The Best Things to Do in San Marcos, California

San Marcos, California, is a city that’s often overlooked in favor of its more famous neighbors like San Diego and Los Angeles. However, this hidden gem has plenty to offer visitors, from stunning natural scenery to unique cultural attractions. Whether you’re a nature lover, a foodie, or a history buff, there’s something for everyone in San Marcos.

One of the most popular things to do in San Marcos is to explore its many parks and natural areas. The city is home to several beautiful parks, including the scenic Double Peak Park and the tranquil Discovery Lake, which offer hiking trails, picnic areas, and breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, San Marcos is a destination that’s definitely worth exploring. With its stunning natural scenery, vibrant cultural scene, and friendly locals, it’s no wonder that more and more people are discovering this hidden gem in Southern California.

So pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in San Marcos!

Outdoor Activities

San Marcos is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with plenty of parks and trails to explore. Here are two of the best options for outdoor activities in the area:

Double Peak Park

Located at the highest point in San Marcos, Double Peak Park offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Visitors can hike to the top of the peak or drive up to the summit for a panoramic vista that includes the Pacific Ocean, San Diego Bay, and the mountains to the east. The park also features picnic areas, a playground, and a large amphitheater that hosts concerts and other events throughout the year. The park is also an excellent spot for 4th of July fireworks display.

Discovery Lake

For a more tranquil outdoor experience, head to Discovery Lake. This small lake is surrounded by a scenic walking trail that offers views of the surrounding hills and wildlife such as ducks, geese, and turtles. The trail is an easy walk, making it suitable for families with children or those who prefer a more leisurely pace. Fishing is also allowed in the lake with a valid California fishing license.

Overall, San Marcos offers a variety of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy, from challenging hikes to peaceful nature walks. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoorsman or just looking to get some fresh air, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful Southern California city.

Shopping in San Marcos

San Marcos offers a variety of shopping options for tourists and locals alike. From trendy boutiques to vintage shops, there’s something for everyone. In this section, we will explore two popular shopping centers in San Marcos.

Grand Plaza

Grand Plaza is a popular shopping center located in the heart of San Marcos. This outdoor mall features a variety of stores, including department stores, gift shops, and specialty stores. Visitors can find everything from clothing and accessories to home decor and electronics. There are about 50 vendors, so you can go crazy! There are also several restaurants and cafes at the mall, making it a great place to grab a bite to eat while shopping.

Dining in San Marcos

San Marcos offers a variety of dining options for visitors and locals alike. From classic American cuisine to international flavors, there is something for everyone. In this section, we will highlight two popular dining destinations in San Marcos: Old California Restaurant Row and Phil’s BBQ.

Old California Restaurant Row

Old California Restaurant Row is a charming dining destination in San Marcos that offers a unique dining experience. It’s a pretty popular dining destination for locals and tourists. The area features a variety of restaurants, cafes, and specialty shops, not just dining. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely meal with friends or family in a beautiful outdoor setting.

Some of the restaurants at Old California Restaurant Row include:

  • The Bellows: An upscale restaurant serving farm-to-table dishes using organic and fresh ingredients.
  • Urge American Gastropub: A gastropub offering craft beer and a diverse menu of pub fare and modern American cuisine.
  • Fish House Vera Cruz: A seafood restaurant, known for having the freshest fish and seafood selection on the Old California Row

Phil’s BBQ

Phil’s BBQ is a San Diego institution that has expanded to San Marcos. The restaurant is known for its mouthwatering BBQ dishes and casual atmosphere. The menu features a variety of BBQ favorites, including ribs, chicken, and pulled pork. Some of the popular dishes at Phil’s BBQ include Baby Back Ribs, El Toro, and The Broham.

Whether you’re in the mood for a casual BBQ meal or an upscale dining experience, San Marcos has something to offer.

Nightlife in San Marcos

San Marcos has a vibrant nightlife scene, with a variety of bars, clubs, and breweries to choose from. Whether you’re looking for a casual night out with friends or a more upscale experience, there’s something for everyone.

Churchill’s Pub & Grille

Churchill’s Pub & Grille is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. With a cozy atmosphere and friendly staff, it’s the perfect place to grab a drink and relax after a long day. They offer a wide selection of beers on tap, as well as a full menu of pub fare. Live music is also a regular feature, with local bands and musicians taking the stage on weekends.

Family Activities

San Marcos is a great place to visit with your family. There are plenty of fun activities for kids of all ages. Here are two family-friendly places to check out:

Sunset Park

Sunset Park is a great place to take your family for a picnic or a day out. The park has a playground, a basketball court, and plenty of open space for running around. There are also picnic tables and BBQ grills available for use. The park is open from sunrise to sunset, and admission is free.


Legoland California Resort is the spot to hit. It’s like stepping into a colorful, blocky wonderland where creativity knows no bounds. You’ll find jaw-dropping Lego sculptures that’ll make your inner builder cheer and thrilling rides that’ll have you spinning and splashing in delight.

And let’s not forget the epic Miniland USA, where iconic American cities are recreated in intricate detail using millions of Lego bricks. It’s like a Lego lover’s dream come true! Plus, the water park is a splashin’ good time on a sunny day.

So, whether you’re a parent seeking family fun or an adult with a soft spot for those iconic plastic bricks, Legoland Carlsbad is a place where imagination and adventure collide. Get ready to build some awesome memories!

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