Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Chula Vista, CA

  • Published 2022/11/30

Chula Vista in San Diego County is the second largest city in San Diego and the fifteenth largest in California.

Its name has a Spanish translation that means “Beautiful View.”

It is also tagged as the “Lemon Capital of the World.”

Chula Vista was once a territory of the Kumeyaay Indians and was laid out by the Santa Fe Railway in 1888.

The population in this city has reached 275,487, based on the 2020 census.

Aside from its breathtaking views and abundance of lemon trees, Chula Vista is also popular for its diverse culture and vibrant atmosphere.

There are also a wide variety of parks, beaches, and other exciting destinations that you can visit in this city.

Chula Vista is a gem that awaits discovery, and you won’t have to spend a fortune to gain memorable experiences here.

Here are free things to do in Chula Vista, California.

Spend the Afternoon at Chula Vista Bayside Park

Bench overlooking the water at Chula Vista Bayside Park

Sherry V Smith /

Chula Vista Bayside Park is located on Bayside Parkway.

It features a fishing pier where you can spend the day admiring its view and surrounding landscaped areas.

This place also boasts a view of the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge and the San Diego skyline.

Chula Vista Bayside Park is perfect for a lazy afternoon walk alone or with loved ones.

A sculpture at Chula Vista Bayside Park

Sherry V Smith /

It also has paved walking and biking paths and exercise stations.

Fishing is also allowed at Chula Vista Bayside Park.

You can also bring your food and drinks and use the picnic tables or benches scattered within the park.

Paved trail at Chula Vista Bayside Park

Sherry V Smith /

See Amazing Wildlife at San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge

San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a 2,620-acre urban refuge situated on Gunpowder Point Drive.

It is a part of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

This refuge serves as a haven for threatened and endangered animals.

San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge is also the habitat of migratory and native bird species.

You can explore its 1.5-mile trail and get the chance to spot some amazing wildlife.

You’ll also be mesmerized by the spacious landscape area and beautiful views of this refuge.

Since Bayshore Bikeway surrounds San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, many people from nearby communities have easy access to this place.

Visit South Bay Salt Works

Daytime view of South Bay Salt Works

M.Dolly, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

South Bay Salt Works is a salt factory on Bay Boulevard.

It started operations in 1871 and was also the second oldest business in San Diego.

You can see South Bay Salt Works’ salt mines and ponds via walking or biking.

Salt ponds of South Bay Salt Works

Codobai, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Make sure to take some photos of this cool destination.

You can get the best views of the salt mines on bright and clearer days.

Have a Picnic with Friends at Chula Vista Marina View Park

Chula Vista Marina View Park is on Marina Parkway.

This park was built through the joint effort of the Port of San Diego and Chula Vista City.

Make sure to bring lots of food and drinks and spend the entire day picnicking with friends.

You can use its shaded picnic tables or just lay your picnic blanket on the grass.

Chula Vista Marina View Park has playground equipment like mini slides and swings.

You’ll also love the unique public artworks displayed in different parts of the park.

Chula Vista Marina View Park also has well-maintained restrooms.

Enjoy Fresh Air at Mountain Hawk Park

The grounds of Mountain Hawk Park

Sherry V Smith /

Mountain Hawk Park is a 12-acre green space located on Lake Crest Drive.

It was opened to the public in 2006.

Mountain Hawk Park has trails suited for walking, hiking, and biking.

You can also play sports in its basketball court and spacious outdoor area.

Trail at Mountain Hawk Park

Sherry V Smith /

Mountain Hawk Park also features picnic gazebos and a playground for kids to enjoy.

It has slides, monkey bars, spinning wheels, and more.

Even though this park doesn’t have many trees and shaded spots, you can still enjoy its grassy areas, perfect for picnicking during the afternoon.

Bring your cameras and phones and take many photos of Mountain Hawk.

Stone bench at Mountain Hawk Park

Sherry V Smith /

Try Skateboarding at Eucalyptus Skateboard Park

Eucalyptus Skateboard Park is a four-part skate park on Oleander Avenue.

It used to go by the name Len Moore Skatepark.

Eucalyptus Skateboard Park is open to both amateur and professional skateboarders.

It is also open at night, so you can still have a skating session after school or work.

Other things you can do here are BMX biking and roller skating.

You can also participate in skate classes facilitated by city officials.

Eucalyptus Skateboard Park is also a good location for day camps and birthday parties.

Check Out Beautiful Yachts at Chula Vista Marina

Docked boats at Chula Vista Marina

Sherry V Smith /

Chula Vista Marina is nestled on Marina Parkway in South Bay.

It was opened in 1984 and has since become one of the most beautiful spots in the city.

This park-like destination is open even for those who don’t have boats and want to check out the beautiful yachts docked in the bay.

Boat launch at Chula Vista Marina

Sherry V Smith /

Chula Vista Marina’s towering palm trees and tropical vibe surroundings will make you feel as if you’re in a 5-star resort.

One of the things that you shouldn’t miss here is the breathtaking sunset.

The straight-out-of-a-fairytale sight of the sun dipping into the ocean surrounded by yachts will highlight your visit here at Chula Vista Marina.

View of Chula Vista Marina from a park

Sherry V Smith /

Explore Memorial Park

Memorial Park is Chula Vista’s second oldest park.

It can be located on Park Way.

It was acquired by the city in 1937 and is also home to its Memorial Monument especially dedicated to the armed forces who fought during World War II.

