I love North County. It feels like home for me. It always has. Don't get me wrong...I understand that in the grand scheme of Southern California travels, this is not necessarily a location that is at the top of everyone’s list. This is probably due to our local community being a bit more of a “secret” spot. When I have traveled outside of California, and people have asked where I am from, I have mentioned the cities in North County only to receive mostly blank stares until I mention San Diego. Yeah, sometimes I just have to say I am from S.D. in order to receive any sort of recognition about where I live. Lol. This area doesn’t seem to get as much hype as downtown Los Angeles or San Diego, but that is to be expected. The other metro areas that are nearby definitely have more of a night life and hustling and bustling scenes amidst their streets and neighborhoods. These major cities are packed with a variety of restaurants, clubs, spas, boutiques and larger venues and hotels.
Nonetheless, if you visit North San Diego County, you will find that it is lovely and interesting in its own way. In North County, there is more of a beachy vibe, and it is a bit quieter than most other bigger cities in California. This is what I have grown to love about this area. It has a very “local” scene, and people tend to come together to build a sense of community here. The population in North County is much smaller than the downtown area with around 825,000 residents, and that actually enhances the community vibe. We tend to be pretty friendly and laid back in North County.
For this reason, I love going out to the smaller villages in the area to explore farmers markets, coffee shops, restaurants and boutiques- while meeting new faces, and because of the local community theme, I am also regularly saying “hello” to long time friends that I meet while I am out and about. I have gotten used to the fact that it doesn’t really matter where I am here...I will undoubtedly run into a familiar face if I am in the area. In a way, a great deal of what I love about North County is the sense of family. The word “community” touches on the energy here, but the word “family” gets a little deeper to the heart of this area. For example, Carlsbad Village is an extremely quaint and cozy community of restaurants and shops galore, that embraces a neighborhood undertone where people feel welcome whether they are from here or traveling and passing through.
Photo credit: visitcarlsbad.com
I have traveled all over California, and while there is a lot to do in these other regions, North County tends to radiate an extremely optimistic and outgoing energy where you feel connected to others. If I happened to be stranded on the side of the road here due to car trouble or some other emergency that came my way, I genuinely believe that someone here would stop to help me. In the past when I was younger, I have had the occasional misfortunes with running out of gas, being lost somewhere with a dead cell phone and no idea where I was going, and once I even broken down on the side of the road. Not one time during these dreaded incidents was I stranded without any neighborly support. There is a theme here that is undeniable where many people truly care about one another. Many times throughout my life here, I have discovered my neighbors and sometimes even strangers have been more likely to take the extra time for connection and to help each other out through the bumpier times in life. Of course, there is always going to be the darker energy of this world that unfortunately creeps in no matter where we tend to live out our daily lives, but that is simply a part of life.
The bottom line is- I have never felt safer anywhere else in the world like I do here in North San Diego County. It is full of many amazing and wonderful people that have spirit and a sense of authenticity. I genuinely feel blessed to live here and to call this place “home.” There is a reason people come here and they don’t want to leave. It is a special place. If you have never been here before, I recommend setting aside the time to take a vacation here. It might be a bit sleepier than a visit to Los Angeles (trust me on that one), but you will definitely catch up on some rest and relaxation if you take a journey here, and you will long to return to the local tribes and vibes in this part of SoCal. You might not have many stories to share about there being a wild party scene here, but I guarantee you will discover some unique spots with tasty locally-made craft beer, wine from some of our neighboring wineries and fresh food that will be a treat to your taste buds.
Photo Credit: Fine Magazine @finehomesandliving.com
On that note, one of my absolute favorite things to do in North San Diego is to dine out at local restaurants! As I mentioned, it isn’t downtown San Diego, so some of the places that I love the most have more of a family dining atmosphere, but that does not mean it is boring. Lol. Instead, many of the restaurants here focus on comfortable surroundings, local live music and a “farm to table” approach with their meat, poultry, seafood and produce selections. In North County, the quality of the food we eat tends to be a HUGE part of our lifestyle. I know so many people here that invest a ton of time, money and energy into eating good food and that is common at the local restaurants here. Even if you go to a local taco restaurant like “The Taco Stand” in Encinitas, you will notice that the food is the best of the best and it is fast and convenient if you are on the go!
