Literary City Guide | San Diego, CA

This was California—we ate outside in every season.
— Karen Walker Thomas, The Age of Miracles

Tour Guide: Laura Martin

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Laura moved to San Diego six years ago and loves showing off her adopted city. When she is not reading, she can be found at the yoga studio or the beach with her dog, Ruby. She works at a San Diego university and just started blogging at My Big Red Glasses. (All photos by Laura Martin)


Relationship to San Diego: I moved from the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, to San Diego about six years ago. 

Writer you'd like to invite to dinner: Wendell Berry and Barbara Kingsolver

Chef you'd like to prepare the meal: Rick Bayless

Writing soundtrack: Eddie Vedder, John Mayer, and The Beatles

Pen or Pencil: Pen, however I am a lefty and most of my writing is illegible.

Coffee or Tea: Coffee!!

Paperback or Hardback: Hardback

Good Reads


The Grove. I am so lucky to have this cozy  bookstore in my neighborhood. This is my go-to place for buying birthday and Christmas presents. In addition to books, they have knitting supplies and classes.

Warwick’s. The oldest family- owned bookstore in the United States, Warwick’s has regular author events and informative booksellers.


Central Library. This is a brand-new, world-classlibrary. It has sunny nooks that are perfect for reading, a Seuss-filled children’s section, an astounding rare books area, a museum, a store, a cafe, and event spaces.

University of California, San Diego Geisel Library. This impressive library resembles a giant spaceship. It is named after San Diego native, Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), and it contains the Dr. Seuss collection, which has 8,500 items.

Coronado Library. This is a charming, small-town library on Coronado Island. Make sure to visit the children’s area which has an art exhibit tribute to L. Frank Baum, who wrote many of his Oz books while he was vacationing on the island.


Point Loma Nazarene Writer’s Symposium by the Sea. This annual series brings in a diverse group of writers and poets for candid conversations at a small university on a cliff that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Two of my favorites—Billy Collins and Bill McKibben —spoke at this intimate, and inexpensive, event. In February of this year, Anne Lamott(!!), Jeannete Walls, and Siddhartha Mukherjee are scheduled to attend. 

Southern California Writers' Conference. This annual conference is run by writers and offers workshops, networking, and one-on-one evaluations. 

Warwick’s. I adore Anne Lamott. She spoke at Warwick’s bookstore a few years ago and I waited in a long line so I could give her a hug and have her sign my journal. She is as awesome as you think she is. 

Dime Stories. This monthly open-mic event allows writers three minutes to tell a story about anything they want.  

SDSU Writers' Conference. At this conference, writers can meet one-on-one with agents and editors to receive feedback on their work, learn how to polish query letters, and build a social media platform. 


Writers Inc. This vibrant organization has classes, readings, and workshops and is the center of the San Diego literary community. 

The Old Globe. This theater has an acclaimed Shakespeare festival every year, as well as an annual production of the musical “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” 

"Thanks be to God, I have arrived at this port of San Diego. It is beautiful to behold and does not belie its reputation." -Father Junipero Serra, founder of 23 missions in California

Good Eats


Rebecca’s. This is a quirky and comfy neighborhood coffee shop. They have readings or music events most nights of the week.

Joe’s on the Nose Coffee Truck. This bright orange mobile truck is a familiar site at the popular Little Italy and Hillcrest Farmer’s Markets. Grab a coffee and enjoy it while walking in the sunshine.  

Bird Rock Roasters. Named the 2012 micro roaster of the year by Roast magazine. This little shop focuses on sustainability and makes a fantastic, smooth cup of coffee. 


Tiger!Tiger! This neighborhood restaurant makes me happy whenever I enter it because it reminds me of one of my favorite poems (Tyger Tyger, burning bright/in the forests of the night, William Blake) and they serve delicious food like curry fries and wood-fired sandwiches.  The beer selection is one of the best in San Diego.

Dao Fu. The spiciest meal in town! They make their own tofu, and give out a free salad and dessert with all meals.   

Stone Brewery World Bistro and Gardens, Liberty Station. This is the largest restaurant in San Diego, and it is always crowded. Enjoy a microbrew while dining in their beautiful outdoor gardens.  

Cucina Urbana. Make sure to have reservations before heading over to this popular California inspired Italian Kitchen. It is located near Balboa Park and is the perfect place to have dinner before heading to the Old Globe Theater.

Queenstown Public House. This whimsical restaurant is located in Little Italy and features Kiwi (New Zealand) cuisine. The TJ Burger is the best vegetarian burger in the city.  


Extraordinary Desserts. This is a romantic, delicious patisserie that is perfect for a date night. Try the chocolate bread pudding and the lavender shortbread.   

Donut Bar. There is usually a line at this shop, which has donut options that include crème brulee, vegan maple pecan, red velvet, and peanut butter cup. They just renamed their apple fritters the Brad Fritter because Brad Pitt loves them.

Vivapops! San Diego has an average temperature of 70 degrees, so popsicles are needed year round. These gourmet popsicles are sold at a storefront and in a cart that sets up at farmer’s markets all over town. They even have pops for your pup!

Laura's 5 Favorites

1. Favorite view:  Locals know that the best sunsets happen at Sunset Cliffs. Make sure to look for the legendary green flash immediately after the sun goes down.    

2. Favorite place to write: On my front porch or any sunny spot in the house. 

3. Favorite museum: The sculpture garden at The Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla and the Stuart Collection, which is spread across the campus of the University of California, San Diego.

4. Favorite coffee shop: Lucky for me, Rebecca’s is two blocks from my house and they make fresh scones every morning!

5. Favorite thing about San Diego: The Southern California sunshine, farmer’s markets, and outdoor lifestyle.