Escondido
George Ostertag/Alamy

Escondido

Escondido
Explore the craft breweries, culinary scene, and adventurous outdoors of this unique San Diego city

About 30 miles northeast of downtown San Diego, Escondido is the best little town you’ve likely never heard of. Historically, visitors have flocked here for a couple major draws—San Diego Zoo Safari Park (sister property to the world-renowned downtown zoo) and Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens, one of the largest craft breweries in the country. But those two attractions are just scratching the surface of this eclectic city on the rise.

I came up with the tagline, ‘Come for the wildlife, stay for the culture,’” says Katherine Zimmer, Escondido’s tourism and marketing administrator. “The Safari Park is the wildlife, and the brewery also offers a kind of wild life, and then we’ve got this great culture.”

Founded in 1888, Escondido boasts an Old West charm—especially apparent in its historic downtown architecture—that melds with a dynamic arts scene. The California Center for the Arts, a visual and performing arts complex that includes a concert hall, theater, and modern art museum, serves as a vibrant cultural hub, and numerous galleries around town showcase art from local and international artists. There’s also the popular Patio Playhouse Community Theatre, which first opened in 1967. Art lovers (and kids alike)  enjoy Queen Califia’s Magical Circle, a whimsical sculpture garden in Kit Carson Park featuring works by renowned French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle.

Escondido’s culinary scene is just as inspired. In addition to established eateries like Vintana Wine + Dine (located above a Lexus dealership—but it works) and Bellamy’s Restaurant, newer spots like The Wooden Spoon (try the Banh Mi sandwich) and Burger Bench are serving up inventive fare using locally sourced ingredients. There’s no shortage of options to satisfy your thirst for good craft beer, too. There are dozens of beers on tap at Stone Brewing HQ, and the tap rooms at Jacked Up Brewery (known for its killer porter) and Plan 9 Alehouse are two hot spots. Wine lovers will be equally satisfied here—a growing number of local winemakers are harvesting their grapes in Escondido, which has a long agricultural heritage due to the temperate Mediterranean-like climate. Sample the local urban winemaking trend at the Vesper Vineyards tasting room and the BK Cellars Urban Winery & Tasting Lounge.

In addition to the burgeoning wine scene, the area is also becoming known as a place to get your nature fix. With three major lakes (Dixon Lake, Lake Hodges, and Lake Wohlford) and more than 20 miles of trails at Daley Ranch, the area is a playground for hikers, horseback riders, fishermen, boaters, and other outdoor enthusiasts. For another kind of natural bliss, check out Deer Park Monastery, one of three Buddhist monasteries in the United States. People come to the sanctuary from all over the world to take classes on meditation and mindfulness.

Escondido SDRegion_Hero_Surfing_Mom_LaJolla_Myles_1280x642_sized
Myles McGuinness

Discover San Diego County

Escondido vca_maps_sandiego
74
October
Average (°F)
Sept - Nov
73°
High
60°
Low
Dec - Feb
65°
High
49°
Low
Mar - May
67°
High
56°
Low
June - Aug
74°
High
65°
Low

Imagine 70 miles of sun-drenched coast, an inviting ocean, and a year-round daily forecast of 70°F, and you’ll understand why this southernmost stretch of the state is all about outdoor fun. Discover top theme parks and attractions like SeaWorld San Diego, San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and LEGOLAND California.

The first European explorer to land in California, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, came ashore in San Diego in 1542.

Relax at legendary retreats like Hotel del Coronado, find art and culture in San Diego and surrounding cities like luxurious La Jolla, and enjoy world-class golf at Torrey Pines, and enjoy culture and diversity, all at the edge of a sparkling blue sea.

Escondido VC_DelMar_Stock_RM_CMCX08_1280x640
ZUMA Press/Alamy

Del Mar

This San Diego County beach town is home to blissful ocean views—but it also knows how to throw a party

Despite Del Mar’s idyllic oceanfront setting, this little town just north of San Diego was, in many ways, born around horses. The...

Escondido VC_ChulaVista_Stock_RF_153222234_1280x640_0
Roy Bartels/Getty Images

Chula Vista

San Diego County’s second largest city boasts authentic Mexican food, a burgeoning craft beer scene, and outdoor activities galore

About seven miles from downtown San Diego in one direction and the Mexican border in another, Chula Vista is quickly developing its own strong...

