The seaside community of Point Loma San Diego is considered the landing place of the first European expedition ashore California. Point Loma’s peninsula houses two major military bases, a national monument, parks, and ocean views. That’s plenty of entertainment for locals and visitors alike. A San Diego native, our Day Trips TravelingMom explored Point Loma San Diego with her family recently. This is her ideal day-trip itinerary for Point Loma San Diego where vacationers can explore this charming, historical area.
Itinerary for Point Loma San Diego
The Point Loma peninsula is described as “where California began.” Point Loma San Diego is still a fresh location waiting to be discovered, with much to see and explore in this diverse area! My grandfather was in the military and my father spent his first 6 years living in Point Loma. Other than the occasional visit to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery (where my grandparents rest), I haven’t really visited much of Point Loma. I’ve only recently started delving deeper into this diverse area.
From historical interests, arts and music, shopping, sunset watching and even a night on the town, Point Loma really does have it all. And Point Loma is very close to the downtown area so it’s easily accessible for out-of-town travelers. Here’s an itinerary for Point Loma San Diego that will give you a taste of the city’s rich past and present-day edge.
TravelingMom Tip: Visit during late spring/early summer and keep your eyes open for the beautiful jacaranda trees in bloom all over Point Loma. Their brilliant purplish-blue flowers are a highlight in the San Diego area.
Cabrillo National Monument
This itinerary begins at the farthest tip of the peninsula of Point Loma, at the Cabrillo National Monument. Here you’ll be able to view the location where Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo stepped off his boat nearly 400 years ago. The monument is also home to the old Point Loma Lighthouse and Cabrillo tidepools.
Start at the Visitor Center with the short film, “In Search of Cabrillo.” There is an exhibit hall with fascinating details about what life was like 400 years ago, including clothing worn and information about the native Kumeyaay Indians.
The area around the Cabrillo Statue offers beautiful views of the bay below along with a vantage of Coronado Island and downtown San Diego. On a clear day you can see the Coronado Bridge, Hotel Del Coronado and beyond (but it was still quite overcast during our early summer visit).
Old Point Loma Lighthouse
Beginning in 1855, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse served the San Diego Bay. However, fog and low clouds often obscured the light. After 36 years, operations were moved to a new lighthouse location closer to the tip of the Point.
Visitors to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse can get a glimpse into life lived in a lighthouse. The rooms have been preserved with artifacts from years past. My kids loved walking up the narrow staircase to see the tiny bedrooms inside the lighthouse. The actual lighthouse tower was closed. My kids were able to ascend the ladder to peek up and see the Fresnel lens.
Three Other Things to See at the Cabrillo Monument
- Over 25,000 gray whales pass through Point Loma on their yearly migration from the Arctic to Baja California. The spouting whales can be spotted from this high vantage point. Viewing is best in winter (January and February). Consider a San Diego whale watching tour if you’d like a closer look.
- Up for a long hike? The Bayside Trail is 2.5 miles round trip and gives visitors a good look at San Diego native plants. There are also remnants of World War I and II defense systems on the trail.
- We were unable to explore the Cabrillo Tidepools on our visit as the tide was too high. Plan your visit between late fall and in winter for the best tide conditions.
The two lane road leading out to the Cabrillo National Monument cuts through Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. Due to the surrounding military buildings and equipment, it almost looks like you’re going into the wrong area, but perverse down the road. At the end, there is an entrance station. Cost per vehicle is $10 and credit cards are accepted.
TravelingMom Tip: There is no food for sale at the Cabrillo Monument (save for a few snack machines). Consider bringing a picnic lunch or eating beforehand.
In its former life, Liberty Station was known as the Naval Training Center (NTC). From 1923-1997, Naval recruits began their training here and the NTC provided a valuable military resource. In 2000, The City of San Diego gained ownership of the property, re-purposing the site into a center for commerce, history, and arts.
Today Liberty Station offers a fantastic range of entertainment. There’s the Liberty Public Market, Liberty Station NTC waterfront park, shopping, dining and entertainment. My husband I were able to enjoy an evening out at Liberty Station while our preschooler played at Kid Ventures. A few days later we returned so that our entire family could dine together.
Enjoy an Adult Evening Out (Even on a Family Vacation)
You’re on vacation with the kids but perhaps you’re wanting an evening out with just the grown-ups? You can have 4 precious hours of babysitting at Kid Ventures! That’s plenty of time for dinner out, a movie, leisurely walking and exploring Liberty Station. You can do all this while your kids play at this indoor boutique-style facility.
Two very enthusiastic Kid Ventures employees greeted us at the door. My son was apprehensive (he’d never been to anything like this before where we left him alone). But within minutes, he’d ditched his shoes and was happily heading off to the play area. The Kid Ventures “village” features different play sections, including a market, theater, fire station, diner and school house. The castle and pirate ship areas are grand highlights of this space.
