15 Fun Things to Do in North County

Most people visiting San Diego tend to stay in the actual city of San Diego and neglect its suburbs, but you won’t want to miss everything North County has to offer! You’ll find fabulous restaurants, beautiful beaches, trendy cocktail bars, and historic movie theaters, which are just a few of the things that this city is known for. In recent years, places like Del Mar, Encinitas, and Oceanside have become something of a mecca for foodies, art aficionados, and event lovers alike! Here are 15 fun things to do in North County.

1. San Diego Zoo Safari Park

White rhinos, Sumatran tigers, and California condors are among the 3,500 residents at the renowned San Diego Zoo Safari Park, a 1,800-acre extension of the famous San Diego Zoo. Most of the animals live in free-range enclosures, enabling them to interact as they would in the wild.

In addition to exhibits like the Lion Camp, this expansive park also has a petting corral and a walk-through aviary where visitors can feed lorikeets by hand. Special activities range from tram rides and zipline tours to animal shows like the Cheetah Run, which provides an up-close view of a cheetah sprinting at full speed – something the little ones will definitely love!

2. LEGOLAND California

For the lego lovers in your life, LEGOLAND California is the place to be. A celebration of the famous childhood toy, LEGOLAND California was the first amusement park of its kind to open and the first in the United States. The park, geared toward younger children between the ages of two and twelve, features over 60 rides, shows, and attractions, including a LEGO factory tour!

3. Visit Del Mar Plaza

The revitalized oceanfront Plaza in Del Mar offers 50 upscale restaurants and boutique shops to explore, including the Frustrated Cowboy for western gear and Ooh La La for crystal-embellished blouses, lace-and-ruffle tops, and wildly striped sundresses. Several great restaurants, including Il Fornaio Del Mar, Rendezvous, and Pacifica Del Mar, all make for a lovely evening meal after a long day of shopping! Check out other fun activities to do in Del Mar here!

4. Check out the California Surf Museum

Where else can you find an entire museum dedicated to the history of surfing?! Only at the Carlsbad Surf Museum in Oceanside, California. You’ll see wooden surfboards from the 1900s to today’s foam and fiberglass boards. The permanent exhibit includes the surfboard and swimsuit pro surfer Bethany Hamilton was riding and wearing when she was attacked by a shark and lost her left arm. The California Surf Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and until 8 p.m. on Thursday. Kids under 12 get in free; adults pay $5. Admission is free on Tuesday.

5. Visit Queen Califia’s Magical Circle

Imagine a sculpture garden of mythical creature totem poles covered in thousands of pieces of hand-cut colored and mirrored glass and ceramic and stone mosaic tiles encircling a queen standing on top of a giant eagle. That’s what you’ll get at Queen Califia’s Magical Circle! Like wandering through a surrealist dream, the entrance of the sculpture garden is guarded by a wall topped with two mosaic serpents. Before you can reach the center of the garden you must navigate a 3-foot maze made from black and white tiles. Having reached the center, your quest is rewarded with the discovery of Queen Califia’s Magic Circle.

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle is the only American sculpture garden created by French artist Niki De Saint Phalle. You’ll find this unique place in the Iris Sankey Arboretum in Kit Carson Park, Escondido, California. Escondido gets hot and the tiles conduct heat, so take care when visiting on a hot day. Admission is free, but check their website before you go as they are only open during certain weekends of the month.

6. Spend time at Swami’s Beach Tide Pools

Ask around, and you’ll discover that Encinitas has some of SoCal’s finest beaches. Each beach has its own personality, but we love Swami’s Tide Pools. Here you can catch sea-life in an up close and personal way in the fall. Now’s the perfect time to plan a trip to Swami’s Tide Pools. If you walk the rocky area at low tide you may see Hermit crabs, sea hares, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, brittle sea stars and maybe even an octopus or two!

7. Cardiff Seaside Market

Head over to Cardiff Seaside Market for some early morning goodies – and to stock up on fresh produce and the famous Cardiff Crack (which is slang for a yummy seasoned USDA Choice tri-tip that is trimmed, marinated, and infused with their specialty Burgundy Pepper Marinade). It’s called the ‘Cardiff Crack’ because customers find it addictive!

Not to worry, you don’t have to stick to beef: the scallops and seafood here are restaurant quality, as well as the dozens of spots to pick up some fresh produce and vegetables. The best way to experience the Seaside Market? Enjoy a leisurely stroll and take your time exploring by the water!

8. Visit the Self-Realization Fellowship Gardens

If you’re looking for a place to relax body, mind, and soul, you’ve come to the right place. Walk the gardens built and maintained by the Self-Realization Fellowship and achieve peace of mind (for an hour anyway). The beautifully landscaped gardens boast views of the Pacific Ocean and are dotted with benches and other sitting places for quiet reflection or simply a place to relax.

9. Take a hike at Torrey Pines State Reserve

Perched atop sandstone bluffs overlooking the ocean, Torrey Pines State Reserve offers sweeping views of the Pacific and another stunning natural landscape. The striking Torrey Pines trees and winding hiking trails combine to make this spot one of the most tranquil in the area.

Pick a hiking trail, and meander through the wind-sculpted trees, twisting canyons, knobby cliffs, and bird-filled estuaries. Steps carved into the hillside take you down to the beach should you wish or you can commune with the birds and enjoy your 360-degree ocean view. This is a gorgeous place filled to the brim with serenity.

10. Explore Oceanside Pier

At 1,942 feet, the historical Oceanside Pier is one of the longest wooden piers on the West Coast and a fantastic tourist attraction! Take a leisurely stroll out over the Pacific Ocean, watch the surfers ride a wave, fishermen catch a fish, or grab a bite to eat at the famous Ruby’s Diner located at the end of the pier. At the entrance of the Pier is the Amphitheater, which hosts many musical and cultural performances.

The pier is the backdrop for some great Oceanside events, which include concerts, surf competitions, Iron Man, Fishing Derby, Classic Car Shows, and it’s within easy walking distance to the Farmer’s Market and Sunset Market. Don’t forget to look for some wildlife! The Pier is a great place to spot seagulls, pelicans, dolphins, seals, stingrays, fish, and much more.

11. Stroll through the Carlsbad Windmill Food Hall

The first food hall in North County is definitely a sight worth seeing. Housed in the iconic former Pea Soup Andersen building just off the I-5, the 12,000-square-foot space, with a design inspired by the 1930s and 1940s, features plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, a full bar, and interactive games. You’ll find something to eat for the whole family, with dozens of eateries including Bing Haus, Bread and Cheese, Lobster West, Thai-Style Kitchen, and more.

The food hall is brand new as of fall 2018, and is a fun place to walk around for the day. Don’t forget to visit their 60-seat Chicago-style speakeasy bar, which occupies the entire second floor!

12. Enjoy fine dining at a North County restaurant

North County arguably has some of the best restaurants in San Diego, with a full range of cuisines and fare ranging from casual to ultra-chic. Some beloved local spots have been there for years – Solace & The Moonlight Lounge, Wrench & Rodent, and Flying Pub Pub + Kitchen – and some are brand new, including the second outpost of The Crack Shack, Campfire, and Park 101. You’re sure to find something everyone will love! North County dining hotspots include Encinitas, Carlsbad, Del Mar, and Oceanside.

13. Visit the Carlsbad Lagoon

The Carlsbad Lagoon is a great place to spend the day, especially during the warmer months. Filled with many water sports options, the lagoon has something for everyone. Motorized rentals include Yamaha WaveRunners, boat rentals, and Wakeboarding and Waterskiing (includes a boat with driver). If you want a little slower speed the lagoon rents kayaks, stand up paddle boards, canoes, paddle boats, and aqua cycles. The Lagoon has its own private beach and rents out private party areas for large groups.

