Mid-City is the eastern part of the city of San Diego, bordered by I-8 and Mission Valley to the north, National City to the south, Downtown, Balboa Park and Hillcrest to the west, and La Mesa to the east. Mid-City has trendy urban neighborhoods, like Kensington, North Park, Normal Heights, and University Heights, and quieter neighborhoods, such as Golden Hill and South Park. Mid-City consists of a number of interesting neighborhoods - those of particular note are:
- City Heights, a historic and ethnically diverse community, centered around the intersection of Fairmount and University Avenues.
- College Area, on a plateau overlooking Interstate 8 on the northeastern corner of the Mid-City area, home to San Diego State University (SDSU).
- Golden Hill, a small, quiet neighborhood of historic homes, directly east of Downtown and south of Balboa Park.
- Kensington, a trendy neighborhood with many shops and restaurants, centered around Adams Avenue east of Interstate 15.
- Normal Heights, an urban community that's home to plenty of unique stores and festivals, centered along Adams Avenue between Interstates 805 and 15.
- North Park, an urban neighborhood north of Balboa Park, centered around El Cajon Boulevard and University Avenue near 30th Street.
- South Park, a quiet residential neighborhood southeast of Balboa Park, along 30th/Fern Street north of SR-94.
- Talmadge, a historic neighborhood with eclectic architecture situated between Kensington and SDSU.
- University Heights, a scenic urban neighborhood centered on the intersection of Park Boulevard and Adams Avenue, filled with restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, and art studios.
Given the size of the Mid-City, traveling by car is the most reliable way to get around. SR-94 passes east-west along the southern edge of the area, providing quick access to Downtown to the west and the suburbs to the east, while I-8 cuts across the northern edge of the area through Mission Valley. SR-15 and I-805 pass north-south through the area, crossing each other in Mid-City. Major east-west streets include El Cajon Boulevard, University Avenue, and (in the northeastern part of the region) Montezuma Road. Major north-south streets include Fairmount Avenue, Euclid Avenue, 54th Street, and College Avenue.
By public transit
The Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) operates transit service in the city. Frequent routes serve Mid-City, but given the size and often sprawling nature of the area traveling by bus can be time-consuming. Plan your route carefully. Frequent routes include the #7 and #10 on University Avenue, the #1 and Rapid #215 (stops only at major intersections) on El Cajon Boulevard, and the #11 on Adams Avenue, all of which connect either to Hillcrest or Balboa Park to the west, with some continuing on to Downtown. North Park is also served by the frequent #2 to South Park and Downtown and the #6 to Mission Valley. A transit center at SDSU is served by many bus routes as well as the San Diego Trolley Green Line service from Downtown and Old Town to the eastern suburbs.
- 1 San Diego State University Aztecs, SDSU campus (on College Avenue just off of I-8). College basketball enthusiasts may be familiar with "The Show", SDSU's famously rowdy student section. They play their home games at the Viejas Arena (formerly Cox Arena) in the SDSU campus. The Aztecs college baseball team plays at Tony Gwynn Stadium (also on the SDSU campus). The college football team opened the new Snapdragon Stadium in Mission Valley, built on part of the site of the team's former home of San Diego Stadium, in 2022.
- The Adams Avenue Street Fair, Adams Ave (between 32nd and 35th Streets), ☏ . Held over the last weekend in late September, showcases local business and organizations, various food and tchotchke vendors, and six stages of live music across the three blocks of this main drag in Normal Heights. Entrance is free, but the food and beer gardens can be a bit pricey.
- Kensington. Centered along Adams Avenue east of CA-15, is a small community with much charm. Instead of going here for excitement, you should go to relax. Take some time to walk around the neighborhood and see all of the old houses and their well kept gardens. Get a cup of coffee at Kensington Cafe and then enjoy it at the park that surrounds the local library. Around dinner take the time to eat at the local restaurants and then either have a few drinks at the Club Kensington or see an indie or foreign film at the theater or rent one from Kensington Video.
