During much of the 20th century, Liberty Station was a naval training center located at the base of San Diego’s rocky Point Loma Peninsula. Today, the 361-acre Liberty Station has become a thriving hub for dining, shopping, and excellent craft beer, all a short hop from downtown San Diego and the airport.
One of the biggest attractions here, for visitors and locals alike, is Liberty Public Market, a daily marketplace that also includes the expansive Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens. While you’re here, though, don’t miss a walk along Liberty Station’s waterside park to take in the public art pieces, views, and rich history.
History of Liberty Station
As a Naval Training Center, Liberty Station welcomed its first recruits in 1923. Throughout World War II, as San Diego’s military importance expanded, so did the base, built with the same Spanish colonial style seen in many parts of the city.
After the Cold War era, operations at the training center slowly wound down and it was officially closed in 1997. The city took over ownership of the property and began turning it into a destination for shopping, restaurants, art, and education.
Today, there are five distinct districts and 38 historic buildings within Liberty Station, including a local residential neighborhood with schools. The most prominent area is the Arts District on the north side of Liberty Station, which includes Liberty Public Market. Nearby is the Quarter, with a few large grocery stores, the south promenade, and parking. On the east side, the Naval Training Center Park runs along the boat channel and provides a place for running, biking, and exercise. At the southern entrance to Liberty Station, the South Point is home to four familiar chain hotels and the old USS Recruit ship. Throughout the whole area, you’ll find pieces of history woven into the landscape, such as the Command Center and the old Enlisted Club, both built in 1941.
Where to Eat and Drink at Liberty Station
Plan to enjoy at least one meal while you explore Liberty Station. Browsing all the unique shops and food options at Liberty Public Market will definitely work up your appetite.
Liberty Public Market, which opened in 2016, is home to more than 30 local vendors, including almost every kind of cuisine you can imagine. Options include empanadas at Paraná, Southern soul food at Cane Patch Kitchen, East Coast–style seafood at Wicked Maine Lobster, and Korean BBQ at Bopjo. Start with a drink from the appropriately named Mess Hall bar or get a coffee from The West Bean, which opens at 9 a.m. before the rest of the market. Once you make your choices, take your food to one of the indoor seating areas or outside to the patios around the building. (Liberty Public Market is open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., though the hours of the individual stalls may vary.)
Next door to the market, in what used to be the Navy Mess Hall, is the Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens. This large branch of the Escondido-based Stone Brewing is a relaxing place to sample one of the top players in San Diego’s acclaimed craft beer scene. The large bistro with indoor and outdoor seating features an 11,000-square-foot garden, bocce ball, an outdoor movie screen, and—most important—40 taps for beer.
The Public Market isn’t the only spot for food, however. There are several other restaurants in the streets around Liberty Station, like morning hot spot Breakfast Republic and Solare, a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmandwinner. Families, meanwhile, will love the colorful and kid-friendly Corvette Diner.
Shopping at Liberty Station
Mixed in among the restaurants at Liberty Station are small shops for artisanal foods and locally made art and jewelry. Browse handmade or vintage pieces at Sea Hive Station, jewelry at Thatch, or the teas and gifts at Point Loma Tea. Be sure to stop by Pigment, which started as a gallery for local artists and has expanded into a well-regarded home decor and lifestyle shop. Pick up a potted plant, for instance, that could pass for a small work of art.
The Quarter district of Liberty Station offers some classic stores that can be handy for any traveler—like Trader Joe’s and Vons grocery stores, a yoga studio, and hair and nail salons.
Events, Classes, and Scavenger Hunts
Stroll the path that runs the length of the NTC Park to see public art, such as a kinetic sculpture or a mural of nautical flags. (Scan the QR code at any piece of art to do the public-art scavenger hunt.) Don’t miss the southern end of the park, which is home is the USS Recruit, a two-thirds scale training model that is now the last of its kind in the U.S.
Artistic energy abounds around Liberty Station. Browse the local art at Inspirations or the contemporary pieces at the Something Different Studio Art Gallery, then consider making some art yourself. Check the Liberty Station calendar, which includes classes in music, pottery, painting, or even candle-making for both kids and adults. Or watch the professionals do their thing. Take in a show at the San Diego Ballet or the improv-focused National Comedy Theater.
Before you arrive, check the calendar for other events at Liberty Station, such as the monthly First Fridays—with art workshops and kids crafts—the annual Art Walk in August, or summer’s outdoor music series.
Planning Your Trip
A visit to Liberty Station offers a fun microcosm of San Diego’s local flavor. When planning your trip to the SoCal city, check out more don’t-miss spots, such as Stone Brewing, San Diego’s best seafood restaurants, its top taco shops, and even its great gourmet donuts.