Kids are FREE for October Only: Sea World, Belmont Park, and 100+ More San Diego Attractions

During the month-long Kids Free October celebration, your little ones will be treated to free admission at attractions, meals on the house, and tons of other great perks throughout the city. Enjoy more than 100 partner offers —as well as warm fall weather without the summer crowds! There’s big fun waiting for kids, with savings that parents will love. Explore below and plan your perfect trip to San Diego this October.

Kids Free Admission

Note: exact ages included in the promotion may vary for each attraction; check website for details before you go.

  • La Jolla Historical Society
  • Birch Aquarium at Scripps
  • Belmont Park (play and ride for free)
  • Empress Hotel (free Kids’ Welcome Gift, $25 value)
  • Bike & Kayak Tours of La Jolla (ride for free)
  • Balboa Park Museums:
    • San Diego Automotive Museum
    • San Diego Air & Space Museum
    • Museum of Photographic Arts
    • San Diego History Center
    • San Diego Model Railroad Museum
    • San Diego Museum of Man
    • Timken Museum
    • Mingei International Museum
    • Fleet Science Center (Galleries only)
    • Japanese Friendship Garden
    • Marston House Museum & Gardens
    • San Diego Natural History Museum (Nat)
    • The San Diego Museum of Art
    • Veterans Museum
  • Maritime Museum of San Diego
  • San Diego SEAL Tours (ride free)
  • San Diego Fly Rides (ride free)
  • USS Midway Museum
  • Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

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Kids Eat Free:

  • The Shores Restaurant (La Jolla Shores Hotel)
  • Sheraton La Jolla
  • Embassy Suites San Diego/La Jolla
  • Torreyana Grille (Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines)
  • Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa

SeaWorld Specials

  • Free single-day admission kids ages 3-9
  • Free Aquatica San Diego admission kids ages 3-9
  • Eat for free at Breakfast with the Orcas and Dine With Killer Whales
  • Free Dolphin interaction programs

San Diego Zoo Specials

  • Children ages 11 and younger free admission (when accompanied by an adult with a valid form of entry).
  • There are special activities happening both on weekdays and weekends throughout the month, as well!
  • The Kids Free Special includes the Skyfari Aerial Tram
  • For $5 extra, kids can also ride the Guided Bus Tour and the Kangaroo Bus.

HalGLOWeen on October 26, 27, and 28

From October 26-28, head to The Zoo for a colorfully creepy celebration from 5 to 8pm! The Zoo will be aglow with activities and entertainment: a DJ spinning spooktacular tunes for everyone to dance to among bursts of bubbles, acrobats, jugglers, a cupcake walk, and more. Kids are free for this event, and may wear costumes according to the guidelines posted on the HalGLOWeen website. Dr. Zoolittle has a special “creepy” show, and there is plenty of other festive family fun in store. For more information head to their website.

There are tons of other spots throughout San Diego that are offering special deals and activities in October, so be sure to keep checking the website for updated information!

Where to See Fall Colors in San Diego

Believe it or not, you don’t have to travel to the East Coast to experience fall colors, you can stay right here in southern California! There are a bunch of places in and nearby San Diego County to see the leaves changing colors, many of which are state parks. Every October and fall, the leaves of the black oak make a transition from green to vivid golds and oranges.

These trees, along with conifers like white fir, Jeffrey pine, and incense cedar, can be found throughout many of San Diego’s mountainous northern regions. As leaves change, these gorgeous trees put on a spectacular show each fall, and it’s definitely worth a weekend day trip! Wondering where to see fall colors in San Diego? Look no further! Here are five great spots to scope out the colors of fall in San Diego. Soon, you’ll be a San Diego Expert.

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Drive about an hour and fifteen minutes east of San Diego and you’ll find one of San Diego’s most glorious state parks, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. It features over 100 miles of hiking opportunities, a plethora of campsites, and 24,700 acres of oak and conifer forests. At an elevation of 5,000 feet, the seasons come and go similar to Northern California. There is a distinct difference in scenery between fall, summer, winter, and spring. Whenever I am in need of a good hike and dose of nature, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is my go-to location.

Just about every hiking trail here will have something to offer in terms of cool autumn hues on the surrounding trees. There are also plenty of hiking options ranging in length and difficulty, making this a great option for both kids and elderly hikers. We recommend the Azalea Glen Loop Trail: a short 3.8-mile trail located near the Paso Picacho Campgrounds, which features plenty of changing colors on the abundance of trees found along this trail. Another option is to hike around Lake Cuyamaca, which provides a nice backdrop for those fall colors.

Looking for more great trails in San Diego? Check out our guide to the best hikes in San Diego.

Palomar Mountain State Park

Some weekends it’s nice to leave behind our hectic lives and hit the road to a quiet place to be one with nature in the mountains. Palomar Mountain is the ideal destination for just this. Palomar Mountain State Park features over 11 miles of trails through oak forests, chaparral, expansive meadows, and staggering fir and cedar woodlands. The views are scenic, the air is crisp, and the foot traffic is minimal.