- 1 Folk Arts Rare Records, 3072 El Cajon Blvd (Right off the 805 freeway exit for El Cajon Boulevard.), ☏ , [email protected]. Tu-Sa 10AM-6PM. Established in 1967, Folk Arts Rare Records specializes in folk and country, but has a great variety of styles and genres in stock (from Surf to Pop, Blues to Metal, Zydeco to Rock).
- 1 The Big Kitchen, 3003 Grape St (at Grape and Fern in South Park, southeast of Balboa Park; to get there from North Park, travel south on 30th Street (which will become Fern Street) until you get to Grape Street), ☏ . This restaurant is so named because the kitchen is bigger than the rest of the restaurant. "Judy The Beauty (on Duty)" is usually there serving up great food (mainly breakfast, but also lunch), with a cheerful attitude. Take time to appreciate the bumper stickers and celebrity posters on the walls - Whoopi Goldberg once worked here.
- 2 Bleu Boheme, 4090 Adams Ave, ☏ . Charming, rustic neighborhood French brasserie in the heart of Kensington. They feature a prix fixe Bohemian menu every night from 5-6PM, all night on Tuesdays. Try the moules frites in Roquefort sauce.
- 3 Ponces Mexican Restaurant, 4050 Adams Ave, ☏ . Ponces has been renovated, offering a bar and better seating but it still offers some of the best American Mexican food in San Diego. Not authentic Mexican food, but good American Mexican food. Get there with enough time to wait and if you don't want dine in call for take out.
- 4 Red Fox Steakhouse and Piano Bar, 2223 El Cajon Blvd (in the Lafayette Hotel), ☏ . Charming place where it's easy to imagine you've time-traveled to the early 1970s. Don't expect cutting-edge cuisine, but when your parents or grandparents wanted to have a nice evening out, they probably went somewhere like this. The bar furnishings came from a 17th-century English pub - think mood lighting and lots of dark leather and oak. Also a good place for a cocktail or two. Live music nightly.
- 5 Zia Gourmet Pizza, 3311 Adams Ave, ☏ . Zias is home to some of the most unique and tastiest pizzas in all San Diego. You can order by the slice or a whole pie. The types of pizza range from the traditional cheese (three types) to the most famous, eggplant (cranberries, walnuts, yogurt, and eggplant). All food served is kosher and halal and there are vegan options as well. The owner and head chef constantly walks around and asks how everything tastes.
- 6 Pomegranate, 2312 El Cajon Blvd, ☏ . Russian and Georgian (the country, not the US state) food. Highlights include adjaruli (a bread boat filled with cheese and egg), borscht, and excellent cabbage rolls.
- 1 Blind Lady Ale House, 3416 Adams Ave, ☏ . 5PM-midnight. With a pub vibe and aesthetic, BLAH's a fantastic place to drink a wide selection of local craft brew and munch on some pizza. During the week it's not nearly as crowded--you'll be able to find a spot on the long wooden tables. If you ride your bike there, you can get a 10% discount when you show your helmet at the bar.
- 2 Club Kensington, 4079 Adams Ave, ☏ . A quaint hipster bar that offers music on the weekends.
- 3 Kensington Cafe, 4141 Adams Ave, ☏ . This coffee shop, loved by the locals, serves coffee, tea, food and even spumoni.
- 4 Lestat's Coffee House, 3343 Adams Ave, ☏ . Lestat's never closes, ever. Aside from the specialty coffee drinks and the local pastries, the walls are covered with art for sale, and the next door stage has nightly shows and open mics. Free wifi attracts all sorts of local characters and the back is always packed with people. They have a sister location in University Heights along Park Avenue.
- 5 Living Room Coffeehouse, 5900 El Cajon Blvd (at 59th St.), ☏ . Daily 6AM-1AM. A regular neighborhood coffee spot that's a popular study space for many college students given its proximity to SDSU.
- 1 Lamplighter Inn & Suites at SDSU, 6474 El Cajon Blvd, ☏ .
- 2 Lafayette Hotel, 2223 El Cajon Blvd, ☏ . Historic hotel that was at one time a preferred San Diego destination for Hollywood's elite. The Olympic-sized pool was designed by Johnny Weismuller of Tarzan fame. On summer weekends they host often fairly raucous pool parties.