14. Go camping

While it may seem counterintuitive, there are actually several great spots for beachside camping in North County! San Elijo State Beach is one of the most popular campgrounds in Southern California. The campgrounds are hard to reserve during the summer months, but if you’re a local, there is plenty of space in the off-season. Camping is a great way to sleep by the beach, and walk to the waves for an early morning surf. Just up the road, South Carlsbad State Beach features RV sites with hookups, a dump station, camp store, restrooms, and showers. Inland sites are $35/night and premium campsites are $50/night.

15. Check out some live music at The Belly Up

The Belly Up is a fun live music venue in the Cedros Design District (Solana Beach). The venue promotes all different genres of music including hip-hop, rock, alternative, reggae, R&B, and more. The venue even has cover bands and a weekly Friday Happy Hour to get the weekend started! Belly Up is 21+, and has a full bar and menu to order from. If you’re in the area early, check out Culture Brewing Company a few doors down; it’s one of North County’s best breweries and a fun spot to grab a quick beer with friends before a night on the town.

Whatever your plans may be, North County, San Diego is a fun spot to spend the day with friends and family. Visit our blogs for more fun things to do in Encinitas and Del Mar!

Thanksgiving at Flemings La Jolla: A 3-Course Dining Experience

This year, Flemings La Jolla is hosting an incredible three-course Thanksgiving dinner on November 22nd, starting at 11:00am.

The epic Thanksgiving feast will include all of the traditional classics, like Mixed Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast and Sliced Beef Tenderloin, and an array of sides including buttery Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and sage and brioche bread stuffing. There will also be a special three-course Children’s Menu available for just $19, so feel free to bring your little ones!

Here’s a peek at the Thanksgiving Day Menu! Adult dining reservations are $49 per person.

Appetizer

  • Artisan Bread Basket, with a selection of fresh bread and special pumpkin butter.

First Course

  • Fleming’s Chopped Salad, OR
  • Lobster Bisque

Main Course

  • Mixed Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast: with savory turkey and fresh cranberry, topped with orange and cinnamon sauce, OR
  • Sliced Beef Tenderloin, with cabernet demi glace.

The main course will be served with:

  • House-made Sage & Brioche Bread Stuffing
  • Green Beans & Onions

Sides to Share

  • Butter-Mashed Sweet Potatoes
  • Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

Dessert

  • Apple Crisp with Chantilly cream and cinnamon, OR
  • Pumpkin Cheesecake with pumpkin spice and a gingersnap crust.

Cocktail

Fireside Rye: Knob Creek Rye, fresh grapefruit juice, and house-made chardonnay honey syrup.

View the full menu, and the Children’s Menu, here!

About Flemings La Jolla

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse in La Jolla is the ultimate steakhouse destination for food and wine lovers seeking a stylish, lively, and memorable dining experience complemented by attentive and knowledgeable service. Here, you’ll find a passion for steak and wine, reflected in an exceptional menu of hand-cut steaks, an award-winning wine program, and seasonal menu selections showcasing locally-inspired chef dishes courtesy of Chef Partner Matthew Cook, who has been at the helm of the Flemings La Jolla team for several years.

Flemings La Jolla is located at 8970 University Lane, San Diego 92122. You can make your Thanksgiving Dinner reservation online or by giving them a call at (858) 535-0078.

Top 10 Breweries in North County

We all know that the city of San Diego is a beer lover’s paradise. With over 150 craft, nano, and micro breweries and counting, San Diego County has seen an explosion of breweries and tasting rooms, especially along North County’s “Hops Highway.” But others are cropping up throughout San Diego’s 4,500 square mile region, even as far as the small, mountainside town of Alpine. You can spend all year hopping around, tasting new varieties, and never get bored. Here are the top 10 breweries in North County, San Diego!

Viewpoint Brewing

2201 San Dieguito Dr, Del Mar 92014
The relatively new Viewpoint Brewing location in Del Mar doesn’t yet have the accolades many of the more established breweries on this list have. What it does have, however, is an unbeatable view/atmosphere; overlooking the San Dieguito Lagoon, there might be no brewery with a better view within San Diego, and its outdoor patio is always playing live music. Plus, there’s some truly decadent food on the menu (like beef tartare and bone marrow), as well as a constantly rotating tap list that indulges head brewer Moe Katomski’s experimental side.

Culture Brewing Company

111 S. Cedros Ave, Suite 200, Solana Beach 92075
Culture Brewing aims high with all their beers, focusing on keeping things simple. Classic styles done beautifully is what Culture is all about. Give their Ginger Snap Red Ale, Tart Cherry Wit, and Milk Stout a try. Non-alcoholic drink options include root beers and La Croix. They also feature local artists with live music every month. The tasting room has a trendy vibe with modern-rustic flair. The Solana Beach tasting room serves up some craft beers on tap and offers patio seating for beer lovers alike.

Pizza Port

135 N. Highway 101, Solana Beach 92075
One of the earliest North County breweries, Pizza Port was previously a struggling pizza place that opened in Solana Beach which siblings, Gina and Vince Marsaglia bought in 1987. Vince started dabbling with home brewing in the storage area, and the rest is history. Pizza Port has three North County locations, so you’re never too far from a pint of beer and some Pizza Buddies!

The Lost Abbey – The Confessional

2007 San Elijo Ave., Cardiff 92007
Lost Abbey’s Cardiff tasting room, cheekily named The Confessional, serves beers from its namesake, as well as from Port Brewing and The Hop Concept. One fan raved about the fact that visitors can grab food from the pizza place next door or from Seaside Market for the perfect beer accompaniments.

Burgeon Beer Company

6350 Yarrow Dr., Suite C, Carlsbad 92011
Burgeon’s another relatively new brewery that, much like Viewpoint, is building a budding reputation and features stunning scenery. Burgeon is helping to pioneer Carlsbad’s emerging brewing scene, and there’s hardly a day that goes by when it won’t be filled with professionals lounging in the tasting room adorned with lush flora. Their Noble Miner, which won gold for session beers at the 2017 California State Fair, is as perfect of a session ale as you will ever have.

Bagby Beer Company

601 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside 92054
Bagby Beer Company is a sprawling indoor/outdoor playground for beer buffs that is kid- and dog-friendly. This popular hangout in a converted car dealership has an open-air bar on the ground floor as well as a tasting room, courtyard, patio with another bar, and ample room in which to hang out. This is a great spot for groups, and the self-contained upstairs area has a deck, a bar, and an indoor restaurant serving an eclectic menu featuring items like brie pizza, pork belly poutine, and short rib tacos.

An added bonus: the mixed drinks are strong, and the wine tasting on tap is surprisingly good – so even if you don’t like the selection of beers, you’ll find something here!

Belching Beaver

302 E Broadway, Vista 92084
Although there are various brewing locations throughout the city of San Diego, Belching Beaver decided to put its Tavern Grill in the heart of North County’s brewing hub in Vista. The tavern is a rustic indoor/outdoor patio with fire pits and two spacious hangout areas, both of which your furry friend is welcome to join you in. The tavern offers lunch Wednesday through Sunday, and dinner Monday through Friday, with a weekday Happy Hour. There are over 60 types of beer on tap to choose from, plus wine tasting for beer lovers bringing along a non-beer drinking buddy.