Aside from all its scenic glory, Palomar Mountain is also worthy of the hour and a half drive to simply see its fall foliage. Thanks to its dense woodlands, high elevation, and remoteness, it is the dream location to watch the leaves change colors. Bring the family or simply a friend to walk one of the park’s many trails. Varying in both length and difficulty, there’s a trail for everyone to enjoy. We recommend the French Valley to Weir Trail, a relatively flat 3.8-mile trail that showcases the best of Palomar Mountain’s woodlands and is a prime destination for fall foliage!

Julian

This little mountain town is the epitome of Southern California autumn charm! Once a prominent gold mining town, Julian is now known for its famous annual apple harvest, apple pie, and as one of the best places to go apple picking in San Diego. It’s also known for having four distinct seasons: in winter snow is known to dust the countryside landscape, in spring wildflowers bloom, and in autumn there is no shortage of burnt leaves falling to the ground!

If you want a true fall experience, Julian is the place to visit. Spend a day walking the historic streets, visiting an old gold mine, or hiking the nearby trails, or better yet, make a weekend out of it by staying at one of the local lodges. Julian is located about an hour and fifteen minutes east of San Diego. To really get the fall foliage experience, we recommend hiking the 1.65-mile Canyon Oak Trail within William Heise County Park for views of the great oaks towering above.­­

 

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Mount Laguna

At just an hour drive east of San Diego, Mt. Laguna offers one of the best San Diego hikes and undoubtedly one of the most popular places to see fall foliage in the area. It lies on the eastern edge of the Cleveland National Forest at close to 6,000 feet above sea level in a towering forest of Jeffrey pines. The main area features a general store, a restaurant/bar, campgrounds, and plenty of hiking opportunities.

Among the several hiking trails, we recommend the 3.25-mile Sunset Trail. The trail hikes hikers through a dense pine forest and features stunning panoramic views of the area below. During the fall, this trail is spotted with yellows, oranges, and reds galore.

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Fall #mountainbike #idyllwild

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Idyllwild

Idyllwild is a small, artsy mountain town located about two hours northeast of San Diego.
This area, as well as nearby Lake Hemet, boast incredible fall foliage each year with cottonwoods that turn bright yellow as the summer season comes to an end. Stop by in late November for the town’s annual Harvest Festival, or travel there throughout the months of October or early November to see the leaves changing colors.

We recommend Deer Springs Trail, which features towering ponderosa and Coulter pines as you ascend to a rock plateau at 7,500 feet with a panoramic view of the town. This hike is one of the most popular on Mount San Jacinto, above Palm Springs, and it’s accessible any time of year. Deer Springs Trail begins a mile north of Idyllwild on Highway 243, just north of the Strawberry Creek Bunkhouse.

Big Bear Lake

While it is technically a bit beyond La Jolla, its proximity to the city and incredible fall colors makes it worth it! Big Bear Lake is nestled among the trees in the San Bernardino Mountains. In the fall, the changing colors contrast dramatically against the many evergreens in the area.

While you can see fall colors almost immediately as you climb the ascent to the lake, we recommend 1.5-mile Woodland Trail. It’s a family-friendly loop that starts at the Big Bear Discovery Center and is a great place to see fall foliage and the lake below. The prime time to see the changing leaves are Mid-October through early November, and the best views are from the hiking trails north of the lake. Big Bear is a 2.5-hour drive from San Diego depending on traffic. Pro-tip: leave very early Saturday morning to avoid the crowds and the traffic! Avoid traveling here on a Friday, as the two-lane roads up to the lake can easily become congested.

Lake Arrowhead

On the way to Big Bear Lake, you’ll pass by the small town area of Lake Arrowhead. The fall season here is truly magical and features some of the most exquisite colors of the year. At about a two hours drive from San Diego, you’ll be able to see fall colors as soon as you begin to ascend into the San Bernardino National Forest.

If you’re in the mood for a hike, we recommend the North Shore National Recreational Trail. It features gorgeous mountain vistas and makes for a great day trip to escape the city. You’ll be greeted with incredible fall colors among the pine, cedar, and dogwood trees before you pass by the scenic Little Bear Creek. The trail is about 1.9 miles long and begins just behind the North Shore Campground on Hospital Road off of Hwy. 173. Afterward, visit the little town of Lake Arrowhead Village, where you’ll find several shops and cute restaurants along with scenic views of the lake.

On your way home, stop by Lake Gregory in Crestline for more foliage views. You’ll be greeted by black oak and pockets of aspen providing orange, buff, gold and yellow splashes of color among deep green pines. It makes for a lovely walk, and a great pit stop on the way back to San Diego.

