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50+ Picnic Spots in North County San Diego (2018 Master List)

Picnic Spots in San Diego North County

Everyone in SoCal is inspired by the sun and weather to get out of the house, so let’s have a picnic! Beaches, parks, lakes, there are so many North County areas to enjoy the outdoors!

Acai Bowls in san diego north county coastal

(Del Mar to Oceanside)

1. Seagrove/Powerhouse Park

An amazing spot on the Del Mar Bluffs. Lots of grass and a playground overlook the ocean. Lovely for romantic dinners, and also very popular for weddings. There are public restrooms and a parking lot across the street. Expect heavy traffic on the weekends. Leashed dogs welcome.

2. San Dieguito County Park

A north county local favorite. Plenty of picnic areas and BBQs; along with trails, duck ponds, a suspension bridge, basketball courts, playgrounds, and restrooms. The park is divided into two sections. The upper section contains all the athletic and play areas. The lower section is a wooded grassy area with lots of shade and picnic spots. Very accommodating for large groups.  Alcohol permitted. $3 Parking fee, off-site parking available across the street. Leashed dogs welcomed.

3. Fletcher’s Cove

Picturesque and kid friendly. With a small parking lot, public restrooms, and off-street parking, Fletcher’s Cove is a great spot to stop and watch the sunset in Solana Beach. There is a playground, grassy area, and ramp that leads to the ocean. Leashed dogs are welcome on the viewpoint, but not on the beach. Perfect place to spend the afternoon.

4. Tide Beach Park Overlook

At the top of the stairway to the Tide Beach Access there is one lone picnic table. Ideal if you want to visit the tide pools, but would rather eat where it’s not sandy. Nothing fancy, but who needs fancy when you can look out at the ocean? Tide pools are accessible during low tide. No restrooms.

5. North San Elijo Beach

North-San-Elijo-beach

This long parking lot parallel to Hwy 101 not only has beach access but picnic tables with gorgeous views along the whole site. A great place to sit and have a snack while watching the sunset. The tables are a little weather worn, but a towel or beach blanket should be enough to protect from splinters.

6. Glen Park

Just south of downtown Cardiff there is a secluded grassy area with winding hills and plenty of picnic and BBQ areas. Playground, tennis courts, basketball courts, horseshoes, volleyball, and a scenic ocean view! Restrooms available. Leashed dogs welcome.

7. Moonlight Beach

In the 1900’s people would flock to this beach for its perfect moonlight pictures. Still a local favorite, this beach is SoCal defined. Volleyball, playground, fire pits, bathrooms, and snack bar.  Camp out all day or just drive down for a quick snack. The parking lot is usually very accommodating, and if you forget your picnic there are lots of options nearby. No dogs.

8. Moonlight Overlook

If the sand and crowds don’t appeal to you, but you still would like a lovely view (and a great people watching spot), Moonlight overlook is for you! Just south of Moonlight Beach, the viewpoint is beautifully landscaped and has a picnic table. No restrooms.

9. Encinitas Community Park

Multipurpose fields, a dog park, skate park and huge play area can be found just west of I-5 in Encinitas Community Park. Lots of picnic areas are scattered throughout. Restrooms available. Beer and wine allowed.

10. Cottonwood Creek Park

cottonwood park picnic area

A rolling green field, small shaded creek, and a beautiful gazebo make Cottonwood Park beautiful. There is so much to do here! Basketball, Tennis, a huge kids area that has structures for all ages, including a life-size climbing boulder! Besides the gazebo, there are plenty of picnic tables, and beer and wine are permitted. There are restrooms and a small parking lot. Leashed dogs allowed.

11. H Street Viewpoint

At the end of H Street in Encinitas is another well manicured viewpoint. Park on the street and there are picnic tables and benches to enjoy the view. No restrooms.

12. Encinitas Viewpoint Park

This is a quaint little spot just across from Encinitas Library. The park is comprised of grassy area, picnic area, playground, and view of the ocean.. However, it does have off-leash dog hours (M,W, F, & Sun: 6am – 9am & 3pm – 8pm). No restrooms (but library is within walking distance).

