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Small-Town Spotlight: Things To Do In El Cajon

Small-Town Spotlight: Things To Do In El Cajon

By California.com
November 02, 2020

As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.

Just 20 minutes away from the city of San Diego, El Cajon transports you to a whole other world. Although a downtown San Diego getaway is tempting, leave the city behind and embark on an adventure to El Cajon. The charming valley town boasts gorgeous scenery, not to mention quaint city streets and plenty of outdoor recreation. The heart of San Diego’s East County, El Cajon is a great place for adventure, so take a trip with us to experience the exciting things to do in El Cajon.

How to Spend a Day in San Diego County's Hidden Oasis: El Cajon

Nestled in the foothills of East San Diego County, this farm is a great spot to take the kids. Photo courtesy of Summers Past Farms.

Summer Past Farms

With several gardens, a nursery, a barn, and much more, Summer Past Farms is a land filled with fun for all ages. The nursery is brimming with colorful geraniums, sage, and habitat plants for songbirds, hummingbirds, and butterflies. It also houses culinary herbs, ornamental herbs, succulents, grasses, and perennials.

Stroll through the many gardens and inhale the aromatic scent of the blooms; make sure to visit the Fairy Gardens, known to hold the most fairytale-esque greens, inspiring you to replicate them in your own backyard. Don’t forget to swing by the gift shop to pick up handmade herbal soaps; or, if you’re feeling crafty, get the soap-making kit for an at-home DIY activity.

The farm also typically hosts seasonal and annual events that'll make your trip all the more worthwhile. Come fall, wander the pumpkin patches and pick out your future jack-o-lantern. Usually held in November, the Antique and Craft Fair is where vendors display precious handmade items. 

Between the flight training courses and aerobatics, you can get an adrenaline rush at Sky Combat Ace. Photo courtesy of Sky Combat Ace.

Sky Combat Ace San Diego

Definitely one of the best things to do in El Cajon is head to Sky Combat Ace San Diego—it's the place to be for adrenaline junkies. The second you step foot into the building,  you become an intense fighter pilot commanding your own jet; of course, there’s no jet without a mission to complete. Founder Richard “Tex” Coe served as an Air Force pilot for years and created this facility to share his experience. Choose from aerobatics, air combat, or flight training—or combine several together for the ultimate heart-pumping experience.

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The Water Conservation Garden

The Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon, San Diego, is six acres of gorgeous gardens and flower exhibitions. Displays of native plants and vegetables greet you in the garden. Guests are welcome to wander through the exhibition on irrigation and how-to shows—bring your notepad for timeless tips to use for your own garden. Visitors are free to roam the grounds on their own or to join one of the guided tours.

For a peek into the past, head to this museum displaying Western-themed art. Photo courtesy of Olaf Wieghorst Museum and Western Heritage Center.

Olaf Wieghorst Museum And Western Heritage Center

The Olaf Wieghorst Museum and Western Heritage Center is named after famed painter Olaf Wieghorst, who's best known for his splendid portrayal of the 19th-century American West. The museum exhibits many of his works, most of which depict horses, Native Americans, cowboys, and settlers—all of whom had a pivotal role in shaping the country. Wieghorst perfectly captures his surroundings on watercolor and oil canvases along with other forms of art. The museum usually holds year-round activities and events; Ghostriders is often held yearly after Halloween to help raise funds for the museum.

The Magnolia is the prime place in town to catch a show. Photo courtesy of The Magnolia.

The Magnolia

Previously known as the East County Performing Arts Center, The Magnolia in San Diego County's El Cajon opened its gates in September 2019 and has been a prominent performing arts destination in the area ever since. Thanks to an investment of over $8 million, the facility upgraded its premises to include a redesigned seating layout to accommodate up to 1,200 fans, a VIP Lounge, luxurious front row seating, and guest amenities. From movie nights to street fairs, this venue keeps locals and tourists coming back again and again.

The timeless Knox House Museum is a can't-miss attraction when in El Cajon. Photo courtesy of Knox House Museum.

The Knox House Museum

Located within the exciting town of El Cajon is the timeless Knox House Museum. Originally built as a two-story and seven-room hotel building, the Knox residence soon added a dining room and horse stables to better host guests. The hotel offered a comfortable stay for weary travelers journeying to and from the Julian gold mines at the time. A guided tour will take visitors through the narrow staircases and small rooms—each room is adorned with period items, giving you a glimpse into a bygone era. The museum also displays an array of Native American and Mexican artifacts.

Explore the splendor of El Cajon by hiking or biking through Mission Trails Regional Park.

Mission Trails Regional Park

Nature-oriented travelers and outdoor activity seekers will love spending time at one of the city’s best parks. Missions Trails Regional Park is spread across more than 7,000 acres and is a popular spot for hikers, cyclists, rock climbers, and photographers. There are 60 miles worth of trails, so you'll surely find one that speaks to you. Trek the 1.4-mile Visitor Center Loop Trail for an easy walk with the munchkins. Intense workouts are found on the 6.2-mile Fortuna Mountain Summit Trail; the stunning views make the challenge quite rewarding, though. 

Trek up to the summit of Mount Helix and be rewarded with sweeping views of the city.

Mount Helix Park

Indulging in great views of the San Diego skyline is so much better when you don't have to deal with the hustle and bustle of the city. If that sounds appealing to you, Mount Helix is the perfect place to be. The park boasts a moderately peddled loop trail, which welcomes people of all skill levels. The trail is used for hiking and running, and you can even bring your pup along for the jog. Children will love running wild as their parents enjoy spending time reading classic California-based books under a shady palm tree. With signs scattered along the park displaying information about native plants and animals, your children will also get an education as they roam about. Pack a picnic with the best snacks in the Golden State to keep hunger at bay during the day.

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