Pacific Beach has much in common with beach towns up and down the California coast – sun and sand, fun and a laid-back lifestyle. But a few local landmarks and attractions are unique to this community of approximately 47,000.
1) Crystal Pier Hotel & Cottages – In how many places can you sleep right over the ocean with the waves rumbling and tumbling below you? You can on the Crystal Pier, in one of the 24 Cape Cod style cottages. The hotel also includes six suites in the main office building in front, not directly over the water. All units (studios, 1- and 2-bedroom) include kitchens, patios and space to park your car.
Book well in advance; they fill up quickly. The original pier was built in 1928 and included arcades and a dance pavilion at the end. Cottages were added in 1930. The pier has been damaged at least three times by storms and an unmoored barge, but quickly repaired. In early December, there is a tree-lighting ceremony on the pier.
2) The Boardwalk – The original Ocean Avenue was closed off to vehicles in the late 1980s to make way for a pedestrian and bike-friendly path. It runs north from the pier all the way up to Law Street Park. Along the half-mile boardwalk at the top of the beach cliffs are plenty of outlook platforms, benches, bike parking spaces, restrooms, and paths down to the beach. At Law Street Park there is a large grassy area, restrooms and several benches for enjoying the view. On Saturday mornings, there is yoga at 10 a.m.
3) Dunaway Pharmacy Building – Sam Dunaway, a young pharmacist in El Centro, moved to Pacific Beach in 1924 at the urging of developer Earl Taylor. He first occupied part of a building on the southwest corner of Garnet and Cass, built by Taylor. Dunaway was so successful he soon built the current two-story building across the street on the northwest corner. Today the iconic building houses several businesses, including Dunaway Bed and Breakfast, Kato Sushi, Lucky's New York Pizza and Ra-ka-de-ka Thai Restaurant.
4) Fanuel Street Park, Mission Bay Park – Mission Bay Park covers 4,600 acres and is the largest aquatic park in the United States. It includes 27 miles of shoreline, 19 of which are sandy beaches with eight swimming areas.
Up until the 1940s, it was a shallow marsh (originally called False Bay) but City Planning Director Glenn Rick envisioned the park and fought for bond money over much resistance. It took several years to dredge and landscape. In the 1960s, all private piers except at the Catamaran came down to make way for the bike and walking path.
Not until the 1990s did a path extend all the way around Crown Point. Fanuel Street Park with a swimming beach and a playground is a popular family gathering place. There are possible future plans to extend the path around the north side of the bay through an expanded nature preserve, replacing Campland on the Bay and the De Anza Cove mobile home park.
5) Kate Sessions Park – Located in the northeast part of PB at 5115 Soledad Road (near Beryl and Lamont), this 79-acre park offers sweeping views out over Mission Bay and all of PB to the ocean. It's a great spot for family picnics, flying kites, playing ball and includes picnic tables, a walking path, a playground, restrooms and a natural habitat area for hiking. It is named after Kate Sessions (1857-1940), a botanist, horticulturist and landscape architect also known as the "Mother of Balboa Park."
In the summer, the park also draws those who like to watch the SeaWorld fireworks or listen to Concerts on the Green (offered at 4 p.m. on Sundays).