Monthly Road Trip: North County San Diego

Planning a road trip soon? You NEED to go no further than North County, San Diego

When you think of taking a weekend trip to San Diego, most think of the Gaslamp or Pacific Beach, however there is so much more to be explored. Justin and I recently took a long weekend to discover North County, San Diego and trust us when we say you do not have to go any further to enjoy the best that this beautiful beach town has to offer. Here are some of our favorites from a few of the little beach towns along the coast:


It seems Carlsbad is getting a little bit more exciting, as the town used to be a little sleepy. Here are some cool spots to try out when visiting this little beach town.

Park 101: This bar/restaurant is great for outside seating on a nice day. It is a two-level building offering some really good BBQ with games, picnic tables and a roof top deck! You can’t see the ocean but it is literally a block away – so bet your buzz on and then take a walk to the beach for the sunset.

Park 101 in Carlsbad

Norte: This was my favorite place to get Mexican Food. If they only served their warm chips and salsa, I would still come every day. They are that good. The most popular item is the Chicken Burrito. The burrito sauce on this dish is to die for (get a side and dip your chips in it – and thank me later).

Mas Fina Cantina: The bar food here is pretty good, but the place gets pretty fun and crowded at night. They have a pretty big patio and it is a great place for a day drink and a starting point to walk along the streets and browse all the cool shops in downtown Carlsbad. 


The beaches are great in Encinitas. The most popular being Moonlight Beach, however, it can get pretty crowded. If you have a family, the bathrooms, snack bar and park are a must; however, there are some more secluded beaches that are pretty great too. My favorite was Stonesteps in Encinitas or Cardiff State Beach in Cardiff – the stretch between Cardiff Reef and Seaside Beaches.  

Moonlight Beach in Encinitas

Downtown Encinitas is the place to be in North County. Here are a couple of our favorite spots:

Union Kitchen and Tap House: This is the place to start Sunday Funday. Two words, bottomless mimosas. Actually, three more words: breakfast flatbread pizza. Order these two and you are off to a great start. Union is a local favorite! Try to get there a little early to get a spot by the huge garage door windows where you can camp out for a while and watch good looking people walk by. You can also go here on either a Friday or Saturday night for dinner (their Shrimp and Grits are awesome) then make your way down to Shelter or the Saloon where things really get going

1st Street: Good times on a Friday and Saturday night with a great DJ and hip-hop music. The crowd is a little bit younger, but still fun none the less.

Biergarten: Great bar food and rotating taps with a great patio.

La Papagayo on Leucadia: Live music in the evenings, great happy hour, and outdoor seating for brunch.

Encinitas Ale House: Best burgers ever and awesome rotating taps.

3rd Corner: Great place if you are feeling some wine and cheese. Food is good and the retail wine selection is awesome.

A Little Moore in Leucadia: This place has been here forever! And has that greasy diner feel for breakfast, great for a hangover.

Downtown Encinitas


VG’s Donuts: This donut shop is a staple in Cardiff since it opened in 1969. The donuts are on another level. Get here early on a Saturday or Sunday as the line can get long; however, a local secret – they make the donuts at night for the next morning, so if you want to get them really fresh come at like 8:00pm the night before.

Bestawan: This is another spot that has been around forever and is a must when visiting North County! It has a very random and eclectic menu, but has something for everyone. My favorite is the pizza. Something about the crust and the square pieces. I get half BBQ chicken and half pepperoni and am in heaven – ranch please too.

The Office or The Shanty: These are the dive bars to go to, but popular dive bars where you will find normal good-looking people looking to party (at night – not sure about the day ha). The office has pool and shuffle board and The Shanty has pool, darts and arcade games.

Seaside Market: What Cardiff is known for – this market is awesome, a little pricey but awesome. The Cardiff Crack (Tri-tip) is pretty good, but my favorite is the deli where you can get a big ol’ sandwich of fresh ingredients – also, the snickerdoodle cookies are heaven.


Cedros in Solana Beach

Belly Up: If you are in San Diego for a couple days, make sure to pull up the schedule at the Belly-Up. This is an AWESOME music venue that gets some pretty big names. Tickets aren’t usually that expensive and you can usually find something you will want to hear on any given weekend.

Culture Brewing: This was my favorite tasting room and I think has the best beers. The Milk Stout was my favorite. They also just opened a tasting room in Encinitas as well.

Carruth Cellars Urban Winery & Tasting Room: If you are in Solana Beach and not in the mood for a beer, this awesome – spacious tasting room is another great option. Their wines are good and not very expensive. It also gets you to Cedros Avenue – Design District where you can browse for days at all the design, clothing, furniture and unique gift stores.

There is so much to discover in North County, San Diego! We hope you stop here when thinking of your next trip down south, you won’t be disappointed!

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