Core-Columbia

Core-Columbia is the business district of San Diego in the heart Downtown. Featuring hotels, cafes and breweries, it is walkable to nearby neighborhoods including Harborview, Embarcadero and the Gaslamp Quarter and convenient to PETCO Park, the USS Midway, the San Diego Convention Center, Balboa Park and the cruise ship terminals.
Core-Columbia
Overview
Go Pass & Save
Things to Do
Popular Activities
Best Hotels
Local History
Featured Hotel
Know Before You Go
Stay
Similar Neighborhoods

Highlights

Core-Columbia
Stay
USS Midway
Tips
Overview
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Tips

Core-Columbia’s Downtown Urban Experience

Pacific Soul Statue in Core Columbia, Downtown San DiegoTrain Sitting at the Santa Fe Depot in San Diego

The Core and Columbia districts, often lumped together as Core-Columbia, stand out as an especially great spot to visit in gorgeous Southern California. Here, you can have the quintessential Downtown San Diego area experience, full of everything from family-friendly attractions to a vibrant nightlife.

Core-Columbia is known for its high-rise condos and other skyscrapers. Which makes for a truly incredible sight to behold whether you’re staring up at them from the ground or looking down on the city from above. It’s also the home of San Diego’s business district, which has given the area notoriety as an epicenter for financial, government, and corporate operations. Whether you’re in Core-Columbia for work or for play, there’s plenty to enjoy.

The neighborhood benefits from its proximity to other notable locations. It’s just south of Harborview, which includes the popular Waterfront Park and plenty of walkable park paths, and north of the Embarcadero, which is home to a cruise ship terminal and naval-centric museums like the Maritime Museum and the USS Midway Museum. Either of these nearby neighborhoods are worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Core-Columbia is fairly close to the Gaslamp Quarter, which lies to the south. It’s a notable historic district with plenty of walking tours and museums, some of which include buildings that date back hundreds of years to the initial founding of San Diego. Visiting the Gaslamp Quarter and the more modern-feeling Core-Columbia all in one go gives you a taste of both the past and present incarnations of the area.

Since the Core-Columbia area is part of downtown, it’s also only a few minutes’ drive away from the San Diego International Airport. If you’re flying into San Diego, it’s a great place to visit on the first day of your trip.

Given the extensive list of activities in and near this neighborhood, you really can’t go wrong with the Go San Diego Pass. This pass offers significantly discounted rates on key attractions like the USS Midway Museum and the San Diego City Tour, along with dozens of other popular area attractions. You can score extra savings by using our link when you purchase your pass.

Don’t forget about securing accommodations! There are plenty of great places to stay if you want to spend a few days in the area, like the 5-star luxury US Grant which offers top-tier lodging at an affordable rate.

Core-Columbia
Why you'll love Core-Columbia
The Core-Columbia area of Downtown San Diego is a beautiful mix of sky rises, restaurants, and hotels, complete with activities like music venues and museums.

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Orangutan at San Diego Zoo
The World Famous San Diego Zoo
Explore the top zoo in America! The San Diego Zoo is located in iconic Balboa Park, and features over 3,500 animal in their habitats. Bundle with other attractions in Balboa Park for top savings - like the Air and Space Museum!
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Local Tips
What attractions are included with a Go Pass?

Attractions that you can visit with a Go San Diego Pass include:

The San Diego Zoo, Birch Aquarium, SeaWorld, Safari Park, LEGOLAND, Harbor Cruise, USS Midway Museum, the NAT Museum, Whaley House, PETCO Park Tour, iFLY San Diego and many, many more!

Things to Do

Balboa Park
Balboa Park
Convention Center
Convention Center
Petco Park
Petco Park
USS Midway
USS Midway

Core-Columbia’s Best Attractions and Events

Any visit to Core-Columbia is an opportunity to explore the city and see what makes it special. From baseball stadiums to cultural museums to opportunities to see performing arts, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

PETCO Park

PETCO Park, home of the San Diego Padres, is the perfect vacation stop for baseball fans. You can catch a game, enjoy a live concert, or take a guided tour of the park complete with insider trivia about the team and the park itself. Other fun things to see and do here include grabbing a drink in Beer Alley or the Western Metal Supply Building Deck Bar, picnic on the grass at the “park at the park,” and lounge on the sandy beach included within the park.

Check out a really special view by heading up to the upper deck. On one side, you’ll see the stadium and the city beyond it. On the other, you’ll see the Coronado Bridge. On especially sunny and clear days, you can even see part of Mexico in the distance.

San Diego Civic Theater

Are you a fan of the performing arts? If so, Core-Columbia has plenty to offer to make your trip downtown truly special. The Civic Theater is a hub of entertaining performances, with new events every night and is located right in the heart of Core-Columbia!