Escondido VC_Questionnaire_AnnieLawless_01_Annie_Lawless_0363_COMP_alt_466_PeggySirota_1280x640
Photograph by Peggy Sirota

The California Questionnaire: Annie Lawless

The Suja Juice co-founder, yoga instructor, and wellness aficionado is passionate about her Southern California home

As one of the founders of the nation’s leading organic juice brand, Annie Lawless knows a thing or two about living a healthy lifestyle. She...

Escondido VC_CoasterraSanDiego_Coasterra_Exterior_FrontEntrance_1280x640
Courtesy of Cohn Restaurant Group

Coasterra

Escondido vca_maps_sandiego
Book a table at this San Diego waterfront knockout

Got a boat? That’s the only way you’ll get a better view of San Diego’s waterfront skyline and twinkling bridges than the panorama you get from...

Escondido VC_LaJollaSunsets_RF_168579929_1280x640_0
Steve Skinner/Getty Images

Where to Watch a La Jolla Sunset

Want to nail your sunset shot? Our expert has six sensational recommendations to match any mood

As a San Diego concierge for more than a decade, Brett Hamblen is well versed in sunset recommendations. For his role as the chief concierge at...

Escondido VCW_TI_T11_lauridsen_140702_2634-sized
Stretching 1,942 feet, the historic Oceanside Pier is the longest wooden pier on the Pacific Ocean.
This San Diego music festival combines A-list acts with local flavor and upscale beach culture

You don’t need a high tolerance for open fields, concession-stand dining, or possibly mud to enjoy K...

KAABOO Del Mar
C Flanigan/Getty Images
Escondido vca_maps_sandiego_1
Escondido SanDiego_Skyline_JohnBahu_1280x642_downsized
John Bahu

Spotlight: San Diego

Escondido vca_maps_sandiego
California dreamers, endless coastline & sunshine

As if all that sunshine isn’t enough, here’s a waterfront city brushed by perfect breezes, the light just right, the beer perfectly hoppy after a...

Escondido Giraffes_SDzoo_1280x642
Courtesy of San Diego Zoo

Spotlight: San Diego Zoo

Escondido vca_maps_sandiego
See rare and endangered species

Visiting this expansive zoo in San Diego’s Balboa Park is more than a chance to see animals from all over the world: it’s a chance to see one of...

Too darned pretty. Everywhere you look out there, everything's just too danged pretty! I'm usually the prettiest thing!
musician Little Richard on San Diego
Escondido SanDiego_RegionOpener_1280x642 copy

Trip 8-10 days 10 stops

Ultimate Southern California

Beach Towns & Big Thrills
Escondido LA-GriffithObs-1280x624_0

Your trip begins in California’s largest city. L.A. has nonstop action and things to do, but it can be a challenge to navigate, so planning your trip in advance is a big plus. Start in the coastal city of Santa Monica, with a wide, uncrowded beach, a signature pier topped by carnival rides and...

Escondido KingsCanyonNationalPark_TomHilton_1280x642

Famous for their giant sequoias, soaring mountains, deep canyons, and roaring rivers, this tandem set of parks have plenty to see, even though they are less well known than Yosemite, roughly 75 miles/120 kilometers north. Within the borders of Sequoia & Kings Canyon are Mount Whitney, the...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Discover quintessential sun and fun at these coastal charmers

Take one part water, one part sand, one part sun-soaked coastal charm, and you’ve got the recipe for some of the Golden State’s most appealing destinations....

Escondido SanDiego_LaJolla_preview_686x885
Lucas Himovitz
Escondido PoliteProvisions_SD_sized
Gwynne Spann

Where to eat, what to drink

Endless Sun, Oceanfront Dining & Craft Breweries

With its endless sun and oceanfront location, as well as strong influences from Mexico, San Diego offers plenty of dining options—from flaky fish...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Kid-friendly fun zones, special kids' menus & amazing wine for the grownups

Sure wine country is romantic, but now it’s a surprisingly great destination for families too, with a growing number of vineyards trading in elegant tasting rooms for kid-friendly fun zones that...

Escondido VCW_SI_T5_John_preview_686x885
John/Flickr
SPECIAL FEATURE
Check these amazing experiences off your bucket list

Kiss a beluga, see cool movie props, and learn about Walt’s secret hideaway on exclusive and behind-the-scenes tours at California’s theme parks and attractions. Here’s a roundup of worth-the-...

