San Diego

Living in Vista, CA: Top 10 Things to Do

Located just a few miles from the stunning beaches of the Pacific Ocean, Vista, California is making a name for itself as a family-focused, affordable and inviting suburb of San Diego. With its just about perfect year-round weather, great mountain views, and low unemployment rates, it's easy to see why more and more urbanites are packing up and seeing what life is like at a slightly slower pace in Vista. In fact, the median age is only 33, meaning a lot of young people are settling into Vista to build their professional careers, rent or buy real estate, and raise their children. In fact, nearly three-quarters of the population is married and a little more than half have kids.

So if you're one of the thousands of people considering moving to this medium-sized city, keep reading for a round-up of the top things to do in Vista, CA. We've covered attractions, activities, and dining options for both newcomers and long-time residents, with kids or flying solo – we've got something for everyone.

Livign in Vista, CA - food, drink, and nature

So without further ado, here are our top 10 things to do in Vista, CA:

  1. Take in a musical at the Moonlight Amphitheater. No article about Vista could fail to mention its prize jewel: the Moonlight Amphitheater. Moonlight Stage Productions mounts a truly impressive number of musicals each year at the venue, including such favorites as West Side Story, Victor Victoria, and Into the Woods. If musicals aren't really your thing, the beautiful open-air amphitheater also plays host to family movie nights, tribute bands, classic albums live, Fourth of July celebrations, and more – all at an affordable cost. The Amphitheater has both lawn seats and reserved seats, but the great news is that if you choose the lawn – the Amphitheater provides the chairs.  Pro tip: Pack your own picnic, but leave the adult drinks at home. The Moonlight sells both wine and beer.

  2. Order yourself some Mexican food. Restaurants in Vista, CA offer a variety of authentic and delicious options, but given Vista's large Latino population, the Mexican food simply can't be missed. Los Cabos Mexican and Seafood is a definite local's favorite (even drawing comparisons to everyone's San Diego favorite, Roberto's) for its fajitas and chilaquiles. La Gordita Taco Y Gorditas Shop is another great find, known for their amazingly tasty flour tortillas and friendly service. Pro tip: They can customize your order to take into account food restrictions.

  3. Follow it up with an old-fashioned ice cream shake. If you're in the mood for a super-delicious and thick milkshake after your Mexican feast – and really, who wouldn't be? – cruise over to the family-owned, longtime Vista favorite Peppertree Frosty in North County. With an enormous amount of ice cream options including malts, sundaes, soft-serve and even dipped cones and bananas, you'll find something for everybody at Peppertree Frosty. (Even apparently Marmaduke). Pro tip: The chocolate banana shake is heaven in a cup, but the Boston Shake – a shake with a sundae on top – will really light up your Insta feed.

  4. Take in some nature at Alta Vista Botanical Gardens. You could do a lot worse than strolling the gardens at Alta Vista. Sculpture, music, musical instruments (including a pebble piano!), a pond with turtles, a labyrinth and trails for young and not-so-young alike are just some of the features that will make your visit so enjoyable. Among the featured flora is cacti, succulents, agaves, and aloes from California, the Mediterranean, Madagascar, and South Africa. Not to mention the entry fee of only $5 for an adult and $3 for a child, which you simply place in a lockbox. Pro tip: Wear a hat and don't forget to bring water and sunscreen – that California sun can get very bright and hot.

  5. Visit a brewery…or five. If you're looking for top things to do in Vista, it probably won't be long before you find yourself at a brewery. No judgment here: if you ask us, the beers made in Vista can compete with some of the best in the state. Our favorite breweries include Booze Brothers Brewing Co. (which has a throwback, rustic vibe, as well as live music and art exhibitions) and the Mother Earth Brew Company (which is located right on Main Street in downtown Vista Village and welcomes doggos). Pro tip: Many breweries host private events, and can be a fun and unique place to hold a party or wedding.

  6. Check out the real estate market. It's always interesting to explore the fast-paced housing market in California, and the San Diego area is no exception. Apartments in Vista, CA make up about half of the housing inventory, and attract a steady influx of new faces to the area. Most of the newer apartment communities have pools, clubhouses and even gyms and many are dog-friendly. Rental homes in Vista, CA might be slightly less plentiful and definitely more expensive, with prices rarely dipping below $2,000/month. Pro tip: Store your stuff during a move (or any other time) at one of two CubeSmart locations in Vista.

