At San Diego Walks we know you want to go to the ‘must see’ spots in ‘America’s Finest City’ – Balboa Park, Old Town, Coronado are great examples – but maybe you don’t want to get lost in the crowds who visit there each year. We feel the same! That’s why San Diego Walks takes you to the places you want to see, but we get you off the beaten path and show you the hidden spots and secret treasure each of these popular tourist destinations have that most visitors miss – locals and out-of-towners alike.
“USS BRAVE” art piece, in front 2816 Historic Decatur Rd Suite 135, San Diego, CA 92106
By the time it closed in 1997 the Naval Training Center had seen over two million men and women pass through its gates on their way to becoming sailors or to learning a new trade or skill. In subsequent years the area has transformed into Liberty Station, a rich and diverse mixed-use community that honors its Naval past. On this private tour we’ll explore what this area was like when it was a base, and what visitors can see and do there today.
Kick things off by exploring the heart of what was once Camp Paul Jones, the first camp established that housed 100-150 recruits per barracks and get a feel for what it was like to be one of those sailors (without the drill instructor!). Its park-like setting is full of secrets – such as the history of the large tree there and the special requirements for decorating it at Christmas, the design of the barracks’ roof that’s key to keeping it cool, or the connection the current public art on display has with the camp’s Navy past.
Then pass by the former dispensary, where early recruits received medical care – sometimes for the first time in their lives. We’ll view the former Sail Ho Golf Course, because it wasn’t all work and no play on the base. Several golf pros have played here, and the course is even a final resting place for two people! At the historic entrance we get a feel for what it was like to enter the base as a new recruit, hear how the gate played a role in their daily lives, and what impact having the Marine Core Recruit Depot next door had on Naval recruits.
It wasn’t all men who served here, at least not after 1943 when WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) arrived, taking up residence in a nearby barracks away from the men. We’ll then pass by the very first buildings on base which contained the Mess Hall and talk about what it took to feed so many people, multiple times a day.
We’ll pause at a work of art that replicates the whale boat sailors learned to row in the nearby channel and learn a sailor skill or two. Afterwards we’ll head over to the heart of the base – the Command Center – where the top brass kept the base running. There we’ll view an exhibit that highlights recruit life including something dear to everyone – food! From there it’s on to Ingram Plaza, to learn about the person it was named for, and why that’s a better name than its alternative.
Next up we’ll visit the Boats Memorial, dedicated to the 52 submarines and their crews lost during World War II. If time and energy allow, we’ll walk to the landlocked ship referred to by locals as the “USS Neversail.” Then we’ll proceed across Preble Field, where recruits marched during training and on their graduation day. We’ll celebrate their legacy and your “graduation” from the tour and sailor training by raising a beer (or other beverage of your choice). There you’ll receive a certificate of completion.
From there, your guide will recommend additional ways to explore the Navy’s legacy at Liberty Station, along with how to enjoy the area’s many cultural organizations or provide information on its many restaurants.