University Heights – San Diego, CA

University Heights packs plenty of culture into a small section of San Diego. The neighborhood combines the popularity of the big city with small-town shops and restaurants. Centrally located in San Diego, just east of California State Route 163, the area sits only 4 miles from downtown. You'll have most of the necessities within walking distance, with quick access to all of San Diego's most popular areas. A mix of energetic young professionals and older adults that care about the arts make this a truly unique community that will keep you on your toes. With schools, colleges and employment opportunities nearby, you'll be set up for success no matter your stage in life.

Schools in University Heights

School data provided by GreatSchools

Restaurants & Nightlife

You can find cuisine from every corner of the world in this area's quirky mix of restaurants. If you enjoy Thai food, look no further than Bahn Thai on Park Boulevard. Bahn Thai keeps the atmosphere light and casual by serving the food on paper plates. Try the roast duck curry for a flavor combination that includes coconut milk, tomatoes and pineapples. Get a Thai iced tea with it to wash down the spicy curry taste. For a late-night sandwich craving, check out Soda & Swine. Its hipster decor has a hidden elegance that comes out when the sun goes down. You're best bet are the sliders, so you can get a sample of the restaurant's options and don't forget the raspberry champagne slushie on the side. Hanna's Gourmet, open from Wednesday through Sunday, brings a selection of European pastries to the neighborhood. Enjoy a slice of Hanna's signature carrot cakes before you leave, or get the carrot cake pancakes if you're having breakfast. Keep Hanna's in mind for parties too, because the restaurant caters for lunches and dinners. When it comes to nightlife, this neighborhood allows you to be as crazy as you want. The variety of restaurants and local bars let you have a quiet drink any day of the week. Locals enjoy choosing from the wide selection of beer at Small Bar on Park Boulevard. Stop by for cocktails accompanied by fried pickles or blue cheese fries at night and return the next day for a Bloody Mary and a steak melt. Be prepared to mix and mingle with neighbors here, as this place grows crowded the later it gets.

History & Culture

University Heights formed in 1888, originally intended to be part of the University of Southern California. The extension of the San Diego Electric Railway in 1907 and the Panama-California Exposition in 1915 spurred further development in the area and helped increase the population. The area incorporates art and history into the community. San Diego designated Shirley Ann Place, located between Madison Avenue and Monroe Avenue, as a historic district. The district features bungalows designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style of the 1920s. The University Heights Arts Open combines the area's many restaurant choices with its burgeoning arts scene. Shuttle service takes spectators around the neighborhood to sample foods from different restaurants while viewing pieces made by up-and-coming artists.


Its central location, public transportation and bicycle-friendliness make University Heights easy to travel through, whether or not you have a car. Quick access to freeways helps keep your car commutes stress free. California State Route 163, which runs north and south, borders the western edge of the area. It also connects to Interstate 8, which runs east and west. Hop on that for a convenient ride further inland or out to the coast. Street parking in the neighborhood can be found easily during most hours of the day. If you don't have a car, bus routes 1, 11 and 15 service the neighborhood. Each route connects to transit centers for the San Diego Trolley, so you'll have affordable access to the rest of San Diego. Taxis and ride-share services like Uber can both be used when you need a car ride. The central location and popularity of the area ensure you won't wait long for either service. Most of the major streets include bike lanes, and the flat terrain means your ride won't be too strenuous. Most errands can be completed on foot, and residences are typically within a five-minute walk of a restaurant.


Life in University Heights carries a low cost of living, especially considering the location and amenities in the area. The cost of leasing apartments or houses tends to be affordable at most income levels. Rental costs for a one-bedroom apartment usually hover around $1,200, although cheaper arrangements can be found. A Metro ride to the city center costs about $2.25, and gas prices settle in about 11 percent higher than the national average. A pint at the local pub will run you around $6.


The area has a smaller, niche market atmosphere with its collection of vintage and boutique shops. However, the neighborhood is just a short drive away from shopping centers in nearby neighborhoods. La Loupe Vintage presents a warm, welcoming atmosphere. From the relaxing scent that you'll notice the moment you walk in to the polite employees that are friendly without being pushy, this shop makes everyone feel at home. Check it out for vintage pieces that work with everyday outfits. The grocery stores in the area tend to be neighborhood markets instead of large chain stores. Part mini-mart and deli, Park Boulevard Liquor & Deli is the place to go for last-minute grocery items, as well as liquor. According to locals, they also have some of the best deli sandwiches in the neighborhood.


Parks in the area focus on showing off the beauty of nature, with an abundance of trails that welcome the whole family. Old Trolley Barn Park, originally an actual trolley barn, has huge fields for outdoor workouts and jungle gyms to keep the kids happy. Designed with man and dog in mind, the park includes water fountains for people and their pets. Music lovers should check out the "Summer in the Park" concert series, which takes place Friday nights during the summer. For a more secluded hike, try University Heights Park at the intersection of Golden Gate Drive and Rhode Island Street. This park keeps it simple with trails, wildlife and views of the surrounding area. You may even catch a glimpse of the beach, so try out this park for a romantic picnic with that special someone.
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