National City is the second oldest city in San Diego County with many exciting things to see & do.
In my opinion, the reason why National City goes under the radar is pretty clear: much of its marina is devoted to industrial uses, such as Pasha Automotive, which processes up to 400,000 cars annually, many of those vehicles coming off large ships from faraway places. Visitors to San Diego, I assume, think there’s no place worth visiting unless it’s along the beach.
I really would encourage everyone to give National City a chance. Yes, you’re not going to get a Disneyland experience — but that’s precisely why I like it. Off-the-beaten-track delights, you’ll start to go deeper into an exploration this border culture and travel back in time as well.
Let me show you what I mean. Here’s one perfect day (with car) for you to explore:
1)Brick Row. Start your tour at Brick Row where Lady Martinelli will give you a tour of Frank Kimball’s home, a tour of Hanna Lee’s Teahouse and the Philadelphia style row house where Wyatt Erp once lived for a brief time. Ask to see the Prostitute’s license in her archives as well as the orb that may exist in one of the Victorians.
2) National City Home Tour. Lady Martinelli will also tell you about some of the vintage homes in this area. Take the Home Tour, by driving along the city’s illustrious mansions that take you back to the late 1800’s.
3) Olivewood Gardens. One of the places you’ll come to is Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center. This 6.85 acre property, once owned by a Walmart heir, has an organic garden and hosts an incredible number of activities related to healthy eating.
4) Od Schoolhouse Square. Another charming architectural structure will be St. Matthew’s Church. Across the street, Old Schoolhouse Square is worth a visit, if only to pass by the Filipino Press. Stay and eat at Villa Manila my #1 choice for Filipino food. Villa Manila is where you can enjoy Kamanan style food, along with many other dishes.
5) Filipino Heaven. After that, definitely find Goldilocks for a second fabulous Filipino cuisine experience. Get even more of your fill at Seafood City. Outside, you’ll notice the bust of Dr. Jose Rizal, a Filipino national hero.
6) Restaurants. Now it’s time to make some choices. If you didn’t stop at Villa Manila, where would you like to eat?
- Cafe La Maze: is famous for the celebrities the restaurant once hosted. It’s a dive with flair.
- Grill House: A wickedly good Mexican market, Big Ben, is here and they’ve created a sit down area to enjoy their gourmet offerings in a casual setting.
- Napoleon’s Pizza House: Is a family dining experience with lots of murals on the wall that tell the history of National City.
- Taco Strip is where you can choose from tens of different establishments to determine an important question: Who serves up the best taco?
- Aren’t hungry yet? Spend a little while at Machete Beer House. This dive bar has incredible flair and a gourmet selection of Mexican beers.
8) Hub & Spoke Cycleworks not only builds your bicycle from scratch, but also hosts movies nights. This is where you can work on your own bike and enjoy many more community activities.
9) Pier 32 Marina: This is an undiscovered waterfront where you can boat, enjoy Pepper Park or a brand new Aquatics Center. Hang out for drinks, snacks or dinner at the Waterfront Grill, located at the marina. You get to eat in front of the sailboats in a breezy, quaint area. (Secret: they’ve also got a Captain’s Room to stay in for the night, if you’re so inclined to extend the day. Inquire upstairs at the Marina for their rates.)
10) La Vista Memorial Cemetery: Some might like cemetery crawls, but if you don’t, you’ll still want to see this little burial plot on a hill. This is where Frank Kimball is laid to rest. You’ll also find the Al-Rahma Garden and Pauper’s Hill. A somber way to end your day, if you come at sunset, you’ll enjoy the view.