Top 10 Things to Do in Del Mar

Located in southern California, just north of La Jolla and 100 miles south of Los Angeles is Del Mar. Like La Jolla, it’s situated along the coast and offers gorgeous ocean views from much of the downtown. Often referred to as “the place where the surf meets turf,” Del Mar is famous for its beautiful beaches, world-renowned racetrack, wonderful weather, and upscale living. It’s a place where you can spend the day on the beach doing nothing, or you can fill your time with nonstop action! Here are the top 10 things to do in Del Mar while you’re there.

1. Visit the beach

There are about two miles of fine sandy and beautiful beaches in Del Mar, making it perfect for sunbathing, walking, or having a relaxing picnic. Del Mar City Beach is the most popular, and its northern part between the River Mouth and 15th Street is considered the best in the entire San Diego area, with moderate surf and great swimming.

Bluffs line the southern side of the beach, and there are several trails leading down to the beach. Across from the racetrack is a popular dog-friendly beach, naturally called Dog Beach. It is located where San Dieguito River empties into the sea, creating a broad expanse of sand perfect for volleyball. It is not the best for swimming because of strong currents and shallow sandbars. However, it is protected from the wind and is a great place for making sand castles.

2. Head to the Del Mar Racetrack

The Del Mar Racetrack, where the “turf meets the surf,” is a Del Mar Thoroughbred Club horse racing track. It’s one of the biggest horse racing venues in the States and can hold nearly 50,000 spectators. The racing season is between July and September, and the races have become major social events in the country ever since the venue opened its doors in 1937. The racetrack also hosts Friday concerts on the Seaside Stage, and tickets are free with admission to the racetrack. Kids under 17 can enjoy a variety of free rides, games, and activities while their parents are having fun at the racetrack.

3. Take a hot air balloon ride

Del Mar visitors will likely see several hot air balloons above the area once dusk rolls around, and there is no doubt that it’s a fantastic way to see the city from above. Magical Adventure Balloon Rides offers year-round balloon tours of Del Mar, and they invite guests to enjoy a romantic ocean sunset balloon flight over the elegant homes and golf courses of the region.

Included in the price are a one-hour or 4-mile balloon ride, a champagne, juice, or mimosa toast, a commemorative flight certificate, and a souvenir picture.

4. Play golf

The famous Torrey Pines Golf Course, perched on the beautiful coastal cliffs overlooking the beach, is only minutes away from Del Mar, CA. The host of the annual Farmers Insurance Open, ‘the greats’ have often played here; including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Not only is this a gorgeous spot to spend the afternoon, but you’re also close to several delicious restaurants to reward your stomach after a long day: The Lodge at Torrey Pines’ A.R. Valentien is world-renowned for an expansive fine dining menu.


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5. Stroll through the Del Mar Farmer’s Market

The Del Mar Farmers Market is a small but robust farmers market located at the south end of Del Mar Village. The DMFM offers most of the traditional farmer’s market fare you would expect, including honey, fruits, vegetables, and flowers; but unlike many other markets, this one is also known for its international cuisine, meats, and seafood. The cheeses and antipasti offerings are also noteworthy for being a little something different. Pro-tip: stop here to buy some goodies for a picnic basket before you head down to the beach for a tasty lunch with a view! The market happens each Saturday from 1pm-4pm at 1050 Camino Del Mar.

6. Take a hike

Hiking through Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve offers a spectacular ocean view and a rich landscape with diverse wildlife. The 1,750-acre Reserve is located on the rough cliffs above Torrey Pines State Beach, and it was established decades ago to preserve the native Torrey Pine tree (America’s rarest pine tree) in its natural environment. The reserve also protects one of the last Southern California salt marshes and waterfowl refuges.

About eight miles of challenging hiking trails will take you through this magnificent coastal wilderness of pine trees and sandstone canyons. We recommend the Beach Trail for visitors, as it offers the best views and leads down to the beach once you’re finished.

7. Enjoy fine dining

There is a multitude of fantastic restaurants in the heart of Del Mar Village: Café Secret, Poseidon, Rendezvous, Jake’s Del Mar, Pacifica Del Mar, and The Brigantine; just to name a few! Most of these spots boast panoramic ocean views, and the Village is a lovely place for a leisurely post-dinner evening stroll. Be sure to make reservations in advance for dinner, especially on weekends; this area is known to fill up quickly.



8. Visit Fletcher Cove

Nested above a plateau overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Fletcher Cove Beach Park is an expansive coastal park that features a spectacular viewing deck, wide open grassy spaces, picnic tables, a basketball court, and a children’s playground. This is a great place to spend the day picnicking, enjoying the water, or spending a wonderful time relaxing by the ocean with family and friends. Another great park in Del Mar is nearby Powerhouse Park, which boasts a playground and swing set as well as a large picnic area.


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9. Take in a movie

Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas is a brand-new spin on modern entertainment, and if you’re looking for luxury, you won’t be disappointed! Cinépolis takes your movie experience a full step further – you can actually order from a wide offered variety of foods and beverages while you watch the movie without leaving the comfort of your seat. You can purchase tickets in advance on their website, as well, so you can choose the perfect seat before you arrive.

10. Visit Free Flight

For a family-friendly adventure that’s educational and enjoyable, consider a stop at the Free Flight Bird Sanctuary. The sanctuary’s mission is to re-socialize and re-home exotic parrots, while also educating the public. Visitors can walk among the birds and talk with them, and even assist with feeding them. Staff members are available to help with handling and answering any questions. The sanctuary is located at 2132 Jimmy Durante Blvd. in Del Mar.

For more tips and things to do in North County, San Diego, visit our favorite things to do in Encinitas blog or check out our date night tips!

7 San Diego Rooftop Bars to Visit This Weekend

Spending time outdoors is pretty much a given if you live in San Diego, and dining al fresco is no exception! There are few better ways to spend a lazy weekend afternoon than hanging out on a rooftop, cocktail in hand, enjoying the sunshine. From panoramic views of the downtown skyline to chic rooftops along the coast, there are a ton of fantastic rooftop bars in San Diego perfect for doing just that. Here’s a rundown of our seven must-see favorites!


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Altitude Sky Lounge

660 K Street
San Diego, 92101
Standing at 22 stories, Altitude Sky Lounge is the highest open-air rooftop bar in the area, which means you’ll have better views of the city here than anywhere else. In addition to the bird’s eye view of downtown, Coronado Island, Coronado Bridge, and Point Loma, ALTITUDE’s location next to Petco Park also means you can catch a free ball game during baseball season!

Their weekday Happy Hour is definitely a must-try. On Mondays-Fridays from 5 pm to 7 pm, well drinks are $7, domestic draft beers are $5, and artisan flatbreads are all half off. It’s the perfect spot for a little after-work cocktail action!


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The Poolhouse

550 J St
San Diego, CA 92101
Head to the Pendry Hotel Downtown for the city’s newest rooftop lounge. During the day the third-floor space is reserved for hotel guests, but from 5pm-9pm the general public is invited to the hotel’s daily rooftop social, with specials on drinks, light bites, and bottle service. We love the $1 oysters, available during the 5pm-6pm Happy Hour.

On Sundays, The Poolhouse turns into a daytime party venue featuring a ton of gourmet food options and a signature bar and cocktail experience; including bottle service, champagne, specialty cocktails, fresh juices, and frozen libations. The luxe urban oasis boasts private cabanas and lavish daybeds to lounge on, and a live DJ provides background tunes. It’s a fun way to end your week in style!


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The Nolen

453 6th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
An extravagant 14-story jewel in the Gaslamp quarter, The Nolen features both a patio and a rooftop lounge. Its beautiful setting – which features a communal fire pit – underlies an immersive spirit-forward cocktail menu. Come for the drinks, but stay for the food at their Sunset Hour which features $6 select sips and snacks.