For more autumn fun, visit our list of fall activities in San Diego, or check out our guide on the best San Diego pumpkin patches!

san diego brewery guide

Your Guide to San Diego Breweries

It’s no secret that the craft beer scene in America’s Finest City has exploded over the past several years. With 155 local breweries throughout the County – and counting – figuring out where to go and what to taste can be a bit daunting, to say the least! That’s why we’ve created a complete guide to San Diego’s breweries, from North Park and the heart of downtown all the way to Carlsbad and Oceanside.

Downtown

Bolt Brewery (Little Italy)
1971 India St
Bolt Brewery is the only craft brewery in Little Italy, and its prime location has made it a local hotspot most weekends. Bolt offers a variety of brews from 25 rotating taps at the taste room, as well as full gourmet lunch and dinner menu (they also serve brunch on the weekends). All well done and flavorful, Bolt’s beers are simple but impeccably balanced and easy to drink.

Half Door Brewing Co.
903 Island Ave
The tasting room setting at Half Door downtown San Diego offers a cozy inside bar or a more spacious outdoor patio. Over the years, the head brewer has developed an ambitious, interesting, and well-executed lineup of beers. Come here for the great beer, and stay for the cozy atmosphere!

Latchkey Brewing
2120 W Washington St.
The Latchkey team has simplified the space that previously housed the Acoustic Ales tasting room, providing more of an open, airy feeling that highlights the cozy bar area. The tap lineup at Latchkey doesn’t stray too far from the hoppier style ales and IPAs, but all the beers here are a great combination of nicely balanced, clean, and all around easy to drink.

Resident Brewing Company
411 C St.
Resident Brewery boasts a large, open space with plenty of seating, tables for large groups, and a full menu of pub-centric eats. This particular brewery in San Diego does a great job with wide range of beer styles; but you can’t go wrong with any of their IPAs or Pale Ales, which they’re known for!

North Park

Belching Beaver
4223 30th St
Opened in 2012, Belching Beaver was part of several breweries that popped up in north San Diego County around that time. Now, with six different tasting room locations spread throughout the city, Belching Beaver is more a local favorite than ever. Their North Park location is cozy and fun, and hosts regular trivia nights and other events. The beer menu is versatile and large, and includes easy-drinking Blondes, Triple IPAs, Milk Stouts, Imperials Stouts as well as sours and barrel-aged beers. The original fan favorite is their Peanut Butter Milk Stout, which put them on the map when they first brewed it in 2012 — it’s great for those just getting introduced to the beer scene!

Eppig Brewing
3052 El Cajon Blvd.
A relative newcomer to the scene, Eppig opened in 2016 and has quickly become a fan favorite. Their head brewers are Ballast Point alumni and make a talented duo in the brewhouse! The Glitz & Glam Berliner Weiss and the 10:45 to Denver IPA are both great standouts.

Fall Brewing Company
4542 30th St
Fall Brewing sits in a small but comfortable space in the heart of North Park. The tasting room is open to the brew house and fermentation tanks, so you can watch beer being brewed as you sip. Fall boasts a varied lineup of interesting and highly flavorful beers, including the well known 2am Bike Ride (a Dark Horse coffee bean and vanilla stout), the Magical & Delicious Pale Ale, and A Beer Named Sue, a fun California Common style brew.

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Mike Hess Brewing
3812 Grim Ave
Mike Hess is a large (we’re talking 13,000 square feet!), fun brewery in North Park. This is a great spot for big groups on the weekends, as there is plenty of seating room. They offer a bunch of board games for free, and occasionally host group art shows. Hess’ beer menu features a tasty lineup that includes a nice selection of malty and hoppy creations, along with a few beers (like the Grazias Vienna cream ale and Deceptio black IPA) that are unique to San Diego.

North Park Beer Co.
3038 University Ave.
North Park Beer Co. recently renovated a large space on University Ave. in the very heart of the North Park scene. The new digs are pretty incredible: a beautifully designed Craftsman-inspired room with tons of light, high ceilings, and a spacious balcony up top.

The brewery boasts a pretty classic lineup of beers that include a few things hoppy and a few things malty. The Hop Fu IPA is always a favorite, and the Parktoberfest is a fun, German style Festbeir that boasts a rich malty flavor.

Pariah Brewing Company
3052 El Cajon Blvd
Pariah is one of three side-by-side breweries in this space on El Cajon in North Park. Their beer list is a versatile mix, and it’s a great spot to brewery hop as you can hit Pariah, Eppig, and San Diego Beer Co. all in the same building.

Rip Current Brewing Co.
4101 30th St
This North Park hotspot is renowned for its IPAs and Pale Ales, and was actually one of the first breweries on the scene here in San Diego. Their lineup concentrates on variations of classic American styles, all well done and easy to drink. The tasting room space is pretty large and good for groups, and offers a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of the busier North Park areas nearby.

Thorn St. Brewery
3176 Thorn St
Opened at the end of 2012, this small brewery fits right into its cozy neighborhood surroundings. Most of the Thorn St. brews are malt-forward and inspired by North American and British styles along with some Belgian-style offerings. They also recently opened up a brand new tasting room in Barrio Logan; it’s large and great for groups!

