San Diego is a dream duty station for those who enjoy exploring and being active in its near-perfect weather. While there is no shortage of things for families with kids to do (we see you, Legoland, Sea World, and San Diego Zoo), it can be challenging to find the perfect activities for a solo date with your significant other. Sure, you could go for a hike in the mountains, then have a drink or dinner downtown. But, the traffic on SoCal freeways alone can be enough to make you wave bye-bye to those post-exercise endorphins!
Enter Liberty Station, a 361-acre retail, commercial, and residential development on the site of the now-defunct Naval Training Center. Located in Point Loma, just north of the San Diego airport and Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Liberty Station is comprised of dozens of restaurants, art galleries, and retail stores — all nestled inside renovated military barracks. Great care is taken to ensure that the history of the area is not only preserved, but highlighted.
However, Liberty Station is way more than just a collection of interesting shops and restaurants. They also have a robust events calendar with activities spanning from First Fridays to concerts, outdoor movies, art classes, and more! While there are plenty of spots that are kid-friendly, Liberty Station also boasts many options geared toward an adult crowd. This is the spot where locals come to visit for the day! With such a range of offerings, we can guarantee that one day is not enough to see it all.
Daily Mom Military left the kids with a sitter and executed the most fabulous day-into-night date!
First Stop: The SUP Connection
Liberty Station is known as an abundant retail shopping hub, but it also offers tons of options for those that want to get fit. You can break a sweat at the massive Sports Club, or pop in for a yoga, pilates, or barre class. If outdoor sports are more your style, then head down to the water’s edge and have a go at stand-up paddle boarding at The SUP Connection!
The SUP Connection is a stand-up paddleboard and kayak rental company that sets up shop directly on the beach. Choose from single or tandem kayaks, individual paddleboards, or gather a group of up to 12 people and check out the motherboard, a huge 5×20-inch paddleboard! You can rent by the hour or for the day, and the knowledgeable staff will get you outfitted with all the proper gear. The best part? The SUP Connection sets up all of the equipment onsite and has it ready to go, so there’s no lugging it all to and from the beach!
Never been paddleboarding before? The Sup Connection has you covered with individualized lessons. An instructor will teach you the basics of paddling, safety, and maneuvering on land, then stay with you as you move to the water to practice your skills. Once you feel comfortable, you’re able to set off on your own!
The water around Liberty Station is actually a small basin that offshoots from the San Diego Bay. Therefore, it is typically quite calm, save for the occasional boat wake that laps against the shore. This allows you to perfect your balance game without fear of going overboard! Head south, and you’ll pass under the Harbor Drive bridge toward the open bay, with Harbor Island Park up ahead. Paddle north along Liberty Station NTC Park, and you will pass MCRD on your right. Depending on your significant other’s military background, you just may hear them tell some old stories from their Depot days, which, for better or worse, get drowned out every two minutes or so by a plane overhead!
While The SUP Connection affords you some great one-on-one time with your spouse, it is not just for adults. They also offer lessons for kids and your four-legged friends! SUP Pups provides dog-friendly rentals and lessons so that Fido can enjoy a day on the water with you. They even get their own life vests!
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Second Stop: Liberty Public Market
After some time on the water, you’ll no doubt be looking for a snack to hold you over until dinner. Located in the Arts District of Liberty Station, Liberty Public Market is the perfect place to stop if you know you want something to eat, but just can’t decide what to eat. Ahem, not like we’re speaking from experience or anything.
Liberty Public Market is, in a nutshell, a foodie’s dream. Tight aisles are packed side-by-side with restaurants and food-themed shops, all vying for your attention with their heavenly scents wafting through the air. Here, you can grab a donut, a sushi burrito, or a cheese platter all within a few steps. Or, choose all three, we won’t judge!
Need a drink to go along with all those snacks you’re sampling? Grab a seat and a cocktail at one of the long communal tables in their high-ceilinged Mess Hall. Or, check out Bottlecraft, where you will find 24 craft beers on draft and over 500 varietals of bottled beer. Pro tip: If you are there on the weekend, you may just catch a live band out on the patio.
Whatever you decide, just be sure to leave room for dinner!