Consistently ranked among the hottest bars in San Diego, The Nolen also recently began serving Sunday brunch with a build-your-own mimosa setup and specialty cocktails. The cocktail menu highlights local small-batch distilleries and one-of-a-kind blends aged in American oak barrels; you’ll find classic drinks, like Sidecars, as well as new-age handcrafted spirits, like “Christmas in Nicaragua.” You can’t go wrong with anything on the list!


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Rustic Root

535 Fifth Ave.
San Diego, 92101
Located in a prime spot in the Gaslamp Quarter, Rustic Root is a local favorite for its fresh, contemporary cuisine and yummy cocktails – and ideal for when you want a bit of a reprieve from insane lines and fighting for elbow room at the bar. The super-relaxed atmosphere pairs really well with the panoramic views for people watching along Sixth Avenue!

The rooftop bar menu here highlights rustic American cuisine, where dishes are packed with modern flavors. Their signature cocktails revolve around timeless and iconic classics, with the addition of more creative options like their craft cocktail shots – fun sip-sized versions of the classics finished with yummy garnishes.


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7863 Girard Ave.
La Jolla, 92037
This recent addition to Whisknladle Hospitality Group (open since 2015) is right here in La Jolla and boasts amazing sweeping views of La Jolla Village from the top of the Moroccan-themed La Plaza shopping center. With a choice of indoor or outdoor seating, the latter is a hands-down winner, allowing guests to enjoy lazy afternoon lunches, small plates, and leisurely dinners while taking in the sights from above.

Named after the coastal Italian city in Sicily, the restaurant focuses on authentic food from the area while highlighting seasonal ingredients. Their cocktails are all handcrafted with an Italian spin, and many feature a splash of Prosecco. Pro-tip: visit Catania on Mondays for their “Meatball Madness” special and a rotating assortment of traditional Italian dishes like chicken Marsala, eggplant Parmesan and, of course, spaghetti and meatballs. Stay through dusk for unparalleled sunset views!




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Kettner Exchange

2001 Kettner Blvd.
San Diego, 92101
One of Little Italy’s biggest hotspots, Kettner Exchange boasts a luxurious, stylish rooftop patio bar complete with private, curtained cabanas that come with their own flat-screen TV and wet bar. This particular patio is ideal for private parties, but if you’re looking to mingle, head to the dedicated bar and grab a seat by the counter or at one of the many tables.

The restaurant’s rooftop menu includes light bites and small plates; one of our favorites is the Bigeye Tuna Pizza, topped with red onions, ponzu, shiso, and truffle oil. Their cocktail menu is impressive and expansive and features everything from light and refreshing mixtures to high-end sipping whiskey. There is definitely something for everyone here!


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Upper East Bar

435 6th Avenue
San Diego, 92101
This fourth-floor rooftop in East Village, previously known as JSix Lounge and located at the Kimpton Solamar Hotel, has been completely revamped with a new layout and transformed into a luxurious, modern oasis. Cocktails and menu offerings were also updated with refreshing creations by executive chef Anthony Sinsay. Aside from the name change, it still offers sweeping views of Petco Park and surrounding buildings. You can enjoy outdoor games, fire pits, and private cabañas while you sip on a cocktail, or simply lounge poolside.

Some cocktail menu favorites include the East Fizz, a delicious combo of Grey Goose, grapefruit liqueur, and sparkling wine; and the Frosé, complete with dry rosé wine, Bacardi tangerine rum, and topped with fresh fruit. Fun pro-tip: On Mondays, the bar hosts “Veuve Around the Clock,” featuring a chilled glass of Veuve Clicquot for $5 at 5 pm, $6 at 6 pm, $7 at 7 pm, and $8 at 8 pm.

There you have it, 7 San Diego Rooftop Bars to visit this weekend. Looking for something a little closer to La Jolla? Check out our favorite spots in the Village for Happy Hour!

Complete Guide to Beaches in Del Mar

With stunning ocean views from historic coast Highway 101, wildlife reserves, sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, oceanfront parks, and plenty of shopping and dining, the cozy community of Del Mar is among the most picturesque in all of San Diego County. The quaint yet upscale charm of this seaside village in San Diego’s North County is a perfect complement to Del Mar’s two miles of beautiful, sandy coastline. The area offers both family- and dog-friendly beaches where you can relax, have a picnic, and kick off your shoes. Here is your complete guide to the best beaches in Del Mar!

Del Mar City Beach

Del Mar City Beach North starts at 15th Street/Powerhouse Park and runs all the way to Dog Beach. This is definitely our pick for the best and most family-friendly beach in Del Mar. It is known for its good swimming, intermediate surf, and easy access at every block. Parking can be difficult on weekends, but you will usually have some luck if you go a block or two south to the residential areas.

Get an early start to enjoy this beautiful beach for the entire day; bring a picnic and then watch the sunset. Note that at high tide the beach can be narrow – if you walk south from Powerhouse Park you will be on South Beach tucked below steep colorful eroding bluffs.

Parking can be a challenge, especially during the busy spring and summer months. Street parking in commercial (usually metered) and residential neighborhoods are your best bet. There are a few parking lots available in downtown Del Mar’s shopping district, but be watchful of signs for spots reserved for patrons of restaurants and shops. Metered parking is also available, so be sure to bring plenty of quarters!



Popular activities at this Southern California beach include swimming, sunbathing, beach walking, picnicking, and surfing. The water is usually calm enough to swim here, and there is always a lifeguard on duty. Jogging and bicycling along the coast, south of 15th Street, are also quite common, as is volleyball. Sunbathing is best at the Del Mar City Beach around 17th Street.

Amenities here include a large grassy park, picnic tables, a kids’ playground and play area, a lifeguard tower, restrooms, and several benches.

Directions to Del Mar City Beach: From freeway I-5 exit Del Mar Heights Road or Via De La Valle and head west. Del Mar Heights leads to the south end of Del Mar at Pacific Coast Hwy and 4th Street; Via De La Valle meets Pacific Coast Hwy on the extreme north end of Del Mar at the Rivermouth. To find the main Del Mar City Beach area, follow the Coast Highway to the intersection of 15th Street and Coast Boulevard, midway between these two points. All of Del Mar’s beaches are named after its numbered streets, so finding any specific spot referred to here is as simple as locating the same street.

The dog policy here is somewhat strict compared to North Beach (Dog Beach). Dogs are not allowed at all from June 16th through Labor Day, but they are allowed leashed from the day after Labor Day through June 15th.

Powerhouse Park: Right above this sandy beach, you’ll find Powerhouse Park. This is a great place to start your day in Del Mar: you’ll find public restrooms, picnic areas with tables and benches overlooking the ocean, and a large children’s playground. You’ll also find a snack shop and several restaurants walking distance.

Del Mar North Beach (Dog Beach)

Del Mar North Beach, affectionately known to locals as Dog Beach because of its lax dog policies, runs from 29th Street north all the way to Solana Beach. Dogs can run freely all along this beach, except during the summer months (between June 16 through Labor Day), when they must be on-leash. Dog beach extends north for nearly ½ mile, and includes the area around the mouth of San Dieguito River.

The main part of this beach is on the north side of the San Dieguito River Lagoon entrance next to Camino del Mar. There is a short hiking trail that leads up to an overlook at James Scripps’ North Bluff Preserve, above North Beach, and is definitely worth exploring.

Parking is all free street parking along Camino Del Mar, behind the beach, as well as at 29th Street.

Popular activities at this beach include volleyball (there are usually several volleyball courts set up in the wide flat part of the beach), surfing (surfers can find breaks on sand bars near the river mouth and reefs north of it), dog walking, and fishing.

Amenities at this beach include volleyball courts, hiking trails, a beach overlook, lifeguard tower, and restrooms.

Directions to North Beach: Del Mar North Beach is located at 3200 Camino Del Mar. From freeway I-5, exit Via de la Valle and head west. Turn left onto Camino Del Mar, and the beach will be a little ways up on the right side. Look for parking anywhere on the street or a block north.

