San Diego’s Little Italy is a lively area filled with rich culture, authentic Italian eateries, festive markets and piazzas, public art displays and galleries, and family-friendly events. This district, founded in the 1920s, has evolved from an immigrant community developed around the tuna fishing industry, into today’s thriving urban neighborhood. In Little Italy families can enjoy gelato, play around European-style fountains, discover Waterfront Park, participate in seasonal events and attend one of the county's best farmers markets on Saturdays.
Here are fun, family-friendly things to do and places to eat in Little Italy, downtown San Diego.
The former home of San Diego Fire Station No. 6 now displays a wealth of firefighting memorabilia, dating back to the late 1800s. Exhibits include La Jolla’s first fire engine, a horse drawn steamer and a piece of the World Trade Center. Closed Mon-Wed.
1572 Columbia St.
Little Italy Mercato Farmers Market
W. Cedar St. from Kettner Blvd. to Front St.
Soak in the ambiance of this lively farmers market as you stroll through a huge selection of fresh farm produce, meats and seafood, flowers and plants, live music, crafts and more. It’s a kid-pleaser; corner musicians will even invite them over to dance! Held every Saturday, rain-or-shine, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Piazza della Famiglia
W. Date St. between India and Columbia
Destined to become the heart of Little Italy, this 10,000 sq.ft. European-style piazza will offer shops, restaurants, markets, concerts, community events and more!
Corner of Fir St. and India St.
Enjoy fantastic views, hang around the fountain, and relax to simply watch the world around you. This urban plaza, located in the center of Little Italy, is dedicated to John Basilone, U.S. Marine Gunnery Sergeant and Medal of Honor recipient.
San Diego County Waterfront Park
1600 Pacific Highway
Kids have a “splash” playing in the interactive fountains and climbing on modern play structures of this park, located just a couple blocks from Little Italy. With lots of green spaces and beautiful views, it’s a great spot for families to take a picnic or spend a few hours.
Filippi’s Pizza Grotto
1747 India St.
This authentic, family-owned and operated Italian eatery has been around since the mid-century, with no shortage of old school charm. Serves pizzas, pastas, salads and traditional recipes. Buon appetito!
2266 Kettner Blvd.
If gourmet free-range fried chicken is your thing, stop at this fun outdoor restaurant for a chicken sandwich or salad in a casual, family-friendly setting. Everyone will love the tasty menu, pleasant patio dining, bocce ball court and giant chicken sculpture.
1602 State St.
A local favorite for freshly made, hand crafted, artisan developed, traditional Tuscan gelato (and pastries!). Need we say more?
1608 India St.
Create a delicious, customized gelato treat at one of iDessert’s iPad stations and it will be delivered in minutes! Don’t miss this fun, kid-friendly outing. Dairy-free options available.
Salt & Straw
1670 India St.
This beloved Portland-based ice cream shop boasts inventive flavors such as Honey Lavender and Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie. San Diego-inspired flavors include James Coffee and Bourbon, Avocado and Oaxacan Chocolate Fudge and more. An extensive vegan menu offers dairy-free customers a range of delicious flavors to choose from. Check back for new and rotating flavors. Plan to wait in line (it's worth the wait!).
Lisa Pawlak is an award-winning contributing writer and Encinitas resident.
Updated Feb. 2018