Best Parks in Encinitas and Carlsbad

A list of parks in Encinitas and Carlsbad along with some of their more kid-friendly traits.

A common text between mom or dad friends might go something like this:

“Play this aft?”

“Yes, free post-nap! Park or home?”

“Park good…which?”

Look familiar? It sure does to me. I don’t know when our parenting culture made the switch from “Go outside and play, be back by dark,” to setting up overseen playdates and park meet-ups, but it was way before my time. In the world of socializing (our kids, ourselves, or both) playdates are all I’ve ever known: call another parent, or text these days, set up a time for your kids to play, and hope that in the process the two of you get to relax a bit while the kids are occupied with each other, invite others where applicable.

Going to the park for a playdate, or even just alone with the kids, is a no-brainer. No one’s house gets messy (ok, messier), there’s plenty of obvious play for the kids on and around the play structures where they can be easily watched, and lots of other kids there to play with.

In San Diego, where it’s almost always “park weather,” there are so many parks with playgrounds to choose from. In North County alone, there seem to be hundreds. Some prized park traits include restrooms, picnic tables, shade, proximity of the play structure, newer or more elaborate play structure, just the right amount of other children there to play with, and good parking. Below, I’ve compiled a list of some favorites from Encinitas to Carlsbad:


Known for having picnic tables at every park but rarely a restroom. Park info found at: http://www.ci.encinitas.ca.us/Resident/

Cottonwood Creek Park: Super new park with a number of large tot lots, swings, climbing and water features. Very creative play to be had there in the sand and water (bring a change of clothes). Restrooms, benches. Encinitas Boulevard west, just before Vulcan.

Encinitas Viewpoint Park: Tot lot, no restrooms but the Encinitas Library, which is terrific for kids, is across the street. Address: Cornish Drive and D street. Take Encinitas Blvd toward ocean, left on Vulcan (street before Pacific Coast highway), left on D street, park is on the left at Cornish Drive.

Glen Park: 2149 Orinda Drive. THE Cardiff neighborhood park, but in the summer it gets invaded by a summer camp in the first part of the day. Play structure on sand, so sand toys are a plus. New structure geared towards five-year-olds and up, but fun for younger ones with help. Lots of space and a little grassy hill to run around, and have a lovely picnic with an ocean breeze. Restrooms, shade, and picnic tables will barbecue grills. 

Leucadia Oaks Park: New play equipment, benches, tables, basketball court, no restrooms. Take La Costa Avenue toward the ocean (west), right before Pacific Coast Highway, turn left on Vulcan, turn left on Sanford, park on left.

Mildred Macpherson Park: Large tot lot, tables, benches, view of trains and ocean, no restrooms. Address: 1045 South Vulcan. Take Encinitas Blvd towards the ocean, left on Vulcan (street before Pacific Coast Highway), park on left at I street.

Moonlight Beach Park: Brand new tot lot overlooking the ocean with shade. The beach is right there (a plus for some, not so for others), restrooms, outdoor showers, volleyball sand courts. There is construction on the beach but it all remains open. Take Encinitas Boulevard west to the ocean which ends at the park. Park on residential streets.

Orpheus Park: Large tot lot, benches, tables, great view of trains, no restroom. Address: 482 Orpheus Avenue. From El Camino Real, take Leucadia Blvd. west, as you travel across the freeway bridge, turn left after gas station onto Orpheus Avenue. The park is about 1 mile on the right. 


Known for having restrooms at all parks (except Hosp Grove) but few tables. Park information found at:http://www.ci.carlsbad.ca.us/parks/index.html

Aviara Community Park: The park includes picnic areas, a meeting space, a large tot lot, and a baseball/softball field. The 44-acre former agricultural site resides in the Aviara community and is surrounded by 10 acres of a natural coastal sage environment with rolling hills and panoramic views to the south and the east. The park is located at the intersection of Poinsettia Lane and Ambrosia Lane.

Calavera Hills Community Park: Fairly new tot lot equipment and four swings, but a bit crowded in the mornings since preschool uses playground. Restrooms, benches, and tables are available. 2997 Glasgow Drive (corner of east Carlsbad Village Drive and Glasgow Drive; next to community Center).

Cannon Park: Brand new tot lot equipment (pretty big stuff for under 2 crowd) with basket ball court, drinking fountain, great place to start/end exercise walk along beach boardwalk. Carlsbad Blvd. and Cannon Road near the Pacific Ocean.

Holiday Park: Heavily shaded park (a bit noisy) with tot lot and swings, tables, benches, restrooms. 3224 Eureka Place (next to 5 freeway at Chestnut and Pio Pico just south of Carlsbad Village Drive).

Hosp Grove Park: Older play equipment that kids love to climb, tire swing, and table but no restrooms. Use caution near ducks and geese - they are aggressive and tall and like to swarm kids if you try to feed them. Jefferson and Monroe (just east of 5 and south of 78, near Michaels/Olive Garden shopping center).

La Costa Canyon Park: Shaded park with two sets of tot equipment and swings, restrooms, benches, tables, and basketball court. Take La Costa Avenue east from El Camino, left on Quinta, right on Del Rey, and left on Pueblo, park is on right.

Stagecoach Park: One large set of tot equipment, a stagecoach for climbing, swings, restrooms, and benches. Address: 3420 Camino Del Los Coches (East of Rancho Santa Fe near Community Center and La Costa Canyon High School).

Allan Dodds November 16, 2012 at 05:25 PM
I was in Encinitas Viewpoint Park this morning. When the dogs are there. One was squatting and pooping in the kiddies sand pit. Lovely and surely way beyond 'health and safety' regs. I would argue the dog owners themselves (many are parents of young children) should be disgusted by this and should collectively petition the Encinitas Parks and Rec to fence the kiddies park. This is long overdue.
Lynn Marr November 16, 2012 at 09:09 PM
When I've been to various dog parks in Encinitas, I have found dog owners, by and large, to be responsible. In fact, we have "gotten after" those few who don't pick up after their pets, or who allow their pets in the kiddie areas. The vast majority of dog owners are responsible. It's a shame that an irresponsible few can blemish the reputation of the many who do care, who do clean up after our pets. In fact, when walking in my neighborhood, I often pick up after other dogs, as well, not a pleasant task, but one that is rewarding, in the long run.
makesnosense November 17, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Well said Lynn. The great majority of dog owners do police the dog parks and are responsible owners. My dogs know not to go in the play areas and I also have no problem picking up stray poop while walking my dogs. We do not need more fences in our parks.
RATSJ November 18, 2012 at 07:13 AM
Why don't your dogs poop and pee in your own yard? I've seen way too many dog walkers letting their dogs let loose anywhere they choose. Picture this scenario...what if we humans did like the dogs? Would someone stop to clean up the mess?
Lynn Marr November 23, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Some people who have dogs don't really have a yard. Most dog owners who walk their dogs do clean up after their pets. In fact, walking one's dog is a great way to encourage exercise for the owner and the pet! Dogs often prefer not to relieve themselves in their own space. Dogs have earned the description as "man's best friend" for a reason. They are shown to reduce stress, just by our relating with them, petting them, feeling responsible for them. They are a fact of life. We can be responsible for our own dogs, and encourage others to do the same. In Encinitas, the doggie bags formerly provided at the overlook at North El Portal has been empty for about 6 months, or more! People are much more willing to clean up after errant dog owners when free doggie bags are provided.


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