North County San Diego: What To Eat, See, and Do


San Diego County is over 4,000 square miles, so as you can imagine, there’s a lot to explore! The northern cities of Carlsbad, Oceanside, Escondido, and Encinitas are particular cities of interest that are worth visiting. From candle making to craft cocktails to locally owned eateries, you’ll find everything you need to know about North County San Diego here!

Where to Stay

First, you might need somewhere to stay, so if you’re looking for an affordable hotel in North County, check out the Cassara Carlsbad. It’s a great middle ground for visiting multiple cities, overlooks the seasonal Flower Fields, and has it’s own entrance to LegoLand! It’s less than 10 minutes from the beach and is even dog-friendly! We stayed here in the Spring with our puppy Flynn and had the best experience. We especially enjoyed the pool that has sweeping views all the way to the ocean on a clear day!

What To Eat

When most people Google “where to eat in San Diego”, most of what comes up are the cool, trendy restaurants of downtown and Little Italy. These lists leave out a lot of the great family-owned staple restaurants of North County San Diego. There’s so much to eat up there that you won’t find any further south. Make sure you check out these community favorites!

Breakfast / Brunch: Revolution Roasters (Oceanside) , Camp Coffee (Oceanside) , Peterson’s Donuts (Escondido) , Swami’s (multiple locations)

Lunch: Daily News Café (Carlsbad), Board & Brew (Carlsbad & Oceanside), Señor Grubby’s (Carlsbad), Municipal Taco & Mezcal (Oceanside)

Dinner: Herb & Sea (Encinitas), Karl Strauss Brewery (Carlsbad) , Jeune et Jolie (Carlsbad)

Drinks: Pacific Coast Spirits (Oceanside), The Rooftop (Oceanside), Pure Project Brewing (Carlsbad), Death by Tequila (Encinitas)

What To Do

After you get a nice tan at the beach, you’ll need some other things to do in North County San Diego. Up here, you’ll find some of the more rare experiences that are sure to make everyone’s day!

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

One of my personal favorites is the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido. This park is built like an African safari with thousands of acres for many of the animal residents to roam free just like they would in the wild. You’ll see a whole new group of animals different from those that live in the zoo at Balboa Park.

The Australian walkabout exhibit even lets you walk through the exhibit of wallabies and kangaroos. You can easily spend the whole day here and it’s incredibly affordable for San Diego residents too.

Carlsbad Lagoon

If you’re outdoorsy and looking for a hike or paddleboard session, check out the Carlsbad Lagoon. This is a great, calm spot to try watersports like kayaking, aqua cycles, and even speed boats or pontoon boats. Rentals are as little as $25 an hour and can even be rented for the whole day.

DIY Activities

If you’re into DIY activities, you’ll need to spend some extra time in Encinitas to visit Candles on Tap and Clay & Craft. Candles on Tap is San Diego’s very first custom candle bar where you can curate your own candles from start to finish, all while drinking champagne! An employee will help you choose a jar, create your own special essential oil scent blend, and pour it into your candle wax. It’s a great girl’s night or date night activity that costs around $30 per candle for the full experience.

Megan Candles on Tap

Similarly, if you want to get your hands dirty, take a pottery wheel class at Clay & Craft! You’ll get a personalized experience in a small class setting with a teacher to help you each step of the way. It’s great for all levels of expertise! Book your class in advance online for $90 for a wheel lesson or $50 for a hand-building lesson.

Escondido Wine Country

Did you know that North County San Diego has it’s own Wine Country in Escondido? I didn’t either until recently! You can opt for a tour of multiple wineries with a tour service like Hidden Barrel Tours (a super fun, vintage VW bus) or visit some of the best on your own. Some of my favorites are Cordiano Winery, Belle Marie Winery and Brooking Vineyards.

Cordiano Winery

No matter what you’re doing in North County San Diego, you’re sure to have a great time! If you’re looking for other ideas of things to do in San Diego, check out these favorite rooftops or tips for visiting the zoo.

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