Nestled against the cliffs of San Diego County’s rugged coastline lies a delightful destination that combines a laid back atmosphere with an upscale vibe. Located just half an hour north of San Diego, Solana Beach offers an array of chic shops and restaurants in its downtown area, while the beach and nearby ecological reserve are a nature-lover’s dream.

Solana Beach at Sunset. Photo Credit: Daniel Knighton, Pixel Perfect Images.

Solana Beach at Sunset. Photo Credit: Daniel Knighton, Pixel Perfect Images.

If you’ve ever driven from Los Angeles to San Diego, chances are you’ve sped right past the Solana Beach off ramp on the 5 Freeway and never even knew the bliss you were passing by. That’s because, unlike Southern California’s two major meccas, Solana Beach is a more subdued destination, a perfect spot for families to enjoy some quality time together while still being within very easy reach to Legoland, Sea World, Seaport Village, and all of San Diego’s museums, beaches and cultural attractions.

Resort Relaxation

We stayed at the Winners Circle Resort, a super family friendly hotel right across from the famed Del Mar Fairgrounds and Racetrack and a short distance to the beach.

The Winners Circle is a great option for those who like to spread out; accommodations include studio, one and two bedroom suites, and all include full kitchens and balconies.

DestinationReviewReminiscent of an upscale apartment complex, the Winners Circle offers all the comforts of home while still maintaining the 24 hour service you’d expect at a nice hotel. Rooms are comfortable and clean if not poshly decorated, but they have everything a family needs – especially if you are planning for a longer stay. It was very convenient to have the option to cook instead of going out for every meal, and at the very least the full kitchen made microwave popcorn a no-brainer midnight snack!

An evening by the fire is a great way to cap off a fun day. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

An evening by the fire is a great way to cap off a fun day. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

The resort also offers no shortage of fun activities. There is a heated outdoor pool and hot tub, ping pong table, tennis courts, fire pit, BBQ and picnic table area that all guests are welcome to enjoy. A clubhouse provides additional opportunities for indoor family fun – shoot a game of pool, play board games at the table or watch a movie on the big-screen TV.

Visit the Beach

If you want to get down to the beach it’s going to take a little work, but the payoff is a day at one of the nicest and most secluded beaches in Southern California! To access the water, you will need to park and venture down one of the staircases that line the coastline. Among the five main beach areas in Solana Beach, Fletcher Cove is the most popular and is the only one with a parking lot. There is also playground and grassy play area at Fletcher Cove, making it a nice choice for families.

Take a Hike

Located adjacent to Solana Beach, the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve is home to 1,000 acres, 8 trail heads and 700 species of plants and animals. This state regional park has over seven miles of trails for your family to explore on foot. Free guided nature walks are offered every Saturday.

There are many hiking and biking trails in Solana Beach. Photo Credit: Daniel Knighton, Pixel Perfect Images.

There are many hiking and biking trails in Solana Beach. Photo Credit: Daniel Knighton, Pixel Perfect Images.

Go for a Ride

Like most seaside towns, Solana Beach is fun to explore on bike. Rent one San Diego Electric Bike Company, located just steps from Fletcher Cove and the beach.

Have a Bite

Solana Beach has an eclectic dining scene serving up everything from beach eats to upscale cuisine. Downtown is filled with trendy local restaurants and lots of night spots. There are many healthy dining options too!

Within a few steps from the Winner’s Circle, Red Tracton’s Restaurant and the Fish Market Grill are both great choices. In addition to its lively dining room, the Fish Market Grill sells fresh seafood you buy and cook at home or in your hotel suite kitchen.

We spent one amazing evening dining at Real Bar & Bistro in Solana Beach. Real offers something for everyone, including an impressive menu of gourmet salads, seafood, wood-fired pizza and gourmet burgers. Owned by two brothers, everything this restaurant serves up is local and fresh. The servings are not huge but the flavors are robust and wonderful! This took my 11-year old somewhat out of his mac & cheese comfort zone, but the experience was fantastic and we will certainly be back next time we visit the area.

We began with an order of clams and a salad, then shared the salmon and a pasta dish. If you go, try one of the many artisan pizzas, which are baked to order in the restaurant’s giant wood-fired ovens.

The Curious Fork is a unique cafe and cooking school. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

The Curious Fork is a unique cafe and cooking school. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

For breakfast, try the Curious Fork. Both restaurant and cooking school, the Curious Fork is a unique eatery offering tasty, fresh and all gluten-free dishes. All breakfast dishes can be served in either a bowl or as a wrap.

The café is open daily for breakfast and lunch, and at night the space transforms into an exciting cooking school, offering a variety of classes for all skill levels, including kids!

For a calendar of classes, check out their website at www.thecuriousfork.com.

Find out more about visiting Solana Beach at www.visitsolanabeach.com.