13. Swami’s Beach

Surfers flock to this beach at the south end of Encinitas. Located at the bottom of the bluff you can find tide pools and walk down the shoreline when the tide is out. A small park and parking lot are located at the top. With shaded picnic tables and grassy areas this a good spot for watching the surfers ride the waves. Restrooms are also available.  No dogs.

14. Orpheus Neighborhood Park

A big grassy area overlooking the ocean. Play area, picnic areas, and off-leash dog hours! (M, W, F: 6am – 7:30am & 3pm – 8pm. Sun: 6am- 9am & 3pm – 8pm). No restrooms.

15. Beacon’s Beach

Another local surfer favorite. Beacon’s is kind of hard to find, parking is limited, there are no facilities, no dogs allowed, and to get to the beach you have to climb down the steep bluff (and later back up again). All of these things make the beach almost private. If you want a more intimate place to spread out your picnic blanket, this is the place to go!

16. San Diego Botanic Garden

The only way to describe the Botanic Garden in Encinitas is MAGICAL. You can explore the grounds time and time again and still find new surprises and hidden nooks.  The garden is a North County gem. There are picnic tables and benches throughout the grounds. Admission: $14/adult, $8/children. No pets allowed.

17. Oakcrest Park

Locals love Oakcrest because the grassy picnic areas are shaded by magnificently beautiful trees. Other big draws are the full sized Bocce Ball and Horseshoe pits. The children’s area and basketball court aren’t much, but there are restrooms available. BBQs. Beer and wine allowed (no glass containers).

18. South Ponto Beach

Ponto beach has plenty of paid and free parking. There are bathrooms located near the paid lot but not much more than that. The lack of snack bar or playground leaves this beach less crowded tourist wise. One of the largest beaches in North County even on busy days there is plenty of space for a great picnic! No dogs.

19. Alga Norte Community Park

alga norte picnic area

At Alga Norte you can choose to picnic by the huge playground, the awesome skatepark, or the amazing heated pool. Yes, heated pool. Alga Norte offers so much: a dog park with areas for small and large dogs, three ball fields, basketball courts, multiple restrooms, picnic areas and barbecue areas; it’s hard to choose what to do! The aquatic area has a small fee.

20. Aviara Community Park

Great for large family picnics, Aviara has covered and lighted picnic areas, all with BBQs and electrical outlets. The park has panoramic views and a great playground with a play structure shaped like a pirate ship! There are also basketball courts and restrooms available.

21. La Costa Canyon Park

Nestled in the middle of a neighborhood this park is a nice spot for a lunch with the kiddos. A large covered picnic area overlooks the playground. Up the hill, there are tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, basketball courts and even more picnic areas in the trails. Restrooms available.

22. Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park

leo carillo picnic area

Also known as the Peacock Park, this historic site was once owned by Leo Carillo, best-known for his role in The Cisco Kid. The grounds are beautifully landscaped with dozens of peacocks wandering about. There are lots of great spots to have a picnic here. Restrooms available. Dogs are prohibited.

23. Frazee Beach

Bordering Carlsbad Village this beach is surrounded by restaurants, shops, and hotels. The overlook and sand below are always buzzing with activity. If you don’t feel like getting sandy there are plenty sitting areas along the path above. Leashed dogs welcomed in areas above the beach.

24. Stagecoach Community Park

Another great place for large family picnics, Stagecoach has two covered picnic areas with BBQs and electrical outlets. The picnic area has rolling grass fields, a multi-age playground and a small creek that runs through the center of it. The park also provides tennis courts, basketball courts, and restrooms.

25. Hosp Grove Park

Eucalyptus trees shade the picnic areas and trails of this Carlsbad park. There is a children’s play area, but the focus of this park is the nature surrounding it. No restrooms.

26. Poinsettia Community Park

Poinsettia Park puts its’ focus on athletics of all kinds. Softball, soccer, basketball, tennis, you’ll find areas for all of these here. The western side of the park has a more secluded grassy area great for spending an afternoon. There is also a small playground and picnic tables. Restrooms available.

27. Laguna Riviera Park

A small little neighborhood park. Play area, basketball, horseshoe pits and tennis. Picnic tables with BBQs. Restrooms.

