Souvenir Shopping Guide: 14 Gifts That Say San Diego

Souvenir Shopping Guide: 14 Gifts That Say San Diego

San Diego is known for its beautiful, temperate climate, but you can’t take the weather home with you. If you want a piece of San Diego as a souvenir, it’s best to shop with the natives. Whether it is made locally or just made famous locally, following are 14 perfect gifts that capture the essence of America’s Finest City.
Image Courtesy of: Ventana Surfboards

1. Gourmet Chocolate

Gourmet Chocolate
San Diego isn’t really known as a fine dining destination, but it definitely knows how to make dessert. Decadent, all-natural peanut butter cups and artisan chocolates made with Japanese wasabi are just some of the cacao delights created by San Diego’s finest chocolate chefs; but for a really decadent, mouth-watering reminder of your San Diego vacation, why not bring home a box of hand-made artisan truffles? The Elegant Truffle in Point Loma is one of the few truffle makers in San Diego and their candies are hand-made from the finest ingredients. The over-sized truffles are covered in dark chocolate and come in several popular flavors - such as champagne, cognac, zinfandel, muscat, and ginger - although they change daily. Also available is the equally decadent hand-made caramel dipped in dark or milk chocolate. One piece of caramel is the size of a small brownie and is made from the same recipe the owner’s grandmother used in 1875, involving the same copper kettle, because you don’t mess with perfection. Cost: $4 per truffle. $5 per caramel chunk.
Where to find it:
The Elegant Truffle, 1111 Scott Street, San Diego, CA 92106.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday.
Closed Sunday and Monday. Phone: (619) 222-1889.

2. Designer Hat

Designer Hat
Whether you’re going to the beach, a Padres game, the races at Del Mar, or whatever else you might be doing in San Diego, you’re going to need a hat or San Diego’s sunny weather will have you seeing (or at least looking) red. A 100% cotton, hand-designed fedora from local San Diego design company Dazzleme will keep you stylish while fighting those UV rays and will look good at night, too. Hats from Dazzleme and other designers can be found at Pangaea Outpost in Pacific Beach, a 12,000 square-foot indoor marketplace with over 70 local and national vendors and artists displaying their wares. Thoroughly exploring the whole place could get exhausting, but don’t worry; the store offers free coffee to its patrons every day to help them keep up their strength. Cost: $40.
Where to find it:
Pangaea Outpost, 909 Garnet Avenue, San Diego, CA 92109.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday–Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 858-581-0555.

3. Handmade Beer Glasses

Handmade Beer Glasses
It doesn’t matter whether you like your beer in a bottle or in a glass. With these original handmade glasses you get both, and you can keep appreciating San Diego’s best brews long after the suds have been savored. These 16 oz beer glasses are “up-cycled” from the bottles of some of San Diego’s most popular micro-brewed ale. Glasses are made and sold individually, so each glass is unique and one-of-a-kind, while also looking good as a set. The glasses are sold at Make Good in South Park, an independently owned boutique that features hand-made goods by local San Diego artists, and is like a brick and mortar version of Etsy.com. Cost: $14.50 each.
Where to find it:
Make Good, 2207 Fern Street, San Diego, CA 92104.
Hours: 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday–Thursday, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Closed on Mondays. Phone: (619) 563-4600.

4. Temecula Olive Oil

Temecula Olive Oil
Temecula is home to San Diego’s wine country, but grapes aren’t the only things that grow fabulously in the East County. It turns out that the inland heat is perfect for growing olives as well, and olive oil tasting is fast replacing wine tours as the trendy gourmet past time. A bottle of hand-blended, 100% premium extra virgin olive oil from San Diego’s own backyard is a great reminder of the city and also a great accompaniment to your salad or bread. The Temecula Olive Oil Company has outlets in Old Town and in the Cedros Design District in Solana Beach. At their boutique shops you can sample a variety of flavored olive oils, including roasted garlic, classic basil, citrus reserve (made with blood oranges), and the spicy habanero reserve, made with habanero chilies. Olive oils can be bought individually by the bottle or in prepackaged sets. Cost: $16.99-19.99 per bottle. $23.99 for a sampler pack.
Where to find it:
The Temecula Olive Oil Company, Fiesta Del Reyes Plaza in Old Town, 2754 Calhoun Street, San Diego, CA 92110. Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday–Sunday. Phone: 619-269-5779.

The Temecula Olive Oil Company, Cedros Design District, 342 S. Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach, CA 92075. Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday–Sunday. Phone: 858-847-9007.

