Unplug from Responsibility and Plug Into Relaxation at These Peaceful Places in San Diego

These calming spots are sure to put you at ease.

Robert Benson/Cavan/Getty Images
Robert Benson/Cavan/Getty Images
Robert Benson/Cavan/Getty Images

We may live in paradise here in San Diego, but that doesn’t mean life is always awesome. Sometimes the daily stresses of adulting can make even the most optimistic person feel a little discouraged. When that happens, it’s time to carve out a little peace and restoration for yourself. We’ve rounded up 10 of the best places for the perfect antidote to life’s worries, from a meditation retreat and high-flying yoga to a dinner club that encourages conversation and a peaceful butterfly garden. So turn off your phone for a couple of hours, grab some sunscreen, and check out our list of places to reclaim your zen.

Photo courtesy of the San Diego Mineral & Gem Society Museum
Photo courtesy of the San Diego Mineral & Gem Society Museum
Photo courtesy of the San Diego Mineral & Gem Society Museum

Arts & Culture in San Diego 

Hear the San Diego Symphony Orchestra rehearsals

Jacobs Park, home to The Rady Shell, is open to the public when it’s not in use as a performance venue. You can spread out on the grassy areas and seating for picnicking, lounging, and other activities. If your schedule permits, you might be able to coordinate your visit to coincide with performance rehearsals by the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, who invite the public to enjoy their practice sessions. It’s free, and you don’t need reservations unless your group numbers over 15 guests. Check their website for rehearsal schedules and attendance guidelines, and note that rehearsal times may change or be canceled without notice.

Visit a museum

Various locations
San Diego County boasts nearly 100 museums, ranging from musical endeavors and artistic creations to preserving the culture of Indigenous communities and documenting our long maritime history.

Some of our favorite, must-visit museums are in Balboa Park, including the San Diego Natural History Museum, which first opened in 1874 and is the oldest scientific institution in Southern California; the Fleet Science Center and planetarium that’s home to the world’s first IMAX Dome Theater; and Centro Cultural de la Raza, a nonprofit center that promotes, preserves, and educates around Chicano, Mexican, Indigenous, and Latinx art and culture. San Diego residents can take advantage of free days, and the Timken Museum of Art and the San Diego Mineral & Gem Society Museum are always free.

The WNDR Museum is an immersive art and technology experience that invites guests to fully engage with local and international artists, collectives, technologists, designers, and makers in a completely new museum experience. Dance across the Lightfloor, which reacts to the visitors’ every move and touch, step into Inside Out by Leigh Sachwitz and flora&faunavisions, a mesmerizing, translucent garden house where you’ll weather a digitized storm, or encounter nearly 20 other hypnotic exhibits.

The Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad is the only museum of its kind in the world, celebrating the achievements and significance of those who craft, sell and use musical goods and instruments. Through unique rotating exhibitions, live music performances, and cutting-edge educational programs, four distinct galleries take you on a musical journey through instruments, artifacts, and immersive multimedia displays, with each room highlighting a different theme: “Making the Instruments,” “Providing the Instruments,” “Using the Instruments,” and “Beyond the Instruments.” There’s also “Sit & Play” areas for solo or group experimentation.

The Barona Cultural Center & Museum on the Barona Indian Reservation is dedicated to preserving the Native American culture and history of San Diego County. It’s the county’s only museum on an Indian reservation. It houses more than 3,000 artifacts, along with listening nooks, photographs, and archives that tell the compelling stories of the Kumeyaay tribes. The creativity and proficiency of North America’s first inhabitants are on full display, with some objects dating back more than 10,000 years. In addition, the museum’s library houses over 1,000 books and an extensive archive of photos and historical documents that tell the story of how Indigenous groups lived.

See a movie at an old-fashioned drive-in theatre

Chula Vista
Pile everyone into the car and head for an old-fashioned drive-in movie. You can see a current double-feature every day, year-round, at South Bay Drive-in Theatre on three 100-foot screens that are entirely digital and present the brightest picture quality available. It’s a bargain at $10 for adults and just $1 for kids 5-9 years old-they even have email coupons for food discounts at the snack bar. Credit cards are accepted for admission, but the snack bar is cash only.

Sherry Smith/iStock/Getty Images
Sherry Smith/iStock/Getty Images
Sherry Smith/iStock/Getty Images

Outdoor Activities in San Diego 

Commune with butterflies

Balboa Park
The Zoro Garden is a beautiful area of Balboa Park that has a long and slightly naughty history. Named after Zoroaster, founder of Zoroastrianism, one of the oldest organized faiths, it’s tucked into a sunken grotto nestled between the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and the Casa de Balboa in Balboa Park. It was originally built for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915-16 and renovated in 1935 to host the California Pacific International Exposition, where it was home to an odd sort of nudist colony run by sideshow promoters Nate Eagle and Stanley R. Graham. Visitors were charged an entry fee of 25 cents to watch paid actors in loincloths and body stockings pose, play sports, and engage in quasi-religious ceremonies. Today, Zoro Garden has been reimagined as a serene butterfly garden, where monarchs, swallowtails, and sulfur butterflies drink water from tiny pools in the rocks and plantings include food sources like milkweed, passion fruit vines, and California lilac for butterfly larvae, and verbena, butterfly bush, lantana, and the like to provide nectar for adult butterflies. Relax and rejuvenate in the shade of towering Ficus trees while you watch the butterflies flit and dance around you.

Learn fly fishing at Lake Murray

La Mesa
The main difference between fly fishing and spin and bait fishing is simple-in fly fishing, the weight of the line carries the hook through the air rather than a lure or sinker. Consequently, the technique for casting a nearly weightless fly differs from other casting types. San Diego Fly Fishers, one of the few fishing clubs in the country to offer free fly casting clinics, meets at Lake Murray every Sunday from 9 am until noon to show you the ins and outs. You can bring your own equipment or borrow club equipment from one of the certified instructors. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks Lake Murray with rainbow trout, but you can also catch largemouth bass, blue catfish, bluegill, channel catfish, red-ear sunfish, and black crappie. A fishing license isn’t necessary for the fly casting clinic, but if you’re 16 or over, you’ll need one to catch fish.

Stroll the murals of La Jolla

La Jolla
Murals of La Jolla features 15 large-scale murals scattered about the city, all within easy walking distance of each other. A collaboration between the¬†La Jolla Community Foundation¬†and¬†Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, the project was founded in 2010 and has commissioned more than¬†41 murals¬†over the years. Free¬†guided tours¬†are available monthly; online registration is required, and the tours do fill up quickly. It’s even more fun to strike out on your own with a¬†self-guided tour, though, so feel free to just download the map and wander at your own pace. Past exhibits can be¬†viewed online.

Malisa Nicolau/iStock/Getty Images
Malisa Nicolau/iStock/Getty Images
Malisa Nicolau/iStock/Getty Images

Wellness Spots in San Diego 

Meditate at the Self-Realization Fellowship

The founder of modern yoga, Paramahansa Yogananda, was the first major teacher of the practice to spend most of his life in the West, and for a time, he called Encinitas home. Visit his old digs just north of Swami’s beach, where there’s a meditation garden with ocean vistas, a temple, a retreat center, and the hermitage where he wrote his critically and commercially successful Autobiography of a Yogi.

Take flight at Trilogy Sanctuary

La Jolla
Yoga gives you a great antidote to a nerve-wracking day-deep breathing, stretching, and the all-important savasana can bust you out of a bad mood in no time. Whether it’s your first class or you’re a lifelong yogi, you’ll soar to new heights with Trilogy Sanctuary’s rooftop aerial yoga class. You’ll use long, hammock-like fabric loops to hang, swing, dangle, and rock your way through a series of asanas guided by a certified aerial yoga instructor. Classes range from gentle stretching and floating to strength-building and dynamic dance-like sessions. Aerial yoga is accessible to nearly all ages, body types, and experience levels. If it’s your first try, sign up for Aerial Yoga L1 and Aerial Healing L1 to learn the basics, while more advanced aerial practitioners will enjoy Aerial Fitness, Aerial Lyra, Aerial Strength, and Aerial Flips and Tricks. As a bonus, the studio also has a cafe that serves amazing organic, vegan, gluten-free smoothies, bowls, salads, entrees, and desserts so that you can relax and refuel after your session.

Photo courtesy of Grotto Climbing & Yoga
Photo courtesy of Grotto Climbing & Yoga
Photo courtesy of Grotto Climbing & Yoga

More Ways to Unplug in San Diego 

Join a Bohemian Dining Club

Pacific Beach
If you’re tired of sitting around the table with everyone glued to their electronic devices, join the tertulia at Pacific Beach’s Cafe Bar Europa Turquoise and their Euro Bohemian Club. Modeled after the old Salons du Paris, it attracts epicureans, artists, poets, philosophers, and conversationalists (and drinkers), who gather around the fire pit for food, libations, live music, and great conversation.

Climb the walls

Show off your climbing skills and get a great workout in the process on Grotto Climbing and Yoga’s 7000 square feet of wall space. Its state-of-the-art indoor bouldering terrain includes more than 13,000 handmade holds, a campus board, a peg board, an illuminated moon board, fingerboards, and a 60-degree training board, guaranteeing climbers of all skill levels an exhilarating experience. In addition, there’s a yoga studio teaching all-level Vinyasa, Power, Yin, Hatha, and Sound Healing flow classes and a fitness area with a Rogue fitness rack, weights, and rings. The Intro to Bouldering class is an excellent choice for first-timers and includes shoe rental, 30 minutes of instruction, and a day pass, so afterward, you can hit the weights or stretch out any sore muscles in a yoga class.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on¬†Instagram,¬†TikTok,¬†Twitter,¬†Facebook,¬†Pinterest, and¬†YouTube.

Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer.


The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.


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