The Hidden Gems of Historic National City

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stein family farmPerhaps while visiting Old Town you and your brood happened upon Heritage Park. The kids were curious about the colorful houses, and you loved reading tidbits about our city’s Victorian-era architecture. But did you know that National City (of the Mile of Cars fame, yes, that National City) was once home to more Victorian-era houses per capita than any other town in all of San Diego County?  In fact, the founders of National City, the Kimball brothers, brought the citrus and olive industry to SoCal, basically putting San Diego on the map. Read on to discover the best that National City has to offer.

What to See & Do:

Step back in time at a living history farm.
Part museum, part community gardens, The Stein Family Farm is fun for the whole family! Take a tour on Saturdays between 10:00am – 2:00pm where volunteers take you through the first floor of the Victorian farmhouse built around 1900, for a peek in the old barn and stables, and around the gardens and orchard. Meet Petunia the pig, chickens, rabbits, and turtles. Feel free to pick ripe figs, cherries, and oranges to munch on while you learn about volunteer opportunities as well as the history of the Stein family. Don’t be shy about asking to take home some eggs! Note: The front gate lacks any major signage, making the home look like any other residence, but no worries, you’re at the right place. Park your car on F Avenue.  Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.

1808 F Avenue (at 18th Street)
National City, Ca
619-477-4113
Online: thesteinfamilyfarm.org
 

Visit the last standing original train station on the West Coast.
If your little ones love model trains, then the National City Depot (built in 1882) is the place to be. Open Thursdays – Sundays from 9am – 5pm, check out a three-rail model train layout that volunteers will happily operate for you. The adjacent room is the museum portion of the depot with historic photos and railroad-related artifacts. The kids can play in and around several street cars on display outside of the depot. There is no set admission fee, but donations are appreciated.

922 W. 23rd Street
National City, Ca
619-474-4400

Online: sdera.org

national city depot

Have a Victorian tea party.
Located in historic Brick Row (built in 1887) at Heritage Square, Hannah Lee’s is open for special events and Victorian tea parties. Lady Janice even holds etiquette lessons for the little ladies. You can purchase handmade hats and vintage clothing as well, by appointment only. For some more historic fun, Lady Janice also holds tours of Frank Kimball’s Victorian home across the street on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am – 1pm.

940 A Avenue
National City, Ca
619-962-4128
 

Go on a mini self-guided walking tour of Victorian-era homes.
Park the car at Olivewood Gardens (street parking is suggested), and if the grounds are open, wander around the gardens and peek inside the windows of the Noyes house, a Princess Anne Victorian. (For a guided tour, visit on Tuesdays at 10am, and if the kids like what they see, check out other local garden centers.) From there, head north on N Avenue, and then walk east on 24th Street about half a block. At 1433 24th St. you’ll find the Dickinson-Boal house in the Queen Anne style, built in 1887. Mr. William Dickinson owned the home, which then passed to his daughter and her husband, John and Mary Boal.  At 1430 24th St. you’ll find a Victorian that once belonged to Wallace Dickinson, who built his home across the street from his father’s home, also in 1887. Next, head back to 24th Street and walk north on N Avenue to 22nd Street. Walking east, halfway down the block at 1504 22nd St. you’ll find the D.K. Horton house designed by famous architect Irving Gill, built in 1895.

2525 N Avenue
National City, Ca
619-434-4281
Online: olivewoodgardens.org
 

noyes house

Where to Eat:

For breakfast, locals flock to Aunt Emma’s for the best pancakes around.

214 National City Blvd
National City, Ca
619-477-6900
Online: auntemmaspancakes.com
 

After visiting the National City Depot, stop for lunch at Pier 32 Marina’s Waterfront Grill. Choose from their signature salads and sandwiches, and dine al fresco with a view of the bay. If you score a table closest to the parking lot, you can enjoy your lunch while keeping an eye on the little ones playing in a giant beach-sand box.

3201 Marina Way
National City, Ca
619-718-6240
Online: mywaterfrontgrill.com
 
pier 32
 

For a sweet treat, stop by Niederfrank’s for some old-fashioned, all-natural ice cream.

726 A Avenue
National City, Ca
619-477-0828
Online: niederfranks.com
 

Have you visited National City? In the comments sections below, let us know of any other gems we may have missed!

Copy and photos by: Amanda Freerksen