Little Italy is a neighborhood rich in character—where the past, present and future collide in exciting ways.
In the 1920s, the neighborhood’s promise of sun and a steady income beckoned thousands of Italian and Portuguese immigrants, whose hard work put San Diego on the map as the “tuna capital of the world.” Little Italy prospered for several decades, bolstered by a community with a strong cultural identity.
Unfortunately, several tuna canneries had to close up shop in the ‘60s and ‘70s due to rising foreign competition and the development of Interstate 5, which cut through the middle of the neighborhood. But, in the ‘90s, homeowners decided to take fate into their own hands, and established the Little Italy Association (LIA). The LIA set out to revitalize the neighborhood through a series of beautification projects, creating more open spaces, and managing the needs of businesses and residents equally.
The hard work paid off: San Diego has the largest Little Italy in the nation, covering over 40 city blocks. Despite its size, San Diego’s Little Italy retains its close-knit cultural roots, evident in the neighborhood’s boutiques, shops, and restaurants—all of which exude a stylish, mid-century European flair.
Piazzas & Little Italy Mercato
On any given day, locals and visitors bustle through Little Italy, our city’s most walkable neighborhood. Strolling through the Piazza Della Famiglia—a pedestrian-only public market—feels like walking through Rome, and every Saturday and Wednesday. Shoppers flock to Little Italy Mercato to buy fresh produce, flowers and other authentic treats.
Little Italy’s many galleries showcase the best of San Diego’s vibrant art scene—a stunning mix of classic and contemporary. 1805 Gallery, Meyer Fine Art, and JDC Fine are just a few destinations for the culture aficionado.
Restaurants & Bars
Little Italy is renowned for its thriving food scene, where high-class cuisine and affordable comfort food coexist side-by-side. The diversity of Little Italy’s culinary scene is exemplified in its newest addition, Little Italy Food Hall, where diners can choose between six different food stations that serve global eats. Mangia!
Downtown San Diego is alive with festivals, marathons and art events all year long—a true adventure seeker’s dream! There’s never a lack of exciting things to do in our city, and we’re excited to be in the middle of the action. Check out some of the cool things going on when you’re in town.
Things To Do
- Centro Cultural de la Raza
- Marston House
- Mingei International Museum
- Museum of Photographic Arts
- Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
- San Diego Air & Space Museum
- San Diego Art Institute (SDAI)
- San Diego Automotive Museum
- San Diego Hall of Champions
- San Diego History Center
- San Diego Model Railroad Museum
- San Diego Museum of Man
- San Diego Natural History Museum
- The San Diego Museum of Art
- Timken Museum of Art
- Veteran’s Museum at Balboa Park
- WorldBeat Center
- Bon Temps Social Club
- Civic Dance Arts
- Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater
- San Diego Civic Youth Ballet
- San Diego Junior Theatre
- San Diego Youth Symphony
- Spreckels Organ Pavilion
- Starlight Theater and Starlight Bowl
- The Old Globe
- Balboa Park Carousel (adjacent to the San Diego Zoo, open daily 11am-5:30pm)
- Balboa Park Miniature Railroad (open daily 11am-6:30pm)
- House of Pacific Relations International Cottages
- Photographic Arts Building
- San Diego Zoo
- Sefton Plaza (Located near the Park’s west entrance on Laurel Avenue, Sefton Plaza features several bronze statues that provide a look into Balboa Park’s history.)
- Spanish Village Art Center
- United Nations Building
- 1935 (Old) Cactus Garden
- Alcazar Garden
- Australian Garden
- Botanical Building
- California Native Plant Garden
- Casa del Rey Moro Garden
- Children’s Ethnobotany Garden
- Desert Garden
- Florida Canyon Native Plant Reserve
- Japanese Friendship Garden
- Marston House Garden
- Palm Canyon
- Rose Garden
- San Diego Botanical Garden Foundation
- San Diego Floral Association
- San Diego Zoo Botanical Collection
- Trees for Health Garden
- Veterans Memorial Garden
- Zoro Garden
Colleges & Universities
Craft Beer Capital
Gas Lamp Quarter
Old Town San Diego
San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
SeaWorld San Diego
USS Midway Museum
Balboa Park is the nation’s largest urban cultural park. Home to 15 major museums, renowned performing arts venues, beautiful gardens and the San Diego Zoo, the Park has an ever-changing calendar of museum exhibitions, plays, musicals, concerts, and classes—all in the beautiful and timeless setting of this must-see San Diego attraction.
