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A Local’s Guide on What To Do at San Diego’s Liberty Station

November 14, 2023
San Diego Liberty Station

Nestled along the postcard-perfect waterfront of San Diego’s Point Loma neighborhood, Liberty Station is a 350-acre mixed-use development with plenty of spots to eat, shop, stay, and play. 

Once the site of the city’s Naval Training Center, this bustling community and cultural hub is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. It’s home to a variety of museums, art galleries, quirky shops, and event venues, as well as some of San Diego’s hottest bars and restaurants. 

Whether you’re looking to take in a show, soak up some local history, sip craft brews, or learn something new, you can find it at this sprawling urban playground. Check out our guide to all the can’t-miss hotspots at Liberty Station before your next trip to San Diego. 

Liberty Station history

San Diego Liberty Station

Liberty Station’s military beginnings took root in the early 1920s, when U.S. recruits were first trained at San Diego’s Naval Training Center. The NTC closed in 1997, leaving behind a historic space that was eventually revitalized and redeveloped into today’s Liberty Station. 

Some of the landscaping was designed by the former superintendent of Balboa Park, and the space has something of a similar look, with wide public promenades intersecting open-air courtyards and community plazas. This layout gives Liberty Station a friendly “main street” feel. You could almost wave to fellow passersby like old neighbors. 

Today, Liberty Station’s 100 years of history and rich Southern California heritage is on display in its grand Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and experienced through its many hyper-local cultural offerings.

The five districts of Liberty Station

Credit: Wendy Cutler / CC BY 2.0 DEED

Liberty Station boasts five unique districts, each with its own distinct vibe and purpose. You should visit all of them while you’re here.

Here’s a little more about each one:

  • The Arts District: The Arts District is the heart of Liberty Station, where local artists, creators, and entrepreneurs unite. This is also where you’ll find The Loma Club — a nine-hole golf course, mini golf course, social club, and bar and grill. 
  • The Quarter: Named after the “quarter-deck” on a naval ship, The Quarter is home to some of Liberty Station’s favorite eateries (like Fig Tree Cafe) as well as the South Promenade, a stunning green space with a picturesque fountain. 
  • The Neighborhood: Home to High Tech Schools and The Rock Church, The Neighborhood is Liberty Station’s walkable residential area and educational hub. 
  • NTC Park: Liberty Station is flush with greenery and bursting with flowering plants year-round. Visit NTC Park just along the boat channel to picnic on the lawn, walk your dog, or soak up some sun while the kids play on the playground.
  • South Point: This is where you overnight if you want to stay at Liberty Station. South Point has four popular San Diego hotels: the Courtyard by Marriott, Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton, and TownePlace Suites by Marriott.

Where to eat and drink at Liberty Station

San Diego Liberty Station Food

Liberty Station really is a foodie paradise. 

From craft beers on a laid-back outdoor patio to kid-friendly retro diners and artisan bites made with locally sourced ingredients, there’s something delicious for everyone to enjoy. Here are a few dining highlights to satisfy any palate.

1. Liberty Public Market

Open seven days a week, Liberty Public Market is home to nearly 40 of San Diego’s favorite food, drink, and specialty item vendors. You can choose from a variety of local treats, from mini donuts to tacos, empanadas, lobster rolls, ramen, and more. 

Day or night, you can cozy up to the bar for a drink or bring your food to the giant “backyard” outside. Plenty of events, from live concerts to Craftoberfest, are also held in this bustling indoor-outdoor complex. 

2. Carruth Cellars

Carruth Cellars is a California winery with a tasting room and local cheese shop at Liberty Station. Snack your way through a rotating seasonal charcuterie menu in between sips at their charming wine garden. 

Local tip: Sample cheeses for free every first Saturday of the month. 

3. Corvette Diner

Bringing the kids along to San Diego? The Corvette Diner is the perfect place for a family-friendly night out. 

Decked out in 1950s style, this kitschy diner serves up nostalgia alongside king-sized shakes and classic burgers. There’s also an arcade and jukebox to entertain the family in between courses. 

4. Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens

Enjoy elevated bar bites and a long list of local brews on tap at this sprawling bistro, complete with an outdoor movie screen, a cozy patio, beer gardens, and a bocce ball court. 