North County

Culture Brewing (Solana Beach)
111 S. Cedros Ave.
Opened in February 2013, Culture staked out its own unique piece of the Solana Beach brew scene. Located on the now-trendy South Cedros Avenue, just down the street from the Solana Beach train station and just up the street from the legendary Belly Up Tavern, the brewery offers shoppers, beach-goers, and music fans another quality local beer-sipping option.

Classic American beer styles make up the core of the Culture lineup, and with plenty of beers that are easy to drink and refreshing on the palate, this particular brewery has become a beach neighborhood favorite.

Viewpoint Brewing (Del Mar)
2201 San Dieguito Drive
As Del Mar’s first brewery, Viewpoint Brewing is definitely a welcome addition to the local beer scene. The spot opened its doors on a scenic plot overlooking the San Dieguito Lagoon, making the area much more of a destination for beer lovers than previously. The new spot is spacious, modern, and open-air, and is a place to come and hang out for a few hours on the weekends. There’s a full food menu available, plus a long list of great beer: right out of the gate, Viewpoint opened with 6 house-brewed beers, in addition to an admirable selection of other smaller San Diego producers on tap.

Bagby Beer Company (Oceanside)
601 South Coast Highway
Bagby opened a spacious, comfortable warehouse-style brewery on Oceanside’s main drag. The location packs in several indoor bar spaces, outdoor porches, outdoor garden spaces, and rooftop patio spaces, making it a fun spot for larger groups (though it can get crowded on weekends, it never feels overcrowded due to its space). From English style ales to hoppy West Coast styles and Belgian-inspired ales, Bagby’s beer lineup is full-flavored and well made.

Vista

Barrel Harbor Brewing
2575 Pioneer Ave
Barrel Harbor’s tasting room is roomy and simple, with whimsical, nautical-themed elements adorning the space. The brewery boasts an impressive lineup, and offers something for nearly every taste: from light Pilsners to reds to IPAs, Belgians, and stouts.

Booze Brothers Brewery
2545 Progress St
Comfortable, light, and airy, this plain space has been transformed into a quirky but endearing tasting room. It’s dog-friendly, and there is a large outdoor area that houses another bar and a live music space.  The lineup is fresh and fun, and includes light, straightforward beers (blondes and lagers) alongside a double IPA, a braggot (honey wine style), and a rum-barrel-aged brown ale.

Iron Fist Brewing Company
1305 Hot Spring Way
Belgian-inspired ales are the backbone of the Iron Fist lineup, but the brewery also produces a delicious Saison, an imperial IPA, and stout, as well as some fantastic specialty beers. The recently expanded brewery and tasting room, opened in July 2012, offers a fun venue set among the rows of fermentation tanks and tall racks of barrels. This spot has a fun, casual vibe and a homey feel.

Mother Earth Tap Room (Main St. Vista)
206 Main St.
This large, mostly open indoor space features a big bar, a selection of big tables and stools, and a small outdoor patio. There is a wide range of styles offered here, from the bourbon-barrel-aged peanut butter stout to more aromatic, hoppy ales. If you’re just getting started in the beer scene, try their beloved Cali Creamin’ — a vanilla cream ale that quickly became one of the brewery’s biggest sellers!

Inland San Diego

Kilowatt Brewing (Clairemont Mesa)
7576 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
The beer lineup at Kilowatt is unique, versatile, and always changing. Local favorites include the Hazezoose Hazy IPA and a Cinnamon Hazelnut Brown, an American Brown Ale that’s rich and flavorful. Both tasting rooms (their second location is in Ocean Beach) have a fun, relaxed vibe that make them great hangout spots on a sunny weekend.

Societé Brewing Co. (Kearny Mesa)
8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
Since they opened their doors in 2012, Societé Brewing Company has been brewing an epic lineup of beers categorized into four distinct subcultures: Out West, Old World, Stygian, and Feral.

The Out West series is an exploration of the flavor of the hop, particularly the established hop-forward styles that have made San Diego and the entire West Coast famous. Old World is more of an homage to the classic beer styles and the traditional brewing history of Old World Europe, but they imbued a distinct San Diego perspective into the category. The Stygian series is a tribute to the river Styx: dark, deep, impactful and flavorful; and the Feral series (coming soon!) will be a distinct, barrel-aged lineup straight from their barrel room.

Green Flash Brewing Co. (Mira Mesa)
6550 Mira Mesa Blvd.
Inside its more than 45,000 square feet, you’ll find a spacious tasting room with extensive bar space and a large selection of great beers. Green Flash covers all kinds of styles, and does them well; though they are beloved by hop-heads for their bold IPAs, they have recently come out with a few more session hoppy beers.

Ballast Point Brewing Co. (Scripps Ranch)
0051 Old Grove Rd
Although they are arguably most famous for their award-winning Sculpin IPA, this large brewery is one of the San Diego originals and does everything well. In addition to their more typical styles, they also offer chile beers, coffee beers, and sours and Saisons, all flavored with local ingredients. This is a great place to try something a little more offbeat than your usual IPA or Pale Ale.

