Behold an extremely elaborate front yard
The local artist behind Harper’s Topiary Garden received the nickname “Edna Scissorhands” for good reason: She sculpted more than 50 shrubs in her front yard into figures as diverse as elephants, snakes, and surfers. The private garden has drawn admiring neighbors for more than two decades thanks to its creative landscaping.
3549 Union Street, Mission Hills
Visit a historic farmstead
City dwellers can get a taste of country life circa 1900 at Stein Family Farm, a two-acre living history farm museum in National City. The space has a Victorian farmhouse with original furnishings, a century-old barn, an organic garden of heirloom vegetables, and farm animals including emus, sheep, pigs, and a dwarf dairy goat. The city-owned property is considered the last original farmstead in National City. Visitors are encouraged to get their hands dirty—plant something, pet an animal, pull weeds. It’s free and open to the public on Saturdays, but also hosts weddings, craft fairs, and school trips.
1808 F Avenue, National City
Cruise by an oil tycoon’s mansion
Known for its pink color and Mission-style architecture, the “Pink Lady,” aka the Canfield-Wright House, was built in 1910 by oil tycoon Charles A. Canfield, whose life is rumored to be the inspiration for the movie There Will Be Blood. Now a city treasure, his home was recently restored to its original grandeur and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
420 Avenida Primavera, Del Mar
See dead people
The secret past of Pioneer Park will send chills down your spine. The grassy Mission Hills gathering place was formerly a 19th-century Catholic burial ground called the Calvary Cemetery. The city removed the gravestones in the 1960s to build the park, but 4,000 bodies still remain underground.
1521 Washington Place, Mission Hills
Read a hidden message in the sand
If you’ve ever walked along the beach near Hotel del Coronado, you have probably noticed these sandy heaps of ice plant and seaweed but never thought much about them. Turns out, they form the words “CORONADO” and “BEACH.” The full effect is only really visible from the air (or Google Maps). According to an article in the Union-Tribune, the artful sand dunes date back to 1988 and are the product of city worker Armando Moreno, who was tasked with removing the kelp and seaweed from the beach. Moreno took it upon himself to creatively sculpt the mounds, which he then covered with sand and later sowed with ice plant. The whole project took several years to finish, and since then, city workers have helped maintain the dunes and Moreno’s vision. Today, the first word is very easy to see from the air, while the second, just a little farther north, is much fainter. Still, we vote this the coolest use of sand and ice plant ever.
Coronado Beach, Ocean Boulevard, Coronado