14 Awesome Things to Do in Escondido, CA

14 Awesome Things To Do In Escondido, CAIt’s easy to overlook Escondido, California. Its name, after all, is the Spanish word for “hidden.” Naturally, then, you may find yourself visiting the area and wondering: what is there to do in Escondido, anyway?

Escondido serves as an excellent escape from the hustle and bustle of the nearby city. While it’s certainly not underpopulated, you’ll be able to explore a plethora of attractions free of the pressure of San Diego’s crowds.

Whether you’re visiting with kids or traveling on your own, there’s something for you to do in the Escondido area, including:

  • California Center for the Arts, Escondido
  • Queen Califia’s Magical Circle
  • San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum
  • San Diego Archaeological Center
  • Sikes Adobe Historic Park
  • San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park
  • Lake Hodge Pedestrian Suspension Bridge
  • Palomar Mountain State Park
  • Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve
  • Kit Carson Park
  • Dixon Lake
  • San Dieguito River Park
  • San Diego Zoo Safari Park
  • Gran Avenue

Given my own experience with the Escondido area, I feel confident that I can direct you towards some of the areas most exciting attractions. Hopefully, you’ll be able to include one or two on your itinerary the next time you visit the area!

Why You Should Visit Escondido

Escondido, California neighbors the famous San Diego and offers visitors a respite from the busy nature of the city. Only 11.5 miles from the ocean, you’ll be able to use the city as a hub for broader travels throughout San Diego’s North County. Escondido is more than just a hub, though. Home to 143,000 residents, it sports a number of attractions that’ll entertain children and adults alike.

Escondido, CA Museums

California’s hot summers can make outdoor adventures trying on vacationing families. If you’re looking to escape indoors or to enjoy some of California’s more artistic offerings, why not explore some of the attractions listed below?

California Center for the Arts, Escondido

The California Center for the Arts is less of a singular attraction and more of an impressive display of Escondido’s dedication to artistic endeavors. The center houses a 1,500-seat concert hall, a 400-seat theater, an art museum, art and dancing studios, and open venues for weddings. If you’re looking to see a show while you’re in the area, you’ll likely find yourself heading towards this attraction.

You’ll also be able to enjoy some of the weekly events offered by the center while visiting the Escondido area. The center holds a number of events that the local community can attend, including festivals that celebration Dia de Los Muertos and the winter solstice.

The California Center for the Arts’ ticket office is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 12 PM to 6 PM. You can also visit the office on Sundays between the hours of 12 PM and 5 M. To learn more about this Escondido attraction and ticket pricing for specific events, you can visit its website.

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle

If you’re looking for a more unique artistic experience, Escondido will readily provide one for you. Queen Califia’s Magical Circle may sound more like a D&D campaign that a sculpture garden, but it is, in fact, the only attraction of its kind in the United States. It is also the last international project designed and established by the artist, Niki de Saint Phalle. The sculptures on display in the Magical Circle were inspired by California’s cultural history. You’ll be able to make your way through the circular snake wall, the attached maze, and a beautifully cultivated garden.

 

Queen Califia's Magical Circle
 Queen Califia’s Magic Circle in Escondido, California | Photo by AliveFreeHappy

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle sprawls across twelve acres of land. The attraction’s hours vary based on the day of the week you plan on visiting. Admission is not listed on the attraction’s website, but bring your wallet just in case.

To learn more about this Escondido attraction, you can visit its website.

San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum

You’ll find a more traditional museum experience waiting for you at the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum. Established in 1999, the aim of the museum is to foster the imagination of its visitors by promoting experimentation within the world around them.

The museum is broken down into four focus areas: experimentation (science, math, and engineering), exploration (world cultures and history), imagination (theater and visual arts), and discovery (environmental sciences, arts, and gardens). No matter what your child’s interest is, you’ll be able to find an attraction that appeals to them at this well-established museum.

The museum is open seven days a week between the hours of 9:30 AM and 4:30 PM. Hours are extended on Wednesdays, allowing the museum to remain open until 7 PM. There are also sensory-friendly hours available to children every day, starting at 8:30 AM.

Admission to the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum varies as follows:

  • General Admission: $8.00
  • Active Military Families: $5.00
  • Preschool and Elementary Educators: $5.00
  • Children (12 or younger): Free
  • Museum Members: Free

To learn more about this Escondido attraction, you can visit its website.

Escondido, CA Historical Attractions

Escondido is home to a number of attractions that will allow you and your family to explore the history of the area. California’s cultural foundation permeates the area. If you’re looking to learn a little more about your vacation spot, why not check out some of the following?

San Diego Archaeological Center

Who hasn’t dreamed of working on an archaeological dig? If you or one of your family members wants to get their hands dirty seeking out California’s history, there’s no better place to do so than San Diego’s Archaeological Center. This attraction is one part museum, one part curation facility. Here, you’ll be able to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the way people in California have lived for the past 10,000 years.

