Take a Day Trip to This Old Town in California
If you’ve been feeling the call of the wild, the pull of the arts or even just a relaxing downtown dining scene, this one’s for you. Rich in history and culture, Escondido is among the oldest cities in San Diego. With a special flair for the arts and outdoor activities, there’s no shortage of stimulation in the area, boasting several exclusive activities. To wit: It’s home to America’s only sculpture garden as well as a one-of-a-kind wilderness preserve. There’s weeks’ worth of entertainment to discover—from shops and restaurants to educational experiences and more. Here’s your day-to-night guide for exploring Escondido.
8:30 a.m. Hike Daley Ranch
Greet the sunshine bright and early—as any good San Diegan would—with a hike at the historic Daley Ranch! This park is a 3,200-acre conservation area, carefully managed to preserve the diverse habitat full of grassland, lush oak woodland, bountiful native plants, diverse wildlife and more. Open daily from dawn to dusk, visitors will find plenty of hikes from beginner to advanced level, such as the popular 6.3-mile Sage Trail and Stanley Peak Loop Trail. Ever wish you could do the hike without the walking? There’s actually an activity for that too: relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery by horseback!
10 a.m. Breakfast at Sunny Side Kitchen
When it comes to the sunny side, we’re talkin’ more than eggs. We’ll take everything in life that way—including our eggs, thanks. Pop into Sunny Side Kitchen for a proper post-hike refuel. This mom-and-pop cafe serves baked goods, coffee drinks, daily soup specials, salads and paninis. Try their best-selling creation called The Works, a mouthwatering mix of egg, cheese, bacon and avocado on sourdough or gluten-free bread. Paired with a sparkling espresso, this is a meal that’ll definitely put the buzz back in your morning. Pro tip: Don’t leave without grabbing a few of their famous bite-sized cookies for the road!
11 a.m. Explore Queen Califa’s Magical Circle
We recommend keeping this one a secret: surprise your companion, and act as if you’ve stumbled upon something supernatural at Queen Califia’s Magical Circle! Located just off the Via Rancho Parkway exit off the I-15, it’s the one-and-only American sculpture garden created by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle. This scenic garden houses mind-blowing sculptures and mazes that complement native shrubbery. Upon entry, you’ll be enveloped by a circular wall with slithering mosaic serpents sticking out at every turn. Move past the snake wall into the mirrored-floor maze—and if you make it through, you’ll find your way into the courtyard. Check their website for updated hours and closures!10/27
Noon Lunch at Terramar Mexican Kitchen
Traditional, tasty and tantalizing—this is Terramar Mexican Kitchen. Take your lunch break at this family-owned establishment with roots in Sinaloa, Mexico. Stop in for seafood delights like ceviche served in a hollowed pineapple or., aguachilé served in a coconut. You can also opt for land delicacies like birria tacos and birria ramen bowls! Don’t miss the Mar Flight, a plate of three different seafood tacos: fresh fish, shrimp and octopus. Pair your plate with a mouthwatering beverage, no matter if you’re feeling savory, sweet or a little spicy. They offer an unbeatable lineup of colorful agua frescas, including the Matchada, Jamaica, Tropical X and Chata. Or go for a classic horchata for the ultimate taste of Baja.11/21
1 p.m. Learn Glass Blowing at Stone & Glass
For a delightful day in Escondido, it’s only right that you secure a souvenir to remember it. Learn the art of glass blowing from this family-owned business located just outside of downtown Escondido. Stone & Glass offers a variety of stone-blowing classes with no experience required. Book the beginner’s course, or check their online schedule for a seasonal experience: They offer the opportunity to create a glass-blown pumpkin for Halloween, sculpted glass hearts for Valentine’s Day and glass ornaments for Christmas. Come curious, learn the fundamentals of this timeless craft and leave with your very own masterpiece.
2 p.m. Pedal Boat on Dixon Lake
After a dose of creativity, it’s time for some fresh air. Head to Escondido’s beautiful Dixon Lake for a pedal boat adventure! At only $15 for a one-hour rental, plus a $6 park entry fee, this activity is perfect for those who want to experience the natural beauty of Escondido without breaking the bank. Whether you’re one to put the pedal to the metal or just let the slight current drift you to where you’re meant to be, it’s the perfect chance to get that one-on-one time with your favorite plus one. Located next to Daley Ranch, this spot promises a moment of serenity. Keep it on the down low!
3:30 p.m. Brews at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens
Next stop: the iconic Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens! With 36 craft and specialty beers on tap, there’s a beer for every drinker at their Escondido flagship location. For those who favor a lighter brew, try the Stone Dayfall Belgian White, or take it to the hoppy side with the crowd-favorite Stone Delicious Citrus IPA. Beer isn’t the only thing they’ve got: Grab one of their guest taps like an Acai Berry Juneshine or Cherry Bomb Julian Hard Cider for a sweeter buzz. Drink up in the spacious indoor area, on the expansive patio or in the 1-acre beer garden!
Local Insight: Founded by brewers Greg Koch and Steve Wagner, Stone opened in San Diego County in 1996 and is now the ninth-largest craft brewer in the US!
5 p.m. Frozen treat at Esco Gelato
Celebrating the agricultural heritage of Escondido, Esco Gelato is the perfect place to call it a day. Their delicious, creamy gelato is crafted from high-quality ingredients sourced from local farmers! (If you haven’t caught on yet, Esco is short for Escondido.) They feature 14 to 16 different daily options, rotating through creamy, fruity, nutty, dairy-free and chocolate-forward flavors. There’s a good mix available every day to ensure there’s something for every gelato lover, but you must visit to discover what’s actually behind the glass. Savor your final stop with a scoop (or two) and a stroll through downtown!
Jaclyn is a sunshine chasing San Diego native with an extensive writing background. When she isn’t word-smithing, you can find her playing beach volleyball, skating the boardwalk, or on a rooftop enjoying a drink in the sunshine with her pals.