The impetus for this public service announcement began two weeks ago when I was trying to attend a 10:30 a.m. screening at Arclight La Jolla. A mall without a multiplex is as useless as a restaurant that shows movies. Until UTC decided to add a cinema to their already overbuilt shopping facility, there was no pressing need to familiarize myself with the lay of this plot of Westfield earth.
Being the only one in the county not hip to the fact that their parking lot had recently been reduced to rubble to make way for a new outdoor structure, I arrived at 10:10, thinking there’d be ample time to grab a Starbucks en route to the screening. At 10:35 — after parking close to Sears and huffing and puffing my way toward the theater — I found myself standing before a locked gate with a sign in place that read, “This Gate Must Remain Unlocked at All Times.”
Securing a spot at UTC has always been a bear, but until the time comes when the cyclone fences are down and the gravel is smoothly tarred over, when visiting Arclight it’s best that you park at AMC La Jolla and walk.
What follows is a list of prime parking real estate at the dozen cinemas that I frequent most. Know of any sneak spots at other theaters? Your cartographic comments are welcome.
7037 Friars Road, Mission Valley
Try Parking Structure B just south of the theater. If it’s not too sunny, park on the roof. In the event of a scorcher, try one floor below and hop the stairs.
8657 Villa La Jolla Drive, La Jolla
Follow the Nobel Drive exit and take your first left (between Islands and California Pizza Kitchen) into the La Jolla Village Square. Do not waste your time looking for an outdoor space, particularly anywhere near the Ralph’s. Turn right into the underground facility and park near the Best Buy.
1640 Camino del Rio North, Mission Valley
Enter the parking lot from Camino Del Rio North and veer to the left. If no one’s looking, ignore the sign, hang a U-turn just before entering the underground structure, and turn right. If you’re not the thrill-seeking type, enter the garage legally and turn left. All roads lead to Aisle Y. Look for the metal stairway at the end of the row and park as close to it as possible. When the movie lets out, use the exit door closest to theater 19. If everything goes as planned, your car awaits at the foot of the stairs.
11620 Carmel Mountain Road, Carmel Mountain
Take the Carmel Mountain road exit off the 15. Hang a left at the second stoplight (Rancho Carmel Drive). Proceed to the second entrance on your right. Once inside Carmel Mountain Plaza, turn left and park next to the theater. When the movie’s over, exit through the side door.
10733 Westview Parkway, Mira Mesa
Avoid the Mira Mesa exit off the 15 at all costs; one can finish Moby Dick in the time it takes to make a left turn into the mall. Use Carroll Canyon as a substitute. Follow it to Black Mountain Road and turn right. Proceed to Hillery Drive and turn right. You’ll pass the Home Depot and turn left onto Westview Parkway. Just past the Legacy Apartment Homes and before the Old Navy, you’ll find an entrance on your right. Follow it and park in back on the side of the theater.
3965 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest
Enter the parking facility on the Fifth Avenue side. After the machine spits out a ticket, you’ll come to a dead end. Unlike the rest of the lost lambs, you’ll want to make a left to find parking.
4061 Adams Avenue, Kensington
Street parking. You’re on your own.
2921 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park
5500 Grossmont Center Drive, La Mesa
You’re going to have to work a little harder to gain access to the county’s largest screens, but it’s worth it.
Grossmont Center Drive is a must to avoid. Exit the 8 at Jackson Drive and head north to Center Drive. Turn right and follow it until right before you hit Grossmont Center Drive (look for the Bank of America) and turn right into the mall. The theater is located at the opposite end of the lot.
4665 Clairemont Drive, Clairemont
Take Clairemont Mesa Boulevard to Clairemont Drive and head north. Turn right on Lakehurst Avenue followed by another quick right and look for a space. The entrance to the mall is located at the south end of the lot.
475 Horton Plaza, Downtown San Diego
Access the Garage of Fruits and Vegetables on the Fourth Street side and veer to the left. Follow the coiling path to Red Onion, Level 6, and pull up a stall.
7510 Hazard Center Drive, Mission Valley
Take the Friar’s Road East exit off the 163 to Frazee and turn right. Turn right just past B.J.’s and park by the Starbucks. In the event of a Chargers game, stay home and watch it on the radio.