The San Diego Archaeological Center is the only facility of its kind in the Escondido area. Research performed at this facility is constantly changing the way visitors and locals alike interpret the area’s vast history. If you’re looking, then, to learn about the day-to-day responsibilities of archaeologists, or if you want to learn what life was like in California’s storied past, you’ll be able to find your answers here.

The San Diego Archaeological Center is open Monday through Saturday. You can visit Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 AM and 4 PM. Saturday hours span from 10 AM to 2 PM. Admission varies as follows:

  • Per person: $2.00
  • Per family (3+ visitors): $5.00

To learn more about this Escondido attraction, you can visit its website.

Sikes Adobe Historic Park

While California boasts a number of wineries and farms that highlight the area’s agricultural past, no attraction captures that history quite the way the Sikes Adobe Historic Park. Established in 1870, this attraction houses the oldest adobe home in California. It has been restored since its earlier years, but now offers visitors a chance to look back at the lifestyle that built up the California of today.

The ambitions of the Sikes Adobe Historic Park center around preservation and restoration. The park intends to serve as a cultural center that visitors and Escondido locals can visit as they like. Visitors can tour the adobe homes or bike down the local trails. There are also ample opportunities for tourists to ride through the park on horseback.

Hours at the Sikes Adobe Historic Park vary by the day. The platform doesn’t advertise an admissions fee for its visitors but does highlight that, as it plans to grow, donations from visitors are welcomed. To learn more about this Escondido attraction, you can visit its website.

San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park

The Mexican-American War won America the state of California and much of the West Coast. Now, the San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park serves as a monument to the soldiers on both sides of the war who died in the area. For the history-buffs visiting the Escondido area, this attraction is a must-see.

The battle that this historic park commemorates is reported to be the only one fought on California soil. That said, the park now highlights not only the losses were seen in that combat but the ideals that drove both parties to fight in the first place. The San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park serves as an extension of California’s broader Department of Parks and Recreation. Visitors will be able to enjoy museum-like exhibits displaying the history of the area while also having the opportunity to trek across the bloodiest battlefield in California.

The San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park is open on Saturdays and Sundays, with hours varying based on the time of year you visit. Hours between October and March range from 10 AM to 4 PM. The park is open between 10 AM and 5 PM between the months of April and September. To learn more about this Escondido attraction, you can visit its website.

Escondido, CA Parks and Recreation

Escondido offers a number of parks and recreational areas for those visitors looking to spend their days under the California sun. Bring your hiking shoes and secure your bikes well, because the rich ecosystem that makes up the Escondido area is well-worth your attention.

Lake Hodges Pedestrian Suspension Bridge

The Lake Hodges Pedestrian Suspension Bridge is the world’s longest stress ribbon bridge. It was created courtesy of David Kreitzer and opened to the public in 2009. While you cannot fish from this bridge, you can walk across it and marvel at the engineering creativity that went into its creation.

Given that this bridge serves as an active, public structure that bicyclists and walkers use on a daily basis, it has no hours and requires no admission fee. To learn more about this Escondido attraction, you can visit its website.

Palomar Mountain State Park

Palomar Mountain State Park is one park in the San Diego area that truly captures the essence of the local ecosystem. Here, you can walk through towering forests and meadows that are truly unique to Escondido. The park makes it easy for visitors to camp, picnic, hike, or fish in the local Doane Pond. So, if you’re looking to grow more familiar with the local wildlife, Palomar Mountain State Park is the perfect place for you.

The park is open from dawn until dusk, with exceptions made for registered campers. Visitors will have to pay a $10.00 fee for every vehicle they bring to the park, but otherwise, no admissions fee is required. Do note, though, that the park only accepts cash or checks, so your credit card won’t hold much weight here.

To learn more about this Escondido attraction, you can visit its website.

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve may sound like it’s home to Tolkien’s elves, but it instead houses 784-acres of California’s most gorgeous – and rare – flora. Here, you can hike across 11 miles of trails to see oak riparian, woodland, sage scrub, and other native growth. The Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve prides itself on its ability to protect these California staples and intends to ensure that they remain part of the local ecosystem for generations to come.

The reserve is open every day from 8 AM to thirty minutes before sunset. Daily closing times will be posted on the reserve’s trailheads for visitors to see. Do note that while the park is open all year (save for Christmas Day), it can close in the face of inclement weather. To learn more about this Escondido attraction, you can visit its website.

Kit Carson Park

Kit Carson Park
Kit Carson Park Sign | Photo by Genevieve Prentice

Kit Carson Park is named after the famous Kit Carson, who once fought in the Battle of San Pasqual. The park exists both to commemorate Kit’s efforts and the natural beauty of California.

