So, you're coming to San Diego for the MLB All-Star Game.
First of all, congratulations. If you do it right, San Diego actually lives up to its lofty billing as "America's Finest City." In this case, our finery comes in the form of perfect weather, amazing scenery, great food, incredible craft beer and an ideal downtown playground for baseball tourists.
Here are some helpful tips from 10News Sports Director Ben Higgins, a native San Diegan in a town full of transplants (you may decide to move here after your visit, too). Nearly everything in this guide is located within a few blocks of Petco Park, where the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game will be played on July 12:
GETTING TO SAN DIEGO
You've probably already booked your flight or planned your driving route. However, if you want to get the first glimpse of downtown San Diego and Petco Park from the plane, make sure you sit on the left side of the cabin (that means pick a seat on the right as you board).
San Diego International Airport, also known as Lindbergh Field, is on the small side (there's only one runway) for a major U.S. city, but the location couldn't be better. You'll wonder if your plane is going to clip one of the downtown high rises as you descend. Don't worry, you won't. But for a great view of Petco Park, the skyline and the iconic Coronado Bay Bridge, you'll want to be looking to the left as you land.
From the baggage claim, you're about a 5-8 minute taxi ride to most downtown hotels. Picture the exact opposite of Denver.
WHERE TO STAY
Again, you've probably already booked a hotel room. Rooms near Petco Park are at a premium during the July 8-12 All-Star Week. The Omni San Diego is actually connected to the ballpark and has its own entrance via a "skybridge," which is cool.
A larger bridge brings visitors from the Hilton Bayfront right to the Home Plate Plaza entrance at Petco Park, where you can see -- and take a picture -- with the Padres retired numbers. Maybe you'll even run into Steve Garvey (No. 6), Dave Winfield (31), Randy Jones (35) or Trevor Hoffman (51). Sadly, we lost Tony Gwynn a couple of years ago, but you can pay your respects to Mr. Padre at his #19 and at the Park at the Park, where Tony's sweet swing lives on forever in a magnificent bronze statue.
If you're looking for something different (and don't mind staying a short Uber ride from downtown), check out The Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows in North Park. It's a retro-hotel surrounding a mid-20th century swim club-style pool. Since it's not right next to the ballpark, they still might have some rooms available. Plus, North Park is at the heart of San Diego's craft beer scene, and is worth a visit even if you're staying downtown.
WHAT TO DO
Well, the All-Star Week festivities will likely keep you pretty busy, with the FanFest, concerts, the Futures Game, Celebrity & Legends Softball Classic, Home Run Derby, and All-Star Game all scheduled in a three-day span.
If you need a break from baseball, though, there are plenty of options. Climb the steps of the Convention Center to get your heart pumping, and then head down the other side to catch a ferry over to Coronado for shopping, dining and the most Instagram-able view of the San Diego skyline from just across the bay.
Horton Plaza is San Diego's downtown mall with all the usual bells and whistles (department stores, food court, etc.). Plus, a brand new urban park space just opened right at the corner of Broadway and 4th.
If it's parks you like, there's plenty of grass for a picnic and fountains to splash around in (yes, it's perfectly OK to get wet) at the Waterfront Park at the Country Administration building on Pacific Highway.
And if you really want to get away from baseball for a couple of hours, the world famous San Diego Zoo and museums of Balboa Park are just a short hop up Park Blvd. Check and see if you can get tickets to climb the California Tower at the Museum of Man. The recently refurbished tower is once again open to visitors and offers a 360-degree view of San Diego. Plus, you'll get some interesting information about the history of Balboa Park.
WHERE TO DRINK
Finally, the important stuff. All of the following are within walking distance (or a very short Uber ride) from Petco Park.
Monkey Paw (Corner of 16th and F): San Diego, as you may know, is one of the world leaders in craft beer. At Monkey Paw, you'll taste some of the finest ales we have to offer. House brewmaster Cosimo Sorrentino has won several international gold medals for his wide variety of beers, including the Bonobos San Diego Pale Ale, which will give you a great idea of what San Diego beer is all about. Many of our ales and IPAs are very hoppy and bitter. If that doesn't please your palate, don't worry, Monkey Paw has a wide variety of house and guest tap selections. It's more bar than restaurant, but Monkey Paw also serves a tasty selection of cheesesteaks, and waffle fries loaded with toppings like pulled pork.