The best way to start your time in Balboa Park is with a stop at the Balboa Park Visitors Center. Located across from The Prado Restaurant in the House of Hospitality, the Visitors Center has the most current and comprehensive information about the Park’s activities and attractions. Open from 9:30am-4:30pm daily, the Visitors Center offers brochures, maps, audio tours, free guided tours of the Park, transportation information, dining advice, and more.
The Balboa Park grounds are open 24 hours a day and museum hours vary by institution. Please feel free to download and print this map for details on the locations of Balboa Park’s many sites.
The Birch Aquarium at Scripps
The world-renowned Birch Aquarium is the exploration center for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla, CA, the aquarium features more than 60 habitats of fishes and invertebrates. An exciting time to visit the aquarium is during feeding time. You can watch live or check out animal feeding schedule if you’re going to be at the aquarium. There are many other educational, hands-on visitor activities that you can check out while you’re there as well.
Colleges & Universities
San Diego, CA Features World-Class Colleges and Universities.
Beautiful San Diego, CA is known for more than just great weather. America’s Finest City also offers world-class educational opportunities with many colleges and universities hosting students from all over the world. From California state universities and colleges to community colleges, there are more than 50 higher education campuses within 15 miles of San Diego.
University of California at San Diego (USCD)
Perched on the bluffs overlooking La Jolla, CA, the University of California San Diego (UCSD) consistently ranks among the U.S. best colleges and universities. UCSD offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The UC San Diego Medical Center Health System is a pioneer in medical research and a highly sought after doctorate program. To find out more about the University of California San Diego, visit their web site UCSD.edu.
Porto Vista is the perfect San Diego Convention Center Hotel. We offer great rates and packages, as well as convenient shuttle service to and from the Convention Center. Located in Little Italy, Porto Vista is central to the best that San Diego has to offer, from amazing eateries to spectacular harbor views.
We also offer shuttle service to the airport and are located walking distance from the San Diego Trolley, which stops directly in front of the convention center.
Click here for a list of upcoming events and conventions.
Craft Beer Capital
Grab some friends and your comfy shoes, and walk along Little Italy’s Crafty Mile of local beers.
1. Karl Strauss Brewing Company San Diego’s original brewery & brewpub, opened in 1989. Features craft beers on tap, Saturday brewery tours at 3pm, and a knowledgeable staff of craft beer enthusiasts. 1157 Columbia Street – 619.234.2739 – www.karlstrauss.com
2. Craft & Commerce Providing shelter from the storm since 2009. Old books line the walls of this hip gastropub, serving seasonal eats and craft cocktails. 675 W. Beech St. – 619.269.2202. – www.craft-commerce.com
3. Queenstown Public House New Zealand-themed pub serving upscale bar fare and a large selection of draft beers. 1157 Columbia Street – 619.546.0444 – www.queenstownpublichouse.com
4. Ironside Fish & Oyster Seafood far and cocktails offered in a renovated warehouse. Protest Against The Rising Tide of Conformity. 1654 India St. – 619.269.3033 – www.ironsidefishandoyster.com
5. Bottlecraft Beer Shop & Tasting Room With over 700 beers to choose from, Bottlecraft is a boutique beer shop that curates the best local, domestic and international craft beer. 2161 India St. – 619.487.9493 – www.bottlecraftbeer.com
6. Ballast Point Tasting Room & Kitchen Come for a tour, a taste, to fill a growler, or get a keg. Ballast Point – dedicated to the craft. 2215 India St. – 619.255.7213 – www.ballastpoint.com
7. 98 Bottles Fun wines, live entertainment, and an ever-changing selection of craft beers make it the perfect spot to “take one down”. 2400 Kettner Blvd. – 619.255.7885 – www.98bottlessd.com
Gas Lamp Quarter
People Love the Gas Lamp Quarter.
The center of Hip Nightlife with hundreds of dining and club options. 1 mile from the Porto Vista.
