The author, Jess Levy with her dad doing yoga, one of the best things to do in San Marcos, California

29 Best Things to Do in San Marcos CA (in 2023)

If you’re into golf, wine, beer, lakes, parks, or good food, I know you’ll enjoy the best things to do in San Marcos CA.

A suburb of San Diego, San Marcos is less than 150 miles from the San Bernardino mountains near Los Angeles and Big Bear, and 40 miles from the San Diego Airport. 

As a San Diego area local, I can assure you that there are just as many adult activities in San Marcos as there are things to do for the kiddos. As one of the best cities in California, it’s a win-win place to visit and live. Let’s dive into the best things to do in San Marcos:

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29 Best Things to Do in San Marcos

Double Peak Park

Hike or drive to the top of San Marcos.

Overlooking view at the top of Double Peak Park during sunset
A gorgeous view at the top of Double Peak Park in San Marcos

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 744-9000 ext. 3500 | Website | Hours: 6 am – 8 pm daily 

While there are some great national parks in California, you don’t want to miss the local parks either. In particular, there are some incredible slot canyons and free hiking trails in the San Diego area like Double Peak Park.

A view sure to impress, you can explore trails at Double Peak Park that lead to the peak summit while taking in parts of the ocean and the rest of the city. However, this trail has a ton of incline, so if you get tired, you can always drive up halfway too. 

👉 Pro Tip: Double Peak has the best view of the fireworks on July 4 and many other times throughout the summertime.

Discovery Lake

Discovery Lake features walking trails and amenities without the crowds of Lake San Marcos.

View of ducks on the pond at Discovery Lake
Ducks at the Discovery Lake pond

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 744-1050 | Website 

Don’t miss Discovery Lake if you’re looking for a well-maintained park and California lake with kid and pet-friendly walking trails.

Discovery Lake is a fantastic local spot for enjoying the great outdoors while staying away from the crowds at Lake San Marcos. I love finding families feeding the ducks as I pass by the dock on my way up the trails.

Lakehouse Resort 

Stay at a gorgeous waterfront hotel on Lake San Marcos.

People having fun at the Lakehouse Resort in San Marcos, California
My brothers, friends and I having a staycation at Lakehouse Resort

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 744-0120 | Website 

Lakehouse Resort is located on Lake San Marcos and is much more than just a beautiful waterfront getaway. Lakehouse is also a destination for water rentals like boat tours and kayaking, as well as golf, nightlife, food tastings, and summer concerts. 

While I do recommend booking a room and staying overnight at Lakehouse Resort, definitely check it out even if you have other accommodations. Its onsite activities and events are open to the public.

🚗 How to Get There: Lakehouse Resort is a 45-minute drive north of San Diego County so you’ll want a car to get around. You can book a rental car at Discover Cars

Sunshine Mountain Vineyard

Watch the sunset, sip wine, and listen to live music at this hilltop winery.

The author, Jess Levy holding a glass of wine at the Sunshine Mountain Vineyard during sunset
Me, enjoying rose on the patio at sunset
A charcuterie and a glass of wine at the Sunshine Mountain Vineyard
Me enjoying charcuterie and merlot while listening to the live musician outside

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 798-3741 | Website | Hours: 12 pm – 7 pm daily, Closed Monday – Wednesday

Sunshine Mountain Vineyard is perched atop a breathtaking hilltop in San Marcos. 

For a classic adult wine adventure, drive on over to Sunshine Mountain during sunset to enjoy sipping on local grapes and enjoying live music around an outdoor tabletop fireplace. 

This is a very spacious winery with plenty of seating and 360 views.

Buena Creek Gardens

Relax and walk around a lush garden center.

View of rare plants at the Buena Creek Gardens in San Marcos, California
Roam through rare plants at Buena Creek Gardens

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 505-7839 | Website | Hours: Temporarily Closed 

Buena Creek Gardens grow some of California’s rare plants. This is a popular destination for plant enthusiasts to enjoy acres of a unique nursery and learn how to care for your garden. Plus, they have a great food truck outside. 