Mother Earth Brewing

206 Main Street, Vista 92084
Founded and opened in 2008 by three passionate home brewers based in a humble garage, Mother Earth Brew Co. had one goal: to create distinguished, hand-crafted beers that stimulate sensory conversation and a desire for the next sip. Today, they brew in a 2000 plus sq. foot facility with two available tasting rooms in Vista. If you’re hungry, there are plenty of local places to grab a bite on Main St. But if you wait a minute, someone will show up with menus and will do the ordering and pick up for you. It’s totally legit. Just make sure to pay after you get your food.

New English Brewing

11545 Sorrento Valley Rd Ste 305, San Diego 92121
Sorrento Valley’s New English Brewing focuses on producing English-style ales, West Coast IPAs, barrel-aged brews, light beer styles, and coffee stouts. Enjoy from a selection of 16 to 20 beers on tap, including one nitro tap and one cask-conditioned tap, as well as local food trucks on Thursdays. Customer favorites include the Pure and Simple IPA, Zumbar Imperial Stout, Whole Lotta Hazy IPA, and Blueberry Blonde. Mega fans will appreciate their Growler Club.

Mason Ale Works

2002 South Coast Hwy., Oceanside 92054
Mason Ale Works is the in-house brewery of Urge Gastropub and Whiskey Bank, a full-service venue offering cocktails, wine, a selection of whiskeys and a large selection of beers, including nine Mason offerings. This busy spot has an upbeat, festive vibe in a large rustic room; the bar area can feel like a sports bar. Food first: We enjoyed crispy Brussels sprouts with bacon, smoked dates and candied nuts; blue cheese sliders; and a beef short rib burger with fries.

Start with the tasting menu, $2 to $3 a pour. The Imperial Coffee Stout tasted like a smooth strong cup of java. Two fruit-flavored concoctions, the Mahalo Nui Loa (Hawaiian pineapple juice) and the Gose Be Trippin’ (mango), had strong aftertastes.

Bonus: Stone Brewing Company

1999 N. Citracado Parkway, Escondido
We would be remiss to write about North County breweries without mentioning Stone Brewing! The 800-pound gorilla of San Diego indie brewers just celebrated its 20th anniversary in production, and is still going as strong as ever with their recent brewery opening in Berlin, Germany. Their original North County location, its main production facility, offers brewery tours, a gift shop and growler outlet, and lovely grounds that encompass the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, a fine-dining restaurant. The restaurant stands on its own as a destination, and the bars have dozens of beers from Stone and “guest” brewers.

With the copious amounts of beer on tap, local favorites are the Stone Vanilla Bean Porter, a creamy dark brew, and the 20th Anniversary Encore Series: Vertical Epic Ale, a resurrection of a fan favorite 2002 Belgian-style brew with a nice touch of orange and spice.

For more information on local breweries, check out our complete Guide to San Diego Breweries!

San Diego Holiday Shopping Guide

Make everyone’s holiday wish list a dream come true! San Diego offers a wide variety of shopping opportunities that make holiday shopping a breeze. From brand name designers to fabulous outlet malls, unique boutique shops and specialty stores, San Diego is the perfect holiday shopping destination to make this season merry.

Outdoor Shopping Centers

Spend the day at one of San Diego’s premier malls! Fashion Valley Mall features outdoor shopping at its finest with department stores such as Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and all the big name designers. Kids will enjoy visiting Santa at his workshop, and mom and dad can happily check everything off of their holiday shopping list.

The revitalized Westfield UTC shopping mall is definitely not to be missed this holiday season. Since its complete revamp and expansion in 2017, UTC has grown to a massive outdoor mall packed with great shopping and dining options with huge designer department stores such as Macy’s, Nordstrom, Anthropologie, Apple, and Tiffany & Co. You’ll find all the main staples here (plus free parking!), and plenty of smaller, boutique-like shops for the harder to please on your list!

Other great outdoor shopping areas include Westfield Horton Plaza located in the heart of the downtown Gaslamp Quarter, Del Mar Highlands Town Center in Carmel Valley, and Hazard Center, which features several name brand stores like Barnes & Noble, Lakeshore Learning, Wood Ranch BBQ, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, and a movie theater in Mission Valley.

San Diego Outlet Centers

For the best deals of all, the San Diego’s outlet centers offer something for everyone with great bargains as well as a festive holiday atmosphere for all to enjoy. Throughout the holiday season, Carlsbad Premium Outlets, located in the North County Coastal area, and Las Americas Premium Outlets, located in South Bay, have extra-special offers on extraordinary brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Sunglass Hut, and more.

Get the most out of your outlet holiday shopping in South Bay by continuing your holiday shopping at San Diego Outlets at the Border, conveniently located right next to Las Americas, and pop into amazing stores like Armani Exchange, Express Factory Outlet, and H&M. For those out in East County, Viejas Outlet Center offers high-end brands at incredible prices.

Unique San Diego Shopping Areas

Specialty retail shopping for unique San Diego items can be found at Seaport Village and The Headquarters at Seaport on the Big Bay Embarcadero; at the Coronado Ferry Landing and Shops At The Del at Hotel Del Coronado; at Liberty Station in Point Loma; and at Bazaar del Mundo and Fiesta de Reyes in Old Town.

For the beach-lover on your gift list, cruise on over to these local boutique stores in La Jolla that are all about trendy San Diego style: Everyday California and Surf Diva Boutique! For the more adventurous on your list, gift a fun excursion and kayak trip with La Jolla Kayak.

Best San Diego Neighborhoods for Shopping

It’s no secret that San Diego is home to some of the best (and trendiest) neighborhoods for holiday shopping! Here are some of our favorites.

La Jolla

San Diego’s jewel by the sea is one of the best upscale shopping areas in San Diego. It is also home to great ocean-view art galleries, restaurants and cafes.

A couple of noteworthy shopping districts you will not want to miss are Prospect Street then on to Girard Avenue, where you’ll find fashion and great retail shopping for the whole family. For women’s apparel, be sure to make time for Robina Boutique, Lolo, Swoon (great for teens), Simple Lifestyle for Men & Women, Pomegranate, Amore, Alpaca Collections, Blended Industries, Sauvage Boutique, Sigi’s, Eva Varro International, La Donna, Laura Gambucci and Rica Boutique (also for teens). For men, there’s the Ascot Shop, Tommy Bahama, Y-3, Simple Lifestyle for Men & Women, Polo Ralph Lauren and Lucky Brand. For children, there’s Geppetto’s Toys. While for our beloved pets (we did say the “whole” family), stop by Muttropolis.

For contemporary home furnishings try MOS (My Own Space) and finally, don’t miss Warwick’s Bookstore, one of the best independent bookstores in San Diego.

Cedros Design District

Cedros Design District is a shopper’s mecca when it comes to a variety of interests, specializing in interior design. This quaint dog-friendly area contains blocks of restaurants, cafes, galleries, garden stores, fashion boutiques, art and custom-designed furniture studios to speak to the true artistic visitor.

Great boutiques for visitors include HIS Men’s & Kid’s Store, Gerhard, Tucci Boutique, Pink Lagoon, Cedros Soles, Mabel’s & Baby Mabel’s, SOLO, Cut Loose, Weeds Clothing Boutique, La Femme Chic (designer resale), Camellia Boutique and Adventure 16 Outfitters Inc. (camping store). The Leaping Lotus features over 120 shops under one roof including clothes, jewelry and furniture. While Bon Bon Home & Garden, NATIVA Interiors and Bixby & Ball are must stops for home furnishings.

Gaslamp Quarter

Gaslamp Quarter is Downtown San Diego’s thriving historic district, and home to many uber-popular restaurants, bars, galleries, theatres and coffeehouses, but it also features unique boutique shopping. Whether your shopping list is uptown-chic or downtown-cool, the 5th Avenue block has a variety of opportunities.

