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Find exceptional restaurants, inventive breweries, and a thriving local art scene in Northern San Diego County

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It doesn’t take an etymologist to figure out how Oceanside got its name: The city is tucked up against the shore, 40 miles north of downtown San Diego. But don’t be fooled by its easy, beachy vibe, because there’s plenty of hustle in this up-and-coming city. Over the past few years, inspired creators of food, brews, art, and music have made Oceanside a more exciting destination than ever before.

Things to Do in Oceanside

With sandy beaches and consistent waves, Oceanside has long been a favorite spot for surfers, swimmers, and stand-up paddleboarders. Rent your gear of choice at Asylum Board Shop before hitting the swells at Pier View North or Harbor Beach. Even land-lovers can enjoy the views on Oceanside Pier: Watch for dolphins outside Brine Box, or try your hand at fishing with the help of the Pier and Bait Shop. For thrill-seekers, there’s GoJump Oceanside, Southern California’s only coastal skydiving operator, and a vertical wind tunnel at iFLY Indoor Skydiving, where you can skydive or base jump in virtual reality locations such as Hawaii and Dubai.

Head slightly inland to visit the institutions that helped Oceanside earn the distinction of a designated California Cultural District in 2017. A visit to the California Welcome Center Oceanside is a great place to get a comprehensive rundown and locals’ recommendations of all there is to do. But here’s a short list: See the exceptional collection at the Oceanside Museum of Art, fascinating historical surfboards (including a few from the late 19th century) at the California Surf Museum, or catch a live performance at the Oceanside Theatre Company at the Brooks or The Star Theatre. Take home a piece of art for yourself at the outdoor Sunset Market held on Main Street every Thursday night.

Places to Eat and Drink in Oceanside

A strong agricultural tradition combined with bright young minds has catapulted O’side to the forefront of the Southern California food scene. Downtown shines with expertly crafted seafood at 333 Pacific and Harney Sushi. For something off the beaten path, head to funky South Oceanside for inventive sushi at Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub or innovative vegan cuisine at The Plot.

Of course, you’ll need something to wash down all those oysters and fries. Grab a flight at one of the popular local craft breweries, such as Breakwater Brewing Co.Northern Pine Brewing Company (where the menu includes Dawn of Jan pilsner and Tmavé Pivo, which are faithful to Czech brewing traditions), or Bagby Beer Company, where a variety of European brewing styles provide the inspiration behind its beer menu. Coomber Craft Wines and Beach House Winery will please any oenophile, and there’s even a spot to try home-brewed honey wine at Golden Coast Mead, which leverages the efforts of local honeybees. 

Where to Stay in Oceanside

True to its name, O’side has plenty of places to stay right on the ocean, from boutique hotels like The Brick, the Green Room Hotel, and The Fin Hotel to relaxing resorts such as The Seabird and the Club Wyndham Oceanside Pier to reliable chains.

Things to Do Near Oceanside

Oceanside’s neighbor to the south is Carlsbad, home to LEGOLAND California, flower fields, and beach camping. Drive a few miles farther and you’ll be in Encinitas, known the world over for excellent waves at surfing spots like Cardiff Reef and Moonlight State Beach. Take State Highway 78 inland for a little more than 20 miles and you’ll land in Escondido, home of the sprawling San Diego Zoo Safari Park as well as a standout craft beer scene (Stone Brewing’s family-friendly World Bistro & Gardens is an absolute must for beers aficionados).

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