15 Best Things to Do in Rancho Penasquitos, California

Rancho Penasquitos is a suburban neighbourhood of about 60,000 people situated in northeastern San Diego.

The city is known for its central location that provides easy access to downtown San Diego, the nearby mountains, and the coast. It’s also known for its year-round favourable weather.

In Rancho Penasquitos, there are many restaurants, cafes, parks, and shopping areas, such as Rancho Carmel Village Center, Carmel Mountain Plaza, and Canyonhill Center.

The city itself features stunning scenery consisting of many canyons, hillsides, ridges, and mountains, including Black Mountain.

Many events take place throughout the year with highlights, such as The Fiesta de Los Penasquitos and Parade and the annual PQ5K Fun Run.

Below are 15 of the best things to do in and around Los Penasquitos, California.

1. Explore the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

Los Penasquitos Canyon PreserveLos Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

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Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

As far as urban parks go, Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve certainly doesn’t give the feeling that you are surrounded by a city when you’re exploring it. With 4,000 acres of sprawling wilderness, the area is one of the biggest urban parks in the country.

The highlight of the park is the 6.8-mile hiking trail that passes through unique ecosystems where you have the chance to spot over 175 different species of birds and a variety of wildlife, including deer, bobcats, coyotes, and rabbits.

As you explore the park, which includes the Penasquitos and Lopez Canyons, you’ll also see hundreds of different plants, a waterfall, a forest area consisting of California oaks, and a freshwater marsh.

Also on-site is the refurbished Rancho Santa Maria de Los Penasquitos Adobe, which dates back to the 1820s. Tours of this structure are available.

2. Book a Tee Time at Maderas Golf Club


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Said to be among the best golf courses in the San Diego area, Maderas Golf Club combines spectacular scenery, natural features, and challenges to create the ultimate golf experience for all levels.

This 18-hole, par-72 course is situated in the rolling hills just north of the city. The natural landscape features three lakes, waterfalls, cliffs, unique rock formations, creeks, and forest areas.

A golf shop is on-site and lessons and golf equipment rentals are available.

3. Satisfy a Craving for Pub Grub at Knotty Barrel Rancho Penasquitos

Knotty Barrel Rancho Penasquitos

At Knotty Barrel Rancho Penasquitos, you don’t dine on just any old run-of-the-mill pub grub. You get delicious, quality traditional British pub food with a Californian twist.

The best part about your meal is you can rest assured that only the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients were used in its preparation and all meat is hormone and pesticide-free.

The menu at this family-friendly eatery features a wide range of items for lunch and dinner, including appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and main courses, such as fish & chips and mac & cheese.

The beverage menu features more than a hundred beers from around the world, including 20 local craft beers.

4. Check out the PQ Certified Farmers’ Market

Farmers MarketFarmers Market

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Farmers Market

There’s just something special about spending a sunny morning browsing an open-air market in search of quality items you won’t find in a big chain store.

At the PQ Certified Farmers’ Market in Rancho Penasquitos, you’ll find quality, locally-grown, fresh produce taken straight from nearby farms. As you browse the vendors, you’ll also find seafood, meat, plants, and handcrafted items.

During market hours, food trucks are frequently parked in the vicinity and offer a range of hot food items. Live music is also featured.

5. Take a Ride in an Antique Railcar at the Poway-Midland Railroad

Poway-Midland Railroad StationPoway-Midland Railroad Station

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Poway-Midland Railroad Station

Situated in Old Poway Park, the Poway-Midland Railroad is a historic railroad run by the Poway Midland Railroad Volunteers.

During your visit, you can take a ride on an antique railroad car that travels along a narrow-gauge full-size railroad.

During this five-minute trip, you’ll travel in a loop around the park and learn more about the railroad and equipment through knowledgeable volunteers. You can purchase souvenirs from the railway depot and gift shop.

6. Catch a Show at the PowPac Community Theater


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The PowPac Community Theater in nearby Poway was established in the early 80s. This prize-winning community venue annually hosts a wide variety of entertainment in its intimate 71-seat theatre.

Whether you prefer to take in a live drama, comedy, or musical, there’s bound to be something on the schedule that appeals to your taste. Some of the shows that have recently been presented at the theatre, include Cactus Flower and Charlie Brown.

7. Sample Local Craft Beer at Port Brewing Company


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Since 2006, Port Brewing Company in nearby San Marcos has been making and serving award-winning craft beers. This craft brewery is said to be among the top 10 breweries in the United States.

The on-site tasting room consists of two spacious bars in a comfortable and friendly environment, where obliging staff are ready to assist you.

At any given time, there are 42 regular and seasonal beers on tap and they rotate frequently. Some of the beers you may have the opportunity to taste, include Anniversary Ale, Hop-15, Nelson the Greeter, Mongo IPA, and Older Viscosity.