Stone Brewing Co (Escondido)
1999 Citracado Pkwy
If you’ve heard of San Diego craft beer, you’ve heard of Stone! As Southern California’s most famous brewing success story (thus far), Stone has cultivated vast legions of loyal, dedicated, die-hard fans all over the world. Stone’s main facility in Escondido is big — and getting bigger! The brewery shares the building with the company’s restaurant, Stone World Bistro & Gardens. Stone Brewing Company boasts an extensive lineup of of brews, including barley wines, stouts, porters, Belgians, and of course, a full roster of west coast IPA and Pale Ales.

Coronado Brewing Company (Bay Park)
1205 Knoxville Street
Coronado Brewing opened the door do its beach town brewpub on Coronado Island in 1996, and has only become more of a local favorite as it’s grown. Now, with a tasting room in Bay Park and a restaurant in Imperial Beach, Coronado has firmly cemented itself as one of San Diego’s top breweries. Their tap list boasts a variety of beers, from a series of standard core beers to seasonal releases and even a Coronado Collection featuring limited release barrel-aged liquid treasures. They also do several collaborations throughout the year with other breweries and establishments, so keep an eye out for those!

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We have limited quantities of these 330ml (11.2oz) barrel-aged beauties available for purchase at the @AleSmithTastingRoom Gift Shop in packs of two! Pick up the new Cinnamon Vanilla Barrel-Aged Speedway Stout or the Barrel-Aged Old Numbskull in these smaller format bottles, perfectly portioned for regular consumption. No need to wait for a special occasion to pop open one of these full-bodied beers. These bottles are packaged in our lovely “Barrel-Aged Release” gift boxes, ideal for storing, or gifting to only your most worthy friends and family. Copy this URL into your browser for info on all of our current limited time offerings: http://alesmith.com/specialtyreleases/ #beerrelease #barrelagedbeer #sdbeer #craftbeer #speedwaystout #oldnumbskull #alesmith

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Miramar

AleSmith Brewing Company
9990 AleSmith Ct
The first AleSmith beer was poured in 1995, and their reputation grew incredibly quickly. Their huge new brewery, opened in 2015, comprises more than 100,000 square feet and includes one of San Diego’s largest tasting rooms.

AleSmith focuses primarily on beer styles from Belgium, England, and the United States. You can find a range of brews that go from a lightly hopped extra pale ale, to a double IPA, to amber, malty, caramel beers, on up to dark, rich, and robustly flavored ones. Seasonal beers are often on tap, as is a regular cask selection.

Duck Foot Brewing Company
8920 Kenamar Dr #210
Duck Foot is San Diego’s first (and so far the only) gluten-free brewery. Their charming tasting room has plenty of space, and you’ll always find at least a few board games on deck. Despite their lack of gluten, most of Duck Foot’s beers manage to deliver nice levels of flavor with balance and appropriate body for the lighter styles.

Mikkeller Brewing San Diego
9368 Cabot Drive
Opened in partnership between AleSmith owner Peter Zien and his brewer friend from Copenhagen, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, this brewery features a large, open air tasting room colored by cartoon inspired murals. When they first opened their doors in April 2016, Mikkeller was already offering an epic lineup of more than 20 beers on tap. Today, their beer styles run a wide variety; from IPAs to Belgians to Stouts to Sours and were created by a brewing team that includes influences from both the New World and the Old World.

Saint Archer Brewing Company
9550 Distribution Avenue
Saint Archer was one of the first San Diego breweries on the scene when they opened their doors in 2013. Just a few years later, the company was purchased by MillerCoors for $87 million; but despite their lack of independence, their beer lineup continues to be consistently clean and well-made. You can’t go wring with any of their IPAs or Pale Ales.

For other tips and San Diego guides, visit our guide section or check out our Restaurant Directory!

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 best 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.

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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!

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

San Diego Museums to Add to Your List

San Diego County is home to more than 90 different museums and galleries, each offering visitors a completely unique and memorable experience. From model railroads and the history of art to military aircraft and music-making, it’s no wonder USA Today has called San Diego one of America’s most creative cities! Whether you want to take in the serene beauty of Balboa Park or you want to head downtown to explore San Diego’s urban center, we’ve got you covered. Here are the best San Diego museums to add to your list!

