Chula Vista, which means “beautiful view,” is just south of downtown San Diego and north of Tijuana, Mexico. San Diego Bay bounds the city of around 275,000 residents to the west and the foothills of the Jamul and San Ysidro Mountains to the east.

This location offers residents many fun outdoor activities within a short drive of home and visitors a reason to head further south than they may otherwise have planned.

Chula Vista, nicknamed “The Lemon Capital” for its many citrus trees, is best known for its scenic location, diverse culture, many parks and beaches, and vibrant art and theater community. Of course, like neighboring San Diego, Chula Vista boasts beautiful year-round weather.

On this list, you’ll learn which things to do in Chula Vista are worth your precious vacation time and about a handful of off-the-tourist path attractions that will make your trip extra special.

1. Explore the Living Coast Discovery Center

Best for: Families and environmentalists
Address: Living Coast Discovery Center, 1000 Gunpowder Point Dr, Chula Vista, California 91910

Kids pet rays at the Living Coast Discovery Center in San Diego
Up close animal experiences on my daughter’s school field trip

Located inside the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the Living Coast Discovery Center is an environmental education center that features exhibits about all types of marine life, birds, and animals in addition to aquarium tours.

Highlights include Turtle Lagoon, the Shark and Ray Experience, and the Burrowing Owl Courtyard. The Living Coast Discovery Center also has 1.5 miles of biking and hiking trails that connect the center to San Diego Bay.

2. Visit Sesame Place San Diego Theme Park

Best for: Families with young kids
Address: Sesame Place San Diego, 2052 Entertainment Circle, Chula Vista, California 91911

Elmo and Cookie monster walk with two girls through Sesame Place San Diego.

Sesame Place San Diego is a new Chula Vista attraction that replaces Aquatica San Diego water park. The 17-acre San Diego theme park features Sesame Street-themed rides and an interactive neighborhood that mirrors the set from the show.

There will also be live Sesame Street characters strolling around the park to greet visitors. Sesame Place is just one of many fun things to do with kids in San Diego.


Did you know that we sell discount tickets to Sesame Place San Diego?

3. Tour the US Olympic Training Center

Best for: Everyone with interest in athletics
Address: The US Olympic Training Center, 2800 Olympic Parkway, Chula Vista, California 91915

One of the top things to do in Chula Vista is visit the US Olympic Training Center. This 155-acre elite athlete training center opened in 1995 and features various sports venues and support facilities for more than a dozen Olympic and Paralympic sports.

This also includes cross-training for summer sports such as rowing, hockey, tennis, soccer, cycling, canoeing, kayaking, and various winter sports.

According to the Center’s website, “203 Olympic and Paralympic Athletes who trained at the Chula Vista Olympic and Paralympic Training Site went to the 2020 Tokyo Games.”

Visitors can take guided tours of the facilities at the elite athlete training center. Tours are available on weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., depending on the weather. The visitor center offers interesting Team USA exhibits and a souvenir shop.

4. Attend the Annual Chula Vista Lemon Festival

Best for: Everyone
Address: Chula Vista Lemon Festival, Third Avenue Village, Chula Vista

One of the most popular Chula Vista attractions is the annual Chula Vista Lemon Festival. Held in downtown Chula Vista in mid-August, the one-day festival features live entertainment, a variety of lemon treats and beverages, kids’ activities, an art walk, a parade, and a lemon pie-eating contest.

5. Spend the Night

Best for: RVs, people traveling with pets, and tourists looking for value
Address: 825 E Street, Chula Vista, California 91910

A table set in a lounge about the pool at Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay in Chula Vista.
Photo courtesy of Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay

Have an RV? Great, park it at Sun Outdoors San Diego where you can enjoy resort amenities such as a swimming pool, restaurants, and bay views.

Don’t have an RV? No problem, book one of the many furnished vacation rentals with up to two bedrooms.

6. Take a Relaxed walk at Mountain Hawk Park

Best for: All ages
Address: Mountain Hawk Park, 1475 Lake Crest Dr., Chula Vista, California 91910

A trail winds around Mountain Hawk Park in Chula Vista.

This 12-acre Chula Vista park features many facilities, including an amphitheater, basketball courts, children’s play equipment, picnic tables, hiking paths, and an interactive water feature open from April through November. Mountain Hawk Park is open daily from 9 a.m. to dusk.