Social Tap (815 J St.): For an All-Star party atmosphere, and great drinks and food made from scratch, Social Tap is right on the border of the Park at the Park. Creative cocktails and customer service are the name of the game here. And you just can't beat the location.
Mission Brewery (1441 L St.): No taxi cab necessary. Mission Brewery is just a short walk from Petco Park, on the far side of the tailgate parking lot. Mission is a working brewery with a large and festive tasting room, offering flights, tasters, and full pours of their beers. It's a setup you'll see all over San Diego County, where tasting rooms give you a chance to sample many different styles of local beer, usually at lower prices than you'll find in a bar (save money by cutting out the middleman!). If you like the dark and strong stuff, Mission's Dark Seas Imperial Russian Stout is one of my favorite versions in town.
*Fun note: the historic Wonder Bread building (where Mission Brewery is located) and adjacent bus yard is where the Chargers are proposing to build an NFL stadium/convention center hybrid. They just finished collecting signatures to get the proposal on the ballot for November. So the next time you visit, San Diego might have a Super Bowl-venue in this same downtown neighborhood.
Stone Brewing Tap Room (795 J St.): Make your way to the Park at the Park at Petco Park (that's a lot of parks), and you'll find one of the tasting room outposts of San Diego's flagship craft brewery, Stone. You've probably run into Stone Pale Ale or Arrogant Bastard Ale in your neck of the woods. Here, you can taste them fresh from the brewery, plus seasonal and special pours you probably can't get your hands on in other parts of the country. One of my favorites is the Enjoy By IPA, a fresh double IPA that has a drink-by date printed right on the bottle. You can have your stale favorites when you get home. In San Diego, plan on drinking fresh.
Fairweather (793 J St.): This hidden gem requires a trip to the back of Rare Form (next door to Stone -- more on that in a moment). A door with the word "Yes" printed on it leads to a back staircase. You emerge from a dark hallway onto a rooftop Tiki Bar that looks directly into Petco Park. It's like Trader Vic's somehow landed in the National League. Handcrafted tropical cocktails and craft beers will have you feeling good, even if your team fails to secure home field advantage in the World Series.
WHERE TO EAT
San Diego is a #breakfasttown. Yes, there is a hashtag.
The Mission (1250 J St.): Not to be confused with Mission Brewery, The Mission is a local chain of breakfast joints serving up terrific eggs and pancakes, and their crispy rosemary potatoes are a thing of breakfast beauty. They also serve lunch, which I'm told is tasty, but why you would ever go to The Mission and not order breakfast is beyond me.
Las Cuatro Milpas (1857 Logan Ave.): Perhaps one of your goals during your visit is to taste some real Mexican food. Well, we've got that in spades, and I'll have more on the quintessential San Diego taco shop experience in a moment. But if you're looking for something truly authentic, head down the street to Barrio Logan, right by the base of the Coronado Bridge, and get in line for Las Cuatro Milpas. Trust me, it's worth it. LCM (no one calls it that, but I'm getting tired of typing out the whole name) is only open from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and yes, there will probably be a line. The homemade chicken tacos are phenomenal, but that's just your side order. Trust me on this one, and get the chorizo con huevos. What you'll receive is a bowl of perfectly spiced sausage and fluffy rice stew that, along with the hot and fresh and homemade tortillas you were just handed, will make you reevaluate everything you thought you knew about Mexican food.
Café Chloe (721 9th Ave.): French bistro just a couple of blocks from Petco Park. The croissant is the all-star of breakfast pastries.
Broken Yolk Café (355 6th Ave.): There's usually a line outside this San Diego chain once featured on "Man vs. Food." Standard breakfast classics and large portions, including the "Iron Man" challenge -- a 12-egg, chili-smothered omelet that's free if you can eat it all by yourself in under one hour.