Escondido VCW_SI_VIP_T1_MichaelSaechang_preview_686x885
Michael Saechang/Flickr
SPECIAL FEATURE
Unleash the kid within at California’s ultimate playgrounds

From Disneyland classics to beachfront carousels, the Golden State’s best-in-class theme parks deliver something for everyone. Take a tram ride to tour movie back lots at Universal Studios...

Escondido AmazingThemeParks_preview_868x686
Lucas Himovitz
Escondido SD_PipesBeach_Miller_1280x642
The historic 101 Café in Oceanside is the oldest continuously-operating restaurant on historic Highway 101.
Escondido VCW_D_SD_T4_LionSafari_Miller_1280x642
Alexa Miller

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Escondido vca_maps_sandiego
Find out where the wild things are

Like a journey to Africa, a day at this spectacular park lets you see some of the world’s most magnificent—and endangered—animals at close range...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini UFOs. Artisanal cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets...

Escondido VCW_SI_FarmersMarket_T4_CV_DavisFrmMkt1_Flippen_preview_686x885
Laura Flippen
Thanks be to God, I arrived here...at this Port of San Diego. It is beautiful to behold, and does not belie its reputation.
Father Junipero Serra
SPECIAL FEATURE
Make memories at some of California's family-favorite beaches

Sand, water, and kids—it’s a natural combination for easy family fun. This sandy dozen offers appealing, family-friendly features, such as calm water for new swimmers, tide pools for intrepid...

Escondido Carmel_BeachDog_Farnum_preview_686x885
Alex Farnum
SPECIAL FEATURE
From north to south, beer is booming in California

With nearly 500 breweries statewide (and probably more by the time you read this), it’s safe to say that the craft beer movement isn’t just booming in California, it’s BOOMING—capital letters...

Escondido VCW_SI_T1_StoneBrewery_By David_Lauridsen_preview_686x885
Dave Lauridsen
SPECIAL FEATURE
World-class accommodations in world-class locations

Head to the heart of California’s cities for luxurious stays at world-class accommodations. From San Francisco’s historic hotels to celebrity hot spots in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, California’s...

Escondido PalaceHotel_LynGateley_preview_686x885
Lynn Gately/Flickr
Escondido VCW_D_SDcity_MissionSanDiegoBays_sized_0
Dave Lauridsen

Mission & San Diego Bays

Escondido vca_maps_sandiego
Visit waterfront parks for boating, biking, and coaster rides

Mission Bay and San Diego Bay trim the edge of the city like sparkling gems. Dozens of outfitters can get you out amidst the blue via every...

Escondido VCW_TI_6_Hero_CC_BigSur_coast_TS_1280x648

Trip 5-7 days 10 stops

Highway One Classic

Take the trip that captures the heart and soul of the Golden State
Escondido SanDiego_Skyline_JohnBahu_1280x642

Start in one of California’s sunniest destinations, not just in terms of the weather, but also in attitude. In the heart of the city, shop in Horton Plaza, or catch a baseball game at Petco Park. See the giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo. Next, explore one of the city’s diverse neighborhoods,...

Escondido SF_Harbor_Myles_1280x642

Finish your trip in one of the world’s great cities. For a novel way to visit “the City by the Bay” park your car and explore by foot, bike, and unique public transportation. Pedal bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, then explore the lush Presidio, a former military base that’s now a...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Taste the delicious dishes from these amazing California chefs

From a candy-colored pastry shop to Michelin-starred dining rooms, top restaurants run by celebrity chefs dot the Golden State. And even if you don’t know these chefs from the TV...

Escondido VCW_SI_T10_Milliken&Feniger_Portrait_preview_686x885
Escondido VCW_D_SD_T7_TorreyPines_lauridsen_140618_754-sized
Dave Lauridsen

San Diego Golf

Get your daily dose of greens at oceanfront courses

Perfect weather, challenging course, and incredible settings make San Diego County a golfer’s dream destination. It’s not surprising that many of...

Escondido VCW_D_SD_T9_lauridsen_Julian
Dave Lauridsen

Julian

Visit a surprising mountain town that’s as American as apple pie

Poised between the desert and the coast, a little more than an hour’s drive east of San Diego, this surprising mountain town makes a great day...

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
Jacques Yves Cousteau