“Don’t go to Tijuana because it’s dangerous and you might get killed.”
I’m sorry but…what?
If this is something you’ve said, or listened to: stop it. Unfounded fear (or dare I say, ignorance?) is so…basic. It is time to give it a rest and leave that pretty little comfort zone of yours! That’s what my boyfriend and I did when we decided to take a weekend to explore Tijuana. I hadn’t been to TJ since I was about 8 years old, and I was totally ready to explore it as an adult. For those of you non-Southern Californians, Tijuana is the Mexican City just 20 miles South of San Diego.
Tijuana was where we chose to venture to because we were in the mood for an adventure, and everything else was just crazy expensive. $400 a night for a Las Vegas room? No thank you. Dangermin (my BF) also has a few friends that live in TJ, so it seemed like a fun switch from the norm.
How to Get There
Getting to Tijuana might be easier than getting to LA. Not kidding. There was hardly any traffic on our way down to the border when we departed North Park on a Saturday afternoon. Once we got to San Ysidro (the U.S city bordering Mexico) the hardest part was finding a spot to park our car. There is ample parking so you shouldn’t have a problem- but plan on spending about $60 to leave it overnight. If you are a San Diego local, I would opt for taking a Lyft or Uber down to the border instead.
With the car parked, we grabbed our bags and departed for PedWest, the walkway that takes you right into Mexico, which was right across the street from where we were parked. The address for the walkway is 499 Virginia Ave. San Ysidro, CA if you want to plug it into your gps. While you don’t need to pay a fee to use the walkway, you must bring your passport.
Once we got through the walkway, we called an Uber and headed to our hotel. For a 3 mile drive, our Uber cost about 2 bucks. Easy breezy!
Where to Stay
Because my job requires me to stay in hotels basically 6 months out of the year, I have sold my soul to Marriott. Not to brag, but I am only 9 stays away from earning my coveted Platinum status. Anyway…I have racked up a generous amount of points with them, so we were able to stay at the Fairfield Suites fo’ free. Nonetheless, the room would’ve only been about $100 a night, so still pretty affordable. The hotel was modern, safe, and came with your usual free continental breakfast. It was also within walking distance from our first stop of the evening.
Where to Drink
To begin the evening, we met up with our friends Tania and Lisa at Oryx Capital. This yummy Cali-Baja fusion restaurant is where I enjoyed a luscious “angry paloma” (or two) paired with a vegetarian ceviche that had FIGS in it. You’ll see from the picture below it was also foamy (?) Fancy. Ordering this was actually accidental because the entire menu was in Spanish…but it was still a nice appetizer to hold us over.
Before moving along to dinner, we walked to the back of Oryx Capital to…a speakeasy! I LOVE speakeasies. To get in, you had to knock on an inconspicuous black door where a man then slid open a tile to vet who was coming in. So exciting. The speakeasy- Nórtico– was beautifully designed to represent the Prohibition era, with gold detailing, wooden walls, photos of Al Capone adorning the walls, and sultry music playing in the background. For those of you that didn’t know, Tijuana was thriving in the 1920’s because of all of the rich Americans who would come across the border to drink, party, and gamble.
Now, whenever you make it to Nórtico, do yourself a favor and order the Mexican Fashion: a cocktail made with Tequila, cacao, mole and serrano bitters, agave, and Fernet. It was the best damn drink I have ever had in my life- and it was only about nine dollars.
Where to Eat
Once we were all boozy and happy, we took an Uber to 52 Kool for dinner. Now maybe I am a wide-eyed youngin’, but this was one of my favorite meals and atmospheres I had ever experienced. While oh so aesthetically chic and modern, the restaurant and staff were not pretentious at all. There were also SO MANY vegetarian options.
Our meal started off with more cocktails (mezcal, baby), and some amazing appetizers. Notable mentions of this meal: the “Quesadillas Without Cheese”, the “Mexican Risotto”, and the Braised Cabbage. It was a meal that satisfied any boujee dreams of mine, and…it only cost about $30 a person. To put it in perspective, the meal we had would have easily cost double that in LA. I was in heaven.
Where to Party
You didn’t think we were going to go to Tijuana and NOT party, did you? My boyfriend and I met on a dancefloor, so it’s safe to say that we both make it a point to get our groove on as much as possible.
After a carb-induced disco nap, we got into an Uber and headed to Deck 22. This is one club of many that are on Avenida Revolucioń, the main street of Tijuana. Dangermin’s friend owns this club, and the DJ’s play House music until the morning light, so of course that’s where we spent the whole night. I somehow found room for more Mezcal shots, which helped keep me going until 6am. The sun came up, and then we called it a day.
Where to Explore
After a day of indulgence, we decided to take some time to see some city sights. We headed on out to the Tijuana Cultural Center which is a free museum located in the main Business District….
But first- tacos.
Our lovely hostesses directed us to Taqueria Las 3 Salsas which is a very simple spot where you get to enjoy classic Tijuana street tacos. I devoured two carne asada tacos and two adobada tacos, both of which were SMOTHERED in guacamole. Oh yeah, and each taco was ONE DOLLAR.
Now that we were full and rejuvenated after our night of partying, we explored the Cultural Center. The Museo de las Californias exhibit is an awesome permanent installation that gives an in depth look at the history of the Baja Peninsula, and where I officially fell in love with Tijuana and its’ unique history. We walked through the sculpture garden, browsed the Chile En Nogada Festival that happened to be going on, and then enjoyed some art.
After a short 10 minute drive we were back at the border, and our travel bugs were satisfied for a while longer. We officially ended with some shopping at the Outlets at the Border in San Ysidro (my idea), and then headed back home.
If you have been debating on a trip to Tijuana, please do it. We as Southern Californians are so lucky to be able to enjoy an international adventure without the long flights or hefty pricetags. And I promise you: I never had a moment where I felt unsafe, overwhelmed, or bored. Please don’t deprive yourself of the amazing and affordable cultural and culinary experiences that await you.
P.S. Thank you again to our beautiful friends for making our weekend so fabulous!