Come play at LEGOLAND® California Resort. It’s a hands-on experience with more than 60 rides, shows and attractions. Starting Summer 2014, take your imagination on an amazing journey and enter the new LEGO® Legends of CHIMA™ Water Park. It features an awe-inspiring Lion Temple Wave Pool, crocodile swamp and the interactive Build-a-Boat. The resort is home to LEGOLAND Water Park and SEA LIFE® Aquarium with the new Spring exhibit, Jellyfish Discovery. Book Online Now.
Once home to San Diego’s flourishing tuna fishing industry and generations of Italian families who made their living on the sea, Little Italy is a quaint and lively neighborhood filled with patio cafés, restaurants, pubs, art galleries, shops, hotels, and the beautiful Amici Park.
India Street is lined with restaurants featuring cuisines of both Southern and Northern Italy, including Sicilian dishes served with a modern flair at Trattoria Fantastica and sophisticated Italian food with a cozy ambiance at Buon Appetito. Filippi’s Pizza Grotto features an old-fashioned Italian dining experience along with a delicatessen and market, which offers everything from prosciutto to mascarpone.
Caffe Italia offers street-side tables and a serene courtyard atrium along with panini, salads and a wide selection of Italian gelato.
Breaking out from Italian style is our very own Glass Door Restaurant, where Chef Anthony prepares a mix of savory comfort foods with his own refined twist.
Since 1934, the Waterfront Bar & Grill has been a favorite local watering hole serving locally brewed ales and burgers. British-owned and -operated Princess Pub and Grille serves British and Irish beers, along with traditional pub fare such as fish and chips for patrons watching soccer and rugby via satellite TV.
98 Bottles on Kettner Blvd. is a 21+ neighborhood hangout features a large selection of craft beer, wine and sake, along with a full calendar of live entertainment. A great place to mix and mingle with the locals.
No Little Italy would be complete without a true Italian market and Mona Lisa Italian Foods deli fits the bill. The deli offers a selection of foods, wine and delicious deli sandwiches. Located on the corner of India Street and Hawthorne. Little Italy has some great local boutiques worth a stop on your San Diego visit including The Shopaholics Boutique, Rosa Mariposa, Vocabulary Boutique and Melero Boutique & Gallerywhere you can find unique clothing, jewelry and small craft items.
The Kettner Art & Design District encompasses a group of retail shops and art galleries that feature grand selections of home furnishings and fashion accessories. Among its 21 shops is Mixture, featuring a young and fresh take on contemporary furniture, and India Street Antiques, offering affordable European dressers, armoires, cabinets, and other collectibles. And for the artist in the group, a must-stop is Blick Art Materials where you can find everything from a sketchbook to archival supplies. Italian-inspired retail includes colorful sconces and sparkling chandeliers at Simply Italian and elegant Italian ceramics and gifts at Bella Stanza.
Fir Street Shops is a block of colorful cottages housing stylish and unique boutiques, such as theCarol Gardyne Gallery, which offers designer scarves and jewelry. The French Garden Shoppe on India Street offers European home furnishing and kitchen decor.
Architectural Salvage is a haven of vintage home décor and accessories like antique drawer handles.
Each Saturday from 8:00 AM until 2:00 PM, several blocks of Little Italy are shut down for the weeklyFarmer’s Market. Here you’ll find the locals shopping for fresh produce but also gourmet vinegar, crafts and ready made foods.
Arts & Culture
Art galleries include Scott White Contemporary Art, which promotes the works of emerging and mid-career artists, and Perry L. Meyer Fine Art, specializing in 18th-century art to contemporary works on paper.
During the annual Mission Federal Art Walk in April, guests enjoy a variety of art media displayed in outdoor venues, studios, galleries, and local businesses, along with live entertainment. Every October is the Annual Festa, a traditional street festival with music, fine foods and specialty crafts. Held the second Friday of every other month, Kettner Nights is a progressive evening event featuring art and design exhibitions in the Kettner Art & Design District.
Old Town San Diego
Old Town San Diego is home of the first permanent Spanish establishment in California, settled between 1821-1822. Explore the La Casa de Estudillo and the Mason Street School, San Diego’s first one-room schoolhouse. Authentic reconstruction and original sites take you back to the 1800s, where you’ll discover the rich history of San Diego. Read More
Known as “America’s Finest City”, San Diego offers a many things to see and do. Let San Diego Old Town Trolley show you California’s second largest city, where blue skies, exciting attractions and 70 miles of beaches with hop on, hop off convenience. The Old Town Trolley travels down Columbia Street – right in front of the Porto Vista. Find out more here.