Balboa Park Museums

Balboa Park is the largest urban park in the entire United States, and represents San Diego’s cultural core with a whopping 17 museums dedicated to all kinds of topics; including anthropology, art, aviation, natural science, and technology. The museums and exhibitions are spread throughout the pristine gardens and historic Spanish Colonial architecture in Balboa Park:

  • Centro Cultural de la Raza
  • Fleet Science Center
  • Japanese Friendship Garden
  • Marston House
  • Mingei International Museum
  • Museum of Photographic Arts
  • San Diego Air & Space Museum
  • San Diego Art Institute
  • San Diego Automotive Museum
  • San Diego History Center
  • San Diego Model Railroad Museum
  • San Diego Museum of Man
  • San Diego Natural History Museum
  • The San Diego Museum of Art
  • Timken Museum of Art (free)
  • Veterans Museum
  • WorldBeat Center

Pro-tip: if you’re in town for several days, the Balboa Park Explorer Pass is the way to go. There are one-day, multi-day, and annual Explorer Pass options that allow you to experience everything Balboa Park has to offer at a discount. You’ll see savings of more than 50%, in addition to the convenience of it being a one-time purchase. The Multi-Day Explorer/Zoo Combo includes the Balboa Park Multi-Day Explorer Pass plus a one-day admission ticket to the San Diego Zoo. Visit their website for more details!

SEE ALSO: Balboa Park Dining Guide

While you’re at Balboa Park, make it a point to stop and stroll through at least one or two of their 19 gardens. The Botanical Building is one of the most photographed buildings in Balboa Park, and The Rose Garden, Zoro Garden, and the Children’s Ethnobotany Garden are also very popular spots especially during the spring and summer. Don’t forget your camera!

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park Museums

Considered the birthplace of California, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park offers visitors a unique glimpse into San Diego’s colonial period from 1821-1872. Many of the historical sites and museums in this neighborhood have free admission, and along the way you’re able to stop at over a hundred shops, boutiques, and restaurants.

At the center of Old Town is the Whaley House Museum Complex, which consists of five historic buildings – the most famous of which is the Whaley House, the most haunted house in the country according to the Travel Channel’s “America’s Most Haunted!”

For a more mellow exhibit, visit the original stagecoach at the Wells Fargo Museum, see a scale model of 19th century Old Town at the reconstructed Robinson-Rose House, and tour the Black Hawk Livery & Blacksmith, the first public schoolhouse in San Diego. Casa de Estudillo is considered one of the finest adobe haciendas in the state. Up the hill you’ll discover Heritage Park, a 7.8 acre county park where seven Victorian homes have been relocated and now house shops, bed-and-breakfasts, and the Serra Museum, site of California’s first mission and fort. Here is the complete listing of museums in the Old Town area:

  • Black Hawk Livery & Blacksmith
  • Casa de Carrillo
  • Casa de Estudillo
  • Casa de Machado y Silva
  • Casa de Pedrorena
  • Casa del Rey Moro African Museum
  • Heritage Park
  • Mason Street School
  • San Diego Sheriff’s Museum & Educational Center
  • San Diego Union Building
  • Seeley Stables
  • Serra Museum

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Coastal Museums

The USS Midway Museum offers a unique opportunity to visit America’s longest-serving aircraft carrier. Complete with 35 exhibits and tours exploring its rich 47-year history, this is a fun way to spend an afternoon learning about San Diego’s naval history. Many of the story-telling docents are veterans who served aboard the carrier.

The floating Maritime Museum of San Diego features one of the finest collections of historic ships in the world, including the Star of India, the oldest active sailing ship.

Other San Diego Museums

There are plenty more museums throughout San Diego County; almost too many to name! Here are a few other popular spots:

Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House
Living Coast Discovery Center
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
New Children’s Museum
Women’s Museum of California

San Diego, California has a world of cultural exhibitions to explore and discover while you’re visiting, whether you’re here for a few days, weeks, or a permanent resident! Because there are so many great activities, we recommend making a list of your must-sees and tackle those first.

For more information on events and things to do in San Diego, visit our handy guides section or check out our favorite museums in La Jolla.  

Planning a Date Night in Encinitas

As a fun coastal beach town with a laid-back vibe, Encinitas, California is a great location to have a date night with your significant other! Because the gorgeous coastline stretches across this gorgeous San Diego neighborhood, you’ll get to incorporate the water into your evening plans while enjoying the best Encinitas restaurants, bars, and more. Here are ten great date night ideas in the city of Encinitas!

Have a bonfire at Moonlight Beach.

Pack up a cuddling blanket and your favorite stuff to barbecue and head to Moonlight Beach in Encinitas for a romantic evening! Keep it simple by simply making s’mores and bring a bottle of wine. Be sure to get there early to stake out one of the eight fire pits for your sunset grilling session. You can also bring your own grill to South Carlsbad State Beach or use one of the fire rings at Oceanside Beach and make your own party of two.

Cozy up with some live music and dinner.

One of Encinitas’ best restaurants is Solace and the Moonlight Lounge. Known for its cozy atmosphere and unique take on elevated comfort food, this is a great place for a date night. Every Sunday Night, you’ll be treated to live music in the Moonlight Lounge from 7 to 9pm; an added bonus to impress that special someone! Menu food specials for Sunday evenings include Oyster Specials and Buttermilk Fried Jidori Chicken.

Do some wine tasting at Solterra.