28. Hidden Canyon Community Park

Small grass area with two play structures. Picnic tables and BBQs. Restrooms. No dogs allowed in park, but there is a trail that connects the park to the Ann D L’Heureux Dog Park.

29. Dove Library

The Dove Library in Carlsbad is a great resource for the whole community. They have lots of program and events for every age; puppet shows, talent shows, an exploration hub that teaches all the latest technology (including 3D printers, Video conversion tools and Arduino kits), book clubs, movie nights, this library offers so much. They have tables in the front courtyard near the gallery, and a gazebo in the back garden. A great place for a picnic!

30. Calavera Hills Community Park

A sprawling park with many amenities. Recreation center, athletic fields, basketball courts, and tennis courts. Childrens play area with sand lot. Picnic areas available with BBQs and electrical outlets. Restrooms available.

31. Oak Riparian Park

oak riperian park picnic area

From the small parking lot, Oak Riparian seems straightforward. Grass, play structure, picnic tables with grills, a charming little neighborhood spot. What you can’t see is that it opens up to shaded trails that extend all the way to Calavera Lake, great for mountain biking!  Restrooms onsite.

32. Oceanside Pier View Beach

A quintessential California beach. Pier, palm trees, event amphitheater, fire pits, picnic tables, kids play area, ample parking, lifeguards, this beach has it all. Super popular with locals and tourists expect this beach to be busy. There are plenty of picnic location options here, on the sand, or above. No dogs.

33. Mission San Luis Rey

Rich with history, Mission San Luis Rey is the largest mission in California. Established in 1798 the grounds have been well cared for and the church is still active today. Wander the cemetery, or gaze at the over 100-year-old Pepper Tree. The museum has a small entrance fee, but there is free ample parking.

34. Guajome County Park

Two small ponds make this a lovely place for an afternoon picnic. With playgrounds, basketball courts, picnic areas, and fishing, it’s a great escape into nature. Restrooms available.

Acai Bowls in san diego north county inland

(Rancho Bernardo to Escondido)

35. San Elijo Park

Another great neighborhood park. Multiple playgrounds (one covered), dog park, horseshoe pits, restrooms, multi-purpose fields and a splash pad for hot days. A great place to spend the afternoon with kids.

36. Simmons Family Park

High up on a hill in a San Marcos neighborhood, Simmons offers incredible views. Picnic tables with BBQs are located throughout the park. There is also a big grassy field ideal for kite flying. Basketball court, play structure, restrooms.

37. Double Peak Park

Multiple trails converge at the top of Double Peak Park where you’ll find 360º views of North County.  There are picnic areas and a telescope at the apex. Down by the parking lot, there is a climbing play area, covered picnic area, restrooms and a small amphitheater. Plenty of parking.

38. Discovery Lake/Lakeview Park

discovery lake

Hidden between Double Peak and the surrounding neighborhoods, Discovery Lake and Lakeview Park feel like a local secret. The park has a small playground, grassy area, a gazebo and a splash fountain. The 5-acre lake has a walking trail and a dock. Trails extended along the 24 acres of open space.

39. Sunset Park

A popular neighborhood park, Sunset is easily recognized by the large snake sculpture near the upper playground. With multiple covered picnic areas, a shaded play structure, splash pad and unleashed dog park, Sunset Park gets a heavy amount of traffic. Plenty of parking and restrooms available.

40. Woodland Park

Great for families that live inland, Woodland Park has plenty of covered picnic areas and lots of grass. The play area is adaptive and a small duck pond in the corner adds to the charm. The Woodland Park Aquatic Center is also located on the grounds. Restrooms on site.

41. Jack’s Pond Park & Nature Center

You know you’ve reached Jack’s Pond when you see the big red barn. Dedicated to educating children about the natural surroundings, the nature center is free to visit Saturdays and Sundays 10am – 1pm. The grounds also have a large play structure, covered picnic areas, restrooms and trails that lead around the pond.

42. Carmel Creek Neighborhood Park

Great neighborhood park. Lots of grass, play structures for multiple age groups, sand volleyball and restrooms. The picnic areas are also under some older trees for days that need shade.