For women’s fashions and accessories, make sure your itinerary includes: Bubbles Boutique, Heavenly Couture (great for teens), Eden Boutique and Dolcetti Boutique. For men’s fashions check out Blends, 5&A Dime and Dolcetti Boutique. For more mainstream but still wonderful shopping opportunities try Quicksilver, Lucky Brand and Urban Outfitters.

Encinitas

Just five miles north from Cedros Design District, along the gorgeous Highway 101 coastline, you’ll find the cozy surf town of Encinitas. This Zen beach community is packed with casual, hip restaurants, sidewalk cafes, and yoga studios, intermingled with quaint boutiques. There is always something to do in this fun beach town! The shopping block on the main road, South Highway 101, offers The Lumberyard Shopping Center and a collection of family-friendly boutiques including Magical Child, deepFLING Jewelry and Grounded (furniture/home goods).

A few other must-shop trendy boutiques close by are Ecotopia for men’s and women’s apparel and accessories, Flashbacks (vintage/retro) and a little further southeast is Swirl Boutique for women. Other unique furniture and home good shops are Bliss 101 carrying just about everything from furniture, art, clothing and jewelry to Earth’s Elements and Bamboo 2 U & Beach House Too (beach-chic furniture).

North Park/South Park

For a trendier local scene, the places to be are the North Park and South Park neighborhoods along 30th Street and University, as well as 30th Street and Fern. Both areas offer a diverse variety of restaurants, coffee houses, dessert bars, bars, beer pubs, vintage stores, and colorful boutiques.

For fashion, gifts, vintage or home goods, visit Mimi & Red, Love & Aesthetics (for men), Simply Local (55 local vendors under one roof), Aloha Sunday Supply Co., Hunt & Gather (vintage), Mythology Eco-Boutique (Eco-friendly), Junc.Life, Bad Madge & Company (vintage) and Graffiti Beach Boutique. Home and gift stores to check out include Pigment and Make Good. For the skincare and beauty junkie in your life, be sure to visit Shop Good.

Whether you’re looking for fun holiday gifts or simply want to check out the San Diego shopping scene for some souvenirs, there is definitely something for everyone in America’s Finest City! Visit our La Jolla Holiday Shopping Guides for more options in The Village.

Kid-Friendly Holiday Activities in San Diego

The holidays are a wonderful time of year for anyone, but especially so for the little ones in your life! Each holiday season, San Diego comes to life with dazzling lights, live shows, outdoor markets, and sweet treats. Experience the best of this year’s holiday magic with the whole family at these kid-friendly holiday events and activities in San Diego – from nighttime fun at the San Diego Zoo to a LEGO themed holiday wonderland! Whether you’re a San Diego expert looking for fresh ideas, or simply coming into town for the holidays we’ve got you covered!

La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival

December 3
Spread some holiday cheer at one of La Jolla’s most beloved traditions: the annual La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival! Complete with marching bands, floats, vintage automobiles, and of course, Santa Claus, this is a family-friendly event that shouldn’t be missed.

You’ll see floats, marching bands, community groups, drill teams, vintage vehicles, horses, and more. There will also be a Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting Ceremony, featuring children’s arts and crafts, live entertainment, educational exhibits, and photos with Santa, all steps away from one of the most magnificent ocean views San Diego has to offer. Stay tuned for the lighting of La Jolla’s official Christmas Tree at the La Jolla Rec Center!

SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration

Starts November 17
SeaWorld San Diego’s Christmas Celebration is a great way to spend the day with kids; complete with seasonal shopping, festive food and drinks, and fun live shows. Holiday music will fill the air and guests will walk through a sea of lighted trees sparkles, transforming the park into a wintery, watery wonderland. Visit Santa’s Christmas Village to see Santa himself, meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and friends, and savor holiday flavors as you shop for unique gifts and decorations. Don’t forget to check out the massive 40-foot Christmas tree!

Balboa Park December Nights

December 7 & 8
Balboa Park December Nights is the largest free community festival in San Diego. This event is one of the most popular kid-friendly holidays in San Diego and is entering its 40th year with festive fun, food and attractions throughout the park. This event includes complimentary admission to Balboa Park museums from 5-9 p.m. Be sure to arrive early because December Nights draws thousands of visitors. Consider parking off-site and taking advantage of one of the complimentary shuttles.

Holiday Festival at Hotel Del Coronado

November 28
Join the Hotel Del Coronado for its Annual Holiday Festival! The evening will feature the season kickoff of Skating by the Sea, professional ice skating demonstrations, and spectacular fireworks displays. Children will delight at Santa’s Village, which will be filled with games, prizes, and photos with St. Nick. Best of all, families and friends will be front row at a holiday performance by Coronado’s schools. Afterwards, don’t miss out on the carnival games and the chance to make magical holiday memories with roasting s’mores on the beach! Tickets are available to purchase online.

Holidays at LEGOLAND

Through December 31st
Enjoy holly jolly fun throughout LEGOLAND with festive shows and décor all month long. The whole family will feel the holiday spirit when they see the 30-foot LEGO Christmas tree trimmed with awesome LEGO ornaments as it sparkles each night with music and light. This year, there will be new shows and live entertainment including a new holiday light show; LEGO Holiday character meet-and-greets at the new Holiday Village; special holiday treats and food offerings, including peppermint shakes, Nutella and peppermint crepes, and more; and a Fun Town Holiday Market on select days with limited time food offerings, such as grilled sausages, giant Bavarian pretzels, and spiced wine. LEGOLAND Hotel is also a great place to stay with kids, as it’s possibly the most kid-friendly hotel in all of the hotels in San Diego. The LEGO themed hotel fully adopts the LEGO theme throughout the guest rooms to the outdoor swimming pool.

Tree Lighting at La Valencia Hotel

November 27
Join La V’s annual family-friendly holiday tradition in La Sala Lounge at La Valencia Hotel (1132 Prospect Street), complete with warm holiday beverages, homemade cookies, classic carols, and children’s arts and crafts. The La Jolla Country Day School Madrigal Singers will begin caroling at 5pm, and the official Tree Lighting will be held at 6pm. Live entertainment from Roman Palacios will follow to complete the evening.

North Park Toyland Parade

December 1
Unwrap some magic this holiday season and partake in festive fun at the 55th Annual North Park Toyland Parade & Festival! Gliding down University Ave. between Utah and Iowa Streets, this cheerful Parade will feel like a Winter Wonderland, as marching bands, upbeat dance groups, cool vintage cars, beauty queens, city officials and more, warm your spirits. Santa Claus will be riding atop his merry red fire engine, and kids will delight in the colorful, festive floats and live music. All-day parking will be available for $1 at the North Park Parking Garage. The parade will be from 10am-1pm.

Seas ‘n’ Greetings at Birch Aquarium

Through December 31st
The magic of the holidays meets the magic of the underwater world at Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla during Seas ‘n’ Greetings, a month-long holiday celebration featuring SEAsonal activities for the whole family! Birch Aquarium will be transformed into a holiday wonderland all month long. Deck the Hall (of Fishes) and get into the holiday spirit every day from 9am to 5pm and check the schedule for special appearances by Scuba Santa, as well as themed animal encounters, a scavenger hunt, and fun photo opportunities. All Seas ‘n’ Greetings activities are included with admission ($19.50 for adults, $15 for children ages 3-17).

Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo

December 8 – January 1
This holiday season, the San Diego Zoo will be transformed into a wild wonderland of twinkling lights, merry-making performances, and festive foods. Santa will be on hand before Christmas to visit with the little ones, and some of his elves keep things hopping with an energetic trampoline performance, the Toy Shop Hop. For more Santa-themed adventures, there will be two special 4-D experiences: a train ride to the North Pole through the magic of The Polar Express and Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas, where guests join Manny, Sid, and Diego on a fun adventure.

