Sometimes finding the perfect town to visit is very close to a familiar one. We’ve partered with travel writer Ava Roxanne Stritt of Spa Travel Gal to point out the features of the small town of Escondido, which has big activities to share.
You would think a town this small would be a secret, but it is hard to keep from shouting in celebration when a place is as great as Escondido, California. In fact, the name itself means “hidden.” It should mean treasure. Escondido is a small city in the northern part of San Diego County, not far from downtown San Diego and just 20 minutes from the coast. Just a quick trip from the San Diego airport.
Many travelers come for the wildlife — the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located here — but they stay for the culture. Here, you’ll also find plenty of great places to eat and drink, as well as feed your artsy hunger. Escondido is also home to one of California’s top spas, the Golden Door Spa. Everything here is in the top of its class. But what makes this city even more special is the weather. It’s perfect all year long. That’s why we think of Escondido as the “year-round city.” There’s simply no bad time to plan a vacation to this California paradise.
Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy Escondido.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is not your ordinary zoo. It’s a wildlife sanctuary that cares for thousands of animals. More than 300 types, actually. That’s not all that lives and thrives here. This zoo also houses 1.75 million specimens in its botanical collection, including acres reserved to protect native habitat.
The zoo is run by a nonprofit and dates back to 1916. The San Diego Zoo Global claims to be the biggest zoological membership group in the world, earning it mega respect among animal activists.
Golden Door Spa
The Golden Door Spa is not just a spa; it’s a destination for wellness travel, both inside and out. This unique, Asian-inspired spa resort offers special five- and seven-day, all-inclusive programs to help guests reach their optimal health and wellness. As you might expect with a spa, you can get massages, aromatherapy and facials here. You can also find fitness programs, yoga and personal training.
Take advantage of Escondido’s heavenly weather with hikes across open space, archery classes and a stroll through stunning Japanese gardens. Because the goal here is to inspire and empower lifelong change, guests learn about nutrition and how to best care for their bodies and minds in such a way that they can take it home and improve their lives.
California Center for the Arts, Escondido
Craving some culture? The California Center for the Arts in Escondido is a large concert hall, a performing arts theater, full-service conference center and contemporary art museum, all in one. It’s the heart of art in the San Diego area.
Inside this center, you’ll find art classes, dance studios, banquet facilities, meeting rooms, educational programming and community events. If you’re in town during the winter, don’t miss the center’s holiday tree lighting event.
Queen Califia’s Magical Circle
This is a sculpture garden not to miss. In the arboretum at Kit Carson Park, you can witness the last major international project designed by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, who died in 2002.
This garden features nine large sculptures, beautiful plants and a unique, circular, undulating “snake wall” that embraces the garden. This wall then brings you to a maze made out of tiles. The beautiful mosaic designs make this garden feel truly magical and embody the artistic legacy of Saint Phalle.
Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens
For a different take on a garden — one that you can taste — check out the Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens. This is home of a fun brewery and pub that also advocates for environmental responsibility. Play games, enjoy the weather outdoors, indulge on a surprisingly great menu (full of locally grown produce and naturally raised meats) and sip on some of the 36 different beers on tap. Only in Escondido can you find a one-acre, organic beer garden.
In the year-round city with perfect weather, it’s only fitting to spend lots of time outside. That’s why we love Daley Ranch, a wilderness preserve in northeastern Escondido.
There’s plenty of outdoor excitement at this 3,058-acre conservation area, such as hiking, horseback riding, biking and ranger-led tours, where guests can learn about the history of the ranch. Explore more than 20 miles of trails and enjoy the scenic views of the city.
Cruisin’ Grand Escondido
For a fun, Escondido tradition, enjoy the city like a local. Every Friday night from April through September, vintage cars slowly cruise up and down Grand Avenue. People of all ages come out to watch the unofficial car parade, hang out and usher in the weekend.
Ava Roxanne Stritt is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity. For more information on the Travelocity Gnomads, visit TravelocityGnomads.co. This story was re-printed by permission.