Their lovely outdoor patio at The Taco Stand is always open for dining!
Another great spot is “Swami’s Cafe” in Encinitas, where you can sip the tastiest smoothies around or eat a yummy Acai bowl with fresh fruit and bee pollen, after a beach day or trip wandering through the luscious and peaceful “Encinitas Meditation Gardens.” Encinitas is probably my absolute favorite as far as North San Diego County cafes and restaurants go, and deservedly so! You can dine out in Encinitas and savor some of the most divine cuisine, and it is fresh, full-flavored and affordable.
Photo Credits: Karen Vazquez
Photo Credit: FoodieLovesFitness.com
Speaking of fresh: for sushi, I would make an effort to eat at the local spot, “The Sushi House,” where they serve artisan style dishes that are aesthetically appealing and delicious. Number one for sushi...go to the “Sushi House.” They serve the best sushi I have ever eaten in my LIFE and I’ve been eating sushi for over twenty years. Thumbs up! John, the head sushi chef, is a master at his trade! I have eaten sushi at this spot and almost felt a little guilty for ruining his masterpieces and stuffing them in my face. Sigh. They are always perfectly displayed and I inhale them every time because they taste so yummy. On one visit, I enjoyed their scallop nigiri and it melted like butter in my mouth. This local restaurant in Encinitas is located on El Camino Real, and it is a tad off the beaten path since it isn’t in the village area, but it is jaw-dropping, friends...and a MUST!
Next on the list in “Enci-” would be “Roxy’s Cafe” on the main 101 strip of the downtown village area. I have been going to “Roxy’s” since I was a tiny person. HAHA! Has it been that long? Yikes! Time flies. It’s true. My parents were health nuts even dating back to the 80’s, and so I have been eating falafel and tofu long before it was mainstream. My dad had a thing for “Roxy’s Cafe” and so that was one of the regular spots we would visit when I was younger. I think he is the reason that I am obsessed with their falafel burger, even to this day! They definitely take pride in their food selections and have quite a following after all of these years due to their attention to detail with “farm to table,” high quality menu options. It’s really no surprise that this spot is still thriving after all of these years. Their restaurant highlights a more fusion-style menu as well, and I love it. If you get a chance to stop in for a visit, I highly recommend the Mac & Cheese or the Brussel Sprouts. Their menu has something for everyone, so if you are a meat eater, they have Ribs and all sorts of menu items that you can enjoy. They also offer a ton of live music, and so I am a loyal fan, of course. Being a musician myself, I have a great appreciation for the local restaurants here that promote local musicians. They recruit some pretty talented bands and performers. What better way to enjoy some tasty grub than to pair it with ambient, live music! That sounds good to me. On that note, I will write about more North San Diego County restaurants in the future, but this is probably a good start to highlight a few of my faves in the smaller pocket of local Encinitas.
Photo Credit: CarlsbadVillage.com
The last point I want to highlight in this post is about the local farmers markets and grocery stores that I am completely and madly in love with because their food is top notch. I am not one to shop at the major chains for my food if I can help it. Trust me- I get it. We all need to buy our toilet paper somewhere, and so I am most definitely not anti-capitalism, just more focused on the concept of conscious consumerism. I need to shop at the chains for stuff. We all do. As for my food however, I have to shop local. There’s such a dramatic difference in the quality of the produce and bulk items that it is almost ridiculous to shop at the larger chains. The food simply doesn’t last as long and often times it is a bit overpriced! I am not trying to shame anyone here at all regarding where they shop! Please do not misunderstand me. I am simply trying to emphasize that many of these local grocery stores and farmers are selling better quality grocery items and produce and they need our support. Some of these smaller grocery stores, local food retailers and farmers at the farmers markets are extremely passionate about growing and offering the BEST organic, affordable food to our communities. It is a beautiful thing. It feels a little bit like a sense of devotion that people embrace here...for the land and the weather and what it provides us.
