Neighborhood Spotlight: National City

Pier 32 marina beach

Nestled between downtown San Diego and the U.S.-Mexico border, National City’s rich history and bayside landscape offer families a wealth of fun explorations. An excursion to San Diego’s second oldest community reveals a new waterfront marina, beautiful parks, interesting historical sites and architecture, and a surprisingly diverse dining scene. Don’t miss this often-overlooked gem!

Brick House in National City.

Brick Row on Heritage Square
History buffs enjoy visiting the renovated Heritage Square and Brick Row’s quaint Victorian-era houses, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s also a fun area to relax and explore cute shops, such as the hat shop, Hannah Lee’s Teahouse, a photo gallery and the Kimball Museum.
909 A Ave.

John's Incredible Pizza
Experience all-you-can-eat food and fun at this kid-favorite destination! Pizza and buffet-style dining offers something for everyone; an exciting game room hosts over 100 games, rides and attractions; and themed dining rooms provide a comfortable, personalized ambiance of your choosing.
3010 Plaza Bonita Rd.

Mariachi in National City.

Annual Mariachi Festival & Competition
A family-friendly event held every March, featuring live music and dancing from Mariachi groups based in the United States and Mexico.

Napoleone's Pizza House
Old-fashioned specialty pizza and pasta lovers, this one’s for you. For decades, this family-owned and operated establishment has offered casual, fun dining at moderate prices. Happy hour options and kids’ menu are available.
619 National City Blvd.

National City Depot Museum
Young train enthusiasts love visiting the oldest railroad-related structure in San Diego. Historically, the first local terminus of transcontinental travel; however, kids will simply love the model trains. Bring yours from home to run on the tracks! Open Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Corner of Bay Marina Dr. and Marina Way

Niederfrank's Ice Cream
This fabulous, all-natural ice creamery delights aficionados with dozens of decadent flavors. Some are even infused with local craft brews! Everything is made on-site, using “the most antique inefficient, outdated and expensive” methods in the world. The results? Homemade deliciousness.
726 A Ave.

Olivewood Gardens is a beutiful place to visit in National City.

Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center
Offering science-based, hands-on classes in gardening and cooking, this nonprofit organization works closely with National City’s school district to build healthy families and a healthy environment. To explore this organic garden and historic home, check the online calendar for public tours, open houses and weekend workshops.
2525 N Ave.

Pepper Park
Explore bay views, enjoy a picnic, relax while the kids climb the play structure, or cast a line from the fishing pier (night lighting available for a unique experience!) at this recently developed, 5 1/2 acre waterfront park, located along Sweetwater Channel.
3299 Tidelands Ave

Steal and Escape
Need some bonding time with your teens? This fun activity, offered to families with kids ages 13+, challenges small groups to work together and solve various puzzles, clues and riddles. Ultimately, the goal is to solve the mystery and “escape” the room within 60 minutes.
2602 Transportation Ave., Ste. B

Stein Family Farm
On the active Stein Family Farm, kids love meeting Petunia the Pig, bunnies, chickens and more. Visit the museum, Victorian farmhouse and historic barn; plant or harvest heirloom vegetables; and learn about organic, agricultural practices from the rural 1900–1920s. Open Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
1808 F Ave.

Tita's Kitchenette
Rich flavors, huge portions and low prices make this a go-to destination for authentic, Filipino food. It was even featured on an episode of the Travel Channel’s Bizzare Foods! Be prepared to wait in line at this popular spot; cash only.
2720 E Plaza Blvd.


Lisa Pawlak is a contributing writer and Encinitas resident.

Published March 2017

9 Ocean Animal Adventures in San Diego (and Beyond)

9 Ocean Animal Adventures in San Diego (and Beyond)

Do your beach-loving kids obsess over dolphins, orcas and sea anemone? Before summer ends, indulge in some much-needed “vitamin SEA” and plunge into ocean learning at one of these SoCal spots th . . .

