Hidden Family Attractions or Off the Beaten Path of San Diego

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Hidden Family Attractions or Off the Beaten Path of San Diego

As much as we like visiting well known attractions in San Diego, our favorite places to explore are the ones off the beaten path. Here are 15+ hidden gems around San Diego for your next family adventure.

1. Annie's Canyon Trail

Annie's Canyon Trail

Location: 

Solana Hills Trail, Solana Beach, CA 92075

Details: 

1/4 mile moderate trail loop with rugged wilderness hiking paths in an ecological reserve with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and lagoon at an elevation of 200-feet above sea level. 

Naturally eroding sandstone walls create a sense of mystery and wonder.

Learn More:

Annie's Canyon Trail

2. Agua Hedionda

Hidden San Diego, Agua Hedionda

Location: 

1580 Cannon Rd, Carlsbad, CA 92008

Details: 

The Discovery Center is free and donation based. It's a great place to interact with lizards, snakes, reptiles and more. On recent days, there has been a beautiful macaw perched by the entrance. If you're lucky enough to be there during feeding, you'll see it crack open walnuts with ease. 

Aside from getting to handle amazing animals, they also have a designated kids area with educational books and toys to keep them entertained. 

The kids are wearing our IZZAROO Explore More tees. All of our kid tees have pockets, perfect for treasures they find while exploring. The kids filled them with rocks, leaves, flowers and lots of memories. 

Check out our collection of play, create, explore and be the good tees. 10% of net profits will benefit organizations that empower underprivileged youth. Learn more about our mission to Be The Good.

IZZAROO - Play More T-ShirtIZZAROO - Create More T-ShirtIZZAROO - Explore More T-ShirtIZZAROO - Be The Good Collection

Learn More:

Agua Hedionda

3. Queen Califia's Magical Circle

Hidden San Diego, Queen Califa's Magical Circle

Location: 
Located in the Iris Sankey Arboretum
Kit Carson Park
3333 Bear Valley Parkway, Escondido, CA 92025

Details: 
Home of beautiful mosaic art sculptures and maze. The garden is free to enter and consists of nine large-scale sculptures, a circular "snake wall" and maze entryway, sculpturally integrated bench seating, and native shrubs and trees planted within the interior plaza and along the outer perimeter. A beautiful place to play and enjoy exquisite public art.

Learn More:

Queen Califia's Magical Circle

4. Leo Carrillo

Hidden San Diego, Leo Carrillo

Location: 
6200 Flying Leo Carrillo Ln, Carlsbad, CA 92009

Details: 
This historic ranch is home to wild peacocks that roam the property. We've sighted an albino peacock and even a peacock nest on past visits. The main office is where you can watch an informative 10 minute movie on the history of Leo Carrillo and his ranch.  Entrance is free as well as free guided tours on the weekend. It's a great place to take kids and a beautiful location for family photos as well.

Learn More:

Leo Carrillo

5. Lake Calavera

Hidden San Diego, Lake Calavera, Carlsbad, CA

Photo credit: Kate G via Yelp

Location: 
Tamrack Ave. Strata Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92010

Details: 
Did you know this peak was once an active volcano some 15 million years ago? This ancient volcano dates back to the Second World War. Definitely a fun piece of  historical wilderness in our own backyard.

Learn More:

Lake Calavera

6. La Jolla Secret Tree Swings

La Jolla Secret Swing

Photo credit: The outbound collective

Location: 
From Torrey Pines Rd, turn left onto La Jolla Shores Drive. After about 1/4 of a mile down start to look for parking preferably near UCSD Coastal Apartments. Once parked walk along the UCSD apartments until you see Discovery way. Make a left at Discovery where you will then cross the street. You will see 3 metal poles. Once you pass those if you look to the right you will see the tree swings overlooking La Jolla.

Details: 

After the short hike, there are 3 (possibly less now) swings. You’ll be able to sit on a handmade swing with a stellar ocean view of La Jolla shores.

Learn More:

La Jolla Tree Swings

7. Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

Hidden San Diego, Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

Photo credit: Rob A. via Yelp

Location: 
Spruce St. 1st Ave, San Diego, CA 92103. Locate the entrance via Front Street

Details: 
Tucked away in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Banker's Hill you will find this charming bridge that is literally suspended over a serene green canyon.  Made in 1912, it rests above the treetops and moves from side to side as you walk along it.

Learn More:

Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

8. 25th Street Musical Bridge

Hidden San Diego, 25th Street Musical Bridge

Photo credit: Make it sweet

Location: 
Located at SR-94 and 25th Street in San Diego. You can park on either F or G streets.