Del Mar South Beach

South Beach in Del Mar runs from the south of Powerhouse Park all the way to 6th Street at the north end of Torrey Pines State Beach. This beach is less popular than Del Mar City Beach, but is a common area for locals to walk along the beach at low tide. South Del Mar Beach can be narrow at high tide which can put a damper on sunbathing and other beach activities here.

Parking can be found near Powerhouse Park or Seagrove Park. There is also free parking on the street near the west end of 13th through 6th Streets, but you’ll have to cross the railroad tracks and then find a route down the steep cliffs to the beach. The safest route down the bluff to the beach is at 11th Street, but it’s easy to park at any of the numbered streets and walk along a dirt path next to the railroad tracks to get there.

Popular activities at this beach include sunbathing, beach walking, beachcombing, and surfing.

There are few amenities at this beach, but there is a trail and a small grassy park above the beach at Seagrove Park.

Seagrove Park is a beautifully landscaped park with benches and unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean, which is perfect for whale watching season from December through April. There are public restrooms here, and do note that they close just before dark.

Directions to Del Mar South Beach: South Beach is located at Stratford Ct & 11th Street in Del Mar. From Freeway I-5, exit Del Mar Heights and head west. Turn right onto Camino Del Mar. Look for residential street parking near 11th Street or 13th Street, and find access down to the beach via the trail at 11th Street.

Torrey Pines State Beach North

North Beach at Torrey Pines State Beach is on the north side of the lagoon entrance at Los Peñasquitos Marsh Natural Preserve. Like Torrey Pines South Beach across the marsh entrance channel, the North Beach has a large parking lot with easy access and nice facilities.

When the water is deep enough you can swim in the saltwater at the channel, but it’s often hardly a trickle; just deep enough for children to splash around in. When conditions are safe, you can play in the surf here too, but the waves can be high and are often better suited for surfing. There are lifeguards on staff in the summer months. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is on the hill above the beach and has hiking trails to many great vista points. The downtown area of Del Mar is just a few minutes’ drive north.

Parking can be found in a large parking lot to the east of the freeway, or along Torrey Pines Rd. next to the beach (there are several designated parking spaces, but they fill up quickly).

Popular activities here include bird watching, hiking, fishing, swimming, surfing, sunbathing, and beach walking.

Amenities at this beach include a lifeguard tower, public restrooms, and public showers near the parking lot.

Directions to Torrey Pines State Beach North: From the I-5 freeway exit Carmel Valley Road and head west to Torrey Pines Road south (aka Pacific Coast Highway). Look for roadside parking along the southbound shoulder of PCH, or find the North Beach Parking Lot and pay a small fee. You can then walk across over to the beach.

Tip: While there is a lifeguard tower here, there is no permanent lifeguard supervision anywhere below the bluffs at Torrey Pines. Lifeguards will sometimes be present, but it is often a swim- at-your-own-risk zone and the area can be known for powerful surf and strong currents. Exercise caution when you are swimming here, especially with small children.

Looking for more beach options in San Diego? Visit our complete guide to the beaches at Encinitas, or browse our picks for the top La Jolla beaches!

Guide to the Best Hikes in San Diego

Gorgeous year-round weather and a plethora of landscapes and natural features make San Diego County an incredible hiking spot for outdoor lovers and locals alike. The area offers a diverse array of hiking trails: you’ll find ocean cliffs covered with Torrey pines, rolling mountain ranges, and the incredible Anza Borrego desert. Whatever the season or your hiking skill level, San Diego County is a treasure trove of adventure and wildlife viewing! Here are 15 incredible San Diego hikes.


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1. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Torrey Pines is a popular destination, and eight separate trails offer a variety of difficulty levels and types of scenery. From these trails, you can see groves of the unique-to-San Diego Torrey Pine and the otherworldly geology of the cliffs and rock formations overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Beach access is possible as well, from the Beach Trail connecting the reserve to the Torrey Pines State Beach.

Directions: To access the trails, park in the main parking lot at Torrey Pines State Beach (12600 North Torrey Pines Road, San Diego). From there, it’s a short walk uphill to the start of the trails.

2. Mount Woodson (Potato Chip Rock)

The well known 7.5-mile there-and-back trail to Potato Chip Rock offers incredible views of Southern California, but is strenuous and exposed especially in the warmer month. Be sure to bring plenty of snacks, hiking boots, plenty of water, and your patience as you wait in line for your iconic photo on Potato Chip Rock.

Lined with massive boulders that tower over 6.4-miles of zigzagging trail, the difficult hike leads to one of the highest peaks in the county, where views of Lake Poway and Palomar Mountain await.

Directions: Parking is $8 at the lot at 14644 Lake Poway Road, Poway, CA 92064. Once you park in the top parking lot, the trailhead starts near the bathroom and wraps around the lake.


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3. Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve

This is a popular destination for San Diego weekend warriors, and for good reason! It’s just a short distance from the city, but it feels much more isolated, especially compared to other San Diego hikes that have vistas overlooking subdivisions. There are roughly 12 miles of trails within Los Peñasquitos Canyon, which means there’s a great hike for every skill level here.

The main six-mile loop features a waterfall and is a great and easy hike for beginners, but you can make it as long or short as you wish.

Directions: There are several entrance points into the Preserve. The east entrance is located at the intersection of Black Mountain and Mercy Roads. The western staging area is on the south side of Sorrento Valley Boulevard, approximately 1 mile east of Vista Sorrento Parkway. A convenient northern entrance is near Peñasquitos Creek Park at the intersection of Park Village Road and Camino Del Sur in Rancho Peñasquitos.


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4. Cedar Creek Falls

Cedar Creek is an amazing six-mile round trip day hike in the San Diego area, though it can be very strenuous. It ends with a stunning view of an 80-foot waterfall into a deep swimming hole known as the Devil’s Punchbowl, and the trail winds through the chaparral hills of eastern San Diego County. Heat is always something to consider before doing this hike, no matter the season (in fact, it’s often closed during the hottest days of the year for safety). As you descend into the valley, expect a 10-15 degree temperature rise. In the summer, temperatures will often exceed 115 degrees!

Directions: The trailhead is located at 15519 Thornbush Road in Ramona. There is a parking lot. All hikers must display an active permit to hike this trail.


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5. Three Sisters Waterfall

This is another great swimming hole in the County. Carved out of the Cuyamaca Foothills by Boulder Creek, the series of falls is reached by a quick 2-mile descent into the canyon. This means, of course, that the return can be an incredibly hot 2-mile climb uphill, so be sure to bring and save plenty of water. Dogs are not recommended here, especially during the summer months.



Directions: From Interstate 8 East, exit at Highway 79 ( the Descanso exit) and drive north. After 1.3 miles turn left on Riverside Drive. Continue to Descanso. From there take Oak Grove Drive 1.6 miles to the intersection of Boulder Creek Road on the right. Follow Boulder Creek Road north for 13.0 miles (the first half is paved and the rest is dirt) to a hairpin turn where unpaved Cedar Creek Road joins from the west. Park at the trailhead.


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6. Cowles Mountain

At 1,592 feet, Cowles Mountain is the highest peak in San Diego. Its multiple approaches, easy access, and 360-degree views from the summit make it one of the most popular hikes in the county. Although the route from the most popular Golfcrest Drive Trailhead is only 1.5 miles long, the elevation gain of almost 950 feet makes the short hike quite a workout.

Directions: The parking lot for the trailhead is located at 7001 Golfcrest Drive.


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7. Iron Mountain

Another popular hike just outside of Poway is the 6.4-mile hike to the Iron Mountain summit. The vista offers 360-degree views of the surrounding hills, including the San Vicente Reservoir. For rock climbers, some of the granite formations along the trail make for good bouldering.

Directions: From I-15, exit and travel east on Poway Road. After passing through the city of Poway, Poway Road will dead-end at Highway 67. The trailhead will be on the opposite side of Highway 67.


