Things to do in San Ysidro
Amazingly, although San Ysidro is visited by millions of drivers every year, its attractions remain a mystery for most visitors. However, don’t let its size fool you because this small town of 28,000 residents can punch way above its weight. Whether it’s eating authentic Mexican food in the city or shopping at the Outlets, check out San Ysidro on your way to Mexico.
Things to do in San Ysidro: Eat
Everybody loves Mexican food. So, what better places to get your fix than right at the border? Located a stone throw away from Tijuana, San Ysidro is home to dozen of family-owned Mexican food restaurants.
El Rincon Restaurant is one of such places. Known for its excellent Menudo Taco, Chilaquiles, and succulent soups. For example, Carne en su Jugo and Caldo de Res. Every dish in El Rincon is made from scratch in the house. So, if you visit San Ysidro and don’t taste their famous Carne en su Jugo, you dont know what you’re missing.
Taquería Revolución is another favorite spot among both locals and visitors. The restaurant offers a range of Tacos for every taste. For example, their famous birria tacos which are both tasty and surprisingly filling. However, if you want to taste something more substantial, Achiote Restaurant offers classic Mexican dishes. Examples include: green chilaquiles, mole enchiladas, and succulent soups. Don’t leave Achiote without trying the ommellete from which they take its name. Served with cooked potatoes, beans, and corn tortillas, one Achiote ommellette is enough to placate even the hungriest visitor.
Things to do in San Ysidro: culture and the arts
San Ysidro is no stranger to the fine arts. In fact, their beautifully designed Front Art Gallery — the work of noted architect Louis John Gill — is the place where bohemians gather to see the work of renowned border artists. Although the Spanish Revival-style building doesn’t have a permanent collection of its own, it regularly hosts exciting roaming exhibits — such as the “Cielo, Mar, y Tierra,” which featured photographs from San Ysidrans as well as Mexican art boxes.
San Ysidro also has its own branch of the San Diego Public Library which, besides giving visitors access to its large collection of books, also has a cultural scene of its own. Recently redeveloped, the San Ysidro Branch Library includes public artwork by the De La Torre brothers — two local artists who have given Southern Californian art lovers much to talk about.
Once you’ve had your share of art, don’t forget to hit San Ysidro’s parks — which include the Howard Lane Park, Vista Terrace Park, and San Ysidro Community Park — to get a breath of fresh air and enjoy the view before you head home.
San Ysidro’s hectic shopping scene faithfully reflects its status as a busy border town. Whether you are looking for food, shoes, women’s accessories, or brand clothing; San Ysidro’s central location between two major metropolises makes it a favorite destination for shoppers from both sides of the border.
The 125-store Las Americas Premium Outlets is the largest outlet mall in San Diego and is located immediately west of the international border crossing. There you will find everything you need for a quick shopping spree. From brand stores like Banana Republic, Nike, and Tommy Hilfiger to food courts filled with small stands offering the authentic flavors of Mexico. All of it in a beautiful outdoor courtyard setting which is 20 minutes away from both San Diego and Tijuana.
If after visiting Las Americas you somehow still feel like shopping, then head to the nearby San Diego Outlets for a second round of retail tourism. The classy outlet center has a large parking lot (which is less crowded than the one in Las Americas) and plenty of stores which clothing, accessories, and makeup from noted brands like Armani Exchange, Wilson’s backroom, Gold Toe, and Skullcandy.
Some of San Ysidro’s best attractions are found outside the town. The San Ysidro Trials are the place where outdoor enthusiasts can appreciate the unique tinajas ecosystems, which are naturally-formed stone bowls that fill with water during the raining season and function as an oasis for migratory birds and game species.
Located right beside the Ocean, the beautiful Tijuana River Valley Regional Park is a perfect getaway location where San Ysidrans can escape from the hectic pace of a border town. Although the trails are unmarked and are basically dirt paths, the fact that the park is seldom visited by more than a few families, so you’ll have plenty of silence to appreciate the scenery while you hike, ride your bike, or picnic with your family and friends.
San Ysidro’s coastline is also home to one of the largest dolphin herds in the world. So if you want to get close and personal with these friendly animals, plus watch some majestic whales along the ride, you can hire a local dolphin watching tour in San Ysidro for an afternoon that your family and you will never forget.
While for most visitors San Ysidro is just a Port of Entry, the truth is that behind the long queues and small-town vibe this unpretentious San Diego suburb hides a wealth of attractions that only a few visitors get to try. So, the next time you are visiting San Ysidro don’t forget to hit these spots and see the wonders that hide behind this town’s unassuming façade.