Get discount Old Town Trolley tickets via the Porto Vista’s travel partner here.
San Diego Zoo
Everyone Loves the World Famous San Diego Zoo!
An urban paradise for all ages, the San Diego Zoo is a must-see in San Diego, California! With more than 100 acres and 4,000 rare and fascinating animals, there’s plenty to see at San Diego Zoo. See giant pandas, Komodo dragons, gorillas, tigers, flamingos, polar bears, and many more.
The Porto Vista Hotel in San Diego, CA is located just minutes away from the San Diego Zoo. You can purchase discounted tickets online NOW!
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park – where you can see animals living in habits similar to their natural surroundings – is just a short drive from the Porto Vista Hotel in San Diego, CA. With lots of different safaris to choose from, such as the Cart Safari, the Behind-the-Scenes Safari and the Roar and Snore Safari, there’s something for everyone!
Our favorite safari is the Caravan Safari where you take a safari truck into the fields where you can feed giraffes and rhinos. Don’t miss this rare opportunity while visiting San Diego, CA. Get discounted tickets from the Porto Vista Hotel partner here.
SeaWorld San Diego
When you think of fun activities in San Diego, CA, SeaWorld San Diego is usually on top of the list. Celebrating more than 50 years as a place to explore and experience marine life, SeaWorld is also active in animal conservation, wildlife rescue and animal welfare.
While at SeaWorld San Diego, be sure to check out the Penguin Experience, Dolphin Point and the amazing underwater viewing tunnel Shark Encounter exhibit. And don’t miss Shamu, SeaWorlds’ biggest celebrity. You can schedule time to Dine with Shamu during your visit. You can purchase discounted tickets online NOW!
USS Midway Museum
A REAL aircraft carrier… fun for the family and a once in a lifetime memory for everyone!
Create a once in a lifetime memory exploring the USS Midway, the longest-serving U.S. Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th century! Imagine living aboard a floating city at sea with 4,500 shipmates, by exploring galleys, officer’s country, sleeping quarters, and the 4 acre flight deck. Admission includes a self-guided audio tour to over 60 locations from the engine room to control tower, narrated by Midway sailors who lived or worked in each. Family-oriented activities for all ages abound! Check out the new child’s audio tour with content geared specifically for 7-12 year olds, take the kids and explore climb-aboard aircraft and cockpits, walk through helicopters, ride three types of flight simulators, climb in bunks, sit in ejection seat theatre, listen to real pilot conversations during Desert Storm, take the family to sea without leaving port! You can purchase discounted tickets online NOW!
The 12-acre Waterfront Park San Diego, located next to San Diego County Administration building and San Diego Harbor is the most significant waterfront open space in downtown San Diego. With interactive fountains and play areas, civic green space, plazas, terraces and themed gardens, there’s something for everyone at Waterfront Park San Diego. The park also accommodates special events and festivals, farmers’ markets, day and nighttime urban needs and family recreation. Grab your suits and get ready to get wet – the Porto Vista Hotel is 0.4 miles away!
To find out more and view current hours of operation, please visit the County of San Diego Parks and Recreation site here.
- Balboa Park - (2.9mi)
- Convention Center - (1.5mi)
- Cruise Ship Terminal - (0.8mi)
- Downtown - (0.6mi)
- Embarcadero Waterfront - (0.4mi)
- Gas Lamp Quarter - (1.3mi)
- Hillcrest - (2.0mi)
- Horton Plaza Mall - (1.0mi)
- Marine Corp Recruit Depot - (2.5mi)
- Old Town San Diego - (3.7mi)
- Old Town Trolley Tours - (0.2mi)
- Petco Park - (2.2mi)
- San Diego Airport - (2.0mi)
- San Diego Zoo - (3.1mi)
- Seaport Village - (1.3mi)
- SeaWorld San Diego - (6.5mi)
- Star Of India Maritime Museum - (0.6mi)
- USS Midway Museum - (1.1mi)