Pacific Beach vs North Park Neighborhoods

As two of San Diego’s trendiest neighborhoods, any hipster-at-heart will feel right at home in Pacific Beach or North Park. Use our guide to help you choose!
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Pacific Beach vs North Park Neighborhoods
A Closer Look
Best of Things to Do
Go City Pass & Save
Restaurants & More
Leisure Activities
Atmospheres for Each
Accessibility Comparison
Choosing a Winner

Highlights

Attractions & Landmarks
Dining & Shopping
Leisure & Recreation
Final Verdict
Attractions & Landmarks
Dining & Shopping
Leisure & Recreation
Final Verdict

A Closer Look at the Pacific Beach vs the North Park Neighborhoods in San Diego

Pacific Beach Pier Looking NorthTropical Tiki Cocktails at The Grass Skirt in Pacific Beach

North Park and Pacific Beach - also called PB by locals - are two San Diego neighborhoods known for their eclectic styles and trendy atmospheres. Both neighborhoods attract a younger crowd compared to other popular vacation destinations like La Jolla and Downtown San Diego, which makes them appealing for couples, girls’ weekends, and other vacationers.

Whether you’re planning spring break or you’re in search of an up-and-coming neighborhood with fun events and activities, either neighborhood is a good fit for adventurous tourists, but it can be difficult to decide without an insider’s perspective.

The good news is I’m a longtime local that lives in Pacific Beach and visits North Park regularly. So you’re in good hands with our comparison guide.

Let’s get started weighing the pros and cons of these two neighborhoods and get you can start planning your trip!

Entrance to the Pacific Terrace Hotel
Entrance to the Pacific Terrace Hotel

Booking the Best Hotel

Booking a night at a nearby hotel makes it easier and more convenient to explore each neighborhood from dawn till dusk.

In PB, stay right by the ocean at the Pacific Terrace Hotel to cut down on travel time and ensure you’re getting a good spot at the beach.

For hotel suggestions near North Park, see our team’s list of the Best Hotels near the San Diego Zoo. North Park borders Balboa Park, home of the San Diego Zoo and more than a dozen museums so there are options for all types of travelers.

Local Tips
Visiting in March and April?
If you’re visiting in March and April each year I highly recommend stopping in on the Seven Seas Food Festival at SeaWorld San Diego.

The hip yet quaintly cozy streets of North Park are filled with eateries, boutique stores, and breweries. Tour the various museums and other attractions with Todd, plus see the nightlife after sunset!

Buy a Go City San Diego Pass

The Best of Things to Do in Each Neighborhood

No matter which neighborhood you end up in, a Go City San Diego pass lets you save on everything from beach gear rentals to attraction admission. Pick up a pass using our discount code, GVSD5OFF, and save on your next vacation.

Wave Breaking in Pacific Beach
Wave Breaking in Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach’s Best Attractions

The biggest draw of PB is, unsurprisingly, the beach. At Pacific Beach and North Pacific Beach, swimming and sunbathing are the most popular activities, while PB Point / False Point and Tourmaline Surf Park are more suitable for renting a board and going surfing.

If you love street art like I do, these neighborhoods won’t disappoint!

In Pacific Beach, murals line the sides of buildings between Crown Point Beach and Turquoise Street. Subjects vary but include references to artists’ Mexican heritage and local culture.

You’ll find SeaWorld San Diego in Mission Bay Park, just up the way from Pacific Beach. This is a great attraction for people of all ages that’s especially beloved by families.

Ankylosaurus Replica at the San Diego Natural History Museum
Ankylosaurus Replica at the San Diego Natural History Museum

North Park’s Activities

North Park is further inland, so it doesn’t have direct beach access, though you can always hop on a bus or take a rideshare out to the nearby Pacific Ocean. If you’re the sort who prefers visiting many attractions rather than lounging in the sun, North Park is a better fit, as it borders Balboa Park.

Balboa Park has the highest density of attractions in all of San Diego, especially when it comes to museums. You’ll often hear me recommend the All-inclusive version of the Go City San Diego pass and that’s because so many of the best attractions and activities are offered at a deep discount to pass holders!

Some standouts near North Park that I enjoy are the San Diego Zoo, the Museum of Us, and the The San Diego Museum of Art.

Erika Having Fun with Stuffed Animals at Seaworld San Diego
Erika Having Fun with Stuffed Animals at Seaworld San Diego

Where We Enjoy the Attractions More: A Tie!

Between spots like SeaWorld San Diego and Balboa Park, there’s so much to do in each neighborhood that we’re calling this one a tie.

Local Tips
Looking for Both Worlds?
Why not spend the day at the beach in Pacific Beach, then head out to North Park for dinner and drinks!

