Discover Hidden Gems Along San Diego Bay
Whether you’ve been in San Diego for five years or 30 years, there is always something new to see, do, and rediscover along the Port of San Diego's dynamic San Diego Bay. Be amazed by unique sights, sounds and flavors across 34 miles of the waterfront, and find hidden gems and less-familiar locations to spend the day outdoors. Shop somewhere new, stand on the San Diego Padres’ first home plate, or visit a new-to-you piece of artwork. The options are all here. With so many possibilities, make a day of it and explore away!
A piece of history dating back to 1887 is parked at the National City Railcar Plaza. No ticket is necessary to visit the restored Passenger Coach No. 1 of the old National City & Otay Railway. A site to see, the railcar used to seat up to 58 passengers and cost $1 for a round-trip ticket from National City to San Diego.
Make it a Day: A short mile away, the National City Marina will greet you, and there to serve you is the Waterfront Grill at Pier 32. A true hidden gem, the restaurant offers quality food, an extensive craft beer list, and plenty of spacious outdoor seating with marina views.
Hey batter, batter! Calling all baseball fans. Take a walk to Lane Field Park and visit the San Diego Padres’ first home plate used from 1936-1957. This baseball landmark includes a tribute to San Diego native and hall-of-famer Ted Williams, as well as a historical plaque placed at the site in 2003 by the Society for American Baseball Research, a pitcher’s mound, and surrounding bases.
Make it a Day: Before site seeing, grab a coffee or bite to eat at the tucked away Green Rose Cafe Cart, a small kiosk offering drinks and breakfast items. If you need something more substantial, cross the street to the Beach Hut Deli, serving unique sandwich combinations in a relaxed, beach-themed environment.
Built in 1939, the Headquarters at Seaport Village is an iconic complex that originally served as the San Diego Police Headquarters way back when. Explore the fully restored eight-cell jail block which houses historic photos and police memorabilia. Snap a photo at the infamous lineup wall, then escape jail and enjoy the premier dining options The Headquarters has to offer.
Make it a Day: Start your holiday shopping early. With retailers that offer leather goods, fashion accessories, artisan jewelry and more, you’ll be able to find a gift for all your loved ones.
In honor of our veterans and military past, a “National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military” is situated next to the USS Midway Museum. The bronze sculpture features Hope and 15 life-sized bronze statues, each representing a serviceman from a different branch.
Make it a Day: Stop by on the weekends to enjoy the San Diego Food Market at Ruocco Park on Saturdays and Lane Field on Sundays. These ongoing street food markets offer a diverse range of food, locally-made crafts, and boutique coffee options.
A Gem With a View
Not a secluded beach but pretty close. National City Marina District is a hidden jewel in the South Bay where kids of all ages can play or relax in an oversized sand box. Just steps away, see if you can spot three captivating sculptures, the “School of Blue Bottle Noses”, “Helicoid III,” and “Le Bateau Ivre.”
Make it a Day: Dust off the sand, it’s time to dip your toes in the water. Rent a jet ski or paddleboard from nearby Luxury Rental Jet Skis. Within minutes you will be leaving the Sweetwater Channel and riding in San Diego Bay waters.
Most may not be aware that Shelter Island Shoreline Park, a beautiful and serene spot, offers fire rings, gazebos and picnic tables for the public to enjoy. Load up the car with blankets, firewood and s’mores treats for a comfy evening with a bonfire.
Make it a Day: Rent bikes and ride to the end of the peninsula to view the Yokohama Friendship Bell, a monument presented in 1958 as part of the Centennial Celebration of formal relations between Japan and the United States. On the way back, don’t miss out on craft brews & bar bites at Fathom Bistro, Bait and Tackle, a cozy, dockside taproom on the pier.
Expansive views of San Diego Bay are boundless at Harbor & Sky, San Diego’s newest rooftop bar and lounge. Settled on the fifth floor of the Marriott Residence Inn and SpringHill Suites, the contemporary new space evokes a laid-back SoCal vibe, outdoor atmosphere, light bites, creative mixology, and sweeping views.
Make it a Day: Add another great view of the bay to your day. Take a stroll to Broadway Pier and walk a full loop around the Port Pavilion. Embedded in the public walkway are bronze plaques identifying historic events of San Diego Bay from past to present. If enjoying an evening stroll, look for the light gardens that are illuminated from “Tidal Radiance,” a wall art installation that intertwines glass, metal and light.
Cesar Chavez Park is an unexpected park located near Barrio Logan and at the start of the industrial waterfront. This park provides a beautiful view of the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge and is now home to the newly-finished creative, inspiring, and colorful Cesar Chavez Park Mural. With a large grassy area and one of the larger piers San Diego has to offer, this is a great place to take in spectacular views of San Diego Bay during the day.
Make it a Day: A burger and a view is just a short drive away. Burgers, Bait & Beer, located at the recently enhanced Embarcadero Marina Park South, is a small spot that serves big tastes with some of the best made-to-order burgers that San Diegans have yet to taste! On the weekends, try On the Rocks food truck at Hilton San Diego Bayfront for a spot near the water to dive into a burger, tots and a cocktail.
A Family Find
Discover wildlife on San Diego Bay at the Living Coast Discovery Center, a hidden treasure for families and animal lovers in Chula Vista. The non-profit zoo and aquarium provides consistent care for endangered sea turtles, eagles, sharks, owls, and more. Book a private tour to visit native wildlife, complete with an up-close encounter of your choosing!
Make it a Day: Stop by an open house to check out the new vacation rentals that will be available next year when the Costa Vista RV Resort opens. Walk through different models on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 6 p.m. at the Chula Vista RV Park at 460 Sandpiper Way and book your next family vacation.
Boogie down to Imperial Beach for some boogie boarding. Sound of Beach at the Imperial Beach Pier is a locally-owned souvenir shop that offers rentals to get you off land and into the water. While you are shopping, grab some beach toys and challenge the kids to a sandcastle contest.
Make it a Day: Walk down the 1,490-foot pier for ocean-air amenities, sights, and pleasures. The Tin Fish restaurant awaits you along with an iconic atmosphere with beach favorites, fish tacos, and local beer. After sunset, discover “Illuminations,” mosaic tiled seawalls that elaborate upon light and color and the atmospheric experiences provided by the beach environment.
The Coronado Ferry Landing is often an overlooked location for locals. This waterfront shopping center provides fun for the entire family with art galleries, apparel retailers, restaurants, and casual eateries. Complete with accessible parking, sit down for a nice meal al fresco or grab something tasty to go and enjoy a picnic at the walkable Tidelands Park.
Make it a Day: Ever ride a two-bench surrey? With a variety of bike selections to rent, your choice of single, family, tandem, electric and more, push the pedal to the metal and enjoy all the sights Coronado has to offer on a scenic bike path.
Friendly Reminders for Date Activities:
• Practice social distancing.
• Space may be limited at businesses, please call in advance for reservations.
• Check business websites for up-to-date days and hours of operations.
• Wear a face covering.
• Dress for the weather and bring sunglasses, sunscreen and possibly a light jacket if you are staying for a sunset walk.
• Please be respectful and don’t disturb native wildlife or vegetation.
There’s always something different to explore, something new to discover at the Wonderfront.
Rediscover your Wonderfront at portofsandiego.org/wonderfront.