All hands on deck! Liberty Station, a former 1920s naval training facility in San Diego, has been repurposed as a mixed-use development. It's still used for training, but marching Navy recruits have been replaced by girls in tutus doing pirouettes. Converted barracks host dance and art classes as well as galleries, shops and small museums. Awash with history, has the Spanish Revival architecture, covered walkways and plazas are a delight to stroll through (2640 Historic Decatur Road). My husband and I popped into a watercolor exhibit, watched a flamenco dance class work on a difficult sequence, and listened to a docent explain an elaborate textile piece. Best of all, the Navy commissary that served chipped beef on toast has been replaced by the Liberty Public Market, a foodie's food hall with multiple vendors. The tab: My husband and I spent $189 plus tax for a night at the Courtyard by Marriott and about $120 for food.
The Courtyard San Diego Airport/Liberty Station (2592 Laning Road;  221-1900), adjacent to a large park with waterfront views of downtown, is an easy walk to everything in Liberty Station and offers free shuttles to the nearby airport. The recently renovated rooms have enough style to overcome the feel of a standard business hotel; amenities include free Wi-Fi, mini-fridge, Keurig coffee maker and a 40-inch flat-screen TV. There is a rather dark lobby, a bar, a patio with rattan furniture, and a small pool. Families might want to opt for the Homewood Suites by Hilton (2576 Laning Road;  222-0500) next door, which offers daily complimentary breakfast and other extras.
We grazed our way through Liberty Public Market (2820 Historic Decatur Road;  487-9346), sampling goodies from its food artisans and chefs. There are butchers, bakers and olive oil makers as well as a roster of kitchen wizards knocking out ceviche, jambalaya, poke, lobster rolls and more. My top picks from a weekend's worth of indulgence included the bratwurst sandwich with onions, peppers and bacon crumbles at Mastiff Sausage Co.; the seasoned chicken and beef empanadas at Paraná Empanadas Argentinas; and the ice cream at Scooped, an outpost of the beloved MooTime Creamery at the Hotel del Coronado, which was great albeit a bit pricey.
A visit to the New Americans Museum (2825 Dewey Road, Suite 102;  756-7707) should be mandatory for presidential candidates, especially in this year's contest. This tiny museum celebrates the immigrants who have, to coin a phrase, made America great. Nearby, the San Diego Comic Art Gallery (2765 Truxtun Road, Liberty Station, Barracks 3;  270-1315, Ext. 2138) features original art and often has working artists on the premises. We were lucky enough to catch an autograph session with Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the event felt like a mini-slice of Comic-Con.
The lesson learned
Timing is everything. I was at Liberty Station for the Summer Block Party. There were complimentary bites, bands, art demos, a pop-up yoga class and more. If you come on the first Friday of the month, there's the nighttime Liberty Art Walk with its mix of dance, theater and music performances, open museums and galleries, and opportunities to yak with local artists.
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