Read more

7 San Diego Garden Spaces to Explore and Learn

7 San Diego Garden Spaces to Explore and Learn

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens This beautiful hillside garden in Vista connects people with nature and art. Retired teacher, Farmer Jones, offers Kids in the Garden classes to elementary kids the seco . . .

Read more

Favorite Hiking Trails in San Diego

Favorite Hiking Trails in San Diego

With San Diego's awesome year-round weather and a plethora of hiking trails for all levels, it's no wonder hiking is a favorite pastime for San Diego families. Here are some favorite local trails, s . . .

Read more

8 Educational Field Trips that Teach Kids Culture and History

8 Educational Field Trips that Teach Kids Culture and History

Ready to take your child’s education beyond the classroom? There’s no rule that says you have to wait for a class field trip to expose kids to hands-on learning. Take the whole family on fun edu . . .

Read more

6 Fun Train Experiences in San Diego

6 Fun Train Experiences in San Diego

All Aboard! Looking for a fun family weekend excursion? Climb aboard one of these San Diego train rides. Kids (and parents) will enjoy the chugging of the engines and wind in their hair. Here are si . . .

Read more

8 Fun Places that Expose Kids to STEM Learning

8 Fun Places that Expose Kids to STEM Learning

Have you heard of the exciting trend of road schooling, which takes parents and children on a series of learning adventures (sometimes traveling the world) to enhance their education with real-life . . .

Read more

Neighborhood Spotlight: Little Italy

Neighborhood Spotlight: Little Italy

San Diego’s Little Italy is a lively area filled with rich culture, authentic Italian eateries, festive markets and piazzas, public art displays and galleries, and family-friendly events. Thi . . .

Read more

Tips for Tidepooling in San Diego

Tips for Tidepooling in San Diego

The best time to visit tide pools is during winter months when low tide occurs during daylight hours. But there’s more to know about tide pooling than when to go. These do’s and don’ts from Sa . . .

Read more

Tidepooling in San Diego

Tidepooling in San Diego

6 favorite tidepooling spots in San Diego The San Diego shores offer plenty of tide pool fun for families, but the key is to know when to go. The best time to go tidepooling is in late fall and win . . .

Read more

10 Tips for Hiking with Kids

10 Tips for Hiking with Kids

Spring is the perfect time to hit San Diego hiking trails with kids—and hiking is free fun for families. Here are great tips for hiking with kids (ages 3 and older): Refer to hikes as “adve . . .

Read more

Biking with Kids in San Diego

Biking with Kids in San Diego

Riding bikes is a perfect family activity, especially in San Diego where the weather is awesome and there’s a plethora of family-friendly bike trails and resources for beginners. Benefits Bike ri . . .

Read more

Enjoy the Night Sky Stargazing at Palomar College Planetarium

Enjoy the Night Sky Stargazing at Palomar College Planetarium

Enjoy stargazing in San Diego with your family at the Palomar College Planetarium located approximately 30 minutes north of Downtown.With its state-of-the-art digital technology, 50-foot Astrotec do . . .

Read more

5 Fun Indoor Play Areas in San Diego

5 Fun Indoor Play Areas in San Diego

Tired of chasing the kids around the house? Indoor playgrounds provide a convenient place for kids to exert energy when it’s too cold to play outside. Here are five awesome indoor play areas in Sa . . .

Read more

Let the Kids Get Dirty, Fun Places to Play Outdoors

Let the Kids Get Dirty, Fun Places to Play Outdoors

6 Fun Places to Play Outdoors in San DiegoAccording to Children & Nature Network, playing outdoors can improve or prevent attention difficulties, obesity and mood disorders. It also provides a r . . .

Read more

Get to Know the Little Free Library

Get to Know the Little Free Library

Chances are, you’ve seen a Little Free Library in your neighborhood. It would be easy to mistake one for an elaborate birdhouse, if it weren’t for the crop of books tucked inside. These small wood . . .

Read more

San Diego Family Magazine Logo

Be Family Informed – Sign up for our Newsletters below!