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8. Oak Canyon (Mission Trails Regional Park)

Mission Trails Regional Park is one of the largest hiking areas in San Diego County, and the Oak Canyon Trail is a great option for those exploring it for the first time. This is a 1.8-mile loop that passes historic landmarks (including Mission Dam), oaks along a dry riverbed, rolling hills, and a river crossing. This is a great family-friendly option as there is very little elevation gain along the trail.

Directions: The trailhead for Oak Canyon starts in the parking area at the Old Mission Dam (1 Father Junipero Serra Trl, San Diego, CA 92119).


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9. Cabrillo National Monument

A visit here offers hikers incredible panoramic views, a historic lighthouse, and several tide pools. Following a path from the visitor center to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse will take you to the park’s summit, which is one of the best places to take in the view of San Diego and the lighthouse itself is beautiful. Keep an eye out for gray whales, which can be seen in the winter months (usually from December through April).

Directions: The trail can be started from the entrances at Lot 1 or Lot 2 off of Gatchell Rd. Take Cabrillo Rd. from the main entrance of the park to Gatchell and park at either lot.


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10. Sunset Cliffs

This 68-acre park is a picture-perfect area of San Diego County, complete with expansive ocean views, rocky cliffs, and an intertidal area ripe for exploration. It’s popular with surfers, but even if you just want to catch a sunset or listen to crashing waves you won’t be disappointed. You might even catch a pod of California gray whales during their annual migration to Baja. The trail is a short 3.7 miles, and is best hiked during the late afternoon.

Directions: Start the trail at Sunset Cliffs Blvd and Adair St and follow the path along the cliffs.


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11. Balboa Park Trails

San Diego’s massive Balboa Park is home to 17 museums, the city’s famous zoo, acres of gardens, and a whopping 65 miles of trails. There’s something for just about everyone, from families and history buffs to avid hikers. In terms of hiking trails, Balboa Park Trail #1 a good one to start with: it’s short, at just 1.5 miles, but it also avoids most of the more heavily touristed parts of the park.

Directions: Trail #1 can be accessed from 6th Ave & Upas. Visit Balboa Park’s website for complete trail information, as there are multiple hikes within the park.


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12. Stonewall Peak

While Stonewall Peak still sadly suffers from the lasting effects of the worst fire in California history, the 2003 Cedar Fire, the trail’s popularity has not diminished – nor have the views. After a somewhat strenuous uphill 3.8 mile hike to the summit, you’ll be rewarded with epic views over the rolling Cuyamaca Mountains combined with panoramas across the desert that reach the Salton Sea on clear days.

Directions: Turn left into Paso Picacho campground, pay the fee, and park in the day use area off to the right. The trailhead is across the street.


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13. El Cajon Mountain

The El Cajon Mountain , nicknamed “El Cap,” hiking trail is the most grueling on our list. Used by IRONMAN triathletes for training, the 12-mile hike follows an old mining trail all the way up to its 3,675 foot peak. It’s not for the faint of heart, and it can get very hot on the trail as it’s relatively exposed for most of the way. The trail is actually closed for an entire month during August, so plan accordingly. Layered with steep trails both up and down the mountain, this trek will leave you with sore legs, stunning views, and undoubtedly a sense of accomplishment! Note that this hike is not child- or pet-friendly.

Directions: Follow Highway 67 north until Willow Road. Take a right onto Willow Road and follow it until you see Wildcat Canyon Road. Take a left onto Wildcat Canyon Road and follow it until you see the trailhead for El Cajon Mountain; there is a parking lot here.


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14. Cuyamaca Peak Loop Trail

The Cuyamaca Peak Loop hike is a great experience for those who want a long, challenging hike with different routes to the top. Located near Julian, climbers have their pick of the Conejos Trail, Azalea Glen Loop Trail, Azalea Springs Trail, West Side Trail and the Azalea Springs Fire Road. Once at the top of the second-highest peak in San Diego County (6,512 feet), you’ll get to enjoy the view of the surrounding Cleveland National Forest and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park after a 1,700-foot elevation gain.

Directions: Park at Paso Picacho Campground. Park, then walk through the campground to the cabins in the back. Find the trailhead there.


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15. Double Peak Trail

Double Peak is an easily accessed, moderate 3.9 mile hike offering spectacular views over North County, coastal San Diego, and toward East County. In addition to a good climb and even better views, Double Peak boasts a nice park at the summit, complete with picnic benches, a few trees for shade, a free viewfinder, and flush toilets. The views from the top are equal to and sometimes even better than the views available at some of the other peaks in San Diego County. This is a fun one to try for those closer to North County.

Directions: The parking lot for the trailhead is at 900 Double Peak Drive in San Marcos. The lot is open until 8pm.

Looking for more hikes? Check out our favorite off-the-beaten-path hikes in La Jolla!

The Best Beaches in Encinitas

Running parallel to historic Highway 101, the beaches in Encinitas are some of the best hidden gems in San Diego’s North County Coastal region. From soft white sand to picturesque rocky bluffs and legendary surf spots along the coast, the beaches in this quaint surf town in Southern California offer a little something for everyone. An eclectic mix of ‘60s-inspired beach culture combined with boutique shops, contemporary restaurants, and yoga studios, Encinitas is a vibrant beach town where the traditional SoCal surf scene still flourishes. Here is your guide to the best beaches in the city of Encinitas!

Popular Activities at Encinitas Beaches

  • Surfing
  • Paddle boarding
  • Boogie boarding
  • Sunbathing
  • Beach volleyball
  • Body surfing
  • Swimming (in designated areas)

The Best Beaches in Encinitas

Moonlight Beach

Moonlight Beach is the gem of Encinitas’ beaches, and is one of the most popular among local families. With easy access, free parking, great facilities, lifeguards, volleyball courts and a sandy beach, Moonlight is almost always packed with people. Recent upgrades and the addition of a snack shop have definitely helped the beautiful beach stand out as the best family destination along this section of the coast, so feel free to bring the dog and kids.

Amenities include restrooms with showers, picnic areas, a playground, bonfire rings, and a lifeguard tower. During the summers, this particular beach gets packed; while parking is plentiful, you’ll have the best luck looking along Highway 101 rather than at the beach itself.

How to get there: Moonlight State Beach is at the west end of Encinitas Boulevard from I-5. After crossing Highway 101 Encinitas Blvd becomes B Street. There is a paid parking lot with an entrance on C Street, but first look for free street parking in the area. You might have to walk a ways to the beach on sunny days, but there is a drop-off area next to the sand on B Street.

D Street Beach

D Street ends at a nice viewpoint looking out over the ocean where surfers ride in on long rolling waves. A large wooden staircase leads down the bluff to the beach, which is wide and sandy. Parking is usually plentiful and relatively easy to find along neighboring surface streets and residential areas.

While there are no facilities or amenities at this beach, it’s close enough to Moonlight Beach to head up there for restrooms and food. Lifeguards are on duty here every day during the summer months.

How to get there: head one block south of Moonlight State Beach and find parking along Highway 101.

Swami’s Beach

Swami’s Surf Beach is a famous surfing mecca at the southern end of Encinitas and is considered by many to still be a premier surfing destination. The park at Swami’s Beach is a great vantage point for watching surfers, and has shaded areas to enjoy a picnic on the grass as well. When the tide isn’t too high, you can walk south for quite a distance down into San Elijo State Beach. A parking lot (with spaces for about 30 cars), picnic area, and restrooms are located there. More parking can be found along the highway shoulder. A ramp and stairs lead down to the beach.

Several cafes, including the famous Swami’s Cafe, and other restaurants are just a short walk north on Highway 101. There is a long stairway that descends the steep bluff from the parking lot to the beach. If the parking lot is full you will have to park along the highway outside of the park entrance. During low tides some tide pools can be found at the point north from the bottom of the stairs.

How to get there: Access the beach off South Coast Highway 101 at Swami’s Seaside Park (1298 S Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA).