5. Beach-Inspired Jewelry

Beach-Inspired Jewelry
If your best memory of San Diego was your time spent by the ocean, then take a little bit of the beach home with you, and this is not just the sand in your shoes. Wave pendants from Blondstone in Ocean Beach are handcrafted and made from slices of spiral seashells set in a sterling silver bezel. They come in small, medium and large sizes (.75 to 1.25 inches in diameter) and look fabulous with a tan. Jewelry designer Heidi Holman’s beach-inspired creations made from sea glass and seashells are the showcase of Blondstone, a favorite haunt for local jewelry fans who also love the coast. Cost: $70-160.
Where to find it:
Blondstone in Ocean Beach, 4931 Newport Avenue, San Diego, CA 92107. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday–Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. Phone: 619-223-2563;

Blondstone in La Jolla, 925 Prospect Street, La Jolla, CA 92037. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday–Sunday. Phone: 858-456-1994.

6. Surf Wax

Surf Wax
Surfers are an indelible part of San Diego culture, and one thing all surfers need is a bar of wax for their surfboards. It just so happens that surf wax is like the duct tape of the beach world, which means we, regular folk, can find uses for it, too. Whether you use it as an emergency candle, mold it into a waterproof plug, or just toss it into a drawer as a scented potpourri, it makes a great, affordable souvenir. Every surf shop in San Diego carries board wax (or they wouldn’t be in business long). Most carry a variety of brands, including the popular Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax (for waxing your stick), as well as the locally-made organic wax from Stay Covered. Cost: $.75-1.50 per bar.

7. Keep A Breast Sweatshirt by OBEY

Keep A Breast Sweatshirt by OBEY
Before Shepard Fairey was known for his Obama poster, he was known around San Diego as the guy behind the enigmatic OBEY graffiti featuring the face of wrestler Andre the Giant that seemed to randomly appear on walls and light poles around town. What a difference a poster makes. Shepard’s graffiti art is now the basis of a thriving designer label. His Keep A Breast sweatshirt not only has the stylish underground coolness of his early works, but it also aids in the global fight against breast cancer. 100% of the profits from the sale of Keep A Breast clothing goes towards the Obey Awareness Campaign. OBEY clothing and accessories can be found at Mimi & Reds, a popular boutique in the arty North Park neighborhood known for its affordable fashion and frequently-changing selection of goods. Cost: $42.95
Where to find it:
Mimi & Reds, 3032 University Avenue, San Diego, CA 92104. Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Phone: (619) 298-7933.

8. Rare Books

Rare Books
Sometimes vacations are all about relaxing with a good book. When the three Rs – reading, relaxing, and reading – are your idea of a getaway, what is better souvenir than a rare, first-edition copy of your favorite page turner? Make it a rare, autographed copy, and your souvenir could even make you some money down the road. There are still a few places in San Diego where book collectors can find a good investment or just wander among musty shelves stacked to the ceiling with old-fashioned novels printed on paper. Adams Avenue Bookstore in Normal Heights is a San Diego mainstay that has been around since the sixties and has an inventory of over 60,000 books. The Prince and the Pauper in Spring Valley is recognized as one of the leading experts in antiquarian children’s books. Their inventory is massive, and browsing the aisles of their shop is like strolling down memory lane. Feelings of nostalgia are guaranteed. Costs vary; a 1935 hardback Nancy Drew book with dust jacket would set you back $30.
Where to find it:
Adams Avenue Book Store, 3502 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday–Saturday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Phone: 619-281-3330;

The Prince and the Pauper, 9740 Campo Road, #101, Spring Valley, CA 91977. Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday–Saturday. Phone: 800-454-3726.

9. Chargers Jersey for Fido

Chargers Jersey for Fido
If he’s really your best friend, then your dog deserves a souvenir from your San Diego vacation. Especially if you went frolicking on the beach without him. This replica jersey of San Diego’s beloved football team looks and feels just like your big-guy shirt, so you’ll both be ready to root for the home team on game day. Made of a polyester blend and machine washable, it’s durable enough for a game of touch football and easy to clean after Fido manages to get into the chips and guacamole. Available at Muttropolis in the Cedros Design District in Solona beach, a popular store for dog lovers who like to pamper their pets with designer duds and accessories, and also for those who like to laugh at dogs in costumes. Cost: $29.
Where to find it:
Muttropolis, 227 South Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach, CA 92075. Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday–Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Phone: (858) 755-3647.