Save BIG with Go City!
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 City San Diego pass?

Attractions that you can visit with a Go City 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!

Want to save more? Use our exclusive discount code GVSD5OFF to save an extra 5%!

Restaurants and Other Eateries

Restaurants and shops trend toward new, locally-owned, and innovative in both neighborhoods. Let’s see what each one has to offer.

The Popular Crushed Restaurant on Garnet in Pacific Beach
The Popular Crushed Restaurant on Garnet in Pacific Beach

Let’s Do Lunch in Pacific Beach

You can’t go wrong with seafood in Pacific Beach. Since many restaurants sit right along the Pacific Ocean, you can dine on fresh seafood while enjoying the ocean breeze with outdoor seating.

Both North Park and Pacific Beach have weekly farmers markets. These markets feature live music, handcrafted goods from vendors, locally-grown produce, and more.

The Family Standing Outside Wormwood
The Family Standing Outside Wormwood

North Park’s Dining

Even though I live in Pacific Beach, I head over to North Park often to try out new restaurants! From upscale options like Wormwood, a French bistro on the border with University Heights, to the menu of American comfort food at One Door North, there’s always something new to try.

As of the last five years or so, North Park has become the go-to neighborhood for people looking to try something new. Its trendy stores and eateries are some of the best in all of San Diego, so I make the trip regularly.

North Park has a notable craft beer scene as well, with plenty of breweries and tasting rooms alongside trendy bars.

North Park is also unique for having an eclectic range of shops, many of which skew toward a more youthful clientele.

Outdoor Seating Dunedin in North Park
Outdoor Seating Dunedin in North Park

Plan a Shopping Spree Here: North Park

PB has some great restaurants, but North Park just can’t be beat in terms of the variety of options and the quality of its restaurants and shopping.

Leisure Activities for Your Itinerary

I’m a surfer, so I love to make the most of San Diego’s sunny weather. But even if surfing is not your speed, you’ll still have plenty to do in and around both neighborhoods!

Lots of Surfers at Tourmaline Surf Park
Lots of Surfers at Tourmaline Surf Park

Where to Go in Pacific Beach

At Pacific Beach San Diego, there are plenty of opportunities to try out water sports along the coast. The beaches are exceptional, and there’s bay access where you can waterski, ride a jet ski, paddleboard, and more.

You can also take a stroll along the historic Crystal Pier or visit Palisades South Park for a picnic. If you’re staying at a dog-friendly hotel with your pet, the Kate Sessions Memorial Park is a popular dog park in the area.

Since North Park and Pacific Beach are popular among young adults, not many attractions in the area cater specifically to kids.

While some may say they aren’t the best neighborhood for a family vacation, that doesn’t mean you can’t still find fun things to do for all ages. I have kids and we love the neighborhoods!

Funky Shops in North Park
Funky Shops in North Park

North Park’s Leisure Options

North Park’s walkability makes it ideal for walking downtown and doing some shopping or dining at a sidewalk cafe. The hiking and biking trails in nearby Balboa Park are also a great way to stretch your legs.

North Park is generally geared toward young adults rather than families, but the museums of Balboa Park have plenty of family-friendly options, from the San Diego Zoo to the Natural History Museum.

If your kids enjoy making sandcastles and jumping waves, North Pacific Beach makes for a fun afternoon. It’s a wide beach with calm waters that’s well-suited to families.

Surfer Walking Along the Beach in Pacific Beach
Surfer Walking Along the Beach in Pacific Beach

Experience Fun in the Sun: Pacific Beach

Offering visitors access to both the beach and the bay, plus some fun things to do around town, Pacific Beach has it all.

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Pacific Terrace Hotel
Beachfront Pacific Terrace Hotel
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From the common areas to the lavish rooms, every inch of Pacific Terrace Hotel has a luxurious beach vibe to help you relax and enjoy your visit to Pacific Beach.
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How Do the Atmospheres of Each Neighborhood Compare?

Both Pacific Beach and North Park have developed trendy reputations, with activities and attractions that cater to younger crowds.

I think in recent years that North Park has taken the edge here, having become the #1 trendiest neighborhood in San Diego County, but overall the atmosphere isn’t too different from one area to the other.

Still, each neighborhood offers its own unique set of community activities that are open to tourists and native San Diegans alike.

My Favorite Music Was This Mariachi Band at the Seven Seas Food Festival in Seaworld San Diego
My Favorite Music Was This Mariachi Band at the Seven Seas Food Festival in Seaworld San Diego

Pacific Beach Events

Pacific Beach’s biggest annual event is Pacific BeachFest. BeachFest is a family-friendly music event with food vendors and more and it is held in early October.