8. Spend a Day Outdoors in Black Mountain Open Space Park

Black Mountain Open Space ParkBlack Mountain Open Space Park

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Black Mountain Open Space Park

At 2,352 acres, Black Mountain Open Space Park is a vast, wilderness area that is popular with nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers seeking a wide variety of things to see and do.

By far, the most popular activity in the park is hiking, and there are plenty of trails of varying lengths and difficulty levels all around the area.

The Jas Arnold Trail, The Lilac Canyon Trail, East Rim Trail, Miner’s Ridge Loop Trail, Nighthawk Trail, and South Point View Trail, are just some of the trails available. Biking is also permitted on certain ones.

As you explore the park, you’ll see a variety of plant life, including chaparral and coastal sage scrub.

Some of the wildlife you might spot on your journey, such as deer, bobcats, salamanders, and frogs. There are also more than 80 species of birds in the park.

9. Visit the San Diego Archaeological Center

San Diego Archaeological Center

Humans have inhabited San Diego County for around 10,000 years, and the San Diego Archaeological Center is where you can learn all about these people and how they lived through the ages.

The main purpose of this centre is to acquire, examine and showcase a wide variety of artefacts for the viewing public to enjoy and learn from. On-site there are many permanent and temporary exhibits, including, By Land and By Sea, Archaeology 101, and The Life Story of a Pot.

10. Indulge in Local Wine and History at Deer Park Winery & Auto Museum


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The Deer Park Winery & Auto Museum in nearby Escondido is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a combined winery and auto museum.

Start your visit with a tour of the vineyard and orchards, followed by a wine-tasting. Some of the prize-winning wines you can sample include: merlot, petite sirah, zinfandel, California champagne, and sauvignon blanc.

After your wine tasting, you can head over to the auto museum that houses the largest assortment of convertible cars in the region.

There are hundreds of cars to admire, but there are also a wide variety of other artefacts in the museum, including antique bikes, radios, cameras, neon signs, and more. A gift shop is on-site.

11. Tour the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego Zoo Safari ParkSan Diego Zoo Safari Park

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San Diego Zoo Safari Park

At 1,800 acres, and said to be one of the top attractions in the Greater San Diego area, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a must-see. Situated in nearby Escondido, the park is home to over 2,000 animals, from more than 300 species.

The main goal of the park is the recovery of at-risk species. The best way to experience the park is via the Africa Tram. This takes you through the free-range areas that are home to a wide variety of endangered animals including, giraffe, buffalo, and rhinoceros.

As you make your way along, you’ll also be able to admire more than 3,000 different species of plants.

12. Walk Across the Lake Hodges Pedestrian Suspension Bridge

Lake Hodges Pedestrian Suspension BridgeLake Hodges Pedestrian Suspension Bridge

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Lake Hodges Pedestrian Suspension Bridge

Suspension bridges are amazing feats of architecture and Lake Hodges Suspension Bridge is a type of Suspension bridge that’s rare in North America. It’s a stressed ribbon-style bridge and there are only several in the western hemisphere.

Follow a short, paved trail to the bridge and walk across this 990-foot-long architectural wonder. You can also bike across the bridge, but no matter how you cross, the views are fantastic.

13. Take the Kids to the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum

San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum

Situated in nearby Escondido, the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum is a fun and educational place for kids to just be kids while they learn some new things.

On-site are many indoor and outdoor hands-on exhibits that promote imagination, and exploration in the realms of culture, art, and science.

The museum is divided into four themes, and some of the exhibits include the Kids Global Village, Discovery Sailboat, Toddler Tidepool, and Archaeology.

14. Challenge Yourself on Mount Woodson Trail

Mount Woodson TrailMount Woodson Trail

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Mount Woodson Trail

There are many hiking trails around Rancho Penasquitos, but if you’re seeking a challenge, the Mount Woodson Trail in nearby Poway is a challenging feat that’s best left to seasoned hikers.

Although the trail is well-maintained, it features many steep inclines and is fairly long at 6.4 miles. The dry hot weather of the area just adds to the challenge.

As you make your way along the trail, you’ll see wildflowers, unique rock formations, and stunning views of Lake Poway and Palomar Mountain. At the end of the trail, you’ll also see the legendary Potato Chip Rock.

15. Visit Queen Califia’s Magical Circle

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle is a unique and interesting attraction in nearby Escondido. Spread across 12 acres is a colourful sculpture garden made by Niki de Saint Phalle, and it’s the only one like this in the whole country.

On-site, there are nine huge sculptures including, a maze, Queen Califia, and a 400-long snake wall. Within the garden are several plants and trees that have been incorporated into the sculpture theme of the garden.

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