Buena Creek Gardens has a community feel, and local bands can be found performing right here on the property.

👉 Note: The Buena Creek Gardens are temporarily closed as of June 2023. For more garden fun, check out things to do in Vista for a short drive to Waterwise Botanicals, Exotica Fruit Farm, and Alta Vista Gardens.

Twin Oaks Golf Club

Get in some tee time at a gorgeous golf course.

Sun rising over the Twin Oaks Golf Club in San Marcos, California
Getting ready for a hole in one I hope

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 591-4700 | Website | Hours: 7 am – 5 pm daily | Public Tee Time: $37-110

Twin Oaks Golf Club is as stunning as it is challenging. I’d recommend coming here if you’re in the mood for a San Diego scenic tour, as beautiful oak trees shade Twin Oaks Golf Course. Plus, this course boasts the lush Twin Oaks Valley area of San Marcos. 

After an extensive day on the green, you can enjoy some food and drinks at the onsite restaurant overlooking the sweeping views of the Twin Oaks Golf Club. 

Draft Republic

Drink a beer, go bowling, play arcade games, and do a golf simulation all in one spot.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 290-3520 | Website | Hours: 4 pm – 9 pm daily, 11:30 am – 9 pm on weekends 

Head to the Draft Republic for a night out of bowling, arcade games, golf simulation, comfort food, and local beers on tap. Draft Repubic is in a great location in San Marcos and is right near the college, restaurants, bars, and the weekly farmers market.  

👉 Pro Tip: Spend less at Draft Republic’s happy hour 4 – 5:30 pm daily.

San Marcos Farmers Market

Pick up fresh produce or stay for hot food and music at the weekly farmers market.

Close up view of fresh strawberries available in San Marcos Farmers Market
The farmers’ market is my favorite weekly activity

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 744-1270 | Website | Hours: 3 pm – 7 pm, Tuesdays 

The San Marcos Farmers Market is held every Tuesday afternoon right in the heart of Cal State University San Marcos. The part of the campus where the market occurs also includes a cozy grass area to picnic amid the vendors and listen to some live music, along with Draft Republic and other local eateries. 

Grab some local fruits and veggies, or stay for dinner. 

👉 Pro Tip: Try Rafikiz Foodz for unique Kenyan food with an amazing plantain stew.

Rip Current Brewing

Drink amazing beer with locals.

Canned beers displayed in Rip Current Brewing
Admiring Rip Current Brewing’s wall of nostalgic cans of every era

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 481-3141 | Website | Hours: 4 pm – 9 pm daily, 12 pm – 10 pm on weekends | 👉 Browse Beer Tours on Viator

Rip Current Brewing is a local hotspot of San Marcos, featuring over 14 unique beers on tap. If you’re looking for a relaxing spot with surf decor or a brewery tasting, you’ll like this tucked-away San Marcos craft beer hangout. 

All in all, San Marcos is packed with breweries and distilleries for enjoying a drink or a barrel room tour. 

👉 Love Beer? If you’d like to get a more in-depth look at the SoCal brewery scene, then book an OC Brew Tour, it’s just a short way up the coast in Orange County.

Blissful Goat Yoga

Experience a one-of-a-kind yoga class with live baby goats.

The author, Jess Levy with her dad doing yoga in San Marcos, California
My dad and me waiting for the baby goat to walk on our backs, a therapeutic massage 

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 518-1139 | Website | Classes: $39/person

A custom adventure and one of the funniest things to do in San Marcos CA, a goat yoga class is a great way to spend an afternoon. Blissful Goat Yoga is on private property and very close to Buena Creek Gardens and Sunshine Mountain Winery. 

Star Bailey, the owner of this experience, will guide you through a yoga class while the baby goats interact with you. Plus, there is plenty of time at the end of class to take some goat selfies. 

👉 Pro Tip: Turn onto Buena Creek Road a few blocks from this class for the best Nursery outlet and farm stand for incredible fresh produce.

