Day Trip: A Day in Escondido
For too many denizens of San Diego, it seems easy to dismiss our county’s towns and smaller cities as mere satellites of America’s Finest City. However, I’ve learned in just a few short years here that all it takes is a quick drive north, south, east or west of downtown to see that each of these communities possesses its own unique history and cultural elements worthy of exploration. With a population of almost 150,000, and historic buildings over 150 years old, the city of Escondido has long been a thriving community and commercial hub. So, it is here that we will begin our journeys into San Diego County’s lesser-known corners.
This being Edible San Diego, my investigation begins with food. There’s no doubt that Escondido grows more delicious by the day. Restaurants like Bellamy’s and Vincent’s have established the city as a destination for fine dining, while O’Sullivan’s has the Irish Pub niche well covered, with live Celtic music to boot. Thirty restaurants participated in Dine Out Escondido! earlier this year.
It should come as no surprise that the city’s beer scene is also well established, given the prestige of Stone Brewing’s original brewery and archetypal restaurant in Escondido, with a hotel slated to receive guests in 2018. Plan 9 Alehouse and Offbeat Brewing Company brew in town as well, and the Escondido Brewing Company is scheduled to open later this year. And recently, the local wine has finally begun to garner attention. Several of San Diego County’s most prominent wineries call Escondido home, including Orfila Vineyards and Winery, and Vesper Vineyards.
My three-year-old and I have also been seriously impressed by the caliber of children’s activities available in Escondido. While the San Diego Zoo Safari Park seems like the most obvious destination, the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum is also particularly deserving of attention. With indoor and outdoor learning opportunities that are a blast—like the thriving kitchen garden where kids can water the plants themselves, and the magnetic ball wall that’s a little builder’s dream come true—it’s well worth the trip north. Furthermore, the virtually unknown Roynon Museum of Earth Science and Paleontology has a world-class collection and is perfect for dinosaur-obsessed kiddos. And don’t miss the EcoVivarium living museum if your little ones like creepy crawlies—they can touch and hold a huge variety of reptiles, amphibians, and arthropods (which include insects and spiders).
Grape Day Park, right across the street from the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, holds the Escondido History Center and a truly outstanding playground. Just a few more steps will take you to the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, which hosts sold-out, world-class acts throughout the year, a museum and many community events. But Grape Day Park is not the only place for outdoor fun. Daley Ranch is ideal for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, and Kit Carson Park, where my son enjoys feeding the ducks, contains an extraordinary sculpture garden, Queen Califia’s Magical Circle. This colorful and compelling collection of work by Niki de Saint Phalle is open to the public on Tuesday and Th ursday mornings from 9 am to noon, and the second Saturday of each month between the same hours.
Escondido’s attractions are further highlighted by its cultural festivals and historical remnants. Th e annual Tamale Festival and Mariachi Festival showcase the city’s ties to Mexico, and the Adobe Home Tour allows visitors access to a number of historic private residences. North County’s only historic district is here, featuring homes in a variety of architectural styles dating back as far as the 1880s.
Escondido means “hidden” in Spanish. In truth, there is far more to uncover than could possibly have fit in this article. For a complete list of local attractions, be sure to check out their website.