The Civic Theater houses the San Diego Opera and routinely runs opera shows, as well as performances by the California Ballet. Musicals and concerts also find a home on the stage here, and with a maximum seating capacity of nearly 3,000 people, it’s easy to get swept up in the atmosphere of a great night enjoying excellent entertainment no matter what you come to see.

Local Tips
In Town for the Holidays?
San Diego is known for its ballet, specifically its Nutcracker performances. There are two main performances both in Core-Columbia. City Ballet puts on over a dozen shows of the Nutcracker at the Spreckels Theater on Broadway and the California Ballet Company at the San Diego Civic Theater.

San Diego Symphony

If you’re looking to see a truly incredible symphonic band, be sure to make time in your trip to check out the San Diego Symphony. The symphony performs in the Copley Symphony Hall, which has been in operation since 1929 and hosted the symphony since 1984. There are also outdoor performances of the Bayside Summer Nights program in the summer which are located at the nearby Embarcadero Marina Park South.

There’s no better place in Southern California to experience live classical music. With over 80 musicians performing a wide rotation of classical pieces, there’s always a unique experience awaiting you. The San Diego Symphony performs over 140 concerts each year, which makes scheduling a performance into your vacation itinerary a breeze.

San Diego Opera

The San Diego Opera performs at the Civic Center Plaza. Come see one of their many renowned performances, and after the show you can meet the singers and tour the backstage to get a closer look at all the work that goes into a performance.

Don’t be fooled by the stereotype of opera being a performance only especially stuffy people enjoy. It has widespread appeal for people young and old, and it’s an excellent way to spend an evening enjoying local entertainment.

Santa Fe Depot

The Santa Fe Depot is a union train station that began operation back in 1915. It still runs to this day, bringing people to and from the Core-Columbia area of Downtown San Diego. There are also shorter rail lines that navigate the city, so if your feet are sore from walking and you don’t want to pile into a cab, consider taking the train!

The depot was built in the style of Mission Revival architecture, with a signature set of twin domes that have been replicated on many of the buildings throughout the downtown area. Inside the depot, you’ll see ceramic tile wainscot walls, redwood beam ceilings, and influences from Hispano-Moorish designs.

Seaport Village

Seaport Village is just outside Core-Columbia, situated along the coast of the San Diego Bay in the Embarcadero. It’s full of local restaurants and stores, so it’s the perfect spot to do some afternoon shopping and then grab lunch.

In addition to containing over 50 stores and 13 eateries, the area also hosts outdoor events like free live music performances on the weekends and the Old Town Trolley's Holiday Lights and Sights Tour in the winter. At the center of Seaport Village is a large carousel perfect for kids.

USS Midway

Have you ever wanted to board a real naval aircraft carrier and see how it looks on the inside? At the USS Midway Museum which rests at a port in nearby Embarcadero, you can do exactly that plus so much more. Check out the museum’s large collection of aircraft, learn about the historic Battle of Midway, and step into the Command Information Center to feel like a real crewmate.

The USS Midway is one of the many attractions included in the Go San Diego Pass. Don’t miss out on a great opportunity to save BIG on standard admission prices!

Places to Stay Overnight in the Area

With so much to do in Core-Columbia, it’s a good idea to book a room in a hotel nearby. Here are some of our top picks for great places to stay.

The US Grant, a Luxury Hotel Collection, in San Diego

The The US Grant is the perfect luxury retreat for couples. It has all the amenities you need for an incredible stay, including a relaxing day spa, a fully equipped fitness center, a restaurant, and a bar. You can also bring your pets along for an additional fee.

The Westin San Diego

The Westin is a great place to stay for families. It’s conveniently located next to a cruise port and it’s not far from Downtown, the Gaslamp Quarter, or the San Diego Convention Center. There’s a shuttle to the airport as well as free WiFi in the hotel lobby and rooms.

The Bristol Hotel

The Bristol Hotel is a boutique hotel that’s not far from the Gaslamp Quarter and PETCO Park. With a uniquely modern art deco style in many of the rooms and a pet-friendly policy, it’s a great place to stay to rest up after a long day walking through the city.

Kimpton Hotel Palomar, Downtown

At the Kimpton Hotel Palomar, you can enjoy a luxury experience in a hotel with a rooftop pool and an urban chic design. It’s great for couples, but its policy of no extra charge for pets of any size is what really gets our tails wagging and landed it a spot on our list of Best Pet-Friendly Hotels in San Diego.

The Westgate Hotel

The Westgate Hotel is another luxury hotel well suited to couples’ retreats. There are plenty of amenities to ensure you have an outstanding visit, including pool and spa access, a fitness center, computer access, and free internet.