From Dr. Zoolittle’s animal-themed version of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” to the Northern Frontier Holiday Forest aglow with stunning, specially decorated and lit trees, Jungle Bells is a fun event for the whole family! Sounds of the season will fill the air with an interactive jingly, jazzy carol session and a strolling musician engages guests in songs of the season. Don’t miss the two “dancing light” experiences set to holiday music.

Garden of Lights at San Diego Botanic Garden

December 1-23 & 26-30
Each December, the San Diego Botanic Garden is transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland with over 125,000 sparkling lights for a magical holiday experience. Festive holiday activities for the whole family include sledding, holiday arts and crafts, a Nutcracker display, marshmallow roasting, food trucks, hot mulled wine, beer and refreshments, as well as visits with Santa (Dec. 1 – 23) and horse-drawn wagon rides. Enjoy great live entertainment, including local blues and jazz bands, every night from 6pm-8pm, as well as delicious treats and food from Isaac’s Catering and local food trucks.

Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Balloon Parade

December 31
If your little ones love all things balloons, this is the holiday event for you! This New Year’s Eve, the scenic, bayside streets of downtown San Diego will come alive with the Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade. As always, this exciting family event brings together world-class marching bands, magnificent floats, entertaining drill teams, and a procession of enormous balloons – more than any other parade in the western United States!

More than 100,000 street-side spectators will enjoy the parade this year, along with a nationwide television audience, to celebrate the big Holiday Bowl game with the parade. Street side viewing of the parade is totally free, so bring the whole family! The parade starts at 10am, but we recommend arriving early as parking downtown can be even more difficult during big events.

Frosty Farm at Helen Woodward Animal Center

December 1 & 2, 8 & 9, 15 & 16
This festive event in San Diego combines hands-on animal encounters with family-friendly activities, which makes it the perfect place to create new memories! In addition to fun activities that you can do at your own pace, families will also get a one-hour excursion led by a member of their crew; this includes season’s greetings with a variety of animals, and a holiday craft that is yours to keep. “Santa’s helpers” will be at Frosty Farm from 9am-1pm each day, so you can arrive before your excursion starts or stick around after to enjoy several activities, including a personal meet-and-greet with Santa, photo ops with animals, a petting zoo, a variety of arts and crafts, an elf obstacle course, cookie decorating and hot cocoa, holiday music, face painting, and outdoor games.

For more San Diego holiday ideas, visit our events page!

12 Things to Do During the Holidays in San Diego

While the holiday season in San Diego may not be your typical snowy winter wonderland, there’s plenty of festive fun to be had in our little slice of paradise! From ice skating by the sea to light parades on the Bay, America’s Finest City has a little something for everyone this time of year. Embrace the opportunity to enjoy must-do activities and experiences during the holidays in San Diego!

Mother Goose Parade

November 18
The Mother Goose Parade is San Diego’s East County’s annual holiday kick-off celebration (and the largest parade in San Diego County!) featuring whimsical floats, clowns, bands, and equestrians. Each year, the Mother Goose Parade attracts thousands of spectators to the streets of El Cajon. More than 100 colorful and exciting parade entries come from around the United States to share in the excitement that is the Mother Goose Parade. The parade entries include spectacular motorized floats, glorious marching bands and drill units, eloquent equestrians, animated clowns, special characters, special guests, performing artists, celebrities, giant helium balloons, specialty vehicles, and of course, Santa Claus.

North Park Toyland Parade

December 1
Celebrate the holiday spirit at the 55th Annual North Park Toyland Parade & Holiday Fair with vintage cars, marching bands, dance groups, beauty queens, and of course, Santa Claus! The historic neighborhood of North Park will warmly welcome friends and family to bundle up and delight in San Diego’s most joyful parade. Gliding down University Avenue between Utah and Iowa Streets, this cheerful pageant will feel like a Winter Wonderland, as melodious marching bands, upbeat dance groups, cool vintage cars, beauty queens and city officials (and more!) warm your spirits. Santa Claus will be riding atop his merry red sleigh and bells will be ringing as loved ones snuggle up in the bright, frosty air.

Ocean Beach Holiday Parade

December 1
This year, the Ocean Beach Town Council is proud to bring you the 39th Annual OB Holiday Parade on Newport Avenue! For nearly 40 years, the quaint little surfing village of Ocean Beach has hosted one of the best Holiday Parades in SoCal; and this year is no different. Watch the Point Loma Marching Band strut their way down the street, or see the SD Roller Derby Dolls in their eye-catching costumes; watch as the VW Beetle club and classic Woodies roll down Newport Ave. There are also motorcycles, bright-lit floats, tons of live music, and of course, Santa Claus, who will make his appearance at the end of the parade.

After the festivities, the nightlife of OB takes off as the locals and visitors celebrate and spread even more Holiday Cheer in one of the many local bars and eateries. People of all ages are invited join us at this fun-filled event – costumes, cheering and laughter are not only welcomed, they are encouraged!

La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival

December 2
Spread some holiday cheer at the annual La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival in downtown La Jolla! This fun, family-friendly event is a decades-old La Jolla tradition, and includes marching bands, community groups, drill teams, vintage vehicles, horses, and even a camel! The Holiday Festival begins at 10:30am outside the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, with live entertainment and photos with Santa. The Parade kicks off at 1pm and will head along Girard Avenue.

Little Italy Tree Lighting & Christmas Village

December 1
This holiday season, sidewalks in Little Italy will be filled with holiday cheer for the 20th Annual Little Italy Tree Lighting and Christmas Village from 4pm to 8pm. Families, friends, and visitors will be able to experience a tree lighting ceremony, a Christmas Village with seasonal vendors, festive décor, live music and entertainment, holiday treats, Santa Claus and more.

Santa Claus will be in attendance for meet and greets and photos with all the neighborhood kids and kids at heart starting at 4:00pm. Attendees can catch Santa at “Santa’s Living Room” on India Street and take pictures until 6pm. Next to “Santa’s Living Room” will be fun arts and crafts for the kids to take part in, and seasonal vendors selling perfect stocking stuffers and select Little Italy Mercato vendors with holiday goodies will be lining India Street. Don’t forget to check out the 25-foot tower of more than 1,100 beautiful Poinsettias, located in the center of Piazza Basilone! The community will gather at the neighborhood’s 20’ tall live tree (in the Piazza della Famiglia) at 6:30pm for an official lighting.

December Nights at Balboa Park

December 7 & 8
Join the festivities during Balboa Park December Nights, a two-day holiday wonderland of food, entertainment and fun. The sights, sounds and smells of the holiday season fill the air as the museums and cultural institutions in Balboa Park, the nation’s largest urban cultural park, open their doors free of charge. Festivities include carolers, live holiday music, twinkling lights displayed all over the park, theater and dance performances, and delicious holiday treats and foods from around the world. Grab a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy live entertainment and the holiday spirit.

Coronado Holiday Parade & Open House

December 7
Experience the magic of the holidays on beautiful Coronado Island this December. Festivities kick off at the Ferry Landing with Santa arriving at 3:20 PM, with carolers and snow fun at snow mountain. The Holiday Parade will kick off at 6pm along Orange Avenue, as the village transforms into a winter wonderland. Then, at 7pm, be sure to stop by Rotary Plaza for the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony hosted by none other than Santa himself.

Before or after the parade, shop in the stores along Orange Ave – they’ll have treats and festivities to make holiday shopping a memorable and relaxing time.

Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights

December 8
The Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights, a uniquely California celebration, features boats decorated for the holidays that will sail around the Bay. This free, distinctly California holiday tradition features boats decorated for the annual holiday season that will sail around Mission Bay. A highly anticipated event in the San Diego community, dozens of vessels take to the water for the parade. The boat parade begins at 6:00 PM from Quivira Basin. Best viewing is from Crown Point, the east side of Vacation Island or the west side of Fiesta Island.

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

December 9 & 16
One of San Diego’s most anticipated holiday events returns Dec. 9th! Enjoy the twinkling waters of the San Diego Bay and more than 80 private boats decorated with holiday lights for the annual Port of San Diego Bay Parade of Lights over two weekends in December. Great views are available on dry land from Shelter Island, Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, the pier at Cesar Chavez Park and Coronado’s Ferry Landing.

Skating by the Sea at Hotel Del Coronado

Nov 22-Jan 1
One of San Diego’s most beloved traditions returns to the Hotel Del Coronado this November! Visitors will get the chance to ice skate right next to the Pacific Ocean at the only seaside skating rink in San Diego. The spectacular ice skating rink is located seaside on Windsor Lawn and features stunning views of the Pacific and Coronado beach. The Del’s iconic Victorian Building, adorned with thousands of white lights, provides a magical backdrop as holiday music fills the air and guests enjoy hot chocolate and libations.

New this year, you’ll be able to reserve a private lounging spot in Frostbite, the Del’s rink-side lounge area. Guests will enjoy plush, private seating around a roaring fire pit with full food and beverage service. Choose from your favorite holiday-themed libations or snacks and enjoy unlimited hot cocoa and coffee as you enjoy watching the beachfront ice skating!

Holiday Pet Parade in Gaslamp Quarter

December 16
San Diego’s furriest family-friendly parade returns as the 11th Annual Vet & Pet West Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade takes over the streets of the Gaslamp Quarter! Prepare to unleash holiday cheer through the streets of Downtown San Diego with your furry friends. All pet owners and their furry, feathered, and scaled companions are invited to don their favorite costumes and put their best paw, wing, and fin forward for this jolly promenade and pet expo, which starts and ends at MLK Promenade Park, adjacent to the Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter (401 K Street, San Diego, CA 92101) at Fourth Avenue and K Street.

Entry to participate in the Pet Parade is just $15 per pet in advance, and $20 on the day of the event.

Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade

December 31
America’s Largest Balloon Parade returns to San Diego this December! The scenic, bayside streets of downtown San Diego will come alive with the 2018 Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade on December 31st. As always, this exciting family event brings together world-class marching bands, magnificent floats, entertaining drill teams, and a procession of enormous balloons – more than any other parade in the US. Over 100,000 street-side spectators will enjoy the parade, along with a nationwide television audience in celebration of Holiday Bowl game day.

Stay tuned for more fun holiday activities in San Diego!

Annual La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival

The annual La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival returns to the Village Sunday December 2nd, 2018 from 10:30am to 5pm. The parade will begin at 1:30pm at Girard Ave and Kline Street, and end at the Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla (700 Prospect Street). The holiday festival will start at 10:30am and go until 1:00pm, and will include photos with Santa and live stage entertainment. A tradition that’s been going strong for nearly six decades, the parade and festival are one of La Jolla’s most treasured holiday activities!

The Details

This year, the Holiday Festival will begin at 10:30 am and end at 1pm, with live stage entertainment in front of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library. There will also be some arts and crafts and the opportunity to take photos with Santa! The theme changes every year; this year’s being “The Sounds of Christmas.”

The parade will begin at 1:30pm at Girard Ave. and Kline Street. It will head down Girard and make a left onto Prospect, where it will finish in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art La Jolla.

Santa’s highly anticipated visit to the Christmas Parade is provided by Sunrise Rotary. He will be driven in the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club’s Old Black Goose, a classic 1915 Black Packard Convertible; making it a truly classic La Jolla Christmas!

Highlights

There will more participants than ever before this year from local businesses – the La Jolla Historical Society, the Rotary Club, the Gillispie School, and Birch Aquarium. More than a dozen floats, equestrians, beauty queens and princesses, marching bands, and of course, fire engines, will make up the rest of the Parade. Car lovers will be excited about the lineup of rare and vintage vehicles this year; keep your eye out for some of the rarer cars, like this year’s Antique 1988 560SL Mercedes.

A Few Tips

  • Parking will be extremely limited the day-of, and many streets will become tow-away zones starting at 9:30am. This includes most of Girard Avenue (between Torrey Pines and Kline), most of Kline (between Ivanhoe and Fay), and Herschel (between Torrey Pines and Silverado).
  • Most of Girard Avenue and Prospect Street will be closed, as this is the parade route. Vehicles that are parked in zones cordoned off for the parade or festival will be towed! Make sure you’re aware of all signs and that you park in a designated area.
  • You’ll find all the Holiday Festival activities on the grounds of the La Jolla Rec Center, where the parade will end at 3pm. It’s an easy walk from the parade’s starting location, so it might be easier to just keep your car parked in one spot for the day.

Visit ljparade.com for more information!

[photos courtesy of ljparade.com]

Where to Have Thanksgiving Dinner in La Jolla

Thanksgiving is a time to express gratitude, take pleasure in the company of others, and dive into some amazing food; but if you don’t have time this year to cook up a huge meal for your family, or if you just want to spend time relaxing on your holiday, don’t fret–you can still have a great meal and day by trying out some of the excellent restaurants that La Jolla has to offer. We’ve rounded up the best La Jolla restaurants serving Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, November 22nd. Whether you’re a Thanksgiving traditionalist or adventurer, we’ve got something for you.

Flemings La Jolla

Join Flemings Steakhouse La Jolla for a three-course Thanksgiving feast for just $49 per person, including classics like the Mixed Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast, or Sliced Beef Tenderloin. Sides include delicious butter-mashed sweet potatoes or Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. And bring the kids, too! This year, they have created a special three-course Thanksgiving Children’s Menu for just $19.

Thanksgiving dinner will be served from 11:00am on. Reservations are highly encouraged, as this well sell out! Call 858-535-0078 or visit their website to reserve your table.

The Marine Room

With a breathtaking ocean view, the Marine Room is a great spot a for high-class Thanksgiving dining. The holiday menu also offers a wide variety of dishes for the occasion, so if you don’t like turkey, that’s okay! You’ll have plenty of options. Celebrate the day with a mouthwatering filet mignon or an almond-crusted Swordfish cooked to perfection.

Seating is open and available on November 22 from 12pm to 7 pm. Be sure to make a reservation ahead of time by calling 866.644.2351 or visiting their website.

NINE-TEN

Nine-Ten (located within the Grande Colonial Hotel) offers an unparalleled dining experience day of the year, November 22nd being no exception! This year they are offering a three-course, prix-fixe meal for $75 per person ($110 with wine pairings). In addition to the chefs’ dedication to using only the freshest local products, their innovative and creative style guarantees a unique meal that’s worth the visit.

Reservations are required, so call (858) 964-5400 to grab a spot between 3:30 and 8:30 pm. Children 12 and below get a discounted price of $25.

A. R. Valentien

A.R. Valentien is located in The Lodge at Torrey Pines, La Jolla’s world famous five-diamond hotel. If you’re looking for luxury, you’ve come to the right place. The wooden interior and seating overlooking the golf course give this spot the feeling of a high-end country club. This is a great spot for anyone who enjoys a traditional, all-out thanksgiving meal. The Lodge is also a great option for anyone who has family coming in from out of town.

