PHOTO: Liberty Public Market at San Diego’s Liberty Station. (photo by Jason Leppert)
Air travelers fly daily over Liberty Station, perhaps unbeknownst to its marvelousness.
Admittedly even as a San Diego local, I was only partially aware of what it had to offer, but after spending a weekend exploring the neighborhood in depth, I have fallen in love with it.
Formerly the California city’s Naval Training Center (NTC), it is immediately below the flight plan of commercial planes taking off from San Diego International Airport. I remember passing by the U.S.S. Recruit many times as a child, finding the landlocked “vessel” quite curious. After all, it was a building in the shape of a ship used for training back in the day that can now be publicly walked up to.
The NTC originally opened in 1923 and closed in 1997 before beginning its transformation into a residential, commercial, arts, history, entertainment and dining district during 2000.
In the recent past, I’ve enjoyed Corvette Diner and Slater’s 50/50 but not much else. The former is a San Diego institution and retro diner once located in Hillcrest; The latter is home to delicious burgers made of 50 percent ground bacon and 50 percent ground beef.
In order for my wife and I to take a deeper dive of Liberty Station, we opted for a staycation at the area’s own Courtyard by Marriott hotel, which is conveniently located near all the hot spots. Altogether, the neighborhood is about four short blocks in width by four long blocks in length, with The Loma Club golf course to the north and a collection of beautiful homes to the south.
The scenic Liberty Station NTC Park lines the eastern perimeter where only a marina stretching in from San Diego Bay divides the district from the airport across the way. The greatest surprise from the weekend—besides finding plenty of parking anywhere we needed a spot—was the view of the aircraft maneuvering on the tarmac in such close view and then rocketing into the sky. All travel nerds can appreciate Liberty Station’s location.
In fact, regardless of how you visit San Diego, it’s definitely worth the time to stop by.
The Liberty Public Market alone is a perfect one-stop shop for tastes of the city. Here we enjoyed arancini and Italian cream soda from Roma Express, and lobster macaroni and cheese from Wicked Maine Lobster before buying artisan cheeses and salamis from Venissimo Cheese and a baguette from Le Parfait Paris.
For adult beverages, the Mess Hall Bar and its local-inspired San Diego Mule is recommended.
Another San Diego staple for a future visit: Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens is just across the breezeway, featuring gorgeous Spanish architecture mixed with industrial elements.
A promenade of former barracks and a grassy courtyard is additionally home to art exhibits including the very cool San Diego Comic Art Gallery, serving as a sort of permanent Comic-Con International. For Halloween, it was fun to see Hollywood picture cars on display outside like the Delorean from “Back to the Future” and Ecto-1 from “Ghostbusters.”
Our evening concluded with a delicious dinner and blockbuster movie at THE LOT. Yet another great repurposed structure, the cinema was once the LUCE Auditorium since subdivided into modern luxury theaters. Now, drinks and food are delivered to cozy leather love seats as the latest films play on.
Built out front of the theater is also THE LOT’s separate restaurant for even more gourmet dining options in a trendy glass setting. Beef lovers should go for the Duo of Beef: A full helping of braised short rib plus a filet mignon on one plate. Guacamole also makes a great appetizer for those who appreciate a fine citrusy and salty mix as well as Dulce de Leche Volcano Cake for a gooey sendoff.
After a good night’s rest, we returned for a brunch at Fig Tree Cafe in a cute central courtyard location.
Inside, the bar is creatively made from the former deck stair wood of Chef Alberto Morreale’s home. Outside, the patio invites with chalk menus featuring California cuisine where we enjoyed Ramona family farm egg dishes and fresh-squeezed orange juice.
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You can never go wrong when a bacon called Man Candy is available either. The thick variety is finished off with brown sugar and paprika and was featured in both our Wally Burrito and Breakfast Sushi.
While mine was a great breakfast burrito with avocado and aforementioned bacon, my wife’s sushi was particularly unique for having rice, scrambled eggs and scallions wrapped in meaty goodness and topped with plum sauce.
Even with all of that, we seemingly only touched the surface of what Liberty Station has to offer, and we both can’t wait to return for yet another staycation.
Those planning on a cruise from San Diego should definitely consider overnighting in the neighborhood before or after a sailing—or at least driving the short distance for a day trip if only calling on the port. And those that are flying in should definitely check it out well before flying over it to leave.
This post first appeared on TravelPulse.