A puppy posing below the heart-shaped landmark with lockets, one of the best things to do in Vista California

31 Best Things to Do in Vista, CA (in 2023)

There’s no shortage of fun things to do in Vista. This city is a great place for family fun, brewery hopping, nature, farm fresh food, and 15 minutes to scenic beaches. 

From the Alta Vista Botanical Garden to the Steam Engine Museum, you’ll find something for everyone to enjoy in this California city.

I’ve traveled the world but was born and raised in North County and choose to live here as a single adult because the quality of life here is unmatched. It’s one of the best places to live in California. Keep reading for my favorite Vista gems that span across sipping, shopping, walking, entertainment, art, and more.

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31 Best Things to Do in Vista

Belching Beaver Brewery

Drink local beer in comfy lounge chairs by a campfire and string lights.

The author, Jess with her puppy near the fireplace at Belching Beaver’s camp-themed backyard
Me and my pup enjoying the fireplace and hard seltzer at Belching Beaver’s camp-themed backyard

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 295-8599 | Website | Hours: 12 pm – 9 pm daily | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

Four words — Peanut Butter Milk Stout. If you’d like to taste Reese’s cup-flavored beer, head on over to Belching Beaver Brewery in downtown Vista. Out of all the things to do in Vista, a city known for good beer and vibes, make sure to try at least one local beer. 

Belching Beaver is one of my absolute favorites because they have unique beers and seltzers on draft, comfort bar food, and an outdoor patio that is spacious and sets the mood.

Vista Farmers Market

Shop organic fruits and veggies while enjoying live music.

View of the variety of vegetables at the market

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 945-7425 | Hours: 8 am – 12 pm Saturdays  

The Vista farmer’s market is actually the first and oldest farmers market in San Diego. Find quality organic produce, florals, hot food, and live music at Vista’s weekly farmers market less than a 25-minute walk from downtown. It’s open every weekend, perfect for strolling through the vendors with a cup of freshly brewed San Diego coffee. The Vista Farmers Market is also dog-friendly.  

Rancho Buena Vista Adobe

Tour a preserved California adobe house.

View of the huge cacti outside the Rancho Buena Vista Adobe
Early ranch life at a historic California adobe

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 639-6164 | Website | Entrance: Free

Vista is proud of its Rancho Buena Vista Adobe which was a Mexican land grant. This historical landmark gives visitors a way to experience a glimpse of early ranch life. Equipped with an art gallery and gift shop, Rancho Buena Vista Adobe is the perfect spot for a relaxing day soaking up the culture and stopping by Buena Vista Park to picnic, hike, or bike after. 

📚 Related Reading: Camping near San Diego

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens

Wander through native plants and a lotus pond.

View of the gushing waterfalls at Alta Vista Botanical Gardens on a sunny day
Check out the lush waterfalls amidst the Alta Vista Gardens

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 945-3954 | Website | Hours: 8 am – 5 pm daily, 10 am Saturday and Sundays | Entrance: $5, adults, $3 under 12 

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens is one of the top things to do in Vista. I cannot think of a better place to roam around and admire our native plants if you’re looking for outdoor activities.

At Alta Vista Gardens, enjoy a lotus pond plus a more private space with fewer crowds than the larger San Diego Botanic Garden, one of the coolest attractions in Encinitas. Alta Vista attractions also include the adjacent Brengle Terrace Park and Moonlight Amphitheater. 

The Yellow Deli

Dine on freshly baked bread sandwiches and hearty soups at a rumored cult.

Outside view of the Yellow Deli
Enter the cozy atmosphere of Vista’s beloved deli, restaurant, and tea bar

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 631-1888 | Website | Hours: 24 hours daily, Except Sundays and Fridays 

Located right in the heart of downtown Vista Village is The Yellow Deli. This has always been a local favorite restaurant because their food is delicious and the environment is a cozy and inviting spot to work out of or invite a friend to. 

Some of the furniture and building itself were made by the staff including a manual crank from the first to the second floor that brings your food up from the kitchen—pretty unique. 

They are known to employ a group who live in a commune together (rumored to be a cult). However, I wouldn’t let that stop you from enjoying all the deliciousness they have to offer.  

Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum

Take a self-guided walking tour of vintage steam tractors.

Closeup view of the old and rusty machine

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 941-1791 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 4 pm daily, Closed Mondays and Tuesdays | Entrance: $5, adults, $3 under 12 

Step inside a living history museum filled with old steam tractors, and vintage machines, plus model trains, blacksmithing, and weaving. Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum on Sante Fe Ave sits on 55 acres of land for roaming the exhibits at your own pace. Make sure to check out American Craft Weekend if you happen to be traveling to Vista in October.

📚 Related Reading: 17 Best Museums in San Diego

Local Roots Kombucha

Delight in a flight of locally made kombucha.

The author, Jess in a yoga class at Local Roots Kombucha with glasses of drinks
Me at a great yoga class at Local Roots combined with a post-workout kombucha flight tasting

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 295-1949 | Website | Hours: 2 pm – 9 pm daily, 12 pm on weekends

Local Roots is exactly like the name implies, with plenty of local families enjoying this neighborhood spot. They offer locally made kombucha in the Business park setting of Vista. 

Young professionals come here during the week and a diverse crowd heads in on the weekends. Enjoy their spacious patio, cornhole, firepits, drinks, food trucks, live music, and events. You can purchase kombucha cans or growlers to take home.

Vista Historical Society

Honor the past and visit a part of Vista’s heritage.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 630-0444 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 2:30 pm, Wednesday-Friday 

Staff and docents of the Vista Historical Society honor the past by preserving the city’s unique heritage. When picking out things to do in Vista, the Vista Historical Society Museum has great tours. It’s truly a fantastic family-friendly activity. From agriculture to Indian artifacts, and military, this museum offers visitors a diverse display of ancient items that highlight Vista’s rich history.

👉 Read Next: Top Attractions and Things to do in San Diego, CA

Fazeli Cellars Winery

Enjoy wine tasting over rows of grapevines while eating Persian-Mediterranean cuisine.

The author, Jess, and her mom posing while holding a glass of wine in Fazeli Cellars Winery at sunset
My Mom and I enjoying a wine tasting overlooking Fazeli’s vineyard veranda

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (951) 303-3366 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 6 pm daily | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

For those that prefer wine over beer, Temecula Wine Country is less than an hour’s drive just outside Vista. Check out a wine tasting tour, one of the best activities in Temecula, or head to my family’s favorite winery, Fazeli Cellars for gorgeous views, top-notch red wine, and delectable food pairings. 

Vista is centrally located so make sure to try out all the great wineries in San Marcos, another neighboring town.

🛎️ Need a Hotel? Nothing beats a post-wine-tasting massage at South Coast Winery and an extra night to enjoy the rest of Temecula. Find out where to stay in Temecula.

Rancho Guajome Adobe

Meander through a historical Spanish hacienda amidst polished gardens.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 724-4082 | Website | Hours: 9:30 am – 4 pm daily, Closed Mondays and Tuesdays 

Rancho Guajome Adobe is on the National Register of historic places in San Diego proper. It is not far from the Antique Gas Steam Engine Museum of Vista plus there are plenty of nearby picnicking and hiking trails at the Regional Park of Guajome. 

Rancho Guajome Adobe is a great tucked-away place to visit in Vista if you’re looking for a great place to walk or jog with beautiful scenery.

My Yard Live

Hangout at a local brewpub unlike any other.

A plate of a vegetable dish with two glasses of drinks and a white dog in the background at My Yard Live
Hanging out on the dog-friendly astro turf patio with great food, drinks, and music

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 798-0779 | Website | Hours: 12 pm – 9 pm daily, Closed Mondays and Tuesdays, Sundays opened 9:45 am 

A quick drive to San Marcos, just outside Vista is a great local brewpub with a kids’ playground, arcade games, live music, a shaded patio, and an extensive food and drink menu. I met the founder of My Yard Live and he mentioned his vision was making a place for locals to feel like they’re in their own backyard with good food, good music, and good company. This surely is a fun place for all. 