You don’t have to drive all the way to Temecula to do some wine tasting in San Diego! Encinitas has its very own beachside winery and tasting room: Solterra Winery + Kitchen. Located right on Highway 101, this Encinitas restaurant offers everything from wine tastings and bottles to-go, to an all-you-can-eat Mediterranean tapas buffet. Sit at the bar for wine-tasting and sample six of their wines at a time, or stick to a single selection by the glass, bottle, or get an entire growler of wine on tap.

Solterra winery also hosts live music most Friday and Saturday nights, so be sure to double check their event calendar before you go!

Catch a movie at the historic La Paloma Theater.

The magic of going to a movie theater on a date may have been lost when the gigantic multiplexes took the reins from the quaint, hometown theaters; but it’s different at the La Paloma Theater! Take a stroll back through time by visiting this historic spot along the 101 for an evening. The venue opened in 1928, and still maintains much of its charm. You may not find the latest blockbuster here, but you will always find a weekly midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and other select indie films.

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Have a picnic at Oakcrest Park.

Oakcrest Park is a big grassy area on a hillside with shade trees, picnic tables, and BBQs, which makes it a perfect place to post up with a blanket and some sandwiches with your partner. If you’re in the mood for games, you’ll find a sporting area with a children’s playground, two half basketball courts, a Bocce ball area, and horseshoe pits right next to the park. Two trailheads lead from the west end of the park into the hills, offering a fun way to stretch your legs once you’ve finished picnicking.

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Get competitive at a local Trivia Night.

Impress your date with your vast knowledge! Trivia Nights have become incredibly popular in San Diego the past few years, and there are great bars and pubs all over the county that host them weekly. There are several in Encinitas alone! Regal Seagull hosts one every Tuesday, D Street Bar & Grill holds them on Thursdays, and Schooner Station Pizzeria hosts them on Tuesdays as well.

Have cocktails by the sea.

The city of Encinitas boasts a great bar scene, and a wide variety of pubs, saloons, and romantic cocktail bars. If you’re just looking to have a few drinks and chat with your date, try Union Kitchen & Tap or the Bier Garden of Encinitas for a slightly livelier atmosphere. 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro has a cozier, restaurant-style vibe, but they have a great daily Happy Hour and is a must-try for wine lovers! You can even pick up your own bottle at their wine shop and take it to-go for a picnic by the sea.

Encinitas, California is a great place for your next San Diego date night! With a wide variety of incredible restaurants, bars, pubs, outdoor activities, and other things to do, we can guarantee you and your partner won’t have to worry about what to do next. For even more things to do, check out our 10 must-dos in Encinitas or browse surrounding neighborhoods such as Del Mar.

Balboa Park Dining

Balboa Park is a true San Diego gem, and with dozens of museums, gardens, cultural activities, and outdoor adventures, there are many ways to spend your day here. But after all that exploring, you’re bound to need some sustenance! Several new cafes have popped up in the park in recent years, and there is certainly no shortage of delicious restaurants to enjoy a great meal after a day of adventuring. Here’s your insider’s guide to Balboa Park dining, from casual to elevated cuisine.

The Prado

The park’s only fine dining spot is located in the historic House of Hospitality and is another offshoot run by the Cohn Restaurant Group. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner seven days a week, except Mondays when it’s closed for dinner. The historic building only adds to its quaint, unique charm, and it’s a great spot to enjoy a date night in San Diego or an evening with friends.

Prime dinner reservations are hard to come by on weekend nights, but if you put your name in at the hostess stand 10 minutes before dinner service begins at 5, you might get lucky with a scenic patio table. Another best-kept secret here is their Happy Hour menu, with $4-$5 wines and $5-$8 appetizers; it runs from 4pm-6pm/8pm-10 on Tuesdays-Fridays and 8pm-11pm Fridays and Saturdays. Address: 1549 El Prado, San Diego.

Specials at The Prado

  • MOPA Thursday Night Dinner Package: The Museum of Photographic Art and The Prado have teamed up to bring you culture and cuisine in Balboa Park. Visit The Prado on Thursday Nights through September 2nd and enjoy their MOPA Thursday Night Dinner Package. The package includes a 3-course dinner with a bottle of wine, and two tickets to the Museum of Photographic Arts Exhibitions. The package is priced at $79.95 per couple.
  • Wine Down Wednesdays: Enjoy 50% off all bottles of wine under $75 every Wednesday. You can also bring your own bottle of wine and enjoy no corkage fees.

Panama 66

This tucked-away spot in the San Diego Museum of Art’s outdoor sculpture garden pours a rotating tap of 20-plus San Diego brews along with locally sourced salads and sandwiches. The open dining room, tucked inside a sculpture garden, hosts live music every Wednesday nights well as a popular weekend brunch.

Panama 66 has brought some much-needed night life to the park center, but do call first to check availability as it gets quite busy, especially on weekends. Evening hours can be spotty due to special bookings like weddings. Address: 1450 El Prado, San Diego.

