See, Do and Eat in University Heights, San Diego

University Heights Neighborhood of San Diego
Art Wager / Getty Images

University Heights is located between Hillcrest and North Park. It has its own personality with a mix of Craftsman bungalows and apartments for housing and laid-back eateries and hip bars for food. Its small retail area is at the north end of Park Boulevard where it turns into Adams Avenue.

University Heights History

The name "University" (both for the neighborhood and nearby University Avenue) comes from a plan in the 1880s to build a university in the area. It came to be the State Normal School, which evolved into what is now San Diego State University. That's why the word "university" is prevalent in this part of town, even though there is no university around. ​

It has some interesting history. On the far northern edge of the neighborhood, at the scenic rim of Mission Valley, an ostrich farm and public garden spot occupied what is now the corner of Adams Avenue and Park Boulevard. You can still see remnants of the Mission Cliff Gardens by the boundary wall of rounded stones. The gardens were a popular tourist site and were served by trolley car up Park Boulevard. The ostrich farm still lives in the form of the neighborhood signs and markers sporting the ostrich imagery.

What Defines University Heights

University Heights is one of the three mid-city urban neighborhoods with Adams Avenue as its main thoroughfare. It is at the western end of a strip of urban communities that begins with University Heights followed by Normal Heights in the middle and Kensington at the east end. It is gay-friendly like neighboring Hillcrest, but quieter. Like its fellow neighborhoods, it is distinguished by a neon "University Heights" sign that spans Park Boulevard.

Things to Do

The smallish business district has your usual assortment of amenities -- coffee houses, restaurants, and convenience stores. There's also nearby Trolley Park, which serves as the neighborhood playground for families. The Diversionary Theatre puts on local productions at its location on Park Boulevard. And the San Diego Unified School District complex is located at Park and Normal.

Best Bets for Eats

El Zarape serves up delicious Mexican takeout food and is a popular spot, as is the Parkhouse Eatery. Adams Avenue Grill is also a fine eatery. Twiggs is a popular coffee house.

Best Bets for Drinks and Entertainment

The hipster hangout Small Bar has a wide variety of local beers on tap plus an impressive mule menu. The Lancers is a chill neighborhood dive bar. In addition to coffee, Twiggs offers music in its adjoining performance venue. Diversionary Theatre has LGBT focused productions.

Shopping in University Heights

There are a few boutiques and antique shops plus a noticeable assortment of automotive repair shops, along with your typical neighborhood services.

How to get to University Heights

From I-8: Go South on Highway 163, exit Washington Street (east), turn left onto Park Avenue; Park Avenue will take you through the heart of the neighborhood.

The boundary of University Heights is considered to be Highway 163 to the west, Mission Valley to the north, Texas Street to the east and University Avenue to the south.

Was this page helpful?