University Heights is located between Hillcrest and North Park. Similar in ways to both (not as lively as Hillcrest; not as worn as North Park), it is a mix of Craftsman bungalows and apartments. Its small retail area is at the north end of Park Blvd. where it turns into Adams Ave.
University Heights' History:
The name "University" (both for the neighborhood and nearby University Avenue) comes from a plan in the 1880s to build a university in the area. It came to be the State Normal School, which evolved into what is now San Diego State University. That's why the word "university" is prevalent in this part of town, even though there is no university around!
What Makes It So Special:
It has some interesting history. On the far northern edge of the neighborhood, at the scenic rim of Mission Valley, an ostrich farm and public garden spot occupied what is now the corner of Adams Avenue and Park Boulevard. You can still see remnants of the Mission Cliff Gardens by the boundary wall of rounded stones. The gardens were a popular tourist site, and were served by trolley car up Park Blvd. The ostrich farm still lives in the form of the neighborhood signs and markers sporting the ostrich imagery.
What Defines University Heights:
University Heights is one of the three mid-city urban neighborhoods that whose main thoroughfare is Adams Ave. It is at the western end of the strip that begins with University Heights at the western end, with Normal Heights in-between and Kensington at the east end. Of the older urban neighborhoods in San Diego, it is gay-friendly like neighboring Hillcrest, but quieter. Like its fellow 'hoods, it is distinguished by a neon "University Heights" sign that spans Park Boulevard.
Things to Do:
The smallish business district has your usual assortment of amenities - coffee houses, restaurants and convenience stores. There's also nearby Trolley Park, which serves as the neighborhood playground for families. The Diversionary Theatre puts on local productions at its location on Park Boulevard. And the San Diego Unified School District complex is located at Park and Normal.
Best Bets for Eats:
El Zarape serves up delicious Mexican take out food and is a popular spot, as is the Parkhouse Eatery. Adams Avenue Grill is also a fine eatery. Twiggs is a popular coffee house.
Best Bets for Drinks and Entertainment:
With its gay clientele, Bourbon Street is a lively bar. The Lei Lounge attracts both gays and straight hipsters. And the Lancer is your neighborhood dive bar. Twiggs offers music in its adjoining performance venue, and Diversionary Theatre has live productions.
There are a few boutiques and antique shops, and a noticeable assortment of automotive repair shops, along with your typical neighborhood services.
How to get to University Heights:
From I-8: Go South on Hwy 163, exit Washington Street (east), turn LEFT onto Park Avenue, Park Avenue will take you through the heart of the neighborhood.
The boundary of University Heights is considered to be Highway 163 to the west, Mission Valley to the north, Texas Street to the east, and University Avenue to the south.