It’s edgy, it’s cool — and it’s official: San Diego’s North Park made Forbes’ list of America’s Hippest Hipster Neighborhoods in September, joining such spots as L.A.'s Silver Lake and San Francisco’s Mission District. North Park has all the ingredients for the cool school: It’s culturally diverse and has art galleries, boutiques, trendy bars with handcrafted cocktails and local brews, and foodie-approved eateries. If you’re hip to this scene, check it out.
The Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows (2223 El Cajon Blvd.;  296-2101; 131 rooms, rates start at $76), built in 1946 in the Grand Colonial style and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, has an “If only the walls could talk” vibe. The hotel has hosted such Tinseltown luminaries as Bob Hope and Ava Gardner. Legend has it that the pool was designed by Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, a.k.a. Tarzan. After a recent $6-million restoration, the hotel is ready for its close-up. My husband and I checked into our small, pleasant room in the main building, but I had instant envy: The best rooms were booked, including the two-story bungalows and the family suites with bunk beds.
It was a cold Saturday night, so we stopped at Caffé Calabria (3933 30th St.;  291-1759) for a decadent hot Mexican cocoa. The Italian-style coffeehouse makes seriously good espresso too; it was once a Bank of America (the vault is still there). The Neapolitan pizzas smelled great, but we had other plans for dinner and headed to the Linkery (3794 N. 30th St.;  255-8778), a rock star of the local dining scene. This farm-to-table indie is a shrine to handmade sausages, craft beer and much more. We had linguica with handmade sauerkraut and knocked back some brews.
We stumbled on Ray at Night, held on the second Saturday of each month on Ray Street. This celebration of the arts features galleries, street vendors and music, and we had a fine time chatting with the artists. Standouts included the Cirello Gallery (a “partnership of artisans”); the San Diego Art Department, which has classes and exhibits; and the pop-up store in the work space/warehouse of the eclectic store Pigment, a block away. The pop-up store was hosted by the Girl Can’t Help It (also from around the corner) and had an amazing collection of vintage clothing and accessories.
The lesson learned
Make it a two-night stay — one night was not enough time to sample North Park’s many hot restaurants and bars. For my next visit, I’ve bookmarked Tiger! Tiger!, Carnitas’ Snack Shack, Bar Pink, Seven Grand …
We spent about $215, including $90 for a night at the Lafayette and $125 for food and drinks.