Fish House Vera Cruz

Indulge in locally-sourced seafood with great service.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 744-8000 | Website | Hours: 11:30 am – 8 pm daily, Closed Mondays

Fish House Vera Cruz is located in the infamous Old California Restaurant Row of San Marcos. You’ll find top-quality selections of seafood here. Fish House Vera Cruz has over 40 years of fish fame for mesquite-grilled cooking plus fresh sourdough bread. 

The whole establishment is set inside Adobe brick wall interiors. 

Saint Mark Golf Club

Golf an accessible course with different yard options.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 744-9092 | Website | Hours: 7 am – 6 pm daily

Saint Mark Golf Club has been revamped into The Executive Course at Lakehouse (formerly St. Mark Executive) and The Links at Lakehouse (formerly St. Mark Golf Club). If you’re short on time, then I recommend golfing at the Executive Course because it is a few thousand yards smaller than The Links so you can knock out more pars in less time. 

My brothers like to tackle this course on their lunch break.   

👉 Pro Tip: If you’re looking for more nearby golf courses to choose from, check out the Arrowood course 15 miles from San Marcos in Oceanside

Regal Edwards Theater

Catch a new flick at the best theater in San Marcos.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (844) 462-7342 | Website |  Tickets: $14, adults, $10.50, children

Regal Edwards Theater San Marcos is located right on San Marcos Blvd and Old California Restaurant Row featuring Fish House Vera Cruz. Lucky for you, you can conveniently catch dinner and a movie. 

This historical theater has been there for years with a ton of movie showtimes and comfy seats to relax in and watch a new movie.  

Golden Door Country Store

Shop for local produce and specialty goods, or take yoga classes around citrus trees.

View at the Golden Door Country Store in San Marcos, California
The recently-renovated Golden Door Country Store

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 310-7573 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily, Closed Mondays 

Golden Door is a coveted wellness retreat in the hidden hills of San Marcos. The cost to stay here is $10,000+ and above, so I suggest visiting their public country store instead to experience a tiny piece of the retreat.

The store has top-quality organic produce, specialty products you won’t find elsewhere, plus their famed spa skincare products at wholesale prices. I love coming here for yoga classes while smelling the citrus trees in the background.    

Tea Amo 

Hangout and sip some great bubble tea.

The author, Jess Levy with her dog at the Tea Amo
The pup and I grabbed some boba tea at our fav shop while in San Marcos

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 290-3189 | Website | Hours: 12 pm – 9 pm daily 

Tea Amo is the best bubble tea shop in San Marcos CA. There are some great coffee shops in San Diego, but if you’re into tea, I recommend an afternoon stop at Tea Amo. From matcha to brown sugar tea, their menu has a wide selection of flavors. Plus, the boba balls are great here.  

AR Workshop

Get crafty with a DIY experience in San Marcos.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 290-5775 | Website | Hours: Generally 12 pm – 6 pm, Tuesday – Saturday, check for classes | Classes: $50/Average 

Looking for crafty things to do in San Marcos? Head to AR Workshop off San Elijo Rd to make personalized home decor. Design memories with a take-home souvenir at this cute DIY art studio. 

They also offer take-home kits, birthday and bridal parties, and summer camps for the kids. 

Sunset Park

Enjoy a great view of the city at this park with sports, a playground, and a dog park.

The author's dog at the Sunset Park during a sunny morning
Me and my pup lounging at Sunset Park

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 744-9000 | Hours: 7 am – 9 pm daily

Sunset Park off La Mirada Drive in San Marcos is a great example of a lovely southern California landscape. This 19-acre park is home to a variety of things to do in San Marcos CA for the whole family. They have a children’s playground, a water splash pad, walking trails, a dog park, a baseball field, swings, and more. 

You can almost see the edge of the beaches from the top of the park. For more of an oceanfront view, head to nearby San Diego beaches or the closest drive to South Carlsbad State Beach. 

👉 Pro Tip: There’s a lot of space available in San Marcos to store a trailer for beach camping.

