San Diego County’s second-largest city boasts authentic Mexican food, a burgeoning craft beer scene, and outdoor activities galore
Things to do
Places to Eat & Drink
About seven miles from downtown San Diego in one direction and the Mexican border in the other, Chula Vista is quickly developing its own strong identity as a tourist destination. There are the more obvious, historical draws—Aquatica by SeaWorld, San Diego’s largest water park, and pop megastar concerts at Mattress Firm Amphitheatre (formerly Cricket Wireless Amphitheater)—plus a newer big-ticket addition: Sesame Place San Diego, a Sesame Street–themed park that feature rides, live shows, an interactive musical play area, and a 500,000-gallon wave pool.
Where to Eat in Chula Vista
Another reason to explore Chula Vista is the food, which is known to be some the most authentic Mexican fare you’ll find north of the border. For the ultimate in stateside Tijuana-style street food, head to the no-frills Tacos El Gordo. Two other local favorites for simple, but supremely authentic Mexican food are Karina’s Mexican Seafood and Lolita’s Taco Shop (don’t miss Lolita’s California Burrito—carne asada, french fries, cheddar cheese, and sour cream rolled up in a flour tortilla).
Nothing pairs with Mexican food quite like a cold beer, and Chula Vista is an emerging hotspot for urban brewing. Check out Bay Bridge Brewing, the area’s first microbrewery, and Novo Brazil, which serves up an award-winning German-style Chula Pils.
Outdoor Activities in Chula Vista
There’s also a subtler side to Chula Vista, one that begins to reveal a diverse and dynamic town that embraces its natural resources, cultural influences, and forward-thinking spirit. With its 560 acres of parkland, which stretches from the San Diego Bay (grab your picnic basket and head to J Street Marina Bayside Park) to the shores of Lower Otay Lake in the rural east, Chula Vista is an ideal spot for all types of outdoorsy excursions. The queen jewel of the city’s park system, dubbed by locals the Emerald Necklace, is the 200-acre Otay Valley Regional Park, which includes eight miles of hiking trails and seven ponds. An exploration of this open-space oasis illustrates why the Spanish translation of Chula Vista is “beautiful view.”
More Things to Do in Chula Vista
A visit to The Living Coast Discovery Center’s aquarium and zoo on the Chula Vista waterfront (adjacent to the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge) is another fun, affordable way to explore the local habitat and wildlife. Spend your morning feeding bat rays and meeting the resident raptors, then head over to Third Avenue Village in Chula Vista’s historic district to stroll the eclectic shops and restaurants. The shopping and dining magnet is also home to Onstage Playhouse, a popular community theatre venue—be sure to check their season lineup before your visit.
Sports fans who are curious about what it takes to make it to the Olympic Games have a unique destination in the eastern part of the city: the 153-acre Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center, which serves aspiring competitors in both the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games. Take a guided tour—deluxe ones include a behind-the-scenes walkthrough of training facilities and the dining hall—to see what it’s like to spend time here in pursuit of gold.
Featured Chula Vista
Sesame Place San Diego
Meet iconic characters, splash in the water park, and take a spin on little-kid-friendly rides