You may not be hungry for lunch at this point, but we've got plenty of good options close to Petco Park.
Lolita's at the Park (202 Park Blvd.): Located just down the first base line outside of Petco Park, Lolita's will satisfy your San Diego taco shop urge quite nicely. For the sabermetric crowd, their carne asada burrito recently advanced to the regional semifinals of FiveThirtyEight.com's national burrito bracket (hey, you can't argue with Nate Silver's math). Lolita's though, has plenty of options outside of their killer carne asada. You can also get the carne asada inside a California Burrito. This unique San Diego concoction features meat, cheese, sour cream … and hot, crispy FRENCH FRIES … all wrapped up in a flour tortilla. The carnitas (Mexican pulled pork, in case you were wondering) tacos are one of my favorites. The meat gets crisped upon the flat top just before it goes into the corn tortilla with guacamole, onions and cilantro. Yes, I know you don't like cilantro, but you're wrong. Oh, and their rolled tacos are among the best in town.
The Kebab Shop (630 9th Ave): TKS is a popular San Diego chain serving up tasty Mediterranean fare. The Doner (think Greek burrito with gyro or chicken) or shawarma sandwiches are the way to go here; tasty meat, veggies, and garlic sour cream sauce all wrapped up together. And just like the famous California Burrito, you can get fries inside, too.
Oscar's Mexican Seafood (677 J St.): San Diego is famous for fish tacos, and some of the best in the city can be found at Oscar's. A brand new outpost just opened up outside Petco Park. In addition to the usual fried and grilled fish and shrimp options, you can get adventurous with the pulpo (octopus) or try one of their amazing ceviches.
Rare Form (795 J St.): Located alongside the Park at the Park, in the same building as the Stone Tap Room; great gourmet sandwiches that you can order on bread, or, ahem, waffles. The Cubano is fantastic. A good spot to see Padres employees on their lunch breaks. And don't forget about the secret staircase to Fairweather.
Hodad's (945 Broadway): The original Hodad's in Ocean Beach is a San Diego institution with lines around the block and a very unique beach/hippie/hobo vibe. You'll find the newer downtown version just a few blocks up from the ballpark. You'll be ordering the bacon cheeseburger or double bacon cheeseburger. I think they invented circular bacon just to make it fit on the patty -- no, I don't mean Canadian Bacon, which is awful.
I've done some research, and it turns out that baseball fans like dinner.
Cowboy Star (640 10th Ave.): San Diego has all the usual high-priced meat emporiums, but if you'd like to try something different, head to Cowboy Star. You'll find high-quality cuts of beef and more than just the usual wedge salads and side dishes. For adventurous eaters, the sweetbreads and steak tartare are two of the favorites.
Neighborhood (777 G St.): If you're craving a tasty burger and a pint of craft beer, head to Neighborhood. San Diego has been at the forefront of America's gastropub movement, which is just a fancy way of saying that our bars serve good food or our restaurants serve good beer. Neighborhood has lots of good small plates to share, so bring a couple of friends. Oh, and it has a secret door in the back leading to a speakeasy-style craft cocktail bar called The Noble Experiment. If you're an A-lister (or arrive on the early side), you might even be able to get in.
Bottega Americano (1195 Island Ave.): Maybe you've been to San Diego a dozen times, and are looking for something new. Bottega Americano is part market, part dining experience, and has been named one of the 11 hottest new Italian restaurants by Zagat. Located inside the Thomas Jefferson School of Law building, Bottega Americano is so new it may be the only Italian place in Southern California where Tommy Lasorda has yet to eat a meal.
Basic (410 10th Ave.): We'll finish with a shocker. In 2014, TripAdvisor ranked the best cities in America for pizza, and guess who won? No, it wasn't New York or Chicago. That's right, humble little San Diego has some of the best pies in the USA. One of the best spots for a slice is Basic, which is just a half-block from Petco Park. The brick warehouse-like space fits perfectly with the East Village vibe.
Hopefully, I've given you enough good information to augment your San Diego All-Star Game experience. Feel free to email me at ben.higgins@10news if you have any specific questions or need recommendations for a different part of town.