West of the 5 Freeway off the Garnet Avenue and Balboa Avenue exit are San Diego’s exciting and thriving beach neighborhoods, Pacific Beach and Mission Beach. The adjacent neighborhoods provide locals and visitors with breezy beach air and a social atmosphere. The people in this area are mostly dominated by college and post-college crowds.
The main streets of PB consist of Garnet and Grand Avenue, which are parallel and run east-west, and Mission Blvd, which runs perpendicular to Grand and Garnet and is parallel to the coast. Pacific Beach is easy to navigate when you realize that the streets are named after precious stones arranged in alphabetical order (for the most part), starting with Agate Street at the most northern section and following the alphabet south.
To the north of PB is La Jolla, which is a sophisticated beach city well-known for its polished homes and prestigious residents. South of PB is Mission Beach, which is located on a sandbar. Here, the university crowd can be found living and partying, similar to the PB area. South of Mission Beach is Ocean Beach where Sunset Cliffs is a breathtaking and beautiful scene.
PB was once notorious for its allowance of drinking on the beach, but now that the ban on alcohol is official, beachgoers can take in the sun without the noisiness of college kids doing keg stands. Now families in the area can coexist with the once-rowdy college crowd and peacefully enjoy the sounds of the surf. Instead of crowds that are drinking, the sand is filled with beachgoers that are now occupied playing horseshoes, Frisbee, and bocce ball. Along the sand is a boardwalk that goes from the Crystal Pier to south Mission Beach and is filled with roller bladers, skateboarders, and runners.
If the PB beach scene is too busy for you, then head over to Mission Bay for some other recreational fun. In the bay, you can jet ski and water ski by Crown Point, sail in Sail Bay, or just take a stroll along the bay’s boardwalk.
Even though there is a ban on alcohol, PB still has a nightlife where the college crowd likes to party. There are many bars along Garnet Ave. and Mission Blvd. that attract large crowds. This main area in PB can get particularly busy in the summer on almost every day of the week and during holiday weekends. Trendy bars to check out are Bar West, Typhoon Saloon, and Moondoggies. For the most part, the dress codes for the bars are beach casual. If you’re looking for a more mellow night out, then check out the Australian Pub, Nick’s at the Beach, and Cass Street Bar & Grill for a more laid-back experience.
Also in PB are many restaurants with many ranges and types of cuisines. A big favorite is sushi and delicious restaurants can be found all over the main streets. There are so many sushi restaurants to choose from almost everywhere you look, but a few worth going to are Zen 5 Sushi, PB Sushi, and Kabuki Sushi. Mexican cuisine is also a big hit in PB. For great tacos and burritos, head to Fred’s Mexican Café and Gringos. PB also has many cafés where you can sip a coffee or enjoy a sandwich while reading a novel. Some to check out are Café 976 and Zanzibar Café, which are centrally located in PB.
For shopping, PB is home to many unique boutiques where you can find hidden treasures that no one else will have. For those who love to shop, PB is a satisfying experience with a mix of high-end and inexpensive finds. Many boutiques are located on Garnet Avenue intertwined with hair salons, smoke shops, and tattoo parlors. Boutiques like LA Rack, Pink Zone, and Closet are perfect for figuring out an outfit for a spontaneous night out. There are also re-sale boutiques like Buffalo Exchange where you can find vintage clothing you can’t find at the mall.
Mission Beach is a small beach community that is located on a sandbar which is about a block wide. This small area is mellower than the PB scene, but still draws a similar laid back and fun-loving crowd.
The streets are organized a lot like the ones in PB with the streets being in alphabetical order with the end of the alphabet located closest to PB. Mission Beach can be a lot less crowded than the busy PB beach scene, but because this community is so small parking is harder to find on this sandbar.
For some recreational fun, Mission Beach has areas where you can play volleyball, surf, or even head to the Mission Bay Sports Center. On the other side of the sandbar, you can find Mission Bay Park, which has large grassy areas suitable for barbeques and picnics. You can also sail, waterski, or take a ride on a banana boat in Mission Bay.
If you’re looking to get away from the mainstream PB scene, then head south to Mission Beach and enjoy a nice walk on the boardwalk. Here you can find places like the Wavehouse where you can eat, drink, and play in a wave pool. Mission beach is most notable for its Giant Dipper Roller Coaster at the historical Belmont Park, but this beach provides bars and restaurants that promise to entertain. Mission Beach is adjacent to Sea World, which is a great place to take the family for a day.
For Mission Beach nightlife, check out Beachcomber for a popular bar scene. Mission Beach also has a variety of venues that has music you can dance to. For live music, Canes Bar and Grill is a popular venue or head to Club Thrusters if you want to shake your body.
Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are great vacationing spots for those looking to get away and enjoy the sun, surf, and sand as well as a booming nightlife.
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