Details: 
Did you know that in San Diego, the 25th Street Bridge doubles as a musical instrument with a series of chromatic bells? Indeed it does. It's where public art meets public music! Be sure to bring  a hard stick or ruler along during your trek across the bridge.

Learn More:

25th Street Musical Bridge

9. SS Monte Carlo Shipwreck

Hidden San Diego, SS Monte Carlo Shipwreck

Photo credit: There San Diego

Location: 
Southwest of the Hotel Del Coronado and in front of Coronado Shores condos on Coronado Island

Details: 
Just below the water’s surface in Coronado, with a visibility that varies depending upon the year, lies the shipwrecked SS Monte Carlo How much of the wreck is visible not only depends on tidal conditions but how much is buried by sand, which is known to vary depending on the years and weather.  The deck itself is remarkably intact with several crew openings and cargo hatches visible and the deck can be walked on by anyone at low tide. This 300-foot ship was a gambling casino that crashed on shore during a winter storm on January 1st, 1937. It lays in  front of what is now the Coronado Shores condos.

Learn More:

SS Monte Carlo Shipwreck

10. The Meditation Gardens

Hidden San Diego, Meditation Garden

Photo credit: Encinitas Temple

Location: 
215 K St. Encinitas, CA 92024. Between Crest St. and 3rd St.

Details: 
This peaceful garden is free to the public. It offers colorful plants, meditation nooks, koi ponds and spectacular ocean vistas - providing a unique inspirational setting.

Learn More:

The Meditation Gardens

11. Sunny Jim's Cave Store

Sunny Jim Cave La Jolla, CA

Photo credit: May...Lene D. via Yelp

Location: 
1325 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037
Between Prospect Pl & Park Row La Jolla

Details: 
Cave is accessible via a hand-dug tunnel through a gift shop. You’ll venture down the narrow staircase of 145 steps until you reach a platform leading to an incredible ocean view — where snorkelers and kayakers drift by.

Learn More:

Sunny Jim's Cave Store

12. Harper's Topiary Garden

Hidden San Diego, Harper's Hopiary Garden

Photo credit: Atlas Obscura

Location: 
3549 Union St. San Diego, CA 92103. Between Upas St. and Vine St. Mission Hills.

Details: 
Edna and Alex Harper, owners of thishome in Mission Hill create an ever-changing beautiful green masterpiece on the hillside of their home.  You’ll find exquisitely trimmed hedges in the shapes of perfectly groomed animals, like whales and elephants.  The Harpers welcome anyone to come and enjoy their outdoors museum, but if you do visit, p[lease remember to be respectful of their private residence.

Learn More:

Harper's Topiary Garden

13. Stein Family Farm

Hidden San Diego, Stein Family Farm

Photo credit: Flicker River

Location: 
1808 F Avenue, National City, CA 91950

Details: 
Living history farm museum. Victorian farmhouse and a 100 plus year-old barn. Enjoy what life was like back in the 1900s in National City by exploring the organic garden and playing with the farm animals.

Learn More:

Stein Family Farm

14. Swami's State Beach

Hidden San Diego, Swami's State Beach

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Location: 
1298 S. Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024
Details: 
Home to a substantial reef formation that can be seen during low and minus tides. The perfect place for tide pool exploring, you can admire oyster fossils, crabs, octopus, brittle stars, starfish, sea cucumbers and sea hares.  Visitors can also view nearly 45-million-year-old fossils in level rocks.

Learn More:

Swami's State Beach

15. Coronado Sand Dunes

Hidden San Diego, Coronado San Dunes

Photo credit: Staging Waymarking

Location: 
Ocean Blvd (G Avenue), Coronado, CA 92118

Details: 
These aren't your typical sand dunes. What many folks don't know is they spell out a secret word.  These dunes are man-made and spell out the word: Coronado.

Learn More:

Coronado Sand Dunes

16. Fallen Star Exhibit as part of the Stuart Collection

Hidden San Diego, The Fallen Star Stuart Collection, UCSD

Photo credit: UCSD Stuart Collection

Location: 
Ocean Blvd (G Avenue), Coronado, CA 92118

Details: 
The "Fallen Star" is hard to miss on the campus of UC San Diego. Created by artist,  Do Ho Suh, this is a cottage built from scratch and permanently joined to an existing campus building – several stories up in the air. The  15 by 18 feet, house is fully furnished with furniture, family photos, books tour knickknacks, etc. It can be disorienting entering the home. People are perceptually tricked into feeling like they’re falling. Some feel seasick or wobbly. Wobblyness aside, it's definitely worth a visit. The  Fallen Star is open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 am to 2 pm.

Learn More:

Fallen Star

There you have it. I hope this inspires you to take the path less travel and see/experience new things around San Diego. Your turn! Send us your own secret spots around San Diego and we'll be sure to add them to our list!

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