Things to do in San Diego North County: a guide for locals, visitors and prospective homebuyers


By Vicki Johnson

San Diego may be most famous for its beaches and busy downtown scene, but when it comes to unique destinations and exciting things to do in

San Diego, North County

is a veritable cornucopia for locals and visitors alike. The

Los Angeles Times

recently ran a profile on San Diego’s inland treasures, where there are countless attractions to suit the entire family. Whether you are a San Diego native or first-time visitor, a prospective resident or potential vacation home buyer, the following list will give you a taste of just how much North County has to offer.

The area between La Jolla and Camp Pendleton holds the makings of myriad itineraries – many of which surpass North County’s flagship attractions like Legoland in Carlsbad and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido. Indeed, both inland and along the coast, this region boasts all manner of treats for travelers. Here is a sampler to get you started:

Encinitas & Leucadia:

Take a dip or test the surf at one of Encinitas’ renowned beaches, then head over to neighboring Leucadia for an authentic and delicious meal at

La Especial Norte

  1. Don’t be fooled by the restaurant’s nondescript exterior: the menu is varied and tasty, and the chicken tortilla soup – made with fresh tender chicken, avocado and cilantro – is the perfect thing to warm you up after a cold swim in the sea.

Rancho Santa Fe

: Retreat from the crowds at the beach and relax in the inland oasis of Rancho Santa Fe, famous for high-end produce (try The Vegetable Shop at Chino Farms, a favorite destination for celebrity chefs like Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck) and what the Times refers to as the best in “low-key luxury.” Quiet, picturesque and historic, Rancho Santa Fe is the perfect place to escape and enjoy a little pampering. And not only that, there are unique deals to be had for those who know where to look (try

The Garden Club’s

resale shop for great value in this high-end San Diego oasis).

Del Mar

: Reminiscent of Carmel but with the added bonus of a world-class racetrack, warmer weather and better sunning beaches, Del Mar is a great place to find unusual boutique hotels like the Hotel Indigo (on Camino Del Mar) and premier dining (try Del Mar Rendezvous on the same street). Take in the impressive homes and estates in this high-end hamlet and start fantasizing about your next vacation home.

Along the way, stop by and visit Solana Beach and La Jolla for even more of San Diego’s hidden gems. Nothing beats a stroll through Solana Beach’s Cedros Design District, and for a variety of great live music options The Belly Up is a prime destination. Finally, top it off with a visit to

George’s Ocean Terrace

for the best seaside views along with casual chic dining in La Jolla.

And if the sights inspire you to consider

real estate in Rancho Santa Fe

, Del Mar or any of the other charming communities of North County, get in touch with me,

Vicki Johnson

, for the best in local expertise and market insight. Your San Diego vacation home search starts here: find me online at