Handel’s Ice Cream

Get in line for some sweet homemade and small batch ice cream.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 295-0636 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 9:30 pm daily, until 11 pm on weekends 

You’ll find one of the most popular places on the strip, Handel’s Ice Cream, right in downtown Vista next to the Love Lock Wall. Handels is so popular in North County that you can find one in Oceanside, Carlsbad, San Marcos, and now Vista. They have a rotating list of over 20 flavors, freshly made waffle cones, shakes, and dog frosty paws.

👉 Pro Tip: Skip the line during the weekend crowds and order ahead using their mobile app for pick up. 

Broadway Theater

Grab tickets for a performance in an intimate setting.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 806-7905 | Website 

There’s so much jam-packed inside the quaint Broadway Theatre in downtown Vista Village. Visitors looking for entertainment will enjoy the view from every seat in the house. 

Many locals have flexible season ticket options to enjoy cabarets, broadway musicals, drama camps, and many other events they put on. Performance art enthusiasts will not regret booking a Broadway Theater show when looking for fun things to do in Vista.

Exotica Rare Fruit Nursery

Discover a hidden nursery with tropical plants.

Closeup view of the palm fruit
Find unique fruits at this nursery

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 724-9093 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 6 pm daily

Looking for things to do in Vista that are considered more hidden gems? Exotica Rare Fruit Nursery, North of downtown Vista and near Guajome Regional Park feels like a cool jungle nursery. 

Roam a bunch of exotic fruit trees for purchase including lychee, guavas, and passionfruit. They sometimes offer free tastings of the fruit from the trees so you can make sure you like what you’re buying. 

Moonlight Amphitheater

Relax at an outdoor music venue.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 724-2110 | Website | Shows: $30+

Moonlight Amphitheater is situated in a great location within Brengle Terrace Park and adjacent to Alta Vista Botanical Gardens. Watch Moonlight Stage Productions Broadway-style musicals in a beautiful outdoor setting with lawn areas for picnicking. It can get cold at night so make sure to dress in layers and bring a blanket or jacket.

Boomers Vista

Play miniature golf, go go-karting, bumper boats, laser tag, and more.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 457-4737 | Website | Hours: 12 am – 9 pm daily, 10 am on weekends | Entrance Packages: $24.99-$39.99

Boomers Vista is an amusement park located right on Vista Way known for mini golf. Their course is a lot of fun and they’ve expanded their offerings to a variety of hands-on games and rides. 

Families looking for kid-friendly things to do in Vista will enjoy the unlimited rides tickets at Boomers. End the day with some fries and a shake at their onsite Johnny Rockets and you’ve got yourself a great day in Vista.

Wave Waterpark

Slip and slide at Vista’s popular water amusement park.

A red bucket pouring water over the slide in the mini waterpark
Splish splash time

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 940-9283 | Website | Temporarily Closed 

For families looking for fun things to do in Vista together, look no further than the Wave Waterpark. Enjoy a day on the lazy river plus all the park features including water slides, tubbing, and all your favorite amusement park snacks. 

Although this makes the list of top things to do in Vista, the Waterpark is temporarily closed so be sure to check back on their site for more info coming soon on the reopening. 

👉 Love Amusement Parks? Drive 30 minutes and spend a day at Legoland California, one of the coolest things to do in Carlsbad.

Strawberry Festival

Browse over 400 vendors at a yearly Vista festival.

Closeup view of the fresh strawberries

📍 Google Maps | Website 

One of the biggest tourist attractions of Vista includes their annual one-day Strawberry Festival right in the downtown district. Hundreds of vendors, music, food court, and a kids zone, come together to celebrate the strawberry season with the Vista community. This is a great event to attend if you happen to be in Vista in May. 

Hungry Hawk Vineyards

Sip on locally sourced grapes.

View of the vineyard with a scenic view in the background
Roam the vineyards of Escondido

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 489-1758 | Website | Hours: 12 pm – 6 pm daily, Closed Mondays-Wednesdays, Thursdays 2 pm

Escondido is a quick 15-minute drive from Vista and a great day trip for all wine lovers. Hungry Hawk Vineyards is a well-known Escondido winery overlooking San Pasqual Valley and 5 minutes away from the Safari Park. Some argue that San Diego was the first area in California where grapevines were grown in the 1700s and visitors can still enjoy winemaker history at Hungry Hawk Vineyards in every glass. 