While walking over to your restaurant of choice, stroll through the Barracks and check out some of the shops and art galleries along the way. You’ll find an interactive comic book museum and shop, jewelry stores, and even a high-end custom woodworking store for browsing. Hey, a girl can dream about the days of owning nice furniture that won’t get damaged during a PCS move, right?
Third Stop: Solare Ristorante Italiano
While Liberty Station has over three dozen restaurants in their directory, if you are looking for Italian food, your next stop should be Solare.
Also located in the Arts District of Liberty Station, Solare is a family-owned and operated restaurant featuring authentic Southern Italian cuisine. They pride themselves on featuring fresh and locally sourced ingredients. Organic produce, hormone-free meats, and wild-caught fish abound. Most recently, San Diego Magazine named them 2018’s Best Italian Restaurant, Best Chef, Best Wine List, and Best Service in San Diego. With all those accolades, you know you are in for a world-class meal!
Start with a drink at the bar during happy hour to take advantage of some of their featured wines and spirits. Then, move over to a table for the remainder of your meal. If the weather is nice (which, c’mon this is San Diego), try to snag some of the more laid-back outdoor seating. Comfy chairs for gathering over cocktails are mixed between more standard dining tables to accommodate any occasion, and tiny twinkle lights turn on at dusk to set the perfect ambiance.
If indoor seating is your style, you can choose between casual bar tables or seats in their upscale dining room. The dining room opens to one half of their kitchen, where you can watch chefs expertly prepare pizza dough right next to their artisan pizza oven. Celebrating a special occasion? Call ahead and ask to reserve their exclusive wine room. This glass-encased room is filled to the ceiling with specialty wines, featuring a lone table for private dining. There is no charge to reserve this space, but we bet your spouse will feel like a million bucks if you’re able to snag it for date night!
Once you are settled in your seats, it is time to get down to business — food business. Solare’s menu changes seasonally to allow the best-available produce to shine, so be sure to ask your server about their latest must-try dish. Start off with tender grilled calamari or grilled caesar salad from their antipasti (read: appetizer) menu.
Next, choose from a selection of pizzas, fresh seafood, meats, or pasta for your main course. At Solare, the chefs hand craft all of their pasta daily, in-house. They take their pasta seriously, cooking it to the perfect al dente to stand up to the various sauces offered.
By now, you have probably sufficiently stuffed yourself with amazing food. But, if you are anything like us, you have somehow managed to save a bit of room for dessert. Our bodies can do amazing things, no? Like their dinner menu, dessert availability is ever-changing. However, you cannot go wrong with a cannoli, tiramisu, or lusciously smooth panna cotta to finish off the meal!
Even though you will not want to leave, Solare gives you many reasons to come back. In addition to their fresh, seasonal food and on-point wine list, Solare also offers biweekly cooking classes and special wine evenings. These curated events spotlight a singular region or grower of wine. Celebrated wine authorities are invited to narrate as they guide you through a multi-course food and wine pairing. For more information, check out their events page!
Final Stop: Liberty Station Concerts
You’ve had a full day of exercising and eating your way through Liberty Station. Now, grab your honey’s hand and stroll over to the Promenade for one of their monthly outdoor concerts! Park yourself right in front of the stage and dance off that dessert. Or, opt to sit on the grass in the back and take the music in from afar.
Liberty Station holds concerts on the fourth Sunday of every month from Summer through early Fall. Acts range from jazz to acoustic rock to soul to fan favorites, Vaud & The Villains — a 19-piece orchestra and cabaret.
If concerts aren’t your thing, or you’ll be visiting at another time, Liberty Station has a plethora of other events!
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Liberty Station certainly delivers when it comes to planning the ultimate date with your spouse. It is a literal one-stop shop for the foodies and adrenaline and culture junkies in us all. Once you’ve explored with your significant other, it’s time to start planning a girl’s trip or adventure with your kiddos!
To learn more about Liberty Station and all the things you can do there, check out their information below.
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Want to visit with your kids in tow? See how Daily Mom Military spent the Perfect Kid’s Day at Liberty Station! And check out all our Living Like a Local articles for things to do at your duty station.
Photo Credits: Christina Carter | Lauren Lomsdale
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