  7. Tour a historic rancho. Rancho Guajome Adobe is a large, recently restored historic hacienda originally built in 1852. The centerpiece is a 7,000-square-foot, furnished home open for self-guided and ranger-guided tours. The landscaping is breathtaking, and invites slow strolls or horseback rides through 112 acres of immaculate gardens and trails, which are home to wildlife including great horned owl and ring-necked pheasants. The house's 22 rooms showcase the wealth and lifestyle of the California Gold Rush and feature beautifully preserved period furniture, décor, and tools. Pro tip: If you happen to be in Vista, CA during the Christmas season, swing by Rancho Guajome Adobe to enjoy historically-accurate festivities, decorations, wagon rides, and children's games. 

  8. Take a dip in the pool. The Wave Waterpark is a local's favorite, with loads of slides, a wave pool, lazy river, ‘crazy' river, and a spray park for younger kiddos. Located in Vista Village, the park also offers swim, water polo, and flow rider lessons, splash camps, and even mermaid programs for any little one in your life who longs to swim with a tail. It's not all fun and games though. The Wave Waterpark also offers babysitting courses and junior lifeguard training. There is even lap swimming for those who looking to practice their strokes. The Wave Waterpark really is the perfect spot for young and old to cool off and enjoy Vista's beautiful sunshine – maybe even while learning a thing or two about water safety and enjoyment. Pro tip: Bring two towels per person – one to dry off with and one to sit on – and slip-on shoes to wear when walking between attractions. That pavement can get hot!

  9. Enjoy a wine tasting. If there's one thing California is known for, it's wine. And Vista and the entire San Diego region has long been considered on the outskirts of southern California's wine culture and production. But a little-known fact is that prior to prohibition, San Diego County produced the most wine of any region in the U.S. Modern Vistans seem to be making strides to bring the region back to its former glory. Brooking Vineyards specializes in traditional fortified winemaking developed in Britain in the 1600s. The wines offered at Brooking are considered Angelica wines. Angelica, in general, are robust and sweet, include port, sherry, and muscat, and are made from Mission grapes. If you're in the mood for a bit of a different experience, or a drier wine to enjoy, try 2Plank Vineyards, which not only has an incredible tasting room and weekly ‘paintnites,' but also offers custom winemaking services and vineyard installation and management! Their wine isn't half bad either. Pro tip: Both vineyards sell and ship wine online, but Brooking Vineyard only ships to addresses in California.

  10. Raise your heart rate. Last but certainly not least on our top 10 things to do in Vista is to visit one of three highly-rated activity centers: Get Air Vista Trampoline Park, Boomers! and the Wall Climbing Gym. Get Air is quite literally wall-to-wall opportunities to bounce, hop, and jump which is a blast for kids, tweens, teens, and parents alike. Who doesn't want to jump into a giant pit of foam squares, after all? Boomers! is more of a full-service, all-ages fun zone with mini-golf, carousels, bumper boats, and batting cages – not to mention spinning teacups and an arcade for the older kids. The Wall Climbing Gym is – you guessed it – a bouldering facility that offers indoor rock-climbing classes, climbing clinics, and even yoga. And if you've got a family member or friend who's not so into climbing, there's also free WiFi and room to relax. Pro tip: Get Air has ‘Club Air' every Friday and Saturday night, with lights, music, and a total party atmosphere!

If you're looking for more information on things to do in Vista, CA check out CityofVista.com, which has details about annual events like The Vista Strawberry Festival (May), Taste of Vista (June), free movies in the park (throughout the summer), and even the Penguin Plunge (December).

And definitely let us know in the comments if we forgot to mention one of your faves. We're always looking for new adventures, and depend on CubeSmart readers, teammates, and customers to keep us in the know!

About the author

Bree Neely

Bree Neely is a communications expert and former Brooklynite based out of Denver, Colorado. She is co-founder of Direct Object, a marketing firm serving national B2B and B2C clients. When not tapping away at her keyboard, she keeps busy traveling, skiing and overseeing a variety of children and animals.

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