Stone Steps Beach

Stone Steps Beach is a locals’ beach in Encinitas that is a little off-the-beaten-path. The city has signed it as “Stonesteps Beach Access,” but most people refer to it as Stone Steps. True to its name, you’ll find a large concrete and stone stairway with nearly 100 steps that descends the steep bluff to the narrow beach below.

This is a great beach for surfing or for walking along, but be aware that high tides will cover the entire beach in certain areas. Walk north and you’ll get to Beacon’s Beach and walk south and you’ll reach Moonlight Beach.

How to get there: head west on El Portal Street from Highway 101 then veer left onto S El Portal St to the end. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer.

Encinitas Beach

Encinitas Beach doesn’t have its own access, so it’s a great spot if you’re looking for a more secluded section of the coast. The tall walls that prevent erosion for the expensive homes up on the bluff also provide a space to sunbathe that is not visible from above. Encinitas Beach consists of a narrow strip of sand, and makes for a great beach walk when the tide allows.

At high tide Encinitas Beach can be impossible to access, so be sure to check the tides before heading here. Surfers, swimmers, and sunbathers like the area, away from the busier stretches of beach in Encinitas. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer, but there are no other facilities.

How to get there: you can reach Encinitas Beach by walking north from Stone Steps Beach. Park along surface streets.

Beacon’s Beach

Beacon’s Beach in Encinitas is technically “South Leucadia State Beach” because it’s the southern beach access of this state park, but the city-run beach has been called Beacon’s by the locals for decades. The beach here, just like Grandview Beach and nearby Stone Steps Beach to the south, is tucked below the bluff where homes and condos are densely packed.

A narrow trail with three switchbacks descends the bluff face. Beacon’s Beach has a small parking lot on Neptune Avenue between Jasper Street and West Leucadia Boulevard a couple blocks west of Highway 101 in the Encinitas neighborhood of Leucadia. However, the lot is often full and getting a parking spot near the beach access is usually a problem; you may have to park along a surface street and walk a ways.

Surfers and sunbathers are the main users, but if you just need to take off your shoes and walk on a beach this one is great! Just be aware that during high tides the beaches in this area are very narrow or all wet. Once again, lifeguards are on duty during the summer, but there are no other facilities here. It is a favorite destination for surfers and can often be crowded out on the water.

How to get there: the beach is located at 948 Neptune Avenue, where you’ll find the parking lot. Park here or on a nearby street and take the stairway down to the sandy beach.

Boneyard Beach

Boneyard Beach is located below a very steep cliff between Swami’s Beach and D Street Beach in Encinitas, CA. Boneyards is a dry sandy beach at medium and low tides, and is only accessible by walking from the neighboring beaches (easier and safer from the D Street stairway access). There are no facilities or amenities here.

At low tide the beach is wide so you can walk out a long ways to look back at the homes high on the bluff. Because of its seclusion below the bluff, Boneyard Beach is popular with surfers when the conditions are right.

How to get there: head to Swami’s or D Street Beach, and when you get to the bottom of the stairs head north or south respectively.

Cardiff State Beach (North)

North Beach at Cardiff State Beach is located at the entrance to San Elijo Lagoon in the Encinitas community of Cardiff-by-the-Sea. This is a day-use facility, but you’ll find San Elijo State Beach Campground across the lagoon if you want to camp overnight. The north end of Cardiff State Beach is also called “Restaurant Row” by locals because of the series of restaurants next to the beach on Highway 101. The North Beach parking lot is much smaller than the one at the south end of Cardiff SB, so plan to get here early. Amenities include lifeguards on duty, restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and barbecues. Swimming, surfing, sunbathing, and beach walking are popular activities here.

There are some parking spots along Highway 101 just south of the restaurants. Surfers congregate just offshore near the channel entrance in an area called Cardiff Reef. There are strong rip currents in some areas, especially at the lagoon channel, so be careful swimming here or check in with a lifeguard before you swim.

How to get there: the beach is located at 2500 S. Coast Highway 101; find parking along Hwy 101 and head over to the beach.



Cardiff State Beach (Seaside Beach)

Seaside Beach is a sandy beach in Cardiff State Beach at the border between Solana Beach and the Cardiff-by-the-Sea area of Encinitas, CA. Cardiff State Beach is the long sandy strip along the west side of San Elijo Lagoon a large wetlands and ecological reserve. If you want to see the lagoon, they have a visitor center nearby on Manchester Avenue.

The parking lot at Seaside Beach is on Highway 101 just north of the city of Solana Beach. You’ll see surfers enjoying the waves that break over the reef known as Seaside Reef, Cardiff Reef, or Tabletops. Seaside Beach itself is narrow especially at high tide. When the tide allows you can walk south on the sand to the beach at Tide Beach Park below the high bluffs of Solana Beach. Rip currents exist, so be careful where you swim while at Cardiff State Beach.

There are many restaurant options just up the highway behind the North Beach of Cardiff State Beach. Amenities include restrooms and showers, and there are always lifeguards on duty. Surfing and swimming are popular activities here and it is dog friendly.

How to get there: Head north from Solana Beach and find Seaside Beach at 2504 S. Coast Highway 101. The parking lot is on the highway.

For more information on local and nearby La Jolla beaches, view our other beach guides!

Where to Find the Best Pumpkin Patches in San Diego

It’s that time of year again – apples, pumpkins, and… pumpkin spice lattes? If you’re in the mood to pick your own pumpkins for Jack O’Lantern carvings this year, look no further! We’ve rounded up all of our favorite pumpkin patches in San Diego – from local favorites to family farms in Julian and Ramona. Pack a sandwich and make a road trip out of it!

Mr. Jack O’ Lanterns Pumpkin Patch

Starts Oct. 1

La Jolla finally has its own pumpkin patch! Mr. Jack O’Lantern’s offers premium pumpkins, games, activities, and attractions. Swing by on a weekend and you might catch live music or a food truck. Items such as spider webs, halloween decorations, pumpkin carving sets, novelties, and more are also available to make it a one-stop-shop for all things Halloween. Activities include a giant bounce house, haunted maze, corn hole, slides, bowling, ring toss, and tons more. 6710 La Jolla Blvd., La Jolla. Visit their website for all the details.

Bates Nut Farm

Sept. 22 – Oct. 31

The Bates Nut Farm Pumpkin Patch has been open for nearly 50 years and is a serious San Diego favorite! Along with a pumpkin-picking patch, visitors can enjoy tractor hayrides, a straw maze, petting corral, and Snows Pony Rides.

Grab a wheelbarrow and pick from variety of pumpkins: Big Macs, Ghost, Cinderella, Jack O’ Lantern, minis, squash, gourds and other fall décor. In addition, Saturdays and Sundays at Bates include live entertainment from 12pm-3pm, BBQ, kettle corn, food trucks, rock climb, bounce, slide and other family friendly events. 15954 Woods Valley Rd., Valley Center. Open Monday through Friday 9am-5:30pm; weekends from 8:30am-6pm. Visit their website for complete details.

Julian Mining Company

Starts Sept. 22

Along with apples and pie, Julian is also known for its fall pumpkin patches! The pick-your-own pumpkin patch at Julian Mining Co. is open every Saturday and Sunday starting September 29. Prices are approximately $.50/lbs. If you’re looking to spend more time here, they also have gem sluicing, gold panning, a petting zoo, and tomahawk throwing. 4444 Hwy. 78, Wynola/Julian. Visit their website for more details.

Mountain Valley Ranch

Sept. 22 – Oct. 31

Free admission! The whole family can enjoy an assortment of pumpkins, gourds, and Indian corn. There is also a corn maze, a corn cannon, petting zoo, hay rides (weekends only), and pony rides. Snacks and refreshments will be available on the weekends, as well. Open seven days a week from 9am-6pm. 842 CA-78, Ramona. Visit website for more information.

Farm Stand West & Fran’s Original Farm Stand

Starts October 1st

All throughout the month of October they’ll be hosting a you-pick Pumpkin Patch. Head over to the Farm Stand West or the Original Farm Stand and pick your own bunch of pumpkins for the season. Open weekends from 10am-6 pm. 2115 Miller Ave., Escondido; and 1980 Summit Dr., Escondido. Head here for more information.



