When we moved to Carlsbad, our son was just 2 years old. We had a ball taking him to all the local hotspots; the farmers market in Solana Beach on Sundays for banana date smoothies, puppet shows and story time at Dove Library in Carlsbad, stacks of pancakes at the Beach Break Cafe in Oceanside, but one of my favorite places to go was Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. Though Graham grew up in the San Diego area, I didn’t. And before our son was born I didn’t pay much attention to parks. But there is something magical that, though it may not be unique to North County, I noticed early on and fell in love with- playgrounds at the beach.
As a new transplant, when I had some extra time (Read: not often) and my two year old had extra energy (read: always) I could never decide whether I wanted to take him to the beach, or the park. And what I happily realized is that North County has several spots to visit that beautifully, magically… have both. So- if you are a new transplant, a new parent, or just looking for a new spot to visit- here is my list of favorite playgrounds at the beach in North County San Diego. Enjoy!
I had to start here because it’s my favorite. With a big playground and jungle gym area, there is lots of variety. It is designed for little and big kids, with rock climbing walls, firefighter poles, and my son’s favorite- a big swing set. Bonus points for the grassy area right next to the playground to lay out a blanket for snack time, or a lazy, sunny, nap. And if you decide to stroll over to the beach so the kiddos can dip their toes in the sand- you are right in front of a large lifeguard station, which is awesome because- #safety.
We’ll keep this just between us, but Handel’s Ice Cream is just a short walk up the hill, about 2 blocks. Totally doable for the 3 and up crew, or with a stroller. So if your little loves are EXTRA good- that’s a fun way to end your playtime, but goodness gracious do yourself a favor and split a scoop (which for them is actually 3!) Or your littles will be bouncing off the walls before you can say “cherry on top!”
This park is a bit smaller but has the added appeal of a prime location. It has a jungle gym/playground as well as a grassy lounge area and lots of picnic tables, but our favorite aspect is that it is right next to the Oceanside pier, which for our family means- RUBY’S! What is it about those little cardboard cars they give out that gets my kiddo so excited?! I’ll never know…
If you really want to go for it, and in the summer when we have those great long evenings, we do- go for a bike ride along the Oceanside bike path. Stop off at the playground and have a picnic lunch, dinner, or snack time, and then head back. It’s a nice break from the bikes, and if you go during the week, or off-season- the bike path is not very crowded, which makes it training wheel friendly. We went once, coincidentally at the end of the Oceanside IRONMAN, and my little man thought all the people on the sidelines were there cheering JUST for him. He got high fives from the “other” racers and even got to go across the finish line. People in O’side just rock, don’t they?
This is one of those “Don’t we live in the most beautiful places on Earth?!” spots. The playground sits up above the beach a bit, and because we are friends I will tell you that MANY times I have fallen short on my “Mommy push me!” duties on the swing-set, because I’m looking at the view. It’s probably the smallest of the three parks highlighted here and geared more for younger kids, but the big open grass area adjacent is perfect if you pack a soccer ball for older ones.
The other, incredible and impossible to not mention, draw of this spot- Pizza Port– just a block away! Oh, happy day! This spot in Solana Beach is the original location of what we refer to as simply “The best pizza in the whole wide world,” and it’s the smallest of their North County brewpubs. Don’t get me wrong- we have ended the night after many T-ball games at their giant Bressi Ranch spot (where, incidentally, they do most of their brewing), but I like Solana Beach because its cozy. So if after all that jungle gyming and swing pushing you need some pizza and, ahem… lemonade- this is your spot.
Well! That is my list of favorite playgrounds at the beach in North County. What do you think? Did I get the good ones? Show some love and comment below if I hit the mark- or missed your favorite stroller and cold brew hangout.