10. San Diego Micro-Brewed Beers

San Diego Micro-Brewed Beers
It’s only natural that a city with two major league sports teams is serious about its beers. When it’s time to celebrate that homerun or touchdown, San Diegans like to cheer with a locally-made beer, and there are several award-winning brews to choose from. Bring home a sample bottle from some of San Diego’s best-known breweries, or just choose the bottle with the cutest logo and name. Whether it’s the dark, fruity flavors of Alesmith’s Old Numbskull brew or the foamy, medium-bodied beer of a Greenflash Hop Head, a San Diego microbrew is a souvenir that is easy to enjoy. It’s not hard to find a local bottle or two at most liquor stores, but for the absolute best selection and prices, head to The Best Damn Beer Shop inside the Super Junior Market in downtown San Diego. The variety of beers filling their shelves will leave you nodding in agreement that the shop’s name was well-chosen and speaks the truth. Cost: $4-14 per bottle.
Where to find it:
Best Damn Beer Shop, 1036 7th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101. Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday–Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 619-232-6367.

11. Day of the Dead Apron

Day of the Dead Apron
San Diego isn’t so much Mexico’s neighbor as it is Mexico’s in-law. The marriage of American and Mexican traditions and style is particularly fun with this original, hand-made apron by Hankie Pankie designs. Decorated with tulle ruffles and a felt flower on a bright skeleton pattern inspired by the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, this machine washable, one-size-fits-all apron is both girly and punk at the same time, so aspiring young chefs can look hip while trying to recreate that amazing carne asada burrito they had on their San Diego vacation. The aprons are a funky example of the fun selection of clothing and accessories available at The French Cowgirl, a fashionable, mid-priced, boutique in the Cedros Design District in Solana Beach. Cost: $125.
Where to find it:
The French Cowgirl, 427 Cedros Avenue, Suite 101, Solana Beach, 92075. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday–Saturday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 858-847-3111.

12. Dog Beach Beach Towel

Dog Beach Beach Towel
San Diego is a pet-friendly city, and one of the most famous spots for Fido to run free is Dog Beach. This towel is big enough for you and your dog to share, while catching some rays, and the bold black and white graphic of a dog contentedly cleaning himself on this extra-large, cotton, terry cloth towel perfectly captures the anti-corporate, freedom-loving feel of the Dog Beach neighborhood of Ocean Beach. The towel is available in both black with white logo or white with black logo, and is available only at The Black in Ocean Beach, a novelty store that has been around for more than 20 years and hasn’t let the new millennium kill its peace-loving hippie nature. Cost: $20.
Where to find it:
The Black, 5017 Newport Avenue, San Diego, CA 92107. Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Phone: (619) 222-5498.

13. Comic Book Art

Comic Book Art
Comic-Con is San Diego’s biggest and wackiest event of the year, but you don’t have to be in the city during the craziness to get in on the comic-inspired action. Original illustrations by Southern Californian artist Chantal deFelice are beautiful graphic-novel-like depictions of urban scenes that are small enough to fit into your carry-on. Prints are hand-drawn or painted and mounted on salvaged scrap wood and sealed with a matte protective coating. Wall art ranges in size from 4x5 to 5x7, and miniature prints are also available as original pendants or earrings. You can find Chantal’s art along with other artists’ work, collectible pop-art figurines and unique graphic t-shirts at the tiny Feelit boutique in downtown San Diego, a fun store full of one-of-kind items that support independent musicians, artists and designers. Cost: $25-50.
Where to find it:
Feelit, 909 E Street, San Diego, CA 92101. Hours: 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday–Saturday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Phone: (707) 733-3548.

14. Vintage Vinyl Record

Vintage Vinyl Record
Image Courtesy of: Elvert Barnes
Today’s iPhone generation may have no memory of record stores and the joys of browsing through a stack of vinyl records, which makes a vintage LP that much more of a retro-cool gift. Most single records will set you back only 99 cents, which makes an old-fashioned 45 a better value than your average download, because you get both an A and a B side. You’ll need a turntable to listen to the music, but the biggest joy comes from just holding these souvenirs from a different era and trying to imagine a time from way back when. Lou’s Records in Encinitas and Off The Record in Normal Heights are two San Diego stores that still specialize in old-school wax. Both stores have been around for decades. They have shrunk in size since their glory days before the digital revolution, and browsing through their inventory feels a little like browsing through a well-organized garage sale, but there are treasures to be found for those that dig, and the vibe is always rock and roll. Cost: 99 cents to $20 or more.
Where to find it:
Off The Record, 2912 University Avenue, San Diego, CA 92115. Hours: Open daily 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Phone: 619-298-4755;

Lou’s Records, 434 N. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024. Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday–Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday & Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Phone: (760) 753-1382.
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