Offbeat Adventures in San Diego

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Ahead of New Belgium’s Tour de Fat rolling into its final California destination, we wanted to highlight some offbeat adventures in this other city by the bay (San Francisco ain’t the only one!). Slightly wacky, always wonderful, find these gems around San Diego, and get excited for the Tour de Fat at Golden Hill Park on Saturday, September 27!

1. Cinema Under The Stars

Tucked away in the Mission Hills neighborhood, the perfect outdoor movie experience awaits. Get cozy in a zero gravity recliner or love seat cabana and sit back, relax, and enjoy the show in an open-air movie theater: one of the best ways to watch a movie in San Diego, complete with concessions, HD projection, and surround sound.

2. Great Maple

Head to Great Maple in Hillcrest for a European Dinette experience in the Americas. Enjoy expertly prepared seasonal produce, responsible seafood, farm-fresh American meat, and daily seasonal pies in a room created for libation and conversation. Don’t leave without trying the famous made-to-order maple bacon donuts: an explosion of sweet-salty-savory-bacony deliciousness!

3. The Whaley House

Built on the execution grounds of James Robinson (Yankee Jim), The Whaley House in Old Town San Diego is thought to be the number-one most haunted house in the United States. Take a tour and see for yourself: On the last weekend of every month, join staff and ghost hunters for an exclusive 90-minute paranormal investigation of this famous haunted site. Are you brave enough? Advance reservations are strongly encouraged. Afterward, calm your nerves with a margarita at one of the many delicious Mexican restaurants in this historic neighborhood.

4. Lucha Libre

This gourmet taco shop on Washington Street isn’t the standard-issue Mexican restaurant with serapes and sombreros on the wall. Everywhere you look, from the televisions running classic wrestling matches, to the floor-to-ceiling decor, you see the flamboyance and color of Lucha Libre. This Mexican-wrestling themed taco shop in Mission Hills is one-of-a-kind. Be sure to reserve the Champion’s Booth at least 24 hours in advance for VIP seating and wear your lucha mask for the luchador discount.

5. Spreckels Organ Pavilion

Turn it up a notch by paying a visit to Spreckels Organ Pavilion: one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs. Located in Balboa Park, the nation’s largest urban cultural park, this unique organ contains 4,530 pipes ranging in height from the size of a pencil to 32 feet, and is housed in an ornate vaulted structure with highly embellished gables. Since 1917, San Diego has had a civic organist, who performs free weekly Sunday concerts at 2pm. While you’re there, check out the 65 miles of various trails, 19 gardens, and 15 major museums within the park.

6. Harper’s Topiary Garden

What do elephants in Thailand, Mickey Mouse, pyramids in Cairo, and surfers have in common? They can all be found at Harper’s Topiary Garden! Located at 3549 Union Street, this kooky Edward Scissorhands-style neighborhood garden is a rarity. With inspiration from their traveling adventures, a local couple — along with the help of a gardener — has sculpted their shrubs and trees to depict favorite images from their travels. Caution: the “no climbing” signs mean business.

7. Prohibition

Law Office of Eddie O’Hare… or is it? Head to the heart of the Gaslamp District and take a stairwell to the 1920s. At this speakeasy, bartenders are artists, and alcohol is not meant as merely a vessel for intoxication, but a sensory experience all its own. Arrive early, dress to impress, and celebrate with a handcrafted artisanal cocktail while listening to live jazz in this underground establishment. Cheers!

8. Tour de Fat

This year’s Tour de Fat (Saturday, September 27) features another fashion-forward bike ride ending in Golden Hill Park, where adults can sample New Belgium’s best brews, and kids of all ages can enjoy live entertainment from The Handsome Little Devils, The Reals, Yo Yo People, and Beats Antique. Polish up your bike and your dance moves for the now-legendary Thousand Person Dance Contest, and leave room for noshes from local purveyors. Feel-good bonus: all proceeds will benefit the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition and the San Diego Mountain Biking Association. In other words, this is the perfect Saturday — don’t miss it!