It is a spiritual thing, most definitely. The food. Wow. I have picked up an Heirloom tomato at “The Cream of the Crop” in Oceanside or a huge organic bunch of Rainbow Swiss Chard at “Frazier Farms” in Vista, and actually felt blessed in that very moment to be able to eat the food we eat here. Life is good in Southern California. LoSoCal is pretty much all about this message: Shop local. Eat local. Spend local. I am not trying to pressure anyone either. I just want to encourage those that live or visit here to enjoy the best of the best that this area has to offer. I guess, my perception is that “the best of the best” here is about experiencing the crevices and cracks of this part of the world, and paying homage to the excellence of the lifestyle we are blessed to experience here.
For me, I am not interested in living a lifestyle that is beyond my means. I’m simply not. When I say I want to pay homage to the awesome lifestyle here in SoCal, it’s not about being a high profile blogger or anything like that. I simply love the area. I love the weather. I love the people and the community. I love writing about and giving shout outs to my favorite places in the area. I think Southern California is simply wonderful. Sunshine. Healthy food. Outdoor fun. Community. Creativity and more. Most of my upcoming posts are going to be fairly lighthearted and fun. I am going to write about my adventures and my favorite things in SoCal! If you have a spot you want me to check out, then let me know, especially if it revolves around food. Ha!
Thanks for reading! Please like or comment on this post if you enjoyed it. Much love to all those that support the message of LoSoCal.
Karen Vazquez, Founder and Lead Blogger
LoSoCal: A love for travel here in SoCal, even with all of the quirks! That's the gist of it.
I have a very adventurous spirit, or so I’ve been told over the last several decades. I believe it. You know you are adventurous when you meet up with a friend that you haven’t seen for a while, and their first question is “where are you living these days?” Ha! That is a fair inquiry. I am guilty of being a bit more free spirited than most folks. With no children in the mix, except two of the most adorable pups whom I cherish and call my very own, I can admit that I have lived a life that has had its fair share of freedom...and adventure.
That being said, I can claim without a doubt that my life has been anything BUT boring, and I’ve been called toward a variety of spontaneous and exploratory excursions. Some of my “joie de vivre” has carried me around the world to wander and enjoy the neighborhoods, streets, alleyways, shorelines and glorious sights of France, Puerto Rico, Australia and more. Not surprisingly however, most of my fondest memories involving planes, trains and automobiles have happened right here in SoCal. I have done plane rides up the coast and back. I have done train rides too.
But, at this point in my life, I can honestly say I’ve lost count of how many road trips I have taken up and down the coast of California from San Diego all the way up to San Francisco and back again. During this particular (and what has grown to become), regular roadtrip, I never avoided an opportunity to stop along the way. For this reason, my experiences are many and my stories about travel in California abound. It wasn’t about getting to my destination up North with any sense of urgency either, so I have become comfortable with the pattern of getting on the road with a full tank of gas, and then deciding to get off the freeway suddenly at an exit on the I-5, I-405, Highway 101, or whichever route I happened to choose during these journeys. I would deliberately and randomly park in the neighborhoods and communities in the smaller pockets surrounding the Metropolitan cities of California so I could absorb as much of the culture here as possible, while travelling along the California coast.
