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A Local’s Guide to North County San Diego

2013 February 22

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So when we up and moved to the suburbs from Los Angeles a few years ago, our systems took a bit of a beating. We knew the area we were moving to because my parents had been living here since the mid 90s, but we missed knowing all our local haunts in LA, as all newcomers do. Now we are a few years in and have found our favorites around various corners, so thought I would share them with you here in case you are local and/or visiting the area any time soon.

Where to get a facial – I found Tara at Sincera Skincare via an ad in a healthy living magazine in my doctor’s office one day. As with any small community, turns out we knew people in common and those people all know she offers the best facial in town. She works out of an adorable little cottage in an area called Leucadia and going to see her (which I need to do more often!) is a real treat for your skin and your soul.

Where to get a massage – you have no idea how much I hesitate to share Courtney at Breathe Health and Wellness with you…purely for selfish reasons because I don’t want her overbooked. I believe I first found her via a Groupon something or other, but she quickly became my entire family’s go-to for the best massage in town. If you are looking for the day spa experience of LaCosta or Park Hyatt (which are fab in their own way), this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for a fantastic true massage, look no further. Mommy’s tip – she will occasionally book evening appointments. I did it after the kids went to bed one time and it was the best.

Where to shop for your man – Encinitas has quickly become a hotbed of cool, indie fashion and trends but the only place to shop for what’s truly next for your man is UNIV. This small shop is owned by a local dad of two who has his pulse five minutes ahead of what’s happening in fashion around the globe.

Where to shop for your home – we tend to have a fairly contemporary, minimalist approach to home design and grounded was a very pleasant local surprise. This chic shop stocks everything from eames chairs to cool candlestick holders and lays it all out in a big, airy space that is easy to shop (though admittedly a little tricky with a big stroller in tow).

Where to shop for your kidsMagical Child is my go-to for unique gifts for littles. Even adults can get lost for hours perusing all of their cool finds…don’t forget to pick up one of their signature magic wands for endless imagination play.

Where to get a sweet treatChampagne Bakery is a chain that exists up in Los Angeles but the outpost in Rancho Santa Fe feels anything but. It’s a small French patisserie, reminiscent of the real ones in Paris, tucked away into a quaint little strip mall with some of the most amazing pastries and desserts around. The éclairs are a particular fave of ours, as is a quick bistro lunch outside on their sun-drenched patio overlooking the fountain.

Where to get a cheap eat – Southern California is known for good Mexican but Encinitas has to be the best I have ever found. La Especial Norte opened in 1977 and it feels like we’ve been eating there since shortly thereafter. It is simply good, cheap, authentic Mexican food in a fun atmosphere that caters to my kids and my parents like they are both regulars…because they are.

Where to wine and dine – when we are looking to step up a dinner out, our favorite local spot is Solace in Encinitas. This bar and restaurant (we prefer to sit upstairs) offers a cool, fun atmosphere, a good drinks menu and seriously delicious food. It’s great for girls night out, group nights on the town and of course, date night. The burger and the oysters are our personal go-tos.

Do you want to do a local’s guide for What Would Gwyneth Do highlighting your favorite picks in your city? Email me at with your ideas!

*image above via Orange & Park*

10 Responses leave one →
  1. February 22, 2013

    Would you believe I have lived here since 1987 and have only been to 1 of these? Paseo Del Norte. Mostly because it has been here since long before 1987! 🙂 Nice list.

  2. kelly permalink
    February 22, 2013

    great list! we are definitely on the same circuit! and you are right – Tara is the best!!!!

  3. February 22, 2013

    ooooh! stoked on this.
    i keep wanting to take a long weekend trip down there to go to the zoo and have a little family getaway – this is making me inspired to do it! and maybe squeeze in a facial or (and?!) a massage while we’re there!

    i did a round-up of stuff to do up here with kids so if you find yourselves in my neck of the woods:

    happy friday! xx

  4. February 22, 2013

    I’ve never heard of Univ. Must check it out. Also, I’ve been dying to try Solace at Moonlight Beach. Urban Solace is one of my fave restaurants in SD so I can’t wait to check it out. Maybe we should do a meet-up there for drinks one night after Dailey Method with our crew?
    Great tips!

  5. February 23, 2013

    This is a great guide, I’d do one for NY if you were interested…

  6. February 25, 2013

    And I’d love to one on London ….

  7. February 25, 2013

    And I’d love to do one on London ….

  8. May 6, 2013

    This is so helpful to a San Diego newbie! Loving the beauty and Mexican food tips, which have immediately been scribbled on my to-do/to-eat lists.

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