This year, the restaurant is offering a four-course prix fixe meal featuring the tastes of the season. Dinner will be served from 4pm-10pm. We recommend you make a reservation, which you can do either by calling (858) 453-4420 or visiting their website.

The Shores Restaurant

Pick and choose from your favorite holiday treats at The Shores Restaurant (located at La Jolla Shores Hotel)! This Thanksgiving buffet is stuffed to the brim with anything you could want – including a variety of savory appetizers; delicious main courses including Red Sage Peppercorn Brined Carolina Tom Turkey and BBQ Rub Angus Prime Rib Roast; seasonal sides, delicious pies, and sweet treats. Its diverse, all-you-can-eat menu makes it perfect for big groups or picky eaters.

In addition to the fantastic variety, the Shores offers some of the best prices. Adults eat for $64 per person, while children can eat for anywhere from $5 to $38 depending on age. Food will be served from 10:00am-7:00pm. Reservations aren’t required, but for anyone who loves buffets as much as we do, it’s a good idea to secure your spot by calling 866.644.2630 or going online.

George’s California Modern

Are you looking for something a little more “advanced?” California Modern, part of the infamous George’s at the Cove, can help with that. The chefs offer creative takes on Thanksgiving classics. It’s a three course meal, so you can sample a persimmon salad, stinging nettle spaghetti, or beef tartare without having to give up your full turkey dinner. And since George’s is known for their seafood, of course we have to recommend the fish tacos.

Meals are $62 per person, with one choice of appetizer, entree, and dessert. The special menu will available from 3:00-8:00pm. Make a reservation by calling (858) 454-4244 or visiting their website.

Duke’s La Jolla

Sometimes all you want is to relax with your family, breathe in the fresh ocean air, and have a good meal. Duke’s keeps it simple with their Thanksgiving Dinner Special, and there is a smaller portioned version for children. You get all the goodies and fixings you would if you were at home, but with the addition of stellar patio seating and a view of the waterside cliffs that can’t be beat. Don’t forget to leave room for the pumpkin pie!

It’s also one of the most economical options, especially for big groups or groups with younger guests. Reservations aren’t necessary, but if you’d like to make one you can call (858) 454-5888 or visit their website.

Eddie V’s

Eddie V’s will be serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings this year – complete with Brioche Sage Stuffing and hand-whipped potatoes, to name a few! If you’re not feeling festive, you can always order from the regular menu; no one could blame you for eyeing the Chilean sea bass or lobster tacos at this well-known seafood destination in La Jolla.

Both menus will be served from 11:00am-9:00 pm. Reservations are recommended –call (619) 615-0281 or head here.

Stay tuned for more Thanksgiving tips, ideas, and events!

Top Encinitas Festivals to Check Out This Fall

Encinitas, California is our favorite coastal beach town in North County, San Diego; from historic downtown Encinitas and its walkable neighborhoods to its plethora of great restaurants, bars, shops, and boutiques, there’s no shortage of things to do or activities to try here. One of the things this area is most well known for, however, is its community feel: the town hosts several neighborhood- oriented events throughout the year, including several festivals and outdoor markets. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite Encinitas festivals to check out this year!

Cardiff Greek Festival

When: September 8 & 9, 2018; 10am-9pm
Where: 3459 Manchester Ave., Encinitas

The Cardiff Greek Festival has been an Encinitas institution for more than 40 years, and every year locals and visitors alike get together to celebrate all things Greek! The event features Greek food from several local restaurants and eateries, award-winning Greek folk dance performances, cooking demonstrations, wine and beer presentations, a specialty Greek Wine Bar, children’s games and activities, a culinary specialty market, and more. Live music performances happen on four different stages throughout the day, and there are several raffles held on both days of the festival (including a popular car drawing). This is a free family-friendly event. Parking is usually available on the street.

Encinitas Oktoberfest

When: September 30, 2018; 10am-6pm
Where: Mountain Vista Dr. & El Camino Real

Now in its 23rd year, the annual Encinitas Oktoberfest is a popular local event. Authentic German music, the Gemütlichkeit Alpine Dancers, carnival rides, and a street craft faire featuring 200 vendors are all a part of the annual Encinitas Oktoberfest celebration! Every year, the event kicks off at 10am and includes a ceremonial parade at 12pm. This year, there is a “Keepin’ it Local” Craft Beer Garden, serving authentic German food and German beers – and, of course, several local San Diego craft breweries including Ballast Point Brewery, Burgeon Beer Co., The Lost Abbey, and Modern Times Beer.

This fall event is a local favorite, especially among families; although it’s technically an Oktoberfest, there are plenty of children’s activities, rides, and games to make it a family-friendly fall festival.

Moonlight Beach Bash

When: September 29, 2018; 2pm-5pm
Where: Moonlight Beach; 200 B Street, Encinitas

Art, music, dance, food, and fun come together at the yearly Moonlight Beach Bash! Every year, locals and visitors gather to celebrate with toes in the sand and plenty of activities and fun for all, including local food trucks, High Tide Society headlining the main stage, artist displays and hands-on arts projects, and more talent and arts. The Beach Bash brings together all things Encinitas: the visual and performing arts, beach culture, and a pop-up arts district.

Formally, the Beach Bash celebrates the founding of the city of Encinitas in October of 1986. From sand castle competitions and live art to sidewalk chalk demonstrations and local food truck cuisine, it really doesn’t get more ‘Encinitas’ than the Moonlight Beach Bash! For more information, visit www.encinitasca.gov.

Art Rhythm & Wine Festival

When: October 20 & 21, 2018; 11am-7pm
Where: The Forum Carlsbad; 1923 Calle Barcelona, Carlsbad

While it isn’t technically Encinitas, the Art Rhythm & Wine Festival in Carlsbad is a huge local event that brings people from all over North County each year. Every third weekend in October, the Forum Carlsbad hosts this two-day open air festival featuring fine art, music, and wine! Celebrating the dynamic art culture in Carlsbad, Encinitas, and surrounding North San Diego County communities such as Del Mar, the festival features hundreds of artists showing their work in mediums such as painting, classical and contemporary sculpture, glass, drawing, photography, metal, mixed media, digital art, printmaking, wood, and fiber. Browse the work of more than 50 artists while you enjoy live entertainment while strolling through The Forum!

Encinitas Dia de los Muertos

When: October 27, 2018; 12pm-4pm
Where: Encinitas Community Center; 1140 Oakcrest Park Dr., Encinitas

This annual celebration brings together local and regional talents to celebrate and appreciate an important cultural celebration in Mexico, Dia de los Muertos and offers free family-friendly fun to North County residents and unites people of all backgrounds. Visitors can experience a variety of art-making workshops, artist demonstrations, student exhibitions, and live Mariachi and other musical performances throughout the festival.

For more information, visit their website at https://encinitasarts.org/.

Encinitas Holiday Street Fair

When: November 18, 2018; 9am-4pm
Where: Along Highway 101 from D to J Streets (from the 7/11 to Hansen’s Surf Shop)
(760) 943-1950

The Holiday Street Fair is located down the center of six blocks of scenic South Coast Highway 101, two blocks from the Pacific Ocean. Formerly known as “The Fall Festival,” the Holiday Street Fair has happened every year since 1989, and remains a family-favorite among locals to this day.

This one-day street fest features several children’s rides, two stages of live entertainment, and food and drink from several local restaurants and eateries. The emphasis is on art, handmade crafts, antiques, and ethnic imports, and all of the vendors are local.