Lavender Hill Pumpkins

Starts Sept. 29

Lavender Hill Pumpkins is a super popular spot in Fallbrook; their u-pick pumpkin patch is located on a beautiful family-owned farm on a hillside. They take pride in growing a selection of varieties that produce unusually large or unique pumpkins; this year’s crop includes about 10,000 pumpkins in three dozen varieties, ranging from the very large to the very small, from the mildly eccentric to the shamelessly grotesque. Fridays 2-5 pm; Sat. & Sun. 10am-5 pm. 1509 East Mission Rd., Fallbrook.

Pumpkin Station

Pumpkin Stations are in multiple locations throughout San Diego: Del Mar, Rancho Bernardo, Mission Valley, El Cajon, National City, Bonita. Take the convenient route and pick some pumpkins in the city! Each spot also offers kiddie rides, giant slides, corn maze, inflatable play centers, petting zoos, game zones, and even school tours and party packages. All locations have free parking and admission. Pumpkins are priced individually on size.

Summers Past Farms

Starts October 1st

Summers Past has been a country favorite since they opened in 1987. Besides a large farm, the property also features an herbal soap shop, where they make their own in-house soap products. Wander through the pumpkin patch at Summers Past Farms throughout the month of October and pick your own pumpkin to take home. Other activities include a bounce house, crafts, and snacks for everyone like popcorn, coffee, and smoothies. Open Wednesday-Saturday 9am-5pm, and Sundays 10am-5pm. Located at 15602 Olde Highway 80, Flinn Springs 92021.

Our Favorite San Diego Brunch Spots

Nothing says the weekend like a leisurely brunch with family or friends, especially in gorgeous San Diego! From classic egg omelettes and Bloody Marys to pastries and house-made sweet treats, these local restaurants are serving up all the best breakfast fare. Enjoy a leisurely Sunday morning at one of these essential San Diego brunch spots – and maybe a mimosa or two!

Farmer & the Seahorse

10996 Torreyana Rd.
San Diego, CA 92121
Farmer & The Seahorse offers al fresco brunch with amazing views and live music every Sunday morning/afternoon. It’s a popular spot for brunch near La Jolla, as it’s just a few minutes’ drive north. Menu favorites include multi-grain pancakes, chilaquiles, and a Moroccan scramble. Also: try one of their flavored mimosas, which come with unlimited bottle service for $20. Guests can choose from five juices to accompany each bottle of bubbly: triple rosemary berry, pineapple mango, traditional orange juice, grapefruit, and blood orange. Farmer & the Seahorse offers mimosa bottle service on Sundays from 10am-2pm.




4622 Park Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92116
Madison on Park is a local favorite for dinner and now, with their new brunch menu, is a great spot to dine on the weekends. New brunch items include brioche french toast, huevos rancheros, chilaquiles, paleo bowl, white bean shakshuka with carnitas, banana strawberry Nutella waffle and classic favorites like the beet waffle, avocado toast and waffled churro sticks.

Madison’s bottomless Mimosas are available by the glass or pitcher, and include the Black Magic mimosas with activated charcoal, the Blue Dream mimosa with blue-green spirulina and the Purple Rain Mimosa with aloe vera juice and butterfly pea flower. Brunch hours are Saturday and Sunday from 9:30am to 2:30pm.

Herb & Wood

2210 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
Little Italy favorite Herb & Wood launched a brand-new brunch menu this past April, which is served on weekends between 10am and 2:30pm. Though known for its excellent dinner options, the new brunch menu is definitely holding its own! Menu highlights include the dutch baby soufflé pancakes, a Jamón Ibérico Benedict, and scallop ceviche. Brunch cocktails and a special brunch dessert menu are also available.


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TRUST Restaurant

3752 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92103
Since opening last spring, TRUST Restaurant has quickly become one of the city’s hottest gathering spots. Diners can people watch on the patio while digging into delicious brunch plates from executive chef Brad Wise and his team. Local favorites include the pancakes and fried chicken plate, spicy pork belly grilled cheese, and a seriously epic sticky bun – a show stopping cinnamon roll topped with cinnamon ice cream. Brunch is served on weekends from 9am to 2pm.

The Med

1132 Prospect St.
La Jolla, CA 92037
If you’re looking for a little glamour with your brunch, our very own La Valencia in La Jolla is the perfect spot! Executive Chef Alex Emery’s renowned weekend brunch includes dishes like house-cured salmon, a brunch board loaded with pastries, cheeses and seasonal berries, local spiny lobster Benedict, and grilled flat iron steak and eggs. There are fruit flavored mimosas as well, plus six decidedly different Bloody Marys – standouts include the Sriracha and soy sauce crafted Shanghai, to the namesake Lady V with its impressive crab claw and bacon garnish.

Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30am to 2:30pm.

Galaxy Taco

2259 Avenida de La Playa
La Jolla, CA 92037
Still one of our favorite taco spots in La Jolla, Galaxy Taco does not disappoint when it comes to Sunday brunch! Yummy menu items include a tasty pazole verde with pork, blue and white corn hominy, radish and avocado; and pork huarache (pulled pork flatbread) with fried eggs and roasted tomatillo salsa. If you’re looking for something on the sweeter side, try the fresh cream, banana, lemon zest, and Mexican chocolate dusted waffles while sipping on bottomless Mimosa and Micheladas.

Brunch at Galaxy Taco is served on Sundays from 10am to 3pm.

Oceana Coastal Kitchen

3999 Mission Blvd
San Diego, CA 92109
Panoramic bay views and alfresco dining make Oceana’s Sunday Champagne brunch well worth the splurge! Located at the Catamaran Resort Hotel, you’ll be able to feast on sushi, nigiri, and sashimi selections from the cold bar, in addition to fresh fruit, pastries, salads, and antipasto. Larger plated options, like salmon and prime rib, can also be ordered, plus breakfast favorites such as the Waffle Romanoff, a Belgian style waffle topped with Grand Marnier, strawberries, whipped cream, and maple syrup. Brunch hours are Sundays from 10am to 2pm.


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Craft & Commerce

675 W Beech St
San Diego, CA 92101
For some serious next-level indulgence, head to the newly revamped Craft & Commerce in downtown San Diego. Brunch offerings from executive chef Ted Smith range from the goat cheese and orange marmalade topped grilled toast (dubbed ‘The Orange Rides the Goat Toast’) to an old-school hearty fried chicken and waffle plate. Other menu favorites include an over-the-top foie gras breakfast burrito filled with marinated skirt steak. Brunch is served every Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 3pm.

Café 21

2736 5th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
Lines for brunch are always out the door at this cozy Gaslamp Quarter restaurant (they have another location in North Park). Along with its popular mimosa and sangria flights, there are some new morning items worth the wait; with sweet and savory crêpes joining the menu’s cast-iron skillets, omelets, pancakes, and classic French toast with powdered sugar. Other brunch favorites include flavored pancakes like the tiramisu with espresso maple syrup, mascarpone cream, chocolate sauce and cocoa powder; shrimp corn cakes; and a fusion Eggs Benedict with cilantro cream sauce.

Bloody Marys are offered with a red, green or yellow heirloom tomato mix, while mimosa and sangria Flights are served on a tasting tree, with rotating weekly flavors. Brunch is served until 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Crown Room at Hotel Del Coronado

1500 Orange Avenue
Coronado, CA
San Diego’s flagship fancy brunch is still running strong and remains a beloved favorite of locals and visitors, alike. Every Sunday, their Victorian Crown Room dining room fills up with food like King Crab legs, a gourmet Bloody Mary bar, sushi, egg dishes, french toast and much, much more. The regular brunch costs $93 per person for adults, $23 for children, but their Chef’s Table option has one seating at 10am and includes a garden tour, Champagne reception, specially plated courses and a reserve wine selection for $150.