Memorial Park measures 3.8 acres and features a municipal gymnasium free for everyone to use.

Air jumps are also allowed, but it requires an application.

Memorial Park also has an amphitheater and swimming pool.

Your kids will enjoy this park’s play equipment and open green spaces.

Walk Your Dog at Chula Vista Bayfront Park

The grounds of Chula Vista Bayfront Park

Sherry V Smith /

Chula Vista Bayfront Park is situated on Marina Way.

This park offers a picturesque view of San Diego Bay.

You’ll also find the sculpture of Kenneth Capps called “Konoids,” which serves as a landmark of the park’s shoreline.

You can bring your dogs here for a walk; make sure they’re on a leash.

Sculptures at Chula Vista Bayfront Park

Sherry V Smith /

There are no leash-free areas and beaches at Chula Vista Bayfront Park, and the views of the ocean views and luscious trees will make your visit here fun and memorable.

Chula Vista Bayfront Park also has a boat launch where you can observe the yachts and picnic tables if you ever get hungry and want to rest.

Public art is also displayed at various parts of this park.

Artwork at Chula Vista Bayfront Park

Sherry V Smith /

Revisit the Past at Chula Vista Heritage Museum

Chula Vista Heritage Museum is located on F Street.

It was opened to the public in 1993 but was demolished and relocated to Chula Vista Library in 2015 by the South Bay Historical Society.

What makes Chula Vista Heritage Museum exciting is it features different topics or exhibits every year.

Here, you’ll see interesting photos, old documents, and other artifacts related to the city’s rich history.

You’ll feel as if you’ve traveled back in time with every memorabilia and display kept and preserved here at Chula Vista Heritage Museum.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Immerse Yourself in Culture at Balboa Park

A building at Balboa Park

Dancestrokes /

Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre urban cultural park in San Diego.

You can reach this via a 16-minute drive from Chula Vista.

Since this park occupies a large area, it also serves as home to various exciting attractions.

Some require admission fees, but you can also try many attractions and activities for free.

On top of the list is a walking tour of its beautifully paved trails and intricate structures.

Botanic garden at Balboa Park

Dancestrokes /

You can also explore its gardens and bring your dogs for an afternoon walk.

There are also a lot of amazing statues and public artwork displays you can check out and photograph.

Your little ones will also love Balboa Park’s playgrounds and fountains.

Make sure to visit the Timken Museum of Art.

People touring around Balboa Park

meunierd /

Go Hiking at Otay Valley Regional Park

Otay Valley Regional Park is just an 11-minute drive from Chula Vista and is located on Beyer Boulevard, San Diego.

It is one of the most popular open spaces in southern San Diego County.

Otay Valley Regional Park boasts an 8.3-mile multi-use trail that extends from San Diego National Wildlife Refuge to a Ranger Station at 2155 Beyer Boulevard.

It also has playing fields, picnic areas, seven ponds, and birdwatching spots.

Locals and even those from surrounding communities love Otay Valley Regional Park since it offers a large open area for walking, running, biking, and exercising.

See Creative Artworks at Bonita Museum & Cultural Center

Bonita Museum & Cultural Center is located on Bonita Road, Bonita.

You can reach this museum via a 10-minute drive from Chula Vista.

Inside, you’ll find more than 2,000 collections of art pieces related to the history and culture of the region.

Bonita Museum & Cultural Center features a rotating selection of paintings, sculptures, photographs, design, and media arts.

This museum also has sound baffles, which provide optimal sound for art exhibitions and other performances.

The Bonita Historical Society manages the Bonita Museum & Cultural Center to preserve the region’s history, culture, and art through education and entertainment.

Enjoy a Quick Beach Getaway at Fiesta Island

A kid swimming at Fiesta Island

Klod /

Fiesta Island is located on East Mission Bay Drive in San Diego.

It is just 25 minutes away from Chula Vista.

This peninsular park is known for charity walks and other events.

This is also where you can watch the annual Over-the-Line tournament.

The sand of Fiesta Island

Dancestrokes /

Fiesta Island has a beach where you can take a quick dip or swim.

Recreational water sports are also allowed if you secure a permit from city officials.

Horses and dogs on or off leash are also welcome here at Fiesta Island.

You can also set your picnic blanket and food on the beach.

Sunset at Fiesta Island

Scott DAugustine /

Experience Farm Life at the Stein Family Farm and Museum

The Stein Family Farm and Museum is an old-fashioned farm on F Avenue in National City.

This is just an easy eight-minute drive from Chula Vista.

The Stein Family Farm and Museum is operated by the National City Living History Farm Preserve.

This two-acre place will let you experience rural life in Southern California.

Make sure to tour Stein Family Farm and Museum’s Victorian farmhouse and century-old barn.

Adorable farm animals like pigs, ducks, sheep, and chickens roam freely on this farm.

The Stein Family Farm and Museum is also filled with various trees and colorful flowers.

While you’re here, leave no trace and make the most of this unique destination.

Final Thoughts

The captivating city of Chula Vista proves that it is not just famous for its delicious lemons but also for its exciting and fun attractions.

Parks, museums, and animal refuges are just some places you shouldn’t miss.

Make sure to allot a great amount of time in this city because a day or two is not enough to experience its hidden beauty fully.

Enjoy these budget-friendly vacation ideas by trying out these free things to do in Chula Vista, California.

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