Encinitas Holiday Parade

When: December 1, 2018; 5:30pm-7:30pm
Where: S. Coast Hwy 101

Now in its 61st year, Encinitas’ favorite holiday tradition returns each December with more than 100 floats and family fun for everyone. Thousands of people cruise on floats, on foot, in cars, and marching in bands while tens of thousands cheer them along the Parade route along Coast Highway 101. Spectators can claim a good spot to watch the parade as soon as Coast Highway closes at 4pm on the 1st. Followed by a countdown and ceremonial tree lighting, Santa himself will make a brief appearance to kick things off at 5pm at the Lumberyard shops courtyard.

The 2018 parade theme is “Botanical Oasis”. Encinitas has a deep history of flower growing, a terrific climate for growing a wide variety of beautiful and interesting plants, and is home to the world-famous San Diego Botanic Garden. In fact, this year’s Parade Grand Marshal is Julian Duval, who has been President and CEO of the SD Botanic Garden for nearly 30 years! Anyone can participate by registering a float in the parade, and several awards are handed out each year to participants.

Encinitas Events & Things to Do

Encinitas is a fun beach town in North County, San Diego that’s known for its surf culture, boutiques, great restaurants, and tight-knit community. At just a 30-minute drive from La Jolla and 45 minutes from downtown San Diego, Encinitas is easy to get to and makes for a great place for a day trip from anywhere in the County – and there’s always something to do! From the weekly Farmers Market to the Taste of Encinitas each summer, this funky coastal town is an exciting place to visit any time of year. Here’s a rundown of some of the most popular events and things to do in Encinitas!

Annual Events

Spring Street Fair

Every April, you can enjoy over 450 unique food, arts and crafts vendors plus four entertainment stages, children’s activities, Bike Valets, and a Beer Garden! Take advantage of free family fun, entertainment, a National Award Winning MainStreet and a traditional Southern California beach town.

Savor craft beers and soak up the sun while listening to the best bands in San Diego rock out at the Beer Garden Stage. You can even bring your kids and your dogs! Take a break from the hustle and bustle by listening to the eclectic music at The Lumberyard Courtyard Stage. See the stars of tomorrow perform at the Hansen’s Community Stage! Great news for cyclists, our two Bike Valet stations are open both days to store your bicycles while you peruse the Street Fair!

Encinitas Cruise Nights

On the third Thursday of each summer month from May through September each year, the streets of Encinitas turn into Encinitas Cruise Nights! Old-school hot rods, foreign automobiles, classic cars, and woodies line S. Coast Hwy 101 all the way from D Street to K Street. Classic cars are also parked along the Hwy 101 and on side streets, and oftentimes there is live music being played in various spots along Hwy 101.

The event is open and free to the public. Every car in attendance is eligible for awards and there is no cost for displaying or viewing the cars. Encinitas Classic Car Nights is a great reason to spend a summer night out in historic downtown Encinitas with great restaurants and unique shops.

Taste of Encinitas

Every August, the annual Taste of Encinitas event comes to the streets of historic downtown. This is a great way to experience some of the best Encinitas restaurants and shops, while you slowly stroll through town and listen to the sounds of live music. Treat your taste buds to food samples from more than 30 restaurants and enjoy local wine and craft beer served at 19 “Sip Stops” hosted by shops and salons. Don’t forget to pause along the way to enjoy live music at eight different venues. Tickets cost $45 per person and include all food and 10 drink samples; they can be purchased the day of the event at Encinitas 101 MainStreet Association’s office (818 S. Coast Highway 101).

LeucadiART Walk

Each August, the streets of Leucadia and Encinitas come alive for the LeucadiART Walk, which takes place along two miles of scenic Hwy 101 at various locations in downtown Leucadia. You’ll find local juried artists showing off their art at various booths along the 101, and a few places host live music from local bands. There are also live dance and art demonstrations throughout. This past year, there was a live surfboard art demonstration!

Leucadia ArtWalk doesn’t forget about the kiddos either – the event features a Children’s Art Pavilion complete with children’s activities, wearable art fashion show, art demonstrations, and a raffle for prizes.

For thirsty art-lovers, there is a Beer & Wine Garden (21+) featuring local breweries and distilleries, including Lost Abbey, Port Brewing, and Boochcraft. A free shuttle bus runs during the event, as well as two trolleys, which make several stops throughout downtown.

Summer Series at the Lumberyard

The Lumberyard is an expansive shopping and courtyard area in the middle of downtown Encinitas, and is home to nearly 50 stores and restaurants. The Lumberyard puts on several events throughout the year, and one of the most loved by locals is the Summer Concert Series, which happens August-September on weekend nights. Live music from local bands happens from 5pm-9pm; bring your friends and family to enjoy dinner, shopping, and live music on a warm summer night!

Halloween Safe Trick-or-Treat

Every Halloween, The Encinitas 101 MainStreet Association presents its Annual Safe Trick-or-Treat event. Historic Highway 101(from Encinitas Blvd to K Street) will turn into “Pumpkin Lane” as local businesses stay open late to welcome trick-or-treaters. The public is also invited to see the amazing pumpkins carved by the Self-Realization Fellowship monks each year.

Along the 101 there are several places to stop and enjoy Halloween-themed activities. You’ll find live music and games In the Lumberyard courtyard, and in the SRF parking lot (next to their K Street Store) check out the Queens Court! This event is free and families are welcome to join in the fun!

Annual Holiday Street Fair

Every December, get ready for the holidays with more than 450 food, arts, and crafts vendors and live entertainment on four different stages, as well as children’s rides, a Beer Garden, and bike valets! This is a great way to get started on your shopping for the holidays and support local artisans and makers.
There’s plenty to eat and drink, too! Savor craft beers and soak up some winter sun while listening to the best bands in San Diego rock out at the Beer Garden Stage, or take a break from the hustle and bustle by listening to the eclectic music at The Lumberyard Courtyard Stage. The schedule of events and the bands that play varies with each year, so be sure to check the website for details and real-time updates.

Garden of Lights at the Botanic Garden

Each December, the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas is transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland with over 125,000 sparkling lights. Festive holiday activities abound, including sledding and horse-drawn wagon rides, holiday crafts, marshmallow roasting, Nutcracker displays, visits with Santa, food trucks, hot mulled wine, nightly live music and live entertainment, and catered refreshments from local eateries.

Kids are welcome — there are numerous family-friendly activities held throughout the festivities!

Seaside Bazaar (weekly)

Every Saturday and Sunday, The Seaside Bazaar opens in the heart of Encinitas on Highway 101. The Bazaar is an offbeat European style open-air flea market, and is one of the best outdoor shopping experiences in North County! More than 50 vendors sell such crafts as artisan jewelry, wind chimes, weather vanes, photography and art, collectibles, inexpensive antiques, leather goods, clothing, and more. The seaside bazaar is also within walking distance to shops, restaurants, and the La Paloma Theater in historic downtown Encinitas.

Encinitas Seaside Bazaar is held on a dirt lot in tent exhibits, just south of Encinitas Blvd and north of the La Paloma Theatre. Free parking is available on the lot next to the bazaar, as well as along nearby streets.

Leucadia Farmers Market (weekly)

For another local shopping experience, head to the weekly Leucadia Farmers Market every Sunday from 10am-2pm. The market features more than 75 vendors selling fresh flowers, plants, produce, and vegetables, including a large Certified Organic Section. You’ll also find specialty foods, including fresh breads, beef, seafood, marinades, pastas, and sauces. Come hungry, as there is a huge food court that serves breakfast and lunch!

In addition to all the great vendors on-site, the market also features a children’s playground, covered picnic area, live music, balloon twisting, and face painting. The Farmers Market is held at Paul Ecke Central School (185 Union Street, Encinitas 92024).