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North County Neighborhood Guide: Valley Center

Bates Nut Farm Pumpkin Patch

Best known as the home of the annual Valley Center Western Days and Harrah’s Resort Southern California, Valley Center is a growing town where residents still enjoy a semi-rural lifestyle. Although Escondido and Temecula are just an easy drive away, most of what folks need on a daily basis can be found right in Valley Center, particularly when it comes to family-friendly events and attractions.

Valley Center is a census designated place with a 2010 population of 9,277. Lots of famous folks have called this agricultural area home at one time or another, including well-known names like Mae West, John Wayne, Fred Astaire and Gary Cooper.


The first permanent settler in what we now know as Valley Center was James Davis. Although the first homestead in the area was established shortly after the signing of the Homestead Act in 1862, it was the famous grizzly bear incident of 1866 that actually put the area on the map and was the impetus for the area finally being formally named.

In 1866, the largest California grizzly in history (2,200 pounds) was killed in the valley, which led to the name Bear Valley. When the first post office was established in 1874, the town became known simply as Valley. The name was changed again — to Valley Centre — in 1878 and again in 1887 to Valley Center.

Since the time of the settlers, the Valley Center area has relied heavily on agriculture as its primary industry; however, the development of the Harrah’s  Resort and Valley View Casino are now bringing more tourists to the area.

If you would like to learn more about the history of Valley Center, the Valley Center Museum and the Valley Center Historical Society offer some excellent resources, including a historical timeline for the area and a list of historic sites.

Keys Creek Lavender Farm


Historically, Valley Center has been a largely rural, agricultural area primarily made up of larger parcels and low-density housing. With the development of the area’s two casinos and inevitable suburban sprawl, the community is managing to hang on to its small town charm as it experiences growth and moves towards a semi-rural area.

A requirement that most parcels in Valley Center be a minimum of two acres has helped to maintain slow growth and keep developers out; however, Valley Center residents may see some big changes in the coming years with the San Diego County General Plan 2020. It is possible that with the implementation of this plan, there may be significant changes that could lead to high-density housing developments.

The last decade has seen increased interest among higher-budget homeowners looking to build country estates in the area. This, along with the development of the casinos, has driven up median housing prices from $281,900 in 2000 to $431,913 in 2012. The median sales price for the three months immediately prior to this article was $457,000, which was a slight increase ($5,000) over the previous year.

The average listing price for the week immediately prior to this article was $708,151. Prospective homeowners with budgets between $400,000 and $600,000 will find lots of options in their price range, but folks with smaller budgets can also find more affordable options, particularly if they are open to looking at condos or manufactured homes.

Here are a few examples of homes for sale in Valley Center at the time of this writing:

  • Two bedroom, two bathroom, 1,344-square-foot mobile home in a park for $44,500
  • Two bedroom, two bathroom, 1,248-square-foot manufactured home in age-restricted Skyline Ranch for $104,900
  • Two bedroom, two bathroom, 1,765-square-foot home on a .15-acre lot for $269,000
  • Three bedroom, three bathroom, 2,124-square-foot condo listed at $329,000
  • Five bedroom, two bathroom, 3,088 newly constructed home on 2.61 acres for $474,900
  • Five bedroom, five bathroom, 4,469-square-foot home on .58 acre listed at $655,000
  • Four bedroom, two bathroom, 3,005-square-foot home on 2.58 acres for $717,000
  • Four bedroom, four bathroom, 3,401-square-foot home on 2.43 acres for $879,000
  • Five bedroom, five bathroom, 4,572-square-foot home on 3.42 acres for $1,395,000
  • Four bedroom, seven bathroom, 5,844-square-foot home on 6.25 acres for $3,800,800

The Cafe at Harrah's Resort Southern California

Restaurants, Shopping & Entertainment

Valley Center residents are within an easy drive of Escondido and Temecula for expanded dining, shopping and entertainment options, but this small town is certainly not lacking when it comes to local options you are sure to love. Outside of the casinos, you aren’t going to see any big chains around here (at least not yet), but you will find local favorites, like the Country Trader coffee shop, Fat Ivor’s Rib Rack, Casa Reveles, Portino’s Fresh Italian, Country Junction Deli and Corner Skillet.

If you are looking for something a bit more upscale but still close to home, there is the Black & Blue Steakhouse at the Valley View Casino and Fiore Steak & Seafood at Harrah’s Resort Southern California. The Valley View Casino also has a buffet and cafe, and Harrah’s Resort is also home to a buffet, Pink’s Hot Dogs, Earl of Sandwich, The Cafe at Harrah’s, Starbucks, Oyster Bar, Fortunes Asian restaurant and ‘Ritas Cantina.

