Travel outside of popular areas of San Diego County such as downtown, La Jolla, & Balboa Park. They're fantastic & iconic & certainly worth a visit, but this post is all about visiting the north part of the county. 

Your family will have the best time in North County! What is there to do in North County San Diego? Quite a lot! If you get an opportunity to travel to this area in Southern California, you'll find shopping, music, events, & more! You'll find that it's the life of the part.

Hiking and Breweries craft beer Things to Do in North County San Diego, California

Remember this post is more for future reference as travel starts to open up again. Please be safe. Socially distance yourself from others whenever possible. Wear your mask. I went on a hike & nearly everyone wore a mask. There weren't many people on the trail, but each person put their mask on as they passed by, especially in narrow areas of the trail where you can't distance yourself. It's like sunscreen, hat, water, it's protection! Why wouldn't I protect myself?

What is Considered North County in San Diego? What Towns are North of San Diego? 

North County San Diego consists of coastal regions as well as inland regions. The coastal cities include Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, Oceanside, Solana Beach, and Vista. The inland cities include Escondido, Poway, San Marcos, and the northern part of the City of San Diego. The mountain cities include Ramona & Valley Center. There's room to explore the lifestyle as you travel through the coastal & inland cities. 

Things to do: What is There to Do in North County San Diego?


You'll find numerous beaches to choose from in the Southern California area. Del Mar, Encinitas, Carlsbad, & Oceanside are all beach towns in North County. Each city has its own range of beaches to pick from. You could travel from beach to beach if you really wanted to. South Carlsbad State Beach, Tamarack Surf Beach, South Oceanside Beach, South Ponto Beach, Moonlight State Beach, Buccaneer Beach Park, Oceanside Harbor Beach, & many more!


Spend the day doing outdoor activities. While people aren't raving about the stunning views, I'd consider nature one of the best things to do in North County San Diego! Discover miles of hidden hills in Escondido's Way Up Trail, Harmony Grove Overlook, and Equine Incline Loop at Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. Del Dios Gorge Trail at Lake Hodges in Escondido looks like a relaxing beachfront vacation instead. 

People spend their day at the lake fishing & simmering in the sun like a turkey roasting in an oven. Walk around the Encinitas lagoon. Don't miss Annies Canyon Trail via North Rios Trailhead Loop, part of the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve. I went with a couple friends & it was a beautiful experience. 

Hike Batiquitos Lagoon in Carlsbad for an incredible view of the lagoon near the Pacific Ocean. Potato Chip Rock, Double Peak Trail, Way Up Trail, Lake Calavera Loop Trail. There are soooo many hikes & trails, do a little bit of Googling or use AllTrails!

Water Activities

Once you get up to North County you'll find lots of fun options such as shopping, travel, heading to a museum, or to the sea. Surf at the ocean. Rent a paddleboard or pedal boat at Lake San Marcos Marina. The area offers plenty of water activities whether you want to just hang out at the beach or lake, or if you want to kayak, surf, etc. There's the Wave Water Park in Vista.


We already know the abundance of opportunities & activities in San Diego (like kicking in in La Jolla or spending the afternoon at Torrey Pines), but there are literally hundreds of things to do in North County San Diego. There's the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens in Vista, California. Stroll around the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas. Go shopping for plants at Buena Creek Gardens in San Marcos.

Coffee and Tea! Things to Do in North County San Diego, California Travel influencer food blogger Carmen Varner Vista Escondido Del Mar Carlsbad Encinitas
Grab coffee or tea at one of the many coffee shops in Carlsbad, Oceanside, etc!

Coffee & Tea

Old California Coffee House and Eatery, Peet's Coffee, Leap Coffee, Baba Coffee, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. There's really no shortage of coffee options. You can support small, locally owned businesses rather than big chains like Starbucks. 

Breweries in Vista

San Diego is known for its craft beer, it's kind of San Diego's thing. There are actually a lot of breweries in North County. In Vista, you'll find Bear Roots Brewing Co., Wavelength Brewing Company, Backstreet Brewery, Mother Earth Brewing Company, Ebullition Brew Works, Barrel Harbor Brewing, Booze Brothers Brewing Co., BattleMage Brewing Company, Belching Beaver Pub 980, Latitude 33 Brewing Company, Helia Brewing Company. Downtown Vista is popping in general!

Breweries craft beer Things to Do in North County San Diego, California
Don't miss the craft beer & brewery scene in North County; Vista has a lot of breweries!

Breweries in Carlsbad

In Carlsbad, you can find Jacked Up Brewery & Culver Beer Co. There's probably more! 

Breweries in Oceanside

In Oceanside, you'll find breweries such as Oceanside Brewing Company, Black Plague Brewing, Belching Beaver Brewery Oceanside, Northern Pine Brewing, Kilowatt Brewing Oceanside Taproom, Legacy Brewing Company, Breakwater Brewing, Bagby Beer Co. As far as things to do in North County San Diego, craft beer is at the top of the list.