🚗 How to Get There: Getting from Vista to Escondido is easiest by car. If you don’t have transportation, reserve a rental car through Discover Cars to compare prices and have the flexibility to explore all of North County.

San Luis Rey River Trail

Bike ride from Guajome Regional Park to the Oceanside Harbor.

📍 Google Maps | Hours: Open 24 hours

At the easternmost end of the Guajome Regional Park starts the tranquil San Luis Rey River Trail that runs all the way to the pacific ocean. When exploring things to do in Oceanside you can’t go wrong by walking, jogging, or biking the trail which starts between outer Oceanside and Vista and goes all the way to the Oceanside harbor. 

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Visit a wildlife sanctuary with over 300 species and seasonal exhibits.

View of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park signage from the entrance
Entrance to the zoo (Photo: JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (619) 231-1515 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 6 pm daily | Entrance: $70 | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator

San Diego Zoo Safari Park is right in San Pasqual Valley, a 30-minute drive southeast of Vista. There are two zoos in San Diego County and this sister property includes different exhibits. If you’re visiting in the Spring, check out the Butterfly Jungle, my absolute favorite!

Wildlife viewing is top-notch at the Safari Park and it’s easier to find parking and a tad less crowded than the main zoo. 

The Wall Climbing Gym

Go indoor bouldering, take a yoga or fitness class right in Vista.

View of the child's feet wall climbing

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 560-3424 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 10 pm daily, 12 pm – 8 pm on weekends | Day pass: $20, adults

Vista is known to have air and climbing gyms. Get Air recently closed but the climbing gyms are still open. The Wall Climbing Gym located a few minutes from downtown offers a fantastic indoor facility for all skill levels, no matter if you’re a first-time climber or more advanced. They also offer other fitness and yoga classes too if bouldering isn’t your thing.  

Discovery Lake

Be in nature by the lake with ducks and paved trails.

A duck swimming in the pond at Discovery Lake
Duck pond at Discovery Lake

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 744-1050

Discovery Lake, 12 minutes south of Vista located in the town of San Marcos is a beautiful local spot overlooking the mountains with maintained hiking trails, a park, a duck pond, and plenty of places to relax. Many visitors bring their pets, baby strollers, and kids to enjoy what the lake and surrounding trails have to offer. It’s definitely a busy spot on a nice sunny weekend.

📚 Related Reading: 15 Best Hikes in San Diego

Public Lemon

Pick up unique souvenirs at a local gift shop.

View of the signage of Public Lemon Boutique with two people standing in the background on a sunny day
Public Lemon Boutique on ‘Citrus’ Ave, how cute.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 892-1624 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 6 pm daily, till 4 pm Sunday-Monday 

Public Lemon is one of my favorite little shopping attractions in Vista Village. It couldn’t be more fitting located on Citrus Ave. If you’re looking for a shopping store with local artists, a mix of home, men, women, babies, candy, beauty, home, and accessories, you’ll find a little bit of everything in this tiny shop. 

Beads, Crystals & More

Make-your-own jewelry in the heart of Vista Village.

View of the displayed variety of jewelry
Shop for a la carte stones and beads, and make your own necklace

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 536-3663 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 6 pm daily, Closed Sundays-Mondays

Right around the corner from the Public Lemon gift shop, you’ll find Beads, Crystals & More. They used to be a great place to make your own souvenir in Encinitas, but they recently moved to Vista. 

Beads, Crystals & More has trays you can walk around and purchase a la carte items and if you’d like, you can DIY right in the shop. Beads, Crystals & More is perfect for leaving Vista with a truly personal piece of jewelry at fair prices too.

Bungalow 101

Shop until you drop at Vista’s downtown dazzling gift shop.

View of the displayed handmade Gypsy Bohemian Style jewelry

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (480) 208-5158 | Hours: 11 am – 6 pm daily, Closed Mondays 

You’ll love downtown Vista’s Bungalow 101 gift shop if you like home decor, or garden accessories, candles, jewelry, stationary and unique gifts. There are so many knick-knacks in this store to browse and a wide range of prices to meet your budget. 

Vista has its own unique charm in San Diego and Bungalow 101 does a good job of highlighting that vibe, even if you’re just sightseeing without a purchase.