Try the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens’ double-crunch Korean fried chicken sandwich for a fun twist or their house specialty, fish and chips.

Explore the arts

Art galleries, studios, and classes abound at Liberty Station, but visual artists aren’t the only creators who fill the space with inspiration. You can also head to Liberty Station to watch indie flicks and take in top-notch performances from local dancers, actors, and musicians. 

I recommend taking a self-guided public art tour, seeing a show, and — if you’ll be in town for it — visiting on the first Friday of the month.

Public art at Liberty Station

San Diego artists are regularly commissioned to create site-specific art installations for a year at a time, using Liberty Station’s campus as their canvas. Take yourself on a free public art scavenger hunt by scanning the QR code they provide online and hunting for the painted teal stars. 

First Friday Arts District

If you’re going to Liberty Station for just one night, it should be on a First Friday at the Arts District. 

Every first Friday of the month, the station’s resident creators throw open the doors of their studios for an interactive art crawl. Talk to artists about their creative processes, enjoy free wine and snacks at opening receptions, and take advantage of exclusive sales on food, gifts, and art. 

Where to see a show at Liberty Station

Ready for a night out on the town? Head to one of Liberty Station’s many venues to see talent in action. You should visit:

  • THE LOT for live music and luxury dine-in movies
  • San Diego Filipino Cinema for screenings and conversations hosted by Filipino filmmakers
  • Mockingbird Improv for comedy shows and improved musicals
  • San Diego Dance Theater for modern dance performances and new choreography
  • San Diego Ballet for classical and contemporary ballet 

Must-see museums at Liberty Station

Liberty Station isn’t just a place for shopping and dining — it’s also a place for learning. Admission to three Liberty Station museums is free, though donations are always welcome.

Nautical History Gallery & Museum

Newly opened in 2023 at the Naval Command Center Building, the Nautical History Gallery & Museum honors Liberty Station’s military heritage with artifacts from key periods of U.S. Navy history as well as model ships built by Joe Frangiosa. 

With several interactive exhibits, this museum is perfect for an afternoon with the kids. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Wednesday to Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. 

New Americans Museum

With around 10 exhibits and events each year, the New Americans Museum celebrates the rich history of diverse immigrant populations in San Diego and the U.S. more broadly. 

The museum is open to visitors Thursday through Sunday: from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the weekend.

Visions Museum of Textile Art

When we think of visual art, we often imagine paintings or sketches, maybe photos, by default. But at the Visions Museum of Textile Art, you won’t be looking at just “some dumb old painting.” VMOTA focuses on work by contemporary quilt, fiber, and textile artists, and the exhibits are filled with color, making it fun for all ages and even those who don’t consider themselves as into art. 

You can visit the museum Wednesday through Saturday. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, it’s open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. while on Fridays and Saturdays, it’s open two hours later.

How to get to Liberty Station 

San Diego Liberty Station Food
Credit: Alan Islas / CC BY-SA 4.0

Like much of the travel in San Diego, to get to Liberty Station, you’re going to need a car. It’s not far off I-5, and the drive is pretty easy whether you’re coming from north or south.

Parking is plentiful here, and you don’t have to worry about paying a fortune. Self parking is free for three hours when you’re visiting any Liberty Station business. You can also charge your electric vehicle at one of two locations: Parking Lot D at the intersection of Chauncey Road and Historic Decatur Road or Parking Lot P at the intersection of Roosevelt Road and Truxtun Road (for Teslas).

Check out Liberty Station’s map to locate ATMs, restrooms, and the information center. 

Add Liberty Station to your San Diego trip itinerary

San Diego Liberty Station

While San Diego visitors often flock to the beach for some sun and surf, Liberty Station shows off a different side to the city, perfect for arts lovers, history buffs, and foodies. It’s great for a day out at an interactive museum with the kids, a late-night art crawl, or a unique date night. Plus, it’s walkable, which is a rare treat in Southern California. 

Looking for more to do in Point Loma, San Diego? Check out our guide to Cabrillo National Monument, located on the very tip of the peninsula and an amazing place to explore the area’s history, flora, and fauna.