7. Check Out South Bay Salt Works

Best for: Families and nature enthusiasts
Address: South Bay Salt Works, 1470 Bay Blvd, Chula Vista, California 91911

Salt Mines in Chula Vista dehydrating salt.
M.Dolly, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The South Bay Salt Works, founded in 1840, is a salt factory located in the south San Diego Bay area. Now owned by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the salt ponds are gradually being turned into national wildlife refuges.

Visitors can walk around the salt ponds and view the hundreds of migratory birds that call the facility home. The South Bay Salt Works, open Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., is one of many free things to do in Chula Vista.

8. Hike in Otay Valley Regional Park

Best for: Couples and families with older children
Address: Otay Valley Regional Park, 2369 Beyer Blvd, San Diego, CA 92173

Otay Valley Regional Park, which spans the border between San Diego and Chula Vista, is one of the most popular outdoor attractions in Chula Vista. The park offers hiking paths, biking trails, picnic tables, and horse trails.

The valley also hosts many annual events and musical concerts.

Otay Valley, California. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons/RightCowLeftCoast

9. Grab a Taco at Tacos el Gordo

Best for: Everyone
Address: Tacos el Gordo, 689 H St, Chula Vista, CA 91910

San Diego is known for its excellent Mexican food, and tacos el gordo is one of the area’s best.

Located on Broadway and H Street in downtown Chula Vista, this family-owned and operated eatery serves affordable Tijuana-style dishes, such as tacos, quesadillas, mulas, tostadas, and suaderos. Tacos el Gordo is open for lunch and dinner daily.

10. Go Shopping at Otay Ranch Town Center

Best for: The whole family
Address: Otay Ranch Town Center, 2015 Birch Rd, Chula Vista, CA 91915

Shoppers walk on the sidewalk in front of stores at Otay Ranch Town Center.
Otay Ranch Town Center in Chula Vista. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Alex

This open-air shopping mall has more than 100 stores, including Macy’s, Barnes and Noble, and Apple. Otay Ranch Town Center also has a multi-screen movie theater, numerous restaurants, a dog park, and a children’s play area. Every Tuesday, there’s a farmer’s market.

11. Sip Craft Beer at Bay Bridge Brewing

Best for: Couples and Singles
Address: Bay Bridge Brewing, 688 Marsat Ct B, Chula Vista, CA 91911

Founded in 1996, Bay Bridge Brewing was the first brewery in Chula Vista. The sleek, industrial-style tasting room is comfortable and features large-screen television sets and a variety of beers on tap.

Selections change regularly, but some old favorites include Bonita Blonde, Wolf Canyon Wheat, America’s Finest Amber Palomar Pale Ale, and Star of India IPA.

12. Admire the Boats at Chula Vista Marina

Best for: Couples
Address: Chula Vista Marina, 550 Marina Pkwy, Chula Vista, CA 91910

Boats moored in the bay in Chula Vista.

Located along San Diego’s South Bay, Chula Vista Marina is home to hundreds of watercraft and is ranked the #1 marina in Southern California.

The park-like setting makes it a great place to visit, whether or not you have a boat. The sunsets here are spectacular, and the waterfront restaurant called Galley at the Marina serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s also a public fishing pier.

13. Attend a Concert at North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre

Best for: Music lovers
Address: North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre, 2050 Entertainment Circle, Chula Vista, CA 91911

North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre, formerly Mattress Firm Amphitheatre, is an outdoor entertainment venue, owned and operated by Live Nation.

The 20,500-seat amphitheater is adjacent to Sesame Place San Diego and is one of the most popular concert venues in the greater San Diego area. The event season runs from May through October.

14. Relax at Chula Vista Bayside Park

Best for: Active families and couples
Address: Chula Vista Bayside Park, 999 Bayside Pkwy, Chula Vista, CA 91910

View from Chula Vista Bayside Park at sunset.

This small, beachfront park along the east side of San Diego Bay is the perfect place for a relaxing walk or a picnic. The park has paved walking trails, a public fishing pier, colorful play equipment for children, concessions, picnic tables, modern restrooms, and a small sandy beach.