When we picked up our son at 8 p.m., his flushed cheeks proved that he’d definitely received plenty of exercise and stimulation! My son said he spent a lot of time at the rock wall. He was very excited to tell us about the fun time he had, so I’d say the evening was a success.
For non-members, $40 will get your 4 hours of supervised structured play, costumes, games, and crafts. A meal and a drink cost $5 more. There is a discounted price for siblings. “The Drop” at Kid Ventures ends promptly at 8 p.m., so allow plenty of time after your activities to return for pick-up.
Dinner and a Movie at THE LOT
I am happy to see so many movie theaters are going in a more elegant direction by making movie watching an up-scale experience. While our son was playing at Kid Ventures, my husband and I enjoyed dinner and a movie at THE LOT Liberty Station. Comfortable leather recliners, in-theater dining and drinks made this an experience in movie-watching.
Once we were seated, our waiter stopped by for introductions and orders. Though there are small lamps next to each seat, it’s still very dim inside the theater. It was a challenge for me to read the menu (dang old eyes!). My husband turned on the “flashlight app” on his phone. We started with guacamole and Tajin housemade chips along with BBQ chicken flatbread. Both were tasty and it was great having a beer to sip during the trailers. There are swing-away trays to hold your food over your lap as well as plenty of cup holders and a side table.
Once the movie began we could understand why THE LOT is such a movie-watching experience. The sound quality in the theater was incredible. Certain exciting scenes in the movie had my chair vibrating with the noise! I’d definitely suggest visiting THE LOT to see a blockbuster action film to really take advantage of the sound features.
The Full Dining Experience (and a Film)
When we were ready to order our meal, we used the call button next to our seats to page the waiter. It was a bit difficult to hear him with the noise from the movie but we managed okay. Food served inside the venue includes dishes like Wagyu Beef Carpaccio and Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwiches. Or stick to traditional movie theater popcorn (they offer buttered as well as chili, caramel, salt & vinegar or zebra).
Are you a foodie who enjoys presentation? Do you like to admire your food before you eat it? Then this isn’t the dinner place for you. I’ll admit that it was slightly strange eating my shrimp tacos in the dark because I didn’t quite know what I was biting into. “What is that squishy thing? Avocado, maybe?” I’d suggest arriving early so you can eat while the house lights are still up.
TravelingMom Tip: This upscale cinema restaurant also features a bar and cafe out front so you can indulge in a meal before or after your film.
Italian Family Dinner al Fresco
You know that an Italian restaurant is going to be good when you’re surrounded by other guests speaking Italian. If the Italian locals eat here, the food has got to be on point, right? And Officine Buona Forcetta, located at Point Loma’s Liberty Station, is definitely on point. From the quirky and rustic interior that houses gold-tiled wood pizza ovens to the front and back patios where guests can soak in the atmosphere, Officine Buona Forcetta is upscale dining that’s still warm and cozy.
The evening of our visit was busy. I’ve heard that this hot restaurant is almost always busy, so be sure to call ahead for a table. We sat on the back outdoor patio, which is tailor-made for families with youngsters. While parents sip Bellinis, little ones can play on the grassy lot or on the swing set. Liberty Station sits under the path of planes leaving the airport. Be prepared for a few pauses in the conversation when jets pass overhead!
Not Sure What to Order? Ask the Waiter
Give yourself plenty of time to peruse the menu, especially if your Italian is rusty! Or do like I did and ask the waiter for his recommendations. When the kitchen houses wood-burning pizza ovens, ordering pizza is a must. We choose the Sergio, piled high with mozzarella, ham, baby arugola, and shaved parmesan. Delicious, of course!
I wasn’t sure what wine to order but my Italian waiter recommended one from his home city. It was perfect. He also suggested the house-made gnocchi, which were delicate in a creamy red pepper sauce. My husband opted for the ultimate carnivore dish, the rib eye steak, which he said was fantastic.
We ended on a sweet note, with a unique tiramisu. The coffee arrived in a separate carafe to be poured over the ladyfingers and cream. Plan for a leisurely meal when dining at Officine Buona Forcetta. Good food takes time and the restaurant is busy so relax and enjoy the dining experience.
TravelingMom Tip: Just the two of you? Check out the vintage red Fiat that’s been converted into a cozy table for two. You’ll need to request it in advance when you book your reservation.
More Point Loma-Area Places to Explore in San Diego
- Shelter Island is home to Shoreline Park, a mile-long promenade that stretches along the bay side. There is a public fishing pier, boat launching ramp and grand views of the San Diego skyline.
- Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay is an outdoor venue and a San Diego summer tradition.
- A San Diego sunset over the ocean can’t be beat. The Sunset Cliffs locale is a favorite. Enjoy the evening at Sunset Cliffs Park, a seaside park with sweeping views of the Pacific and cliff rocks.