Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in National City, CA

  • Published 2023/05/12

Welcome to the charming National City in San Diego County, California.

Known as the “Gateway to the Bay,” National City is near San Diego Bay and offers visitors easy access to the many attractions and activities in the surrounding areas.

With a rich history dating back to the early 1800s, National City’s unique blend of cultural influences makes it a vibrant and diverse destination for travelers.

Whether you want to explore the local shops and restaurants, enjoy the area’s natural beauty, or learn about the city’s history and culture, National City has something for everyone.

Prepare for a memorable adventure with this list of the best things to do in National City, California.

Learn Local History at the Brick Row Museum

Exterior of the Brick Row Museum

Wmoraga, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you want to learn more about National City, stop by the Brick Row Museum.

Housed in a beautiful Victorian building, once a hotel at 909 A Avenue, the museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the city’s past.

The exhibits cover everything from the area’s early settlers to the present day, with artifacts and photographs that bring the past to life.

One of the museum’s most popular exhibits is the recreation of a turn-of-the-century general store.

You can browse the shelves stocked with authentic goods from the period.

The museum also has a collection of antique dolls and toys and a display of local Native American history.

Visiting the Brick Row Museum is a great way to spend a few hours and sincerely appreciate the city’s rich cultural heritage.

Visit the National City Depot Museum

Located at 922 W 23rd St, the National City Depot Museum is the perfect place to start your trip here at National City.

Housed in a restored train depot, the National City Depot Museum is a fascinating museum that explores the history of the city’s railroads.

The museum has a variety of exhibits showcasing the history of trains and railroads in the area, as well as several artifacts from the early days of the railway.

One of the highlights of the National City Depot Museum is its collection of historic trains and locomotives, including a landmark steam engine over a century old.

The museum also has several interactive exhibits where you can learn more about how trains work and what life was like on the railway.

The National City Depot Museum is an excellent place for anyone interested in the history of rail travel or the development of National City as a city.

Take a Hike or Have a Picnic at Pepper Park

Head to Pepper Park at 3299 Tidelands Avenue in National City for a beautiful day outdoors.

This waterfront park offers stunning views of the bay and the Coronado Bridge and has many trails winding through the hills and along the water.

It provides plenty of opportunities for hiking and exploring.

Likewise, it is a great place to hike, picnic, or enjoy the scenery.

The park has several picnic areas, a playground, and a boat ramp.

One of the highlights of Pepper Park is its natural beauty, as you’ll see a variety of plants and wildlife on your visit.

Spot egrets to sea lions along the shoreline.

The park’s trails wind through rolling hills and offer breathtaking bay views, making it a popular spot for nature lovers and hikers.

Pepper Park is the perfect place to spend a day with family and friends near the waters with its stunning views, natural beauty, and various outdoor activities.

Ride a Bike along the Bayshore Bikeway

The Bayshore Bikeway is a must-visit National City attraction for locals and visitors.

This 24-mile trail winds along San Diego Bay and offers breathtaking views of the water, boats, and surrounding hills.

The highlight of the Bayshore Bikeway is the various beautiful sceneries you’ll see along the way.

The bikeway also provides access to several parks, including Pepper Park, Marina View Park, and Embarcadero Marina Park.

Bring your bike, but you can also rent bikes found sporadically in the area.

The Bayshore Bikeway is a must-do activity here in National City, be sure you experience it yourself on your next trip.

Enjoy a Delicious Meal at the Cafe la Maze

Look no further than Cafe La Maze if you’re ready for a great steak.

This classic steakhouse is located on Highland Avenue in National City and has served delicious meals since 1941.

Cafe La Maze’s signature dish is the filet mignon, which is perfectly cooked and served with your choice of sides.

But they don’t just have steak.

They also offer a variety of other entrees, including seafood, pasta, and chicken dishes.

The restaurant’s interior is warm and inviting, with wood paneling and vintage decor, a great place to enjoy a romantic dinner or a meal with friends and family.

On select evenings, the restaurant also hosts live music by local musicians, adding to the ambiance of your dining experience.

Whether celebrating a special occasion or just looking for a great meal, Cafe La Maze is the perfect destination for dinner here at National City.

Play Golf at the National City Golf Course

Golf enthusiasts visiting National City won’t want to miss the National City Golf Course.

Located at 1439 Sweetwater Road, this beautiful course offers a challenging round of golf in a scenic setting.

It has a nine-hole course featuring rolling fairways, well-manicured greens, and stunning views of the surrounding hills.

The course is open to the public and welcomes golfers of all skill levels, a great place to play whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner.

After a game, stop by the course’s clubhouse for a bite.

Delicious burgers, sandwiches, salads, and cold beverages are perfect for a break from the action.

With its scenic setting and challenging course, the National City Golf Course is a must-visit for golf enthusiasts visiting the area.

Visit the National City Farmers Market

One of the best things to do in National City is to visit the National City Farmers Market.

This lively and bustling market occurs every Tuesday afternoon to early evening.

The market is located on A Avenue between 8th and 12th Streets.

It allows visitors to browse fresh, locally grown produce such as artisanal cheeses, fresh-baked bread, and other locally made treats.

The National City Farmers Market is also a great place to hang out because of the live musical performances, street performers, and other forms of entertainment.

You can grab a bite to eat from a food vendor, sit at one of the picnic tables, and enjoy the vibrant and friendly atmosphere.

When visiting National City, stop by the National City Farmers Market for a fun and unique experience with the locals.

Take a Dip in the Las Palmas Pool

On a hot summer day in National City, take a dip in the Las Palmas Pool.

Located at Las Palmas Park at East 22nd Street, this public outdoor swimming pool is a great place to cool off and have fun.