Cafe Mingei

Need a coffee break? This speedy café serves hot and iced espresso drinks made with coffee from local roaster West Bean, plus a selection of vibrant teas, gourmet hot chocolate, and other refreshing beverages. Fresh, daily pastry selections are provided by a variety of local bakeries including Cardamom and The Cravory (cookies). Located on the Plaza de Panama. Address: 2402 Pan American Rd E, San Diego.

The Tea Pavilion

If coffee isn’t your thing, just a few dozen yards away is the recently renovated outdoor cafe at the Japanese Friendship Garden, offering dozens of hot and iced green, white, oolong, herbal, and black teas, as well as sushi made fresh daily, Japanese noodles, rice, miso soup, salads, and tempura appetizers. Enjoy the magnificent views from inside the Tea Pavilion or from the outdoor courtyard and deck. There are also unique imported food, beverages, bulk teas, and gifts available for purchase. Address: 2215 Pan American Rd E, San Diego.

Lady Carolyn’s Pub

The Old Globe Theater’s outdoor food and beverage pavilion offers hearty soups in sourdough bread tureens, crisp salads, and assorted desserts and beverages (local favorites include their Italian sodas, cappuccinos, and steaming Irish Coffee). This is a great pit stop before or after you watch a show at the Theater. Address: 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego.

Home Plate Sports Café

Located in the Federal Building, (formerly the San Diego Hall of Champions), the Home Plate Sports Café offers a wide variety of choices; including deli sandwiches, freshly grilled burgers, grilled panini, salads, and wraps. Beer, wine, and specialty coffee drinks are available to sip while you watch the latest game on one of their big screen TVs. Be sure to finish off your meal with a bowl of their gelato, a local favorite! Address: 2131 Pan American Plaza, San Diego.

Craveology

Craveology is the perfect location to grab a quick lunch. It’s casual and family-friendly, and offers a great selection of items; including salads, sandwiches, wraps, flatbread pizzas and panini. For those hot days, they also offer smoothies, frappes, or specialty iced coffees. There is outdoor patio seating, located right in front of the iconic Balboa Park Bea Evenson Fountain.

Admission to the Fleet Museum is not required for a visit to Craveology, so stop by, feed your craving and enjoy the view! Address: 1875 El Prado, San Diego.

Explore More of Balboa Park!

Cafe in the Park

A wide variety of options make Cafe in the Park a perfect place to grab a bite. From salads to sandwiches, soup, paninis, baked goods, specialty coffees, and even breakfast options, this cute little cafe has something for everyone. Café in the Park is located in the Casa del Balboa building, between the San Diego History Center, and the Museum of Photographic Art.

Flight Path Grill

This is a fun, casual outdoor restaurant featuring hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, salad and more outside the San Diego Air & Space Museum (admission is required). The grill is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, from 11am to 4pm. However, during the summer, they are open for those hours daily. Enjoy your meal at a picnic table or covered cabana on the patio – there are great views here of the rest of the park. Address: 2001 Pan American Plaza, San Diego.

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Food Trucks

If you’re looking for something super-casual, try the local food truck located near Spanish Village Arts Center. The food trucks will vary by week, but one will be there every day; hours are 11:00am – 3:00pm Monday through Friday, and 11:00am – 4:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Special Dining Events

Food Truck Fridays
Every Friday evening in the summer, more than a dozen food trucks make for a pop-up food court on the Plaza de Panama and El Prado walkway. The trucks serve up everything from wood-fired pizza to boba tea and street tacos. Every Friday, there will also be different musical performers or DJs spinning live music; the Plaza’s “living room” setup will be rolled out, including a big artificial lawn for children to play on and giant family game sets.

Various Balboa Park museums will also have booths set up with hands-on activities and crafts for kids. Bonus: Admission to the San Diego Museum of Art is only $5 after 5:00pm on Friday nights! This is a great way to really experience everything Balboa Park has to offer; feel free to bring lawn chairs or a blanket to sit in the lawn area in front of the Botanical Building, or enjoy craft beers, wine, and cocktails inside nearby Panama 66 and the Prado.

Lawn Programs at the International Cottages
On Sunday afternoons, stroll the lawn and gardens among the little houses at the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages during their weekly lawn programs. From 2pm-3pm, you’ll be treated to live music, traditional dance and costumes, arts, crafts, and a wide variety of ethnic foods.

If you feel like having your own picnic, the Park is a great place to do so. There are large grassy areas and shady locations under the trees to lay down a blanket, eat a picnic lunch, and take in the sights and sounds of one of San Diego’s most iconic landmarks.

Whether you’re with the family and in the mood for something casual or out with friends, there’s definitely a dining option for everyone at Balboa Park! Take time to explore the park’s multitude of gardens, major San Diego museums, and cultural activities once you’ve enjoyed lunch or dinner; from the beloved San Diego Museum of Man to the Botanical Garden and the San Diego Natural History Museum, there are many ways to spend the day at this one-of-a-kind park.