About 30 miles northeast of downtown San Diego, Escondido is the best little town you’ve likely never heard of. Historically, visitors have flocked here for a couple major draws—San Diego Zoo Safari Park (sister property to the world-renowned downtown zoo) and Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens, one of the largest craft breweries in the country. But those two attractions are just scratching the surface of this eclectic city on the rise.
Founded in 1888, Escondido boasts an Old West charm—especially apparent in its historic downtown architecture—that melds with a dynamic arts scene. The California Center for the Arts, a visual and performing arts complex that includes a concert hall, theater, and modern art museum, serves as a vibrant cultural hub, and numerous galleries around town showcase art from local and international artists. There’s also the popular Patio Playhouse Community Theatre, which first opened in 1967. Art lovers (and kids alike) enjoy Queen Califia’s Magical Circle, a whimsical sculpture garden in Kit Carson Park featuring works by renowned French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle.