Any given weekend evening on Tijuana’s Avenida Revolución, the casual visitor would have no trouble finding exactly what they were expecting to find, here along the legendary main artery of this sprawling border city’s historic center.
The ridiculously loud bars, the aggressive come-ons, the shamelessly manufactured party atmosphere—it’s an in-your-face, fairly off-putting mix to most people over the age of 21, a scene that attracts fewer takers these days, following years of drug wars, all of that post-9/11 paranoia and the subsequent wall-building (there’s already a wall here, yes) and security-tightening that have scared many casual fun-seekers away from what is now the Western Hemisphere’s busiest land border crossing.
With a sense of purpose, however, the visitor walking down the same traffic-choked thoroughfare—often referred to as La Revu—will see all sorts of signs of a new kind of Tijuana, one that’s existed for years now but mostly in scattershot settings about town. It is a very cool kind of Tijuana, with its art galleries, design shops, food truck pods, slick espresso bars, microbreweries and restaurants serving up tasting menus of things that are local and responsibly sourced. The outside world may cling to dated notions of the city and its capabilities, but this new Tijuana doesn’t so much care what the outside world thinks. In other words, things are starting to get interesting.
Today, within blocks along this fabled stretch of avenida, where you used to mostly come to get up to no good, you can now find a sleek art cinema, tasting rooms and bars where you can sample Baja’s notable craft beers, a very good coffee roaster and cafe, a well-curated food hall, a smart bistro or two, and even a quietly cool, Ace Hotel-like address at which to hang your hat, an impressive re-imagination of a former flop.
With plenty of Uber drivers waiting to pick you up once you cross over on foot (and to take you everywhere else in town, including the beach, whenever) and the peso currently in near-free-fall, there really are very few excuses left for not taking the plunge, whether you live in Southern California or are just dropping by this corner of the continent. Headed this way? Here are just a few essential addresses on the Avenida Revolución to know right now.
One Bunk Tijuana
This budding hotel brand began life as an Airbnb in San Diego’s historic Barrio Logan (one of the few truly creative corners of the still rather by-the-numbers beach city). Now, its creators have hopped the border, breathing new life into a relatively unremarkable old flop and giving Tijuana what it sorely needs—a truly chic place to stay that’s so close to the action, you can almost face-plant into it at the bottom of the hotel steps. The look is modern, spare, industrial but ultimately quite seductive; so-hot-right-now Casper mattresses ensure a good night’s sleep.
Avenida Revolucion 716
You could spend weeks on the taco / torta / jaw-droppingly good Baja seafood circuit, but these days, you can eat pretty much anything you’re looking for, somewhere in Tijuana—good ramen, even. This cozy food hall hidden away from the hordes at the end of a long arcade serves up all sorts of food, from Japanese to Lebanese to a mean, cheeseburger at Indie Burgers. It feels like a secret, except that on weekends, you may find yourself waiting for a table.
Avenida Revolucion 1265
Anybody who knows modern Mexico knows they’ve got the VIP cinema thing down in a way that seems to elude most operators in the United States. This gorgeous Mexico City import brings a sense of “this place has arrived” to La Revu—it’s an art house with a mix of the old and new, plus a bar and a very good restaurant, making this a solid one-stop for a civilized night out.
Avenida Revolucion 1317
Just tuning in? Baja California’s beer scene is yuge. Don’t be too surprised—San Diego, that well-known craft brew powerhouse, is just over the wall. Just like north of the border, every time you turn around in northern Baja these days, it seems there’s a new brewery to try. These two very interesting outfits have joined forces, offering tastings out of an appealing new storefront—complete with patio seating—right along the avenue.
Avenida Revolucion 1332
Part of the Pasaje Rodriguez, a historic arcade that’s now morphed into something of a cultural magnet, this spare little counter spot is one of many excellent options in town for a well-crafted cortado and a snack. If, by chance, you aren’t in sync with their somewhat limited morning hours, the recently opened Container Coffee Roasters and almost intimidatingly pretty downtown location of local standard bearer Das Cortez are within walking distance. As are, most likely, the five new coffee bars that opened here in the time it took to write this sentence. (Seriously, it seems like a lot.)
Avenida Revolucion 931A
Get there, car-free
Not sure how to get to TJ? These days, you don’t need to drive there—and really shouldn’t bother, it’s not worth the hassle. If you’re in San Diego, just hop the city’s efficient light rail service (referred to locally as “the trolley”). This will bring you from downtown to the border for just $2.50 each way. On the other side, Uber is reliable, cheap and all but omnipresent.
Want someone else to do the heavy lifting? Highly-regarded tours—both pre-scheduled and customized—are available through both Turista Libre and Club Tengo Hambre. Both are operated by very cool, multilingual folks from north and south of the border.
Booking a trip?
If you’re looking for the lowest airfares to San Diego or Tijuana, start by noodling around on CheapFlights or BookingBuddy—both will compare multiple sites at once, saving you a lot of running around. When you’re ready to book, we recommend Orbitz or Expedia—both offer 24-hour cancellation policies, allowing you to lock in the lowest fare while you finalize your plans. (As always, read the fine print first.) Just on here looking for the best San Diego or Tijuana hotel deals? Start by searching TripAdvisor, or Hotels.com, but don’t book anything without a stop at Priceline, where you can save up to 60% on any given night by taking advantage of their Express Deals feature. (This simple tool has probably saved us—no joke—thousands of dollars, over the years.). Finally, if you need a rental car, begin your search by swinging wide to get a sense of the market—BookingBuddy lets you check pretty much every site worth knowing, with just a couple of clicks.