Eat & Drink
San Marcos has a variety of delectable dining options conveniently located downtown in Old California Restaurant Row. This Spanish-style plaza houses a dozen chain and regional restaurants, many of which are open for outdoor dining, including mainstay Fish House Vera Cruz, gold-rush-inspired Old California Mining Company, and North County’s first microbrewery, San Marcos Brewery & Grill. Just up the street you’ll find Mama Kat’s. This charming café named for the owner’s mother offers breakfast favorites, specialty coffees, pastries, and pies.
San Marcos has some tasty drink options, too. Meadiocrity’s sweet honey wine supports local beekeepers and helps hives thrive. Visitors to Sunshine Mountain Vineyard can enjoy its varietals on a patio overlooking the lush, rolling hillsides.
Tucked amid the warehouses and showrooms along Furniture Row is Antique Village, a one-stop shop for vintage jewelry, collectibles, coins, china, toys, memorabilia, and more from over 60 vendors. San Marcos also caters to crafters and creators with stores like Yarning for You, Grand Country Quilters, Quilt in a Day, and Discount Hobby.
Affectionately known as “San Parkos,” this city is blanketed with green space and trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Double Peak, accessible via scenic Discovery Lake, is one of the most popular treks. At the top of this 1,000-foot climb in the San Elijo Hills, hikers are treated to views stretching from the mountains to the sea. Not a hiker? Not a problem. There are plenty of outdoor options for you, too. Head to Lake San Marcos for a day on the water. Lakehouse Hotel & Resort rents motorboats to cruise along the calm waters, and you can even explore the lake by gondola by booking an advance tour with The Black Swan Gondola Company. End the day with a cold one at Decoy Dockside, the resort’s restaurant, which has two spacious decks.
Nearby Elfin Forest is a hiker’s paradise and Halloween-lover’s delight. Legend has it that shadowy apparitions, a wicked witch, and a ghostly woman in white roam this rugged reserve after dark. However, after-hours visits are strictly off-limits for a dangerous practical reason: Mountain lions and the other wildlife who call the reserve home need to do what they do undisturbed.