Duck into another decade at these retro San Diego places


San Diego is a city in constant evolution, so it's no surprise to see your favorite sushi spot on the beach is now a gourmet donut shop. That cheap movie theater you scouted last time you visited? Yeah, that's a PetSmart now. Still, there are a few mainstays that have managed to last the test of time. From restaurants to hotels, what used to be on-trend decor has now become retro. These joints welcome you to step into another decade, and you don't even need a DeLorean.

The Giant Dipper


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This vintage amusement park ride is otherwise known as the "Mission Bay Roller Coaster" and the "Belmont Park Roller Coaster" and "That Rickety Roller Coaster By the Beach, You Know, The One By the Big Parking Lot." The Giant Dipper been around since 1925 and it creaks like it. At just $6 a ride it's one of the cheapest thrills you can get at Mission Beach -- cheaper than a cocktail at a tourist-filled bar to be sure.

Skateworld San Diego
Once upon a time, did you love to strap on some roller skates and zoom your way around the linoleum to impress your middle school crush? Were you too legit? Too legit to quit, even? Same. Well, the next time you're in San Diego you can lace up some retro roller skates and glide your way across a gym floor (three-point line included) at Skateworld. Bask in the glow of neon lasers during the free skate, or book a private party. The rink is housed in what remains of the first mall dedicated by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1941 and Skateworld has been alive and groovy for 40 years. Yes, there is also a snack bar with soft pretzels and popcorn.

Tivoli Bar and Grill

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This old spot used to be a feed store before it became one of the city's original watering holes. And the apartments upstairs used to rent by the hour, if you know what I mean. As the sign says, the Tivoli Bar has been open since 1885; Wyatt Earp himself used to stop by for a drink and a card game. Sure, they've upgraded parts of the establishment, but the bar and bar back are original and even the first cash register is on display. No sundown duels allowed.

The Waffle Spot

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This place hasn't aged a day since the 60s. OK, so apparently it opened in the 90s -- whatever. It's located in equally retro King's Inn, which HAS been around since the 60s and has the exterior decor to prove it. The Waffle Spot has been outfitted to match, so the purple booths fit right in. Don't mind the random wall paintings of the "Bangor Family," a bunch of flaccid sausages making a variety of... interesting faces (I used the terms "interesting" and faces" very loosely here). If you're lucky the kitschy restaurant mascot (a giant waffle, obviously) will be there while you dine.

Tahiti Felix's Master Tattoo Parlor
You know mental image you have of old-timey sailors? They probably skip off the boat and run to shore looking for a lady to harass and an anchor tattoo. OK, it turns out you're not just profiling -- that was really a thing. The tattoo part, anyway. This Gaslamp tattoo parlor near the harbor has been here since 1949, and before you even get through the door at Tahiti Felix's Master Tattoo Parlor, you walk past cases with old tattoo equipment and other vintage relics. Inside, the old building, retro lighting, and OG cash register help create the illusion that not much time has passed since the shop opened. Stop by and get some ink if you're into that sort of thing.

The Pearl Hotel


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You've gotta have a place to lay your head in San Diego, and The Pearl speaks your language. Assuming your language is "Stone Foyers That Look Like the Brady Bunch House" or "Vintage Balcony Railings." The Pearl used to be a 1960s lodge and its been turned into a boutique hotel, but the charm of the original property hasn't gone anywhere. Nor has the shag carpeting in the lobby (actually, I hope that's new). Hang out in the 60s chic pool area and catch an old flick from the comfort of your raft during Dive-In Movie night.

Lara Vukelich is a San Diego writer who loves retro typewriters, and her first album was a vinyl record of Janet Jackson.