The views of the Coronado Bridge and the San Diego skyline from Bayside Park are some of the best. You can also take kayak tours from here to nearby Sweetwater Marsh.

15. Hike the Rice Canyon Trail

Best for: The whole family
Address: Rice Canyon Trail, Rancho del Rey, Chula Vista, CA 91910

Rice Canyon Trail is a 3.5-mile trail accessible year-round and suitable for all hiking skill levels. Dogs are permitted on the hiking trails here but must be on a leash.

The Rice Canyon Trail is a great place to take a relaxed walk and view the local flora. There are a few picnic tables near the trailhead. The Rice Canyon Trail is one of the best places to go hiking in the San Diego area.

16. Attend an Event at Memorial Park and Bowl

Best for: Everyone
Address: Memorial Park and Bowl, 373 Park Way, Chula Vista, CA 91910

This urban park and concert venue near downtown Chula Vista was built during the Great Depression. The “bowl” at Memorial Park seats 700 people. Facilities include concessions and modern restrooms. The park closes at 10 p.m. or one hour after an event.

17. Go Window Shopping at the Village Walk at Eastlake

Best for: All ages
Address: Village Walk at Eastlake, Eastlake Parkway and Miller Drive, Chula Vista, CA 91915

Shoppers enjoy festivities at night during the holiday season.
Photo courtesy of Village Walk at Eastlake

The Village Walk at Eastlake is a charming, outdoor shopping mall with more than 30 shops and restaurants, as well as relaxing walkways and a children’s play area.

Highlights include Petco, Sprouts Farmers Market, TJ Maxx, and Trader Joe’s. The shopping mall hosts a full schedule of family events, including visits with Santa and magical snowfalls during the holiday season.

18. Stroll Through the South Bay Botanic Garden

Best for: Couples and singles
Address: South Bay Botanical Gardens, 900 Otay Lakes Rd. Chula Vista, California 91913

Located on the campus of Southwestern College, the South Bay Botanic Gardens consists of four acres of trees, shrubs, flowers, ground covers, various turfgrasses, plant collections, and water features framed in a pleasant, park-like setting. The gardens are among the many free things to do in Chula Vista.

19. Browse the Third Avenue Village Market

Best for: All ages
Address: Third Avenue Village Market, Center St. from Third Ave. to Del Mar Ave., Chula Vista, California 91915

This extensive farmers market sets up every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m starting in May 2022. It will feature an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables from over 60 local farmers and vendors. Visit Third Avenue Village Farmers Market online for more details.

20. Start the Day at Family House of Pancakes

Best for: All ages
Address: Family House of Pancakes, 562 Broadway, Chula Vista, CA 91910

This no-frills, family restaurant is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Established in 1964, this eatery serves pancakes and egg dishes all day and burgers and even steaks.

There are weekly specials and a children’s and seniors menu. Family House of Pancakes has a second location in National City.

21. Enjoy a Romantic Dinner at Italianissimo Trattoria

Best for: Couples and families
Address: Italianissimo Trattoria, 323 Third Ave, Chula Vista, California 91910

This charming, family-friendly eatery has been serving Chula Vista residents and visitors for more than a decade. Owner and chef Aniello Zaino is a veteran Italian cruise ship server. He brings this knowledge of food and fine service to delight patrons.

Menu highlights include lasagna bolognese, gnocchi with gorgonzola cheese sauce, seafood stew, and chicken parmigiano. Italianissimo Trattoria is open daily for lunch and dinner.

22. Go Skatingboarding at Eucalyptus Skateboard Park

Best for: Teens
Address: Eucalyptus Skateboard Park, 1301 Oleander Ave, Chula Vista, California 91911

Description: Eucalyptus Skateboard Park, formerly Len Moore Skate Park, is another one of the many free things to do in Chula Vista. The park features runs for all skill levels and is open from 8 a.m. to dusk daily.

23. Attend a Production at OnStage Playhouse

Best for: Couples and singles
Address: OnStage Playhouse, 291 3rd Ave, Chula Vista, California 91910

This 60-seat community theater presents the only live theater productions in Chula Vista. Open year-round, the theater offers at least six productions each year at affordable prices. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Chula Vista for locals and visitors alike.

What are your favorite things to do around Chula Vista?

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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