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The Pearl Hotel

1410 Rosecrans St
San Diego, CA 92106
The Pearl Hotel’s new restaurant, Charles & Dinorah, is now serving brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Favorites include chilaquiles with two sunny eggs, black beans, farro and salsa verde; chicken fried steak with sausage gravy and hash browns; a Croque Madame with black forest ham, mornay, Irish cheddar and sunny side-up egg; and Nutella french toast with brioche and buckwheat pancakes with apple butter, both served with a house-infused cardamom maple syrup. Brunch hours are 10am to 3pm on Sundays.

Little Lion Café

1424 Sunset Cliffs Blvd
San Diego, CA
Sunset Cliffs’ Little Lion Cafe is a brunch favorite for many locals in Ocean Beach and Point Loma — so much so that people forget they serve dinner, too! The granddaughters of the (now closed) Belgian Lion owners are serving up a rotating menu of superfood bowls, baked eggs in cream, savory lunch options, bruschettas, poached eggs and more in this cozy and super stylish restaurant. Another bonus: vegetarians, vegans and meat- eaters alike will all find something delicious to suit their needs. Don’t skip the vanilla latte and make sure you get there early on weekends to avoid crowds!

For other brunch and breakfast ideas, visit our favorite brunch spots in La Jolla or visit our restaurant directory!

Where to Go Apple Picking in San Diego

Fall is just around the corner – and what better way to celebrate its arrival than apple picking in Julian? Apple picking season has been a big-hitting family favorite for years in San Diego; especially in and around Julian and nearby mountain towns.

This year, we were lucky enough to have plenty of rain early on; meaning that all of these apple picking farms are officially open for a long season! Here are the best spots for apple picking in Julian and San Diego.

Apple Starr Orchard

1020 Julian Orchard Drive, Julian, CA 92036.
Open every weekend from 10am-5pm.

The original orchard at Apple Starr was planted by the Farmer family after whom “Farmers Road,”  the road to the town, is named. Parts of the land were earlier used as a milk dairy, and the old barn was constructed in the early 1900s.

The orchard is home to roughly 1000 apple and pear trees. The trees range in age from 20 to 70 years and the majority have low branches that children can access. They only use certified organic products and are inspected annually to maintain their certification. Pear varieties include Bartletts, Comice, Anjous, Bosc; and apple varieties include Jonagold, Granny, Fuji, Gala, Red Delicious. No reservations are necessary for u-pick!

Volcan Valley Apple Farm

1284 Julian Orchards Drive, Julian CA 92036.
Open Friday-Monday from 9:30am-4:30pm.

Julian’s largest orchard, Volcan Valley Apple Farm, attracts big crowds every year with 7,000 trellis-grown apple trees of red and green apples ready to pick. Choose between seven different varietals of apples, including Gravenstein, Empires (a cross between a Red Delicious and a Macintosh), Jonathans, Golden Delicious, and Pippins. Pick up a bag for $12 and then head into the fields to fill it up yourself! They will also have cold water, fresh cider and applewoods for your smoker.

Also on-site: Granny’s Pies! Grab a sweet treat after you’ve filled up your bag for the day.



Apples & Art Orchard

1052 Julian Orchards Drive, Julian CA 92036.
Open daily at 1pm and 3pm by appointment only.

For groups of 20 or more, this u-pick apple orchard offers tours and picking sessions by reservation. For $12 per person, groups will get the chance to pick a “half peck of apples” (which is about 5 pounds) and spend a relaxing afternoon checking out the Apples & Art Orchard. The adventure includes an apple fact lecture, apple picking, group cider making, and a tasting. This season’s apple varieties include: Red Delicious, Arkansas Black, Fuji, heirloom apples, and more. Their harvest is always pesticide-free and all natural, so you can be sure it’s healthy too!

They book tours at 1pm and 3pm daily for groups only (no individuals), and you must book a tour online ahead of time. Be sure to book your reservation soon – they fill up fast and are only open until the apples are gone. This is a great idea for Boy/Girl Scout troops, homeschoolers, and camps!

Julian Farm & Orchard

4444 State Hwy 78, Julian CA 92036

On Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 5pm, you can go apple picking at Julian Mining Company, or pick raspberries and blackberries at Julian Farm & Orchard.  Julian Farm is owned and operated by the same owners as Julian Mining Company, and for the first time this year are opening their new farm for u-pick, tractor-drawn hayrides, the Farmer’s Wife store, and barnyard visits. Be sure to check their website before you go for the most updated information on their apple picking.

Calico Ranch

4200 Highway 78, Julian CA 92036
Please call(858) 586- 0392 ahead of time for information about opening times.

Calico Ranch is a family-run apple and pear orchard located just outside of Julian. The farm has remained in production since it was first planted in the early 1930s, and is one of the oldest remaining farms in Julian today. The Young family has owned the 30 acre orchard for more than twenty years. Calico Ranch offers u-pick experiences on the weekends, Saturday and Sunday, and usually open at 9am.

Tips for Visiting Julian

  • Make a day of it! Downtown Julian has to much to offer and explore, especially for families – from restaurants to antique stores and, of course, apple pie.
  • Don’t expect cold weather – September is historically very warm in Juilan (usually in the 70s and 80s), so be sure to pack sunscreen, a hat, and dress for warm weather.
  • Plan your trip ahead of time – and call the orchard you plan on visiting to be sure they are open.

Other Spots to Check Out

  • Oasis Camel DairyThis is a great place to visit after you’ve finished your apple picking! Check out their hand-crafted camel milk soap, lotions, and camel milk chocolate. They offer daily tours, camel rides, and special events throughout the year.
  • Julian Cider Mill: The Cider Mill has been in operation since 1975, making and producing their own apple cider along with homemade fudge, classic preserves, and candies. They also have many varieties of apples, pears, preserves, raw honey, French prunes, Italian plums, dried fruits, nuts, candy, caramel apples and other gifts.
  • Fort Cross Old Timey Adventures: Fort Cross is a family owned and operated hands-on spot that focuses on historical education, outdoor adventuring, agritourism, music, art, and family fun. Activities include Archery, Tomahawk Throwing, Slingshot Paintball Range, Petting Zoo, Candle Dipping, Gold Rush Station, Hayrides, Hoedowns, Guided Overnight Camping, and more.

Labor Day 2018 Activities in San Diego & La Jolla

Labor Day weekend in San Diego is always a little bittersweet – it’s technically the end of summer; the kids go back to school; and those long evenings of daylight are coming to a close. However, there is some consolation! We’re lucky enough to live in a beautiful city that has sunshine pretty much year-round, and Labor Day is one of the most event-filled weekends of the year! Here are a few activities for Labor Day in San Diego and La Jolla 2018.

Sand Sculpting Challenge & Dimensional Art Exposition

August 31 – September 3, 2018
Broadway Pier & Landing

Thousands of people come every year to see master-class sculptors build beautiful three-dimensional works of art. Not only that, but they actually build a beach above the water to do it – by bringing in 300 tons of sand to the Broadway Pier! There will be eleven official master sculptors carving for all four days, from countries all over the world here to challenge the US on our own soil.

Throughout the festival, there will also be live entertainment (big bands and singers), a sand box and rides for kids, a dozen gourmet food trucks, a great view of the bay, and tall ships and cannon battles.

Bayside Summer Nights

August 21 – September 2, 2018
Embarcadero Marina Park South

San Diego’s glorious summer is winding down, but not before the cannons and fireworks light up San Diego Bay to Tchaikovsky’s awesome ‘1812 Overture’. Join the San Diego Symphony as they celebrate summer’s end in spectacular style!

Labor Day Stickball Tournament in Little Italy

September 1st & 3rd; 8am-5pm

What better way to spend Labor Day weekend in San Diego than outdoors enjoying the sunshine?

The Labor Day Stickball Tournament, presented by the Little Italy Association, takes over the streets of Little Italy on Saturday and Sunday and allows players to revisit some of those old school childhood memories. The activity is all about honoring long-standing traditions, paying tribute to this East Coast sporting pastime, and of course; having fun!