There is a shallow end for kids to splash around and a deep one for more experienced swimmers.

The pool is surrounded by lounge chairs and shaded areas, making it a relaxing day.

In addition to swimming, other activities are available at Las Palmas Park.

You can play a game of basketball or volleyball on one of the courts, picnic at one of the tables, or stroll along the walking paths.

The Las Palmas Pool and Park is a great place to spend a leisurely afternoon, and the pool is the perfect way to cool off after a day of exploring.

Taste Amazing Brews at Hannegan’s House Beer Co & Creamery

If you want to unwind and relax with friends or family, visit Hannegan’s House Beer Co & Creamery.

Located at 1535 Tidelands Avenue, this brewery and creamery offer delicious hand-crafted brews and ice cream, making it a great spot to satisfy your cravings.

Hannegan’s House Beer Co & Creamery has an impressive selection of beers and ciders on tap, and they rotate their menu frequently to keep things interesting.

Their ice cream is also a must-try, with unique flavors like honey lavender, strawberry basil, and coffee toffee.

However, their ice cream is not for kids, as they’re made with alcohol!

You can order flights of beer or ice cream to try a bit of everything or settle in with a pint of your favorite brew.

The combination of beer and ice cream here at Hannegan’s House Beer Co & Creamery will satisfy any craving and make for a unique and memorable experience.

Test Your Skills at the Kimball Skate Park

For skateboarders and rollerbladers, the Kimball Skate Park at 49 East 16th Street is a dream come true.

This massive skate park has something for everyone, from beginners to experienced skaters, boasting rails, ramps, bowls, and ledges.

The park is open to the public and is free to use, making it an accessible option for anyone looking for some adrenaline-fueled fun.

The Kimball Skate Park is a great spot to meet new people who share a love for skating or to go solo and hone your skills.

After skating, you can explore Kimball Park and see the cool stone mural on the walls and the other amenities the park offers.

Get a Glimpse of the Past at the Frank Kimball Museum

The Frank Kimball Museum is a historical house that the founder of National City-owned.

Housed in the historic Kimball House at 923 A Avenue, the museum showcases the life and times of the Kimball family.

The Kimballs were prominent figures in the development of National City.

The museum features an impressive collection of artifacts and photographs that chronicle the family’s legacy, as well as the history of the city itself.

As you explore the museum, you’ll understand life in National City in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

From the city’s early days as a shipping hub to its growth as a bustling commercial center, the museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the area’s past.

Highlights include a turn-of-the-century parlor, a retro kitchen, and a display of vintage clothing and accessories.

Thanks to well-curated exhibits and knowledgeable staff, the Frank Kimball Museum is worth exploring.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Make New Friends at the San Diego Zoo

Entrance to San Diego Zoo

Sherry V Smith /

No visit to San Diego is complete without a trip to the world-renowned San Diego Zoo.

Located 11 minutes from National City, this sprawling zoo is home to over 3,500 animals representing more than 650 species.

It is one of the world’s largest and most diverse zoos.

You can wander habitats that mimic the natural environments of animals from all over the globe, from the African savannah to the Australian outback.

A panda at San Diego Zoo

Nadia Borisevich /

One of the highlights of the San Diego Zoo is its commitment to conservation and animal welfare.

The zoo is involved in numerous research and conservation programs.

It’s also home to the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy, which protects endangered species and their habitats worldwide.

Whether you’re a fan of big cats, primates, or reptiles, there’s something for everyone at the San Diego Zoo.

Penguins at San Diego Zoo

Jianwei Zhu /

Explore the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Take a six-minute drive from National City to Chula Vista, California, and find the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

With its pristine wetlands, scenic trails, and abundant wildlife, the refuge is a true oasis that offers a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Exploring the refuge, you’ll observe various native birds, including endangered species like the California least tern and the light-footed clapper rail.

You might also spot other wildlife, such as coyotes, rabbits, and even the occasional bobcat.

You can enjoy breathtaking views of San Diego Bay and the surrounding hills along the way.

The San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a fantastic destination for nature lovers and anyone looking for an adventure.

Feel the Thrill at K1 Speed San Diego

Look no further than K1 Speed San Diego for a thrilling and adrenaline-fueled activity.

This indoor go-kart racing center offers an exciting racing experience perfect for friends, family, or even solo adventurers.

The electric karts are eco-friendly, and the indoor track is designed for maximum speed and maneuverability, allowing racers to test their skills and push their limits.

In addition to the racing experience, K1 Speed San Diego offers a variety of other amenities, including a snack bar, a lounge area, and arcade games; there’s something for everyone.

What are you waiting for?

Visit K1 Speed San Diego in San Diego, California, just an eight-minute drive from National City.

Learn about the Sky and the Sea at the Living Coast Discovery Center

On the shores of San Diego Bay, in Chula Vista, lies the Living Coast Discovery Center.

This non-profit zoo and aquarium feature interactive exhibits, hands-on activities, and live animal encounters that showcase Southern California’s diverse wildlife and habitats.

One of the highlights of the Living Coast Discovery Center is its planetarium, which offers fascinating shows that explore the mysteries of the cosmos.

You can also take a guided tour of the center’s outdoor habitats.

Get up close and personal with sea turtles, stingrays, sharks, and other fascinating marine life.

For a day filled with exploration of both the sky and the sea, visit the Living Coast Discovery Center, just a nine-minute drive from National City.

Final Thoughts

National City is a bustling city that has something for everyone.

Whether you’re interested in history, nature, food, or just looking for some fun, this city has it all.

Explore the best things to do in National City, California!

© All rights reserved.