If you are interested in grabbing a drink without driving to the city, there are not a lot of options outside of the casinos, but there are plenty inside them. Valley View Casino offers three options for evening get-togethers, including The Mainstage Bar, Non-Smoking Bar and Black & Blue Lounge. At Harrah’s Resort you will find Courtside Sports Bar for catching the next big game, Spiked for craft cocktails in a lounge atmosphere and Corked, a craft beer and wine bar.

Feed and farm supply stores are not all you will find in Valley Center, which is also home to a few grocery stores, the Town Center Market convenience store, nurseries and some uniquely local finds, such as the Farm Store at Keys Creek Lavender Farm and the Farmers Daughter gift shop at Bates Nut Farm.

Bates Nut Farm, which was established in 1921, is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting the Valley Center area. This family-friendly North County attraction is home to the above-mentioned gift shop where you can pick up fresh nuts, gifts and special treats. It is also home to San Diego County’s oldest pumpkin patch, a farm zoo, picnic area and lots of community events throughout the year, including Christmas in the Valley, car shows, fine art fairs, antique markets, craft fairs and music festivals.

Another must-see attraction for history lovers is the Valley Center History Museum located at 29200 Cole Grade Road. If you happen to be in the area when Keys Creek Lavender Farm is hosting one of its English High Teas, that is another Valley Center experience that should not be missed. And, of course, there are lots of concerts and shows at Harrah’s Resort.

Perhaps the most popular annual event in Valley Center is Western Days, which includes the Valley Center Stampede Rodeo, a parade and a festival over Memorial Day weekend. Although the event officially takes place over the course of the weekend, there are also lots of western-themed events hosted by local groups leading up to this community celebration.

Woods Valley Golf Course Valley Center

Parks & Recreation

Valley Center Parks & Recreation manages a community center and Adams Park, as well as athletic fields, including Cole Grade Park and Scibilia Field. The community center has a commercial kitchen, meeting rooms and an event hall that can hold up to 150 people for community events or special occasions.

At Adams Park, residents and visitors can enjoy tennis courts, a horseshoe pit, a covered picnic area, a volleyball court, and a heated community pool that offers water aerobics classes, lap swimming and swimming lessons. There is also The Pavilion, which is an event venue that can hold up to 450 guests and includes a gazebo and a covered stage and dance area.

Golfers can enjoy a variety of courses spread across North County, but they do not have to travel far from home to enjoy Valley Center’s Woods Valley Golf Club. The 18-hole, par-72 championship golf course was designed by Dave Ginkel and is accompanied by a driving range, practice greens and a pro shop.

There is also the Woods Valley Kampground and RV Park right in Valley Center where RVers and campers can enjoy a fishing pond, a swimming pool, a volleyball court, horseshoe pits, picnic areas and a recreation hall.

Another family-friendly attraction located in Valley Center is Keys Creek Lavender Farm, which offers farm tours, self-pick lavender, English high teas, the Farm Store, event venue rentals and soap making classes.

Folks looking for a bit more adventure should make their way to Hellhole Canyon Preserve, which is open to the public from 8:00am to sunset Friday through Monday and offers more than 13 miles of hiking and riding trails, campsites, an amphitheater and a parking area large enough for horse trailers.

Print the Hellhole Canyon Preserve park brochure for a trail map and more information.

Of course, the ever-popular Daley Ranch is just south of Valley Center where you can access miles of trails for hiking, riding and biking, as well as Lake Dixon for fishing. Lake Wohlford, another popular fishing lake, is also located just south of Valley Center.



Most public school students living in the Valley Center area are served by the Valley Center – Pauma Unified School District, which is home to Valley Center Elementary School, Valley Center Primary School, Lilac School, Pauma School, Valley Center Middle School, Valley Center High School, Oak Glen High School and Valley Center Prep School.


Interstate 15 runs along the border between Bonsall to the west and Valley Center to the east. Valley Center shares its southern border with the communities of Hidden Meadows, Jesmond Dene, Daley Ranch and Valley View – Lake Wohlford. Palomar State Park is to the east of Valley Center.

Additional Information

The family-friendly community of Valley Center offers the tranquility of a semi-rural lifestyle within driving distance of the city amenities offered by Temecula and Escondido. This active community has plenty of local events throughout the year, and there are ample opportunities for outdoor recreation close at hand.

If you are looking for an elegant country estate, a working farm or a modest home where you can raise your children in a small town setting, there is a good chance you just might find what you are looking for in Valley Center.


Photos Credits (in order of appearance): Bates Nut Farm, Keys Creek Lavender Farm, Harrah’s Resort Southern California, Woods Valley Golf Course, Valley Center Parks & Recreation Real estate data gathered from, and

AJ Davis-Varela: AJ is a freelance writer and blogger at Articles by AJ specializing in travel, real estate, natural wellness and green living. She is a magazine columnist, a former San Diego newspaper columnist, has been published in a variety of print and online publications, and regularly contributes to several websites and blogs. You can connect with AJ on LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+