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5 ways to spend a day in Oceanside, California

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If you find yourself in Oceanside (or heading down to San Diego with some extra time for wandering), there are number of fun, and inexpensive, activities sure to make your stay more enjoyable. It’s a beautiful spot, even on a rainy day, for exploring. Whether you are looking for a bit of history, or just want to frolic a bit on a beach, Oceanside has got you covered.

Visit Mission San Luis Rey de Francia
Visit Mission San Luis Rey de Francia Photo by Patricia Steffy

Visit Mission San Luis Rey de Francia

This one is an easy one. Founded in 1798, San Luis Rey de Francia, once known as “The King of Missions” offers visitors a look into the history of “Alta California,” the politics of a changing time and a glimpse at some awe-inspiring design and architecture. The blend of Native American and Spanish artistic elements, particularly in the Church, has been well preserved, and beautiful to behold. Visiting the Mission and the cemetery is free. Entrance to the museum is only $5 for adults, and well-worth the cash for access to the artifacts, informational pieces, the video on the Mission and some outdoor spots otherwise blocked from view. The church is free, although they do welcome donations, and prayer candles can be purchased at the entrance.

Enjoy the pier
Enjoy the pier Photo by Patricia Steffy

Enjoy the pier

The Oceanside Pier, located at the end of Pier View Way, is a beautiful spot to eat, take in concerts, fish or just enjoy the view. You do not need a license to fish from the pier, and you have a chance of catching everything from California halibut to Pacific barracuda, depending on the season. Parking is plentiful, and there is a large, paid lot directly across from the pier entrance. There is an amphitheater that hosts a wide-range of activities and contests, as well as a community center. Personally, my favorite thing to do is just wander the pier itself. The grand white bridges that lead to the lamppost lined pier are a sight, even on a rainy day, and the views from the pier itself are fantastic.

Get sand in your shoes
Get sand in your shoes Photo by Patricia Steffy

Get sand in your shoes

Oceanside has approximately 3.5 miles of sandy beaches that tempt visitors and locals alike. You can choose from places like Breakwater Way, which is a quiet family beach, or head to spots like Pier View North (or South) which are very close to shops, restaurants and the city center. Or you can head to Harbor Beach, the largest of the beaches in Oceanside. The waves beckon surfers, and the Harbor spot is not far from good fishing, whale watching, kayaking or marina visits.

Watch the sea lions play
Watch the sea lions play Photo by Patricia Steffy

Watch the sea lions play

Visiting the marina and Harbor Village opens up another world of seaside possibilities. Enjoy the picnic tables, BBQ grills and gathering gazebos as you watch the boats elegantly glide out to the ocean. Restaurants and shops are near, or you can just enjoy checking out the docked boats. And if you are very lucky, you’ll hear the sound of barking.  The marina docks are a popular spot for sea lions to haul out and rest. Close to the pedestrian pathways, it isn’t unusual to see groups of people stop their own adventures to take in the antics of the sea lions.

Wander the shopping district
Wander the shopping district Photo by Patricia Steffy

Wander the shopping district

From the pier, pedestrians can cross under the train tracks through the pedestrian trail into the main shopping district of Oceanside. Construction makes driving and parking in the immediate area tricky at the moment, but parking by the pier and walking into the district is quite easy. If that isn’t enough retail therapy, shops and restaurants populate the streets near the pier, as well as the Harbor. Options abound in Oceanside!

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