43. Hilltop Park

Well manicured park on a hilltop that overlooks the whole valley to the ocean. A great space for large family gatherings or birthday parties with multiple playgrounds and lots of green areas. Weekends are popular so if you’d like a covered picnic area, reserve in advance. Unshaded picnic tables are available as well.

44. Old Poway Park

Old Poway Park has the feel of a quaint little town that time forgot. Train depots and buildings scatter the grounds, giving it such a warm feel. On the weekends there is a train that runs and a farmers market. Popular for weddings there is plenty of parking. There are lots of shady spots and grassy areas to have your picnic while enjoying the ambiance.

45. Lake Poway

lake poway picnic area

Lake Poway is the place to go for many Northeast County locals. Not only does the lake offer rentals and fishing, the park itself is green and shaded, with loads of trails, picnic areas, and playgrounds. A great place for small romantic picnics or large family gatherings. Open 7 days a week the Entry Station charges a $10 parking fee for all non-Poway residents on weekends and holidays. Beer and wine permitted (no glass). Leashed dogs permitted (100ft away from shoreline).

46. Felicita County Park

Felicita County Park is a great way to pretend that you are camping when you’re only spending the day. The park has gazebos, picnic and play areas throughout, but what makes it unique is how woodsy it is. Large trees, boulders, and creeks all make the park very serene.

47. Grape Day Park

Located in the heart of downtown Escondido, Grape Day Park is the oldest in the city. People have gathered here since the early 1900’s to celebrate the grape harvest, this tradition is still celebrated annually. To pay homage to this history the park has a unique play structure in the shape of grapes and vines. You will also find an array of historic buildings here. Lots of grass, shade and picnic tables. Leashed dogs welcome.

48. San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum

If you have little ones this is a great place to spend the afternoon! Educational and entertaining, the Children’s Discovery Museum is a hands-on discovery zone that focuses on art, science, culture and imagination. There are tables inside and picnic tables in the outside garden. Perfect for children 10 and under. $8 admission (military discounts available).

49. Kit Carson Park

With over 100 developed acres, Kit Carson offers a lot: sports Complex, ponds, multipurpose fields, very similar to many other parks in the area. What makes Kit Carson unique is that it is home to Queen Califia’s Magical Garden. This large colorful sculpture maze was one of the last works by artist Niki de Saint Phalle. The garden is only open Tuesdays and Thursdays 9am-Noon and the second Saturday of each month from 9am-2pm.

50. Lake Hodges Reservoir

lake hodges picnic area

The drought was a very real thing in southern California. Lake Hodges saw its water decrease drastically. But rain always comes and the lake has begun to come to life again. Fishing, boating, hiking trails, and kayaking are all available here. There is a Visitor Center near the boat launch that has restrooms, picnic areas, BBQs, and a dock to fish off of. Keep dogs and little ones near – snake warnings are posted everywhere. Boat rentals and concessions are only open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, call ahead to make sure they’re open 760-432-2023. Leashed dogs allowed (away from water). Alcohol permitted (no glass).

51. South Buena Vista Park

A small pond with lots of picnic tables. Large parking area. Trailhead. Restrooms.

  • 2151 Shadowridge Dr, Vista

52. Brengle Terrace Park

Sprawling and full of amenities, Brengle Terrace is a great space for Vista. Disc golf, playground, multipurpose fields, picnic areas, tennis and basketball courts. Also home to Moonlight Amphitheater that puts on shows throughout the year.

53. Alta Vista Botanic Garden

alta vista botanic garden

Tucked in the northeast corner of Brengle Terrace Park is the Alta Vista Botanic Garden. This inland garden focus on the natural beauty of Vista, education and art. The grounds include a children’s garden with instruments, a human sundial, various sculptures, and a labyrinth. $5 entrance fee.

Your Turn…

Do you know of any missing picnic spots that should be included in this guide? Contact us here or comment below.

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Drea Colores: Drea Colores grew up in Tucson, AZ and now lives in Carlsbad. Writer + Maker + Photographer. IG: dreacolores