San Diego County is within driving distance to some of the best destinations that southern California has to offer. These are some of them.
The unincorporated community of Julian, CA is designated as a California Historical Landmark. The former gold mining town still has a lot of character. Julian has many apple orchards and they are known for their pies. It is an excellent place to go shopping for antiques, as there are many unique, one-of-a-kind shops.
At 6,000 feet Mount Laguna is one of the tallest peaks in the region. Located east of El Cajon in the Cleveland National Forest, Mount Laguna has cooler temperatures and dense forests of Jeffrey pines. Reserve a spot at a camping ground, or check into a rustic cabin or motel. Popular activities are hiking and horseback riding.
Fallbrook is known as the “Avocado Capital of the World” because of all the avocado farms. The quiet community is located off Interstate 15 and no major highways intersect it. Close by the Santa Margarita County Preserve contains one of the last undisturbed riparian ecosystems left in southern California.
Palomar Mountain is the site of the Palomar Observatory and Hale Telescope. The observatory is actually owned and operated by California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. There is a hiking trail that leads to the observatory. There are several campgrounds in the area. Or check out the historic Bailey’s Lodge.
The Anza- Borrego Desert is the largest state park in San Diego County. The best time to visit is January through March when the wildflowers are blooming, and the weather is cooler. Borrego Springs is the only “Dark Sky Community” in California, meaning there are no street lamps that cause light pollution at night.
Temecula Valley is wine country with nearly 50 wineries in the area. When they are not drinking wine they like to play a round of golf. There is shopping in Old Town Temecula and at Promenade Temecula. Or visit the Pechanga Resort Casion, owned and operated by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians.
San Clemente is a coastal city in the southernmost part of Orange County, CA. Their slogan is, “The Spanish City by the Sea.” Due to the epic surf break, San Clemente State Beach is one of the more popular beaches in California. Camping reservations are available through the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
The coastal community of Laguna Beach was made famous by the reality show of the same name. The beach includes seven miles of tide pools, sea coves, oceanfront cliffs and resorts. Crystal Cove State Park has miles of trails that pass through the coastal California ecosystem. Every year the city presents a Festival of Arts.
Anaheim is the home of the world renowned Disneyland Park & Resort. But they are also close to Knott’s Berry Farm. It is the most populous city in Orange County. The Los Angeles Angels play home baseball games at the Angel Stadium. And the Anaheim Ducks play ice hockey games at the Honda Center.
Despite all the rap songs Long Beach has many upscale areas, especially near the waterfront. The Aquarium of the Pacific is one of the largest aquariums in California. Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach are a short drive away. The art deco ocean liner Queen Mary offers lodging and historical tours.
From Long Beach you can take a ferry to Catalina Island. Considered part of the Channel Islands there are many amenities available from campgrounds to resort spas. The capital city on the island is Avalon, which boasts restaurants and shopping. There are many hiking trails and camping sites scattered around the island.
Los Angeles is about a two hours drive north of San Diego. One of the entertainment capitals of the world, it is possible to see a show or go to an event and still have time to drive back. Popular tourist attractions in LA include Venice Beach, Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood Sign, and the Hollywood Walk of Stars.
Salton Sea is an off beat destination northeast of Borrego Springs. The desert may be hot and the lake may be toxic, but it is considered a must visit for Instagrammers and gypsies. The most popular destination is Slab City, an unincorporated community of people who live in RV’s and vans. Salvation Mountain is located nearby.
The desert community of Palm Springs is a weekend getaway for Hollywood stars. It is a fun place to go to a music festival, or rent a house with a pool. Emerge yourself in the healing waters of a desert hot spring. Take the aerial tram up to the top of Mount San Jacinto. Hike amid a fan palm oasis in the middle of the desert.
Mount San Jacinto
There are three unincorporated communities in the San Jacinto Mountains, Idyllwild, Pine Cove, and Fern Valley. There are many camping sites available by permit. The region offers spectacular hiking opportunities whether you are interested in a short nature trail, or backpacking to the peak of Mt. San Jacinto.
San Bernardino is a city east of Los Angeles. The San Bernardino Mountains and San Bernardino National Forest are more frequently visited. Big Bear and Big Bear Lake are a popular destination for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. Lake Arrowhead is a fun place to go swimming during spring and summer.
Joshua Tree National Park is a part of the Mojave Desert east of Los Angeles and Palm Springs. It is a good place for amateur astronomers to watch the stars. Nature photographers appreciate rock formations like Skull Rock. A lot of famous musicians have been pictured there, such as the Eagles, U2, Selena, and Childish Gambino.
Tijuana, Mexico is actually a part of the same urban area as San Diego, but south of the Mexican border. You can drive there from downtown San Diego in about 35 minutes, or take the trolley and walk across the border. Shop for trinkets and street food from local vendors. The city has a vibrant art scene and nightlife community.
Rosarito Beach is a beach town rich in cultural traditions. It is considered a suburb of Tijuana, but is further south on the coast. There are many outdoor activities. The strong waves make it one of the best places in Mexico to go surfing. They also have golf, ATV riding, horseback riding, fishing, and whale watching.
Valle de Guadelupe
Further into Mexico, but still in Ensenada, is Valle de Guadelupe, or Valley of Guadelupe. Forbes calls it “The Napa Valley of Mexico.” 1 As you may have guessed there are a lot of wineries and vineyards. They are well known for their authentic Baja Mediterranean cuisine. The scenery makes it a great place for taking photos.