Come out and see these teams grab a broom stick, table leg, or any other kind of bat-like stick that will send a rubber Wilson ball flying!

Spend the Day at the Beach

There’s no better weekend to hit the beach and soak in some sun! La Jolla Shores is a great spot for a beach side picnic, barbecue, or soccer game. There’s plenty of grass, a playground for the kids, and restrooms/showers directly nearby. The parking lot does fill up quickly, so try to arrive early; if not, there is also plenty of street parking in the adjacent neighborhoods.

Why not extend the evening and have a bonfire? Bring the s’mores and grab a bonfire pit located along the beach at La Jolla Shores! Visit our guide for making the most out of your bonfire experience.

Hit the Trails

Weather permitting, Labor Day weekend is the perfect time to get out there and hit the trails! San Diego and La Jolla are home to hundreds of hiking, biking, and walking trails; many of which supply gorgeous views and a terrific workout. If you’re looking to be active and still get a great view, Torrey Pines State Reserve has several trails for people of all abilities.

If you’re looking for something a bit more laid back, the Coast Walk Trail right here in La Jolla is breathtaking, and not too long of a hike. There are also a few other great trails in and around downtown La Jolla.

Leopard Shark 101

If you’ve been to La Jolla Cove in southern California during the summer, you’ve probably heard about the leopard sharks! Swimming and snorkeling with these incredible creatures is a popular summertime activity with both locals and tourists alike. And while the word ‘shark’ may sound a little scary, leopard sharks are actually completely harmless to humans and offer a fun way to explore the underwater world off the shores of La Jolla. Here’s everything you need to know about leopard sharks!

Markings and Features

Leopard sharks (Triakis semifasciata) are a member of the Houndshark family and have quite distinctive features; including large dark spots and saddle type markings. The sharks have a broad, short snout, triangular pectoral fins, a short dorsal fin, and a notched, asymmetrical tailfin. On top they are usually a silver or bronzed-gray, fading to white underneath, with distinct dark spots and blotches on its back, sides, and pectoral fins.

They can live up to 30 years, and take more than a decade to reach maturity. They generally only grow to about four or five feet (in rare occasions they can reach up to seven feet) and the heaviest ever recorded weighed in at a whopping forty pounds.


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The leopard shark is found in continental waters, both nearshore and offshore, and their preference is for waters that are cool to warm in temperate or sandy/muddy bays or estuaries. They love sand flats, mud flats, and rocky bottom areas near reef sites and kelp beds – which explains their love of La Jolla!

The sharks are usually found near the bottom of shallow water, and they are exceptionally strong swimmers. Oftentimes, they are joined in a school of others that include the Smooth-Hound, gray Smooth-Hound, or the Piked Dogfish.

They’ve been found all across the Eastern North Pacific, from Oregon to the Gulf of California and Mexico.

Interaction with Humans

Leopard sharks are harmless to humans. Only one attack has ever been recorded, and it happened in 1955 in Trinidad Bay, California. Fortunately, the diver was not seriously injured.

The leopard shark has recently become a protected species in California and Oregon waters so that they are not overfished. Sports anglers, spearfishers, and small-scale commercial line fisheries are typically the ones who go after the shark.



Mating Season

Female leopard sharks travel to La Jolla each summer to mate with males and spawn their young, which is why there is such a large influx of them at the beginning of summer (around June).

The female leopard becomes mature at ten to fifteen years of age and males at seven to thirteen years. During the annual breeding season, schools of these sharks move from deeper water into nearshore shallower water. Fertilization is internal. The type of reproduction is called aplacental viviparity or ovoviviparity. The fertilized eggs hatch inside the female’s body and pups are born live. After a ten to twelve-month gestation, seven to thirty-six pups about 17.8 cm (7 in) in total length are born. They are independent at birth, but usually stay in shallow bays and estuaries before venturing out into deeper ocean waters

Female leopard sharks have been observed giving birth in a variety of habitats along the California coastline from eel grass to sandbars and the open ocean.


Leopard sharks congregate by size and sex in large nomadic schools. The schools appear and disappear within a few hours. Schools follow the tide as they feed, moving closer to shore as the tide comes in and then swimming away before it recedes. In addition to feeding, the movement may be influenced by temperature, salinity and amount of dissolved oxygen. Large schools have even been observed in the surf zone. They are also known to form schools with California round rays and with sevengill sharks, and smoothhound sharks. The latter are close relatives.

The leopard shark diet consists mostly of smaller shellfish; including clams, crabs, shrimp, squid, and fish eggs.

Conservation Efforts

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife closely manages the leopard shark fishery within state waters. Use of gill nets in waters typically inhabited by these sharks is prohibited. The recreational fishery for leopard sharks is open year-round and coast-wide to diverse and shore-based anglers. The fishery is open to boat-based anglers year-round in designated areas only. Outside these areas, it is open seasonally between January and June.

In federal waters, leopard sharks are one of three shark species under the management authority of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service through the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (Groundfish FMP).

Currently listed internationally as Least Concern, overfishing, loss of shallow water nurseries, and pollution of these areas from runoff are threats to these sharks. They have been found to contain high levels of mercury attributed to either water quality or ingestion of food items containing mercury.

Snorkeling with the Leopard Sharks

The end of August and September are usually the best times to see La Jolla Leopard Sharks, as this is towards the end of the mating season and there are higher numbers of sharks. The ideal time to go is during the day, when there are calm waters and when it’s sunny (as they will be easier to spot).

La Jolla Shores, where the water is warmer and shallower, is usually where snorkelers and swimmers venture out to see and swim with the leopard sharks. It’s easier for them to search for food in the sand and kelp forests, which are protected by the La Jolla Underwater Park Preserve. Their diet consists mostly of smaller shellfish; including clams, crabs, shrimp, squid, and fish eggs.

During peak season, you can simply swim out into the water at La Jolla Shores and see the leopard sharks – they will often be that close to shore. Wade out up to your knees or hips, and you’ll see them swimming around your feet (which is quite an experience!). There’s no reason to be scared of these little guys, as they are completely harmless to humans and won’t bite or bother you.

There are a few different ways to really see the La Jolla Leopard Sharks. You can:

  • Swim out by yourself at La Jolla Shores and simply watch them through the water, which is usually pretty clear.
  • Snorkel the La Jolla shores to get a better look at the sharks through a snorkel mask; either with your own gear or a snorkel rental. If you don’t have your own gear, many companies will rent you gear for the entire day at one price: Everyday California and La Jolla Kayak are just a couple.
  • Take a guided snorkeling tour from any number of companies located in La Jolla Shores:
  • Take the guided snorkeling tours offered by the Birch Aquarium at Scripps in southern California. The tours are typically held from July through September, and these are a great option if you want to learn more about the sharks, as there is a trained naturalist guiding each tour. Intermediate swimming ability is required and previous snorkeling experience is recommended (ages 10+).

A Few Fun Facts About Leopard Sharks

  • Sometimes the leopard shark is referred to as a cat shark.
  • They can form large schools that contain other types of sharks.
  • Leopard sharks have a tooth pattern that is called “pavement-toothed.”
  • They often rest on the ocean floor and pump water over their gills.
  • The genus Triakis is derived from the Greek word “triakis” meaning three-pointed, referring to its three-pointed teeth. This shark species name semifasciata refers to its “half-banded” markings.
  • In the San Francisco Bay, leopard sharks and piked dogfish have been observed engaging in a unique feeding strategy: the two sharks species will swim at the surface, with mouths open, in a counter-clockwise direction. At the same time, densely packed schools of anchovies are gathered at the surface and will swim in a clockwise direction. While the sharks don’t exhibit any specific hunting behavior or directed movements toward the oncoming anchovies, the sharks’ posture and movement does result in ingestion of incidental prey (i.e. anchovies) which inadvertently swim into the open maw of the prowling sharks.

To learn more about activities and fun things to do at La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Cove, visit our guides section!