Escondido is truly a hidden city. That’s literally what the name means in Spanish, for one thing, but it’s also a city filled with hidden gems. Although it’s nowhere near the biggest city around, there are a surprising number of fun things to do here. Whether you're visiting San Diego or you have friends and family visiting you in San Diego, here’s a list of fun things to do in Escondido, CA to help you get started exploring everything the city has to offer,
Table of Contents
- Have a Lake Day at Dixon Lake
- Get Some Culture at the California Center for the Arts
- Get Spiritual at the Deer Park Monastery
- Take a Tour of the Palomar Observatory
- Visit the San Diego Archeological Center
- Hike through History in Grape Day Park
- Hike the Coast to Crest Trail
- Go on a Safari
- See the Surreal Sculpture Garden
- Take a Wine Tour
Have a Lake Day at Dixon Lake
If you want to relax then you should head out to Dixon Lake for a lake day. You can go swimming or boating, or just lounge on the beach and take in all the gorgeous natural scenery. If you sit and watch for long enough, you can see all kinds of interesting wildlife. If you like to fish, the fishing’s pretty good here, especially if you like trout. Don't forget to bring a picnic lunch so you can enjoy your time at the lake. If you like, you can even go camping here, and an evening at the lake shore is something of a magical experience.
Get Some Culture at the California Center for the Arts
The California Center for the Arts is the cultural center of the entire northern San Diego County region. The Center has all kinds of art and cultural facilities in one small area. There are theaters where you can always find some kind of a show going on. There are concert halls too, and you can easily find performances in a variety of styles such as classical and jazz. There is also a museum with a frequently rotating set of exhibits.
Get Spiritual at the Deer Park Monastery
The Deer Park Monastery is a Buddhist sanctuary that holds weekly events that are open to the public. You can attend lectures by the resident teachers, learn how to meditate, do walking meditation, and even go on overnight spiritual retreats. The monastery frequently holds meals that are open to the public, where the focus is on mindfulness and eating as a spiritual experience. The monastery’s gardens are beautiful, and well worth a visit.
Take a Tour of the Palomar Observatory
This one requires a bit of a drive but, if you like astronomy, it’s well worth it. Just outside the city sits the iconic Palomar Observatory. You can go there any time between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. during most of the year for a self-guided tour. You can take a guided tour most weekends between April and October. We recommend the guided tours. Not only will you learn more that way, but you’ll also have a chance to look through the giant telescope.
Visit the San Diego Archeological Center
The San Diego Archaeological Center is a museum that tells the story of the inhabitants of San Diego County and, more specifically, the story of the development of the city of Escondido. There are exhibits of pottery and tools going back over 10,000 years and plenty of other archeological artifacts as well. If you are interested in seeing how people lived in different times then you’ll find this to be a great trip.
Hike through History in Grape Day Park
Grape Day Park is unique. There’s the Vinehenge, for one thing, which is a sort of combination art installation and piece of playground equipment that children climb on. There’s also the Heritage Walk. If you follow the Heritage Walk path through the park, you’ll be taken on a walking tour of Escondido’s past. You’ll see an old blacksmith shop that’s still in operation, a wheelwright’s shop that’s also still in operation, an antique barn, a Victorian Era manor, and a railroad depot with a real railroad car.
Hike the Coast to Crest Trail
Head to the northern shore area of Lake Hodges to find the Coast to Crest Trail. It’s a total of just about 6 1/2 miles out and back, and it winds through some really gorgeous countryside. It’s a pretty easy hike, without a lot of changes in elevation. It also has one of the longest stressed ribbon pedestrian bridges in the entire world, running nearly 1,000 feet in length. From the bridge, you can see a great variety of wildflowers, turtles, fish, ducks, and other water birds.
Go on a Safari
You don’t have to get on a plane to go on safari because Escondido has the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. This zoo is made of large enclosures that imitate the natural habitats of the zoo’s inhabitants, allowing the animals to roam around freely, like they would in the wild. There are more than 3,000 different animals from more than 300 different species, including giraffes, rhinos, gorillas, cheetahs, lions, tigers, and zebras. And the ways of getting around the park are almost as interesting as the animals themselves. You can get around to see the animals by golf cart, truck, zip line, and even by balloon. There are regularly scheduled events, including some sleepovers.
See the Surreal Sculpture Garden
For a taste of the bizarre, take a trip through Kit Carson Park. There you’ll find Queen Califia’s Magic Circle, a sculpture garden created by renowned French artist Niki de Saint Phalle. There are nine huge and somewhat surreal sculptures in it, all inspired by California’s cultural and mythological traditions. The crown jewel of the collection is a giant statue of Queen Califia riding an eagle with five legs. There is also a “snake wall” that is covered in the artist’s distinct mosaic style and is hundreds of feet long, and a maze. Docents are on hand to answer questions.
Take a Wine Tour
Escondido is San Diego's wine country, and there are a lot of wineries in the area. Some of them serve some very nice food. Some of them have quirky attractions. All of them have wine tasting. A day spent taking a tour of Escondido’s wineries is a day well spent. If you prefer, there are several guided tours available.