Another popular one is Concerts on the Green (CotG), a series of concerts featuring local musicians. These concerts are held every Sunday in July and August, making mid- to late-summer one of the best times to visit.

For more seasonal ideas near Pacific Beach, don’t forget about nearby SeaWorld San Diego! If you’re visiting in March and April each year I highly recommend stopping in on the Seven Seas Food Festival.

If I can be honest, it’d been some time since I’d been to the park, but I recently took my family to check it out and it was a blast! I loved it so much that I did a full write-up on the Seven Seas event with tons of pictures, so be sure to check that out!

The park is part of the Go City San Diego Pass and is fun for the entire family year-round.

Sidewalk Mural in North Park
Sidewalk Mural in North Park

Must-See Events in North Park

The North Park Music Fest is a similar event, though rather than being held throughout the summer, it’s a two-day annual event that typically runs in June. In addition to musicians from across Southern California, the festival also has food trucks, vendors, and even an art display.

Other notable annual events in North Park include the SDCCU Festival of Arts, a large street fair in May with free attendance, and frequent concerts at The Observatory, previously known as The North Park Theatre.

North Park prides itself on having a diverse community, and many of the neighborhood’s cultural displays and events aim to highlight what makes it unique.

It’s not uncommon to see craft beer festivals, art showings, or even drag show events running throughout the year.

One thing North Park and Pacific Beach have in common are the murals located throughout both neighborhoods!

Like Pacific Beach, businesses are similarly decorated in brightly-colored murals around North Park, especially along Main Street, where electrical boxes have been given a brand new look.

Mural of Pacific Beach in the 1950S
Mural of Pacific Beach in the 1950S

Comparing Events and Culture: Tie

With so many excellent events and cultural displays to choose from in both neighborhoods, I’d be remiss to pick a winner here, as you won’t be disappointed in either Pacific Beach or North Park.

Accessibility of Pacific Beach vs North Park

San Diego public transit is readily available in both neighborhoods.

Back of the Electric Shuttle - PB Beach Bug
Back of the Electric Shuttle - PB Beach Bug

Getting Across Town in Pacific Beach

If you’re lugging beach gear around Pacific Beach, walking may not be the best option. But convenient services like Beach Bug electric shuttles have made it easy to traverse this San Diego neighborhood.

I say give the PB Beach Bug a shot. Download the app and catch a ride. My son said he thinks it’s easier than driving!

There’s also the trolley station right as you enter PB, which makes getting around a breeze.

Pacific Beach is close to many other San Diego beach neighborhoods, including Ocean Beach, La Jolla, and Mission Bay Park. You can easily take a day trip to Mission Bay and Mission Beach for more seaside activities and some bay tours.

Local Fruits and Veggies at the North Park Farmers Market
Local Fruits and Veggies at the North Park Farmers Market

North Park Accessibility

Depending on how far you want to go, you may not need a car or public transit in North Park, as the area is very walkable.

However, public transit makes it simple to get to Balboa Park or even Downtown San Diego from North Park. There you can find some of the food and drink tours or an insider look at Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres.

For more ideas, our team has put together a list of the 30 Best Things to Do in Downtown San Diego!

Local Bike Shop in Pacific Beach
Local Bike Shop in Pacific Beach

The Winning Neighborhood for Getting Around: Pacific Beach

There’s no service quite as convenient as the PB Beach Bug when looking at options in North Park. Combined with the trolley stop, Pacific Beach is the easier neighborhood of the two to get around.

A Few Bonus Tips Before Choosing Between the Neighborhoods

Almost ready to make your decision? Check out these final tips first!

Sidewalk in Front of Mavericks on Garnet
Sidewalk in Front of Mavericks on Garnet

Need-to-Know Info for PB

  • The beaches of PB are free admission and have lifeguards year-round. There are showers and bathrooms by Garnet Avenue, near the pier.
  • Parking is a little more limited at Pacific Beach, especially nearer the ocean, but there are some lots near Mission Boulevard and Garnet Ave.

Eppig Brewing in North Park
Eppig Brewing in North Park

Important Tips for North Park

  • North Park is best known as one of San Diego’s premier neighborhoods for breweries.
  • While getting around with public transportation alone is entirely possible, if you choose to drive, there is ample street parking around North Park.

Our Site’s Pick for the Best Neighborhood Overall

Park at Law Street in Pacific Beach
Park at Law Street in Pacific Beach

As much as I love popping over to North Park for a day of shopping and dining, my personal pick for the winning neighborhood is Pacific Beach.

Between the beaches, the bay, and the varied attractions, there’s no shortage of things to do and see when you visit this incredible neighborhood!

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