Mama Kat’s Restaurant

Grub on diner food like eggs, biscuits, gravy, and fresh pies.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 591-4558 | Website |  Hours: 7 am – 1 pm daily, Closed Tuesday and Wednesday

Mama Kat’s Restaurant in San Marcos is a staple of this community. Mama Kat’s is cheap, friendly, consistent, and crowded on weekends for good reason. It’s the perfect addition to a San Diego restaurant tour. 

In particular, I love their kombucha on tap and their Mexican-style hot cocoa while I am waiting for a table. 

Jack’s Pond Nature Center

Roam around a 23-acre park with trails, barns, and more.

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 10 am – 1 pm daily, Saturday and Sundays | Free Admission 

Jack’s Pond Nature Center is a great place for kids to be entertained. It’s not far from Double Peak Park and offers visitors 2 red barns, trails, a playground, picnic areas, a pond filled with unique fish, and nature camp sessions. 

Jack’s pond park is great year-round for walking and discovering the local wildlife, flora, and fauna. 

Antique Village

Go rummaging for sweet deals and vintage finds.

View of antique things available at the Antique Village
Various priced antiques on a table

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 744-8718 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily

The antique village is next to Sky Zone in San Marcos. If you’re looking for a gift or some home decor, you never know what gems you might find inside this store. On the first Sunday of every month, they have an outdoor market offering traveling collector merchandise for sale. 


Unleash your child-like wonder at San Diego’s iconic amusement park.

View of Miniland USA, newest attraction at the Legoland
Miniland USA, the newest Legoland attraction (photo: Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (888) 690-5346 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 6 pm daily | Tickets: $89-$150 | 👉 Browse Legoland Tours

One of the most kid-friendly things to do in San Marcos CA is planning a day at Legoland in Carlsbad, only a 20-minute drive away. While this is also one of the best things to see in Carlsbad, and there are plenty of San Marcos attractions, Legoland California Resort is a North County favorite and it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t include it in this guide. 

Plus, it is still central to the surrounding area. Tap into all your senses, build, race, and ride at the attractions inside this fun park. If you want a 2-day experience to see the aquarium too, I recommend booking overnight in one of their themed rooms.  

👉 Pro Tip: Make sure to check out their new attractions including Miniland, Ferrari, and 2023 special events.

Better Buzz

Drive-thru or walk up to a local coffee kiosk.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 471-3899 | Website | Hours: 5:30 am – 8 pm daily

Better Buzz has a drink called the best drink ever and is a top spot I recommend in the entire San Diego area with its multiple locations.

This location in San Marcos is the cutest little kiosk, perfect for driving-thru on your way to a San Diego day trip, or when exploring the neighborhood and you just want a quick walk-up coffee to go. 

San Elijo Hills

Explore the hidden town square in the Hills of San Marcos.

View of water fountain at the San Elijo Hills in San Marcos, California
San Elijo Hills water fountain in the center of the town square

📍 Google Maps | Website 

San Elijo Hills is an adorable community designed in Southwest San Marcos. This part of town is centered around a gorgeous fountain square with a beautiful park, restaurants, shops, and housing. 

While the rest of San Marcos doesn’t have a downtown, San Elijo Hills has a town square with a lot of hidden gems. From yoga nidra to wine to coffee and sip and paint nights, wander around San Elijo for a chill afternoon or a relaxing night out.  

Lake Hodges

Sunbathe out on the water, go kayaking, fishing, and hiking.

View of a sculpture displayed in Lake Hodges
Unique sculptures at Lake Hodges

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: Sunrise to sunset | Concession and Rentals: 6 am – 7 pm, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday

Lake Hodges is a 15-minute drive from San Marcos to Escondido and 30 miles North of San Diego County. Lake Hodges is unlike the other San Marcos-based lakes because it is situated in a neighborhood called Del Dios that’s known for quirky architecture, hand-crafted houses, woodworking, and mosaics. 

Snacks and water sport rentals are available on the weekends including fishing, boating, kayaks, and paddle boarding. Lake Hodges also has plenty of barbeques and picnic tables for convenience. 

