By Sara Andrews and Nick Brown

The program schedule for the 2016 annual convention in San Diego is full of the latest and greatest research in personality and social psychology. When you aren't too busy browsing a poster session or attending an event specifically for students (link), don't pass up an opportunity to see (and eat!) your way through San Diego. Although it is nearly impossible to go wrong in this city, GSC Vice President Sara Andrews and President Nick Brown offer up these tried and true recommendations. Many of these locations are within walking distance or a short Uber/taxi ride away, plus you can also take the Green Line Trolley from the Gaslamp Quarter through Little Italy and up into Old Town (link).

Check out SPSP’s link to Explore San Diego (link) for more about local attractions.

Downtown/Gaslamp Quarter (less than 1 mile)

From shopping and shows to restaurants and bars, there is plenty to see and do in the Gaslamp District if you want to stay close to the convention center. Most of San Diego’s best known attractions are just outside the downtown area, but you’ll find plenty to enjoy while walking here!

Cafe Chloe

Get the moules frites and macaroni gratin - you can thank me later.

Bar Basic

Upgraded pizzas and beers.

Karl Strauss Brewing Company

Big space, solid beers, and a big menu

The Neighborhood


Noble Experiment

Shh…Noble Experiment speakeasy in back! Reserve early!

And more from SPSP’s walking distance list!


Seaport Village/Little Italy (1-2 miles)


A leisurely walk will take you past the USS Midway and other historic ships, stretching from the Gaslamp District to Seaport Village and several miles north toward Lindbergh Field International Airport.

Coronado Ferry

Sail across the bay on a scenic 15-minute ride and explore the island when you arrive! There are parks, restaurants, art galleries, and the Coronado Brewing Company within walking distance of the landing. If you want to check out the historical Del Coronado hotel and nearby beach, you can take a cab or a longer walk down Orange Avenue (about 2 miles).

Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)

At MCASD Downtown, you can experience contemporary art in a historic setting - the Jacobs Building, formerly the Santa Fe baggage building - and view installations by artists Jenny Holzer, Richard Serra, Ernesto Neto, Judith Barry, Robert Irwin, and Iñigo Maglano-Ovalle.

The Fish Market

Views of the bay and USS Midway.

Influx Cafe

Fantastic croissants and coffee.

Craft & Commerce

Cocktails and eats.

Prep Kitchen

Farm to table

Extraordinary Desserts

All in the name - plus small plates and wine at the Little Italy location



Waters Fine Foods - Downtown

Gourmet foods to go near MOCA


Balboa Park/Hillcrest (2-3 miles)

San Diego Zoo (2920 Zoo Drive)

The San Diego Zoo is world famous for a very good reason: it houses over 3700 animals, including polar bears and a giant panda. Take a stroll in the amazing open air exhibits, while enjoying a cool San Diego winter day. (Beats snow back home, right?) Tickets are $50.

Balboa Park (1549 El Prado)

If the zoo is not your thing, consider meandering through the nearby Balboa Park. Enjoy walking through the park, rose garden, and the Botanical Building (for free!), or stop into a nearby museum. Some of the museums within Balboa Park include San Diego Air and Space Museum and the San Diego Natural History Museum. (Note, these museums charge their own separate admissions fees.)

Cucina Urbana

Seasonal Italian and craft cocktails.

Banker’s Hill

Upscale cocktails and bites.

Extraordinary Desserts

Yes, they have two locations, and yes, we listed them both.

Hash House

Huge breakfast and more.

Amarin Thai

Great Thai and vegetarian food, plus bars around the corner.


South Park/North Park (3-5 miles)

Hamilton’s Tavern 

Many, many beers.

URBN Coal-Fired Pizza

Big space great for larger groups.


Craft beers, picnic tables, high-end bites.


More beer.

Urban Solace

Comfort food.

Whistle Stop

Two words: Booty Bassment.


Old Town San Diego (7 miles)

Whaley House Museum

The Whaley House was built in 1857 and is now home to some of San Diego’s historical treasures. It’s also rumored to be haunted...maybe grab a birdbath margarita at a local spot to get your nerve up before walking through?

Casa de Reyes

Birdbath margaritas in a beautiful setting near shops, but there are many other great options for food and drinks.


To the Beach!

Coronado (Take the 15-minute ferry from downtown!)

Near the bridge on the Bayside is the Coronado Ferry Landing with its galleries, boutique shops and great restaurants with exceptional views and the historic Centennial Park. At the east end of Orange Avenue (about 2 miles away), you’ll also find the historical Del Coronado hotel and more specialty shops, restaurants, and views.

Ocean Beach (10 miles)

Lots of shopping, beach life, and bars - grab a coffee and take a walk along Sunset Cliffs or out on the pier for some breathtaking San Diego views.

Mission/Pacific Beach (12 miles)

Classic beach cities with all the fixings. If you are looking for beautiful walks along the boardwalk and bay, an amazing breakfast burrito, and a ride on the second oldest rollercoaster in the US at Belmont Park, this is for you! Try Mission Cafe for breakfast, Isabela’s Cantina for brunch and lunch, Cafe 976 for coffee, and JRDN for dinner and drinks.

La Jolla (15 miles)

If you are willing to take a taxi or Uber quite a few miles northwest, you can experience the breathtaking, sweeping vistas of the La Jolla Cove. It’s rated the #1 attraction on Trip Advisor for great reason--there is a beautiful beach, dramatic cliffs, and lots of marine life. You can enjoy kayaking, tide pools, snorkeling, or swimming, but be forewarned -- the Pacific Ocean is cold (60F/16C on average in winter). If you want to enjoy the ocean while staying warm and dry, wander through the Scripps Aquarium instead.


Other SD Gems

Phil’s BBQ

SO good.

Ponce’s Mexican Restaurant

The margaritas will knock everything but your socks off.

Blind Lady Ale House

Craft beers and pizzas.


Moscow Mules and more.

Shakespeare Pub & Grill

Premiere League games, Bloody Marys, fish & chips, trivia.


Want more?

SPSP suggestions

Best of San Diego 2015


Have a question or need other information about the area?

Email Sara at or Nick at