I love this state “body and soul,” and I wanted to connect with California. I desired to know her more- her people, her scenery, her vibe and her essence. Part of my travels took me to places that I would have never imagined because they were so magical and mesmerizing that they literally took my breath away. It wasn’t always landscapes and picturesque beaches that had me in awe of California’s beauty. Often times, it was just as I explained moments ago...a sudden stop off the freeway, and then there I am, seated at a small cafe where I am enjoying a locally roasted cup of coffee that was brewed to perfection. And, on another journey not long ago when I was passing through Santa Barbara, I decided to stop for one of my “road trip treats.” Yet again, I found myself devouring a decadent tiramisu paired perfectly with a glass of full-bodied Sangiovese at “Intermezzo,” a local restaurant in the downtown area that’s a bit off the beaten path. Admittedly, I devoured the tiramisu. And, I sipped the wine, while sitting on their outdoor patio with elegant decor and ambiance that transported me into a daydream where I imagined that I was sitting and sipping my vino in Rome. Happy sigh.
I love excellent cuisine as well, so over time I’ve created a list of my personal favorite restaurants and eateries that are scattered from North to South along the California coastlines. As far as I’m concerned, when one is traveling the fun should never be limited to the taste buds alone, and so I must admit that there are several other indulgences which have hit my pocket book for afternoons of local boutique shopping, massages, yoga classes, mani/pedis and more. Oh- and some of these other fun activities don’t break the bank, like hiking and sightseeing.
And, this is why California has my heart forever…California is my love- quirks and all!
California has the largest population of all of the states in America- 40 million people estimated as far as most census sites are claiming. 40 million SMART Americans have fallen in love like myself and we never leave...not if we can help it !!!
California is not only gorgeous practically every, single gosh-darn day of the year, but it is interesting and it is exciting! Anyone who has lived here for any length of time or visited for a weekend or more, will tell you with great enthusiasm that “Californians have personality.” This applies to both Northern and Southern Californians, of course, but I do believe that those of us in SoCal are a bit more quirky. I think it has to do with the weather, because a great deal of us, from what I have noticed, are so high on sunshine that we can’t help it! That’s right dude. Californians are pretty RAD! (No these words have not gone out of style in SoCal like neon green and shoulder pads died their very necessary death back in the eighties. I say with full confidence that “dude” and “rad” are here to stay. Lol.) Our vernacular in SoCal is a direct reflection of how unconventional we tend to be.
The beauty of this, in my opinion, is because it’s a general theme here to “do you” and “be your unique and effervescent self,” we tend to set trends and attract other like-minded quirky birds to this region. Yes, it is partially the weather, but I believe it is more than just that. It’s the energy. I think the vibe of California is more progressive, like New York City and some of the other larger Metro areas across the nation, only in California it seems to have touched the majority of the entire state (and it is a very large one at that). So, LoSoCal readers...thanks for the love! If you like this post, stay tuned for more future postings with this theme. I am getting back to my blog and writing, which I lost connection with due to freelance work and other distractions, but no more!
The blog posts that I post in the months to come will highlight just this, with a very loving and devoted “special attention” given to Southern California. I want to write about my experiences in California, and mainly SoCal to share some of the stories that have caused me to embrace such a deep love, loyalty and fascination with this pocket of the globe. 🌞🌴💖
Thanks for reading,
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Owner, Lead Blogger
Hello, my name is Karen Vazquez. I have lived in Southern California for over thirty years. I realized about four years ago that it was time for me to give back to this wonderful community by supporting local SoCal businesses, performers, restaurants, spas, boutiques, fitness studios, farmers markets and more. My support shines through here by highlighting these fabulous local SoCal spots. You can also follow me on Instagram, Twitter, PInterest and LinkedIn. I will be featuring many local destinations in the area that have been my personal favorites for years and am currently recruiting guest bloggers to expand the voice of LoSoCal. I have had guest bloggers in the past, but aim to incorporate local SoCal bloggers on a regular basis as a fun, creative and collaborative way to connect with the community here. Essentially, LoSoCal is a community blog, and it is meant to be resource to locals in this area and visitors from around the world. Please like or follow LoSoCal on the social media business pages and tell your contacts about the blog. Thanks for stopping by...
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