Around Lake Hodges, there are also a bunch of other things you can do and explore Del Dios, Elfin Forrest Nature Preserve, and Harmony Grove.

Invasion Laser Tag

Tag your friends and glow in the dark.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 571-9191 | Website | Hours: 3 pm – 7 pm Wednesday and Thursday, 3 pm – 11 pm Friday, 12 pm – 11 pm Saturday, 12 pm – 7 pm Sunday, Closed Mondays and Tuesdays | Entrance: $10-21

Invasion Laser Tag on San Marcos Blvd. is an entertaining way to spend the day. Both kids and adults can book a walk-in experience throughout the day. 

Plan ahead because Invasion Laser Tag is known for hosting the best birthday parties in San Marcos. They also have food and arcade games while you wait for your game to start.

Trek Bicycle North County

Take out a rental and bike around all of San Marcos or hit the trails.

View of a bike path under the clear blue sky in San Marcos, California
A bike path in San Marcos, California

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 599-9735 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 6 pm daily | Rentals: $75-100 | 👉 Browse Bike Tours on Viator

Trek Bicycle North County, more commonly known to locals as Trek Bikes of San Marcos, is a convenient location for renting and buying bikes. This is a great spot for outdoorsy things to do in San Marcos, as you can rent an electric bike and go on a trail, culinary, or beachside adventure.

Sky Zone Trampoline Park

Jump sky-high and reach for the stars at Sky Zone Trampoline Park.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (858) 779-2377 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 9 pm daily | General admission: $16, adults, $8 under 5

Sky Zone Trampoline Park is located in central San Marcos and has 8 main attractions to delight your senses. Compared to Legoland and other theme parks, air parks are all the rage here. 

Sky Zone Trampoline Park is not only fun but an even better workout than you might imagine. This Sky Zone is equipped with a ninja course, a foam zone, dodgeball, basketball, and other surprises you’ll have to go and find out. 

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Go on a safari and discover rare sightings of wildlife.

View at the entrance of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido (photo: Asif Islam / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (619) 231-1515 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 6 pm daily | Entrance: $69, adults, $59 under 11 | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

San Diego County is known for the San Diego Zoo, but have you heard about its sister park in Escondido? The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is 20 minutes from San Marcos and out of the two parks, this one is much closer to the surrounding cities like Carlsbad, Vista, Temecula, and Poway. 

You can always book a combo pass to see the best of both parks. 

👉 Pro Tip: Spring travelers will love the yearly butterfly jungle exhibit with thousands of monarch butterflies! 

Nurtured By Nature

Swim in a pool with baby sea otters.

Sea otters at the Nurtured By Nature in San Marcos, California
Local sea otters

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 638-0880 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 1 pm, Saturday and Sunday | Entrance: $650

Are you ready for a once-in-a-lifetime type of activity? Then head over to swim with baby sea otters in Valley Center, 25 minutes north of San Marcos. Yes, this is an expensive activity at $650 a person, but you’re up close and personal swimming with the otters in a way you normally can’t experience. 

If you’re not on a budget and are ready to try something new, then I recommend booking months in advance at Nurtured By Nature. 

FAQs About What To Do In San Marcos, CA

What is San Marcos California famous for?

San Marcos California is known for Discovery Lake, Cal State University San Marcos, and a ton of local breweries like Rip Current. It is an up-and-coming city with the support of local business, ViaSat Inc. 

Does San Marcos CA have a downtown?

San Marcos, CA does not have a city center or downtown per se. It is a very spread out suburb so you’ll need a car to explore all the pockets of San Marcos. However, there is a small town square in San Elijo Hills.

How far is San Marcos CA from the beach?

San Marcos CA is only a 25-minute drive to the closest Southern California beach in Carlsbad.

Is San Marcos CA suitable for families?

In all of San Diego and Southern California, locals would argue that San Marcos CA is a safe and great spot for families, no matter if you’re visiting or relocating.


That’s it for my list of the best things to do in San Marcos CA. Now you know what to do in San Diego’s up-and-coming city. Up next, check out our guide to where to stay in San Diego.

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