The Sofia Hotel

The many amenities available at The Sofia Hotel help it stand out from the crowd as an attractive option for any traveler. These include a fitness center complete with sporting equipment and yoga classes, a business center, in-room safes, and in-room coffee machines.

If you’re coming to town for an event or possibly the annual Comic Con convention, it’s one of our top picks in our Best Hotels Near San Diego Convention Center article!

Featured Activity

Interact with Dolphins at SeaWorld San Diego
Visit SeaWorld San Diego
The world-famous SeaWorld San Diego is home to animal shows, roller coasters and other rides for the entire family. Enjoy encounters featuring the famed Orcas, dolphins and sea lions, or take a tour through the habitats.
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Core-Columbia’s Story and Local History

Core-Columbia is frequently referred to as the “heart of downtown.” This is because of its extensive history as a business district. Many of the modern buildings have been repurposed as these businesses moved and changed throughout the years. For example, the Museum of Contemporary Art is housed in a building that was once a baggage depot.

In recent times, the construction of high-rise condos has turned the neighborhood into a mix of business and residential buildings, though it’s never lost touch with its original roots.

The area is also connected to the Old West lawman and frequent gambler Wyatt Earp. You can still visit the Wyatt Earp's Historic Gambling Hall & Saloon here today, which was constructed back in 1885.

Featured Hotel
The US Grant, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Diego
Exterior view, The US Grant, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Diego
Historic
Historic
Luxury
Luxury
Near Bay
Near Bay
5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars
History and luxury mix beautifully at US Grant, A Luxury Collection Hotel, San Diego. Located in the Gaslamp Quarter, this distinctive hotel pampers every guest.
Prices Starting at $265
Check Availability

Know Before You Go & Tips

Ballpark
Ballpark
Cafes
Cafes
Cruise Ship Terminal
Cruise Ship Terminal
Parks
Parks
Shopping
Shopping
Trolley Stop
Trolley Stop
Walkable
Walkable

Tips to Improve Your Visit

Skip the common hassles of vacations and use these tips to streamline your trip!

Parking

Parking is difficult in the area since it’s part of Downtown. There is limited metered street parking as well as privately owned paid lots throughout Core-Columbia and the rest of the downtown area. Your best option is typically to leave the car in one spot for the day and tackle the area on foot or with public transport such as the San Diego trolley or one of the San Diego rideshare options, rather than trying to constantly find somewhere to park.

Check Local Events

There’s a local event happening almost every week somewhere in Core-Columbia. Look at local listings for information about farmers markets, food trucks, music festivals, beer tastings, and more when you’re planning your trip.

Core-Columbia
is Famous For:
Business District
Business District
Cruise Ship Terminal
Cruise Ship Terminal
Sidewalk Cafés
Sidewalk Cafés
USS Midway
USS Midway
Known For:
Breweries
Breweries
Convention Center
Convention Center
Gaslamp Quarter
Gaslamp Quarter
Walkable
Walkable
This Month's Forecast
62℉ / 76℉
Partly Cloudy in June
Jul
66℉ / 81℉
Sunny in July
Aug
68℉ / 83℉
Sunny in August
Sep
66℉ / 82℉
Sunny in September

Stay

The US Grant
Luxury Hotel
5 Star Rating5 Star Rating5 Star Rating5 Star Rating5 Star Rating
The US Grant
from $265 / night
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The Bristol Hotel
Boutique Hotel
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
The Bristol Hotel
from $149 / night
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Days Inn by Wyndham San Diego Downtown
Budget Hotel
2 Star Rating2 Star Rating
Days Inn by Wyndham San Diego Downtown
from $108 / night
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Carte Hotel San Diego Downtown
Family Friendly
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
Carte Hotel San Diego Downtown
from $162 / night
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Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown
Near Cruise Port
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown
from $138 / night
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The Westgate Hotel
Near Cruise Port
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
The Westgate Hotel
from $169 / night
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Kimpton Hotel Palomar San Diego
Near Cruise Port
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
Kimpton Hotel Palomar San Diego
from $206 / night
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The Westin San Diego
Family Friendly
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
The Westin San Diego
from $127 / night
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The Sofia Hotel
Near Cruise Port
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
The Sofia Hotel
from $167 / night
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Marriott Vacation Club Pulse - San Diego
Family Friendly
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Marriott Vacation Club Pulse - San Diego
from $152 / night
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Best Western Plus Bayside Inn
Near Cruise Port
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Best Western Plus Bayside Inn
from $160 / night
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Holiday Inn Express - Downtown San Diego
Near Balboa Park
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Holiday Inn Express - Downtown San Diego
from $142 / night
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