Although San Diego County isn't a notable wine country, there's still plenty of wine & some rolling hills of wineries hidden away within North County SD. 2Plank Vineyards in Vista, La Fleur's Winery in San Marcos. Escondido is the biggest hub for wine since it's perfectly located for wineries. 

Deer Park Winery & Auto Museum, Belle Marie Winery, BK Cellars Urban Winery & Tasting Lounge are all in Escondido. 

Twin Oaks Valley Winery in San Marcos. Witch Creek Winery in Carlsbad.

Other Adult Beverages

Prefer mead? Head to Meadiocrity Mead or Twisted Horn Mead and Cider in Vista.

Hiking in Escondido & San Marcos, California - Things to Do in North County San Diego, California
Lots of hiking & nature in North County SD, such as in Escondido!


Grape Day Park & Kit Carson Park in Escondido are popular amongst locals. Kit Carson Park has hiking trails, tennis courts, soccer fields, & other convenient amenities. There's Brengle Terrace Park and Buena Vista Park (also called Alta Vista Gardens) in Vista. 

Oak Riparian Park in Oceanside has a playground, nature trails for hiking, as well as a picnic area. There's also Buddy Todd Park, Capistrano Park, Guajome Regional Park, Mance Buchanon Park in Oceanside, California. 

Don't worry - Carlsbad has parks too, including Aviara Community Park, Alga Norte Community Park, Hidden Canyon Community Park, Cannon Park. Holiday Park, Magee Park, & more. 

You'll find San Marcos Brandley Park packed with what seems like the entire county for the 4th of July fireworks. Del Mar has Seagrove Park, Powerhouse Park & Beach, Del Mar Shores Park, North Bluff Preserve, San Dieguito County Park. Parks are free, so your bank account will be appreciative.

San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located in Escondido, California. Fun story: I used to work there, but that's a story for another day. The Safari Park is different than the San Diego Zoo location in Balboa Park. People travel from all over the globe to go to the zoo & Safari Park.

LEGOLAND California

Located in Carlsbad, LEGOLAND California is a popular & fun destination for families & children. If your kiddos like Legos, this is the spot for them. They even have a hotel so you can stay on the property without having to navigate to & from the theme park every day. Take a look at the Legoland website for tickets, dining menu options, park maps, & more. 

Shopping at Westfield North County

You'll find lots of shopping options throughout Northern San Diego County. Westfield North County in Escondido has stores, food court, & other dining options. Take the family& kids shopping, run a couple errands, grab some food, you could stay there for hours. Check out the Westfield North County website for updates.


If you want to get an education, you can do it smack dab in North County. Cal state? We got you! California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM) is a four-year university in San Marcos. Community colleges? You can find Palomar College in San Marcos, with six other education sites in North San Diego County as well as MiraCosta College, a community college in Oceanside. 

Outdoors and Other Things

The Queen Califia's Magical Circle sculpture garden in Escondido is cute, especially with kids.

Oceanside, California

Read my full blog post of things to do in Oceanside, California: restaurants, coffee shops, what to see, & more! If you're in Oceanside, you can't miss the Oceanside Pier, Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside Sunset Market, Oceanside Harbor Village, spending an afternoon at the beach or munching at restaurants or breweries. 

Encinitas what to do Things to Do in North County San Diego, California
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Encinitas, California

Like strolling by the beach? There are plenty of things to do in Encinitas, California. Walk down Main Street Encinitas. Read my blog post about things to do in Encinitas, California. Whether you're a local to North County San Diego or an out-of-town visitor, you'll find sun, fun, food, & drinks in Encinitas. Moonlight Beach, Cardiff State Beach, San Elijo State Beach, & Swami's State Beach are some of the popular beaches in town.

A Guide on what to do in Encinitas: Things to do in Encinitas, California

Del Mar, California

Del Mar is closer to San Diego than other North County cities, but still far enough to have its own personality. Del Mar is a cute beachy town with local shopping, food, & views of the Pacific Ocean. It's home to the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Read my blog post about the Del Mar Fair, now called the San Diego County Fair. You can travel up the coast of Encinitas into Oceanside & beyond. 
No matter what your interests are - hiking, travel, shopping, fun, food, coffee, tea, craft beer, cocktails, beach days, mountains, lakes, lagoons, fishing, surfing, you'll find hundreds of things that you can do in the North County area. The area has historic value, fantastic food, and it's worth sharing all the things you may do in the area. The question is: what do you WANT to do? What do you like? You'll find something that you love!

Hiking in Escondido & San Marcos, California - Things to Do in North County San Diego, California
Rainbow in San Marcos, California.

Travel outside of La Jolla & the most well-known parts of San diego & really visit up north. There are literally so many things to do. Adults, teens, & kids alike can find several great opportunities in North County San Diego. From shopping local boutiques on a weekend to heading to a dive bar with friends at night, there's always something to do. You'll have a good time. What is there to do in San Diego today? See for yourself! I hope you get a chance to travel to North County. Do you have any new information? Leave a comment or email.