Vista Village Pub

Head to the neighborhood watering hole for a drink or two.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 643-1619 | Website | Hours: 8 am – 12 am daily

Look no further than Vista Village Pub if you’re looking for entertainment after dark. It’s right on Main Street in downtown Vista. This pub is home to karaoke nights, live bands, happy hour, trivia, and a whole lot of good people-watching. 

Vista Village Pub is a casual no-frills bar with a pretty extensive menu featuring breakfast, burgers, and other pub food. Grab a friend or two and hit their outdoor patio if the weather is nice.

Vista Conservancy Walking Trail

Walk the shaded trails of a local hidden gem.

📍 Google Maps | Website 

Not far from Brengle Terrace Park and Rancho Buena Vista Adobe lies a charming nature preserve, perfect for walking about. The Vista Conservancy Walking Trail is considered less well-known than other things to do in Vista, so I had to add it to this guide. 

The enveloping trees that line the walking path are gorgeous and shady. It’s a very easy trail, so if you’re looking for something more strenuous, definitely pick one of the other hiking trails in this guide.

Clay ‘n Latte

Paint the day away and take home a pottery masterpiece.

View of the displayed ceramic dishware

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 726-9293 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 9 pm daily, 10 am – 6 pm Sundays 

Calling all creatives. Clay ‘n Latte located in downtown Vista is just the thing to satisfy your artistic desires. Clay ‘n Latte lets you paint your own pottery and has been a staple of the Vista community for over 18 years, bringing art to all ages. Depending on your travel plans, you can expect to pick up your finished glazed and fired work of art in 7 days. 

Cake House Dispensary

Explore a dispensary and try something new.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 295-0755 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 10 pm daily

Adult eyes only for this thing to do in Vista. There are many dispensaries off Santa Fe Ave Vista, including Cake House Dispensary. 

For those looking to partake in some legal recreation, Cake House Dispensary has lots of options and high-quality selections. The staff is very knowledgeable and patient so they are happy to educate customers and can offer their guidance.

Waterwise Botanicals

Roam around a large hilltop garden center with great prices on succulents.

View of the plants at the botanical garden of Waterwise Botanicals
A plant lover’s paradise on a hilltop overlooking North County

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (760) 728-2641 | Website | Hours: 8 am – 5 pm daily, 9 am – 2 pm Mondays 

If you value Vista’s agricultural hub, take a 20-minute drive north to Bonsall for a ton of farms and nurseries. Waterwise Botanicals is more of a destination garden center perched atop a hill overlooking the city. 

They are great for entertaining kids, picking out succulents, and offering great customer service if you aren’t sure what type of plant you’re looking for. They also recently started offering some great onsite events due to the spacious property they have. 

EVO ~ The Emerald Village

Attend an event at an intentional community.

View of the people watching the exclusive concert on Evo’s Outdoor Stage at dusk
Exclusive concert under the stars on Evo’s outdoor stage

📍 Google Maps | Website 

EVO ~ The Emerald Village is an intentional community hosted on 9 acres of private property. What looks like the middle of nowhere leads you down a path in the woods to this hidden space. 

They hold secret outdoor concerts called songwriters-in-the-round which can also be found on Eventbrite, plus a tea house, and community brunches. Emerald Village invites talented musicians from around the world to host these intimate concert series to bring the community music, storytelling, and a hint of magic.

FAQs About What to Do in Vista 

View of the colorful mural with "Long Live Vista! Viva Vista!"

What is Vista CA known for?

Vista is known for its agricultural prowess, arts and culture scene, and the San Diego County Courthouse Superior Court North County Division. It is also home to the original San Diego farmers market and the global icon, Dr. Bronner’s headquarters. 

Does Vista CA have a downtown?

Vista has a great downtown located right on Main Street with plenty of shopping, restaurants, bars, murals, cafes, and vibrant energy. 

Is Vista a nice place to live?

Vista, CA used to be a little rough around the edges but has modernized into an up-and-coming place to live in North County.

How far is Vista from the beach?

Vista, CA is a 17-minute drive straight to the closest beach in Carlsbad.


Thanks for reading my guide to the best things to do in Vista. This town is truly an undiscovered gem of Southern California! Before you go, make sure to check out our guide to packing for California.

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