9 Reasons to Road Trip to North County, San Diego

Family-Friendly Beaches, Parks, and Restaurants

san elijo lagoon san diego road trip!

You’d rather spend ten more hours in the car with your kids than one more second at Legoland. We’ve gathered nine spots that make a road trip to North County, San Diego, worth the gas money.

1. Take your binoculars to catch a close-up of the great blue heron (or 300 other species of local and migratory birds) on a walk through the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve (2710 Manchester Avenue, Cardiff-by-the-Sea; 760-634-3026).

2. Life really is a beach at Moonlight State Beach (west of I-5, Encinitas), where cool waters and soft sands make it the perfect spot for toddler-friendly toe-dipping.

3. Skip the overpriced family megarestaurants and drop by the deli at Seaside Market (2087 San Elijo Avenue, Cardiff-by-the-Sea; 760-753-5445) for a prepacked picnic to go.

4. Guarantee an exotic bird encounter at Free Flight (2132 Jimmy Durante Boulevard, Del Mar; 858-481-3148), a sanctuary that rehabilitates our winged friends.

5. Take a veggie dip into the hippie side of lunch at Swami’s Cafe (1163 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas; 760-944-0612).

6. Make up for those empty carrot and celery calories at VG Donut & Bakery (106 Aberdeen, Cardiff; 760-753-2400).

7. Rent paddleboards, kayaks, and Jet Skis at the Carlsbad Lagoon (4215 Harrison Street, Carlsbad; 760-434-3089) for water activities that don’t start with sea and end with world.

8. Broods that travel with four-legged, furry friends get a warm welcome at North Beach, otherwise known to locals as Dog Beach (north of 29th Street, to the Solana Beach border, Del Mar; 858-755-1556).

9. Book a newly renovated family suite at La Costa Resort and Spa (2100 Costa del Mar Road, Carlsbad; 800-854-5000). Three water slides and a kids’ club (with drop-off service) ensure an afternoon of poolside peace.

We’ll drive any distance for that.

travel accessories for kids!Getting there is half the battle. We’ve found games and gear to get little ones from point A to point B — as well as more ideas on where point B should be.

this week in los angeles!

Giggles ’n’ Hugs Drop-off Service
What: Tots get an afternoon of food, play, and crafts; you get to shop Westfield Century City plaza solo.
Why: Mama needs a new pair of shoes.
When: Sun.-Thurs., 4-7 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 5-9 p.m.
Where: 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., b/t Century Park W. & Ave. of the Stars, ste. 155 (310-553-4847). Sun.-Thurs., $60 for three hours; Fri. & Sat., $75 for four.

Kids’ Haircuts
Save 25 percent on salon services, from basic cuts ($30 and up) to Chlorine Green-Outs and lice removal.
Why: Step away from the scissors.
When: Tues.-Fri., 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: Tipperary, 9422 Dayton Way, b/t N. Canon & N. Beverly Drs. Appointments to 310-274-0294.

Dino Days

What: Have a stompin’ good time making fossils, getting fake tattoos, and hunting for prehistoric beasts in the Digging Deeper Gallery.
Why: Proof that family fun hasn’t gone extinct.
When: Sat. & Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: Kidspace Children’s Museum, 480 N. Arroyo Blvd., at Seco St. (626-449-9144). Museum admission for adults and children is $10.

Photo: JDTomcik Photo / Flickr

9422 Dayton Way
bt N Canon & Beverly Drs
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
10250 Santa Monica Blvd
bt Century Park W & Ave of the Stars, ste 155
Los Angeles, CA 90067
480 N Arroyo Blvd
@ Seco St
Pasadena, CA 91103