10 Engaging Experiences

10 San Diego County Field Trips

Whether you’re visiting or live local, San Diego County is full of fun options. And if you’re touching down or just getting around to getting around town, here are ten of our favorites.

Balboa Park (Culture)

Daytime or evening, take in a play or a concert. If you’re on a budget you can walk the park and admire the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, fountains, gardens, water features, and outdoor art. Food carts make for some quick inexpensive eats.

Have a little more to spend, visit the many museums and enjoy lunch and cocktails at the Prado. Check out the Explorer Pass to save up to 58% off general admission to the parks museums. Also look into Kids Free October for fun things to do with your little ones. Balboa Park is beautiful after dark, perfect for a romantic date night.

Check out our post Balboa Park: Prado and Candlelight, where we share with you our romantic summer evening. Dining at The Prado, live music at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, Candlelight Concert at the NAT, and a romantic stroll though the lit up park at night.

San Elijo Lagoon (Hiking)

At 1,000 acres, San Elijo Lagoon is one of the largest remaining costal wetlands in San Diego County. Ten trails span seven miles, mostly flat and easy.

But make sure you check out the popular Annie’s Canyon. This winding slot canyon is short but can give you quite a workout. Once you get to the top, the views are worth it, looking down on the lagoon and beach spread out below.

Start at the Harbaugh Trail in Solona Beach just off 101. From there head east to Annie’s Canyon. After that, continue east toward the freeway and either walk the extension bridge under the I5 Freeway or continue east on the Orilla Trail to Rancho Santa Fe. The northwest area of the lagoon has a nature center and an easy trail loop with lovely views. Bird watching is abundant from all the trails, as well as jumping fish, butterflies, and native vegetation. Go in the morning for the best bird watching.

San Elijo Lagoon trails are kid and dog friendly, however dogs are not allowed to climb Annie’s Canyon. There are also bike paths and horse trails available in the lagoon.

Wavecrest Woodie Meet (Event)

If you’re into classic cars, Encinitas offers several events throughout the summer to get your cruise on! One popular event wraps up the classic car season: the annual Wavecrest Woodie Meet, held every September at Moonlight Beach.

Stroll among these custom-built wood-exterior wagons dating back to 1915, and talk with their owners. Enjoy music, food carts, and memorabilia vendors. Then head down to the beach to dip your toes in the water.

More info on Woodies in our post A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood.

Tony’s Jacal (Dining)

A Solona Beach institution since 1946, this Mexican restaurant is a huge favorite of North County locals. Tony’s is known for their wonderful hospitality, turkey tacos, and chili rellenos.

There’s even a wall where customers over 40 years leave messages! (My Tony’s experience began in the 1970’s!)

Tony’s has indoor dining, outdoor dining in a garden-like setting, as well as a bar.

La Jolla (Explore)

Shop, dine, or poke around art galleries on Prospect Street.

Explore the depths of Sunny Jim’s Cove, then stroll the .8 mile La Jolla Coast Walk. It’s perfect for families and especially nice during spring blooms. This walk treats you to views of La Jolla Bay, the La Jolla Shores coastline, and check out the sea lions and harbor seals that have taken over the Children’s Pool breakwater.

Head to La Jolla Shores for a day on the beach, take a photo under the iconic pier, then explore the tide pools.

In the mood for a day at the spa, check out La Estancia for a massage or a facial and reserve yourself a cabana by the pool.

Head up the hill to the Birch Aquarium for great views and all things sea life.

Moonlight Beach (Beaches)

Moonlight Beach in Encinitas is the perfect beach for a day of family fun. This most popular beach in town is marked by an iconic palm tree. There are miles of beach to walk at low tide, a lifeguard station, permanent concession stands, restrooms, playgrounds, and volleyball courts. There is a parking lot (though spots are gold during high season) and easy access to Encinitas shops and restaurants.

Moonlight hosts local events like live music and classic cars, and holiday parades happen year around. Also while you are there, check out Dave’s Rock Garden, Overlook Park, and the D Street overlook and stairs.

Moonlight Beach is not dog friendly so leave your furry friend at home.

Pannikin Coffee And Tea (Coffee)

Pannikin Coffee and Tea in Leucadia on Highway 101 is housed in the historic Santa Fe Railroad Station built in 1888. This local favorite meeting place has been brewing hand roasted coffee since 1968.

My favorite is the Mexican Mocha. They also have a large variety of goods baked fresh daily, and serve breakfast and lunch. Try their Avocado Toast or Huevos Rancheros.

Pannikin has plenty of seating both inside and out. Dogs are welcome on the patio. After coffee, browse their retail area for coffee, teas, and gifts.

Torrey Pines State Beach (Beaches and Hiking)

Whether you want to soak up the sun and sand, beachcomb the tidepools, or do some hiking, Torrey Pines State Beach has something for everyone. There is plenty of scenic beach to explore and enjoy ocean spots, but beware of potentially crumbling cliffs.

Or head up the hill to the Torrey Pines State Reserve (be sure to read our post) to enjoy 2,000 acres of hiking and stunning sea views.

Parking is $12 to $20 depending on the season. This area is family friendly but not dog friendly.

Chino Farms (Farm Stands, Culinary, Farm-to-Table, Gathering)

Chino Family Farms has been serving both home chefs and fine restaurants since 1920, catching the attention of chefs like Alice Waters of Chez Panisse.

Chino grows an intriguing selection of fruits, veggies, herbs, and micro-greens. This is a farm stand where you can really stretch your cooking muscles! I love when they offer baby eggplant and zucchini.

The customer service is outstanding! They are eager to answer questions and offer cooking suggestions. Get there early in the day for the best selections.

The Roxy Encinitas

Live music, craft cocktails, and tasty food all come together at The Roxy, a funky fun favorite! Roxy rolls out menus from brunch to dinner. If you’re feeling light, try their Falafel Burger. Need a more hearty option, go for Ossobuco. Their cocktails are dialed in, but we particularly like the Paloma and the Roxy Old Fashioned.

This lively restaurant and bar offers both inside and outside dining at what feels like the center of the local scene. And right by the corner of 101 and D Street, that’s a fair claim.

Check out our full review of The Roxy in our Eating Up and Down 101 in Encinitas series.

Take It to 11

What do YOU think should be on this list? Put your thoughts (and links if you like) in the comments.

We’ll be doing more “10 Engaging Experiences” soon!