If you visit Kit Carson Park, you’ll be able to make your way to the aforementioned Queen Califia’s Magical Circle. There’s more to the park to explore, though. You’ll also be able to tour the 5-acre Iris Sankey Magical Garden or any of the park’s three ponds. There are plenty of spots available to picnickers or children looking to stretch their legs after a long drive. Hikers and cyclists will also be able to enjoy the long stretches of hiking trails that wind through the park.

To learn more about this Escondido attraction, you can visit its website.

Dixon Lake

Dixon Lake
Northern half of San Diego County | Photo by Rickbramhall

For those visitors interesting in camping or boating within the Escondido area, there is Dixon Lake. Here, you can fish, pitch a tent, or explore the California wilderness at your leisure. Note that this is one of the lakes in California where you’re not required to have a state fishing license to cast out on the water.

At Dixon Lake, you can rent rods, motorboats, rowboats, or pedal boats for varying, by-hours costs. The park is open seven days a week but only charges entry fees on Saturdays and Sundays. You’ll also be charged a $5 entry fee on holidays and on days that the park is hosting special events.

Non-camping lake visitors will be able to make their way into the park starting at 6 AM. The lake’s closing hours will depend on the season. To learn more about this Escondido attraction, you can visit its website.

San Dieguito River Park

The San Dieguito River Park is open to the public as a conservation center and outdoor experience. The whole of the park was initially created to protect the natural area surrounding the San Dieguito River Valley. Nowadays, it is a green, open space and park system that connects California’s natural waterways.

While you won’t be able to white-water raft in this area, you can take bikes onto the park’s trails. You can alternative guide horses down these well-worn paths or take them by foot.

The San Dieguito River Park is open from sunrise to sunset, though it may close due to inclement weather. The park does not list an admissions fee, though you may want to have your wallet on you to buy water or snacks for your walk down the trails. To learn more about this Escondido attraction, you can visit its website.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

For those visitors looking to get up close and personal with wildlife that isn’t native to California, there’s the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. This park is part of the larger San Diego Zoo Global, the largest zoological membership association in the world.

When you visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, you’ll be able to choose the kind of experience you get to have with the park’s non-human residents. The park makes all of the following safaris available to its attendees:

  • Caravan Safari
  • Cheetah Safari
  • Cart Safari
  • Jungle Ropes Safari
  • Flightline Safari
  • Behind-The-Scenes Safari
  • Roar and Snore
  • Ultimate Safari

Do note that the prices of these safaris vary. You’re not restricted to safaris, though, when you visit the park. You’ll also be able to enjoy up-close animal encounters, balloon rides, and the local conservation carousel.

Entry to the park requires a purchased ticket to one of the aforementioned safaris as well as a parking fee. To learn more about this Escondido attraction, you can visit its website.

Escondido, CA Specialty Stores

If you want a break from the more interactive attractions available throughout Escondido, why not indulge in a bit of shopping? The Escondido area is home to a number of specialty stores and shopping plazas that’ll please even the most ambitious consumer.

Grand Avenue

Grand Avenue

Escondido’s Grand Avenue serves as its most expansive shopping strip. If you’re looking to try a new food or explore an Escondido-specific boutique, this is the place to be. Grand Avenue houses over 400 vendors and brings live entertainment to the streets on a weekly basis. The area is also a hub for festivals. The Grand Avenue Festival has made the area more lively since 1989 and is an excellent source of entertainment for visiting and local families, alike.

You can visit as many restaurants and specialty shops as you like when visiting Grand Avenue. Do be aware, though, that the hours on the strip will vary based on the business you choose to visit.

Best Things To Do In Escondido, CA At Night

Escondido’s nightlife is a little more low-key than its neighboring San Diego. That said, there are plenty of exciting things to do in the area once the sun starts to go down, including visiting the following attractions:

  • Grand Avenue
  • San Diego Zoo Safari

You can freely walk around Grand Avenue, exploring shops and restaurants along the way or enjoying some of the area’s local wine. Alternatively, you can glamp at the San Diego Zoo Safari to better walk on the wild side. Either way, you’ll find that Escondido’s nights are just as exciting as its busy days.

Free Things To Do In Escondido, CA

If you’re on a budget while visiting Escondido, never fear. The area has a number of free attractions that anyone can visit, including:

  • Queen Califia’s Magical Circle
  • Sikes Adobe Historic Park
  • Lake Hodge Pedestrian Suspension Bridge

Note, too, that you can walk down Grand Avenue without spending a dime – though doing so may be too tempting for some. Either way, know that a visit to the Escondido area doesn’t have to break the bank!

Escondido is full of exciting things to do. No matter what your interest, or the size of your traveling party, you’ll be able to settle into the area with ease.

14 Awesome Things To Do In Escondido, CA

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