Recently PCS’d to Camp Pendleton? 5 Things To Do Right Now!

Did you just hit the military jackpot and receive orders to sunny North County San Diego? Or maybe you aren’t jumping for joy because you’ve heard housing and cost of living is astronomical in that area? Whether you can’t wait to live in flip-flops for 3 years or are nervous about the strain on your wallet, here are my top 5 things you can do right now. Seriously. Even if you’re still in temporary housing, you can at least get a start on this list:

  1. Legoland: This is the biggie. Families come from all over the country, maybe even the world, to see everything MADE OF LEGOS in your backyard. Head over to ITT on base and purchase the Merlin Annual Pass. This is the best deal around. It will pay for itself in 2 visits and includes parking, dining and retail discounts, access to adjacent Sea Life Park and the Legoland Water Park. If you have children ages 2-12 (even teens like the water park), this will become your go-to spot for entertainment and you will frequent it as often as a local playground. Trust me. Skip summer and winter school breaks when you’ll fight crowds. Insider tip: Ninjago World’s Ninja Kitchen makes an incredible Banh Mi sandwich if you’re looking for an upgrade from standard theme park food.

  1. Beaches: This is where you get some return on the sky-high cost of living. North County San Diego beaches are pristine, uncrowded (for the most part) and offer seasonal lifeguard stations for safety. While the entire stretch of North County coastline is incredible and public access points are numerous, there are a few that standout if you are interested in an actual parking lot and restroom facility: Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, Ponto and Tamarack beaches in Carlsbad and Oceanside Beach, which you can’t miss near the outstretched pier (pictured above). On Camp Pendleton itself, Del Mar Beach is a must-visit and includes cabins, clean bathrooms, picnic areas, playground and RV sites. Insider tip: If you have a child aged 9-14, enroll them in the State of California’s Junior Lifeguard program during the summer. It’s phenomenal and offered at many of the beaches listed above.



  1. Explore Camp Pendleton: Did you know that right at your doorstep you have access to more recreational activities than you’ll have time for? Pendleton Paintball Park is well-known around the area and Marine Memorial Golf Course offers 18 holes but the 9-hole par 3 is where it’s at: $5 for adults and free for dependent kids, so the perfect spot to get some swings in with your youngster. Lake O’Neill offers fishing and boating (supplies can be purchased or rented at the camp store next to the lake), miniature golf, campsites, picnic areas and a playground. Leatherneck Lanes is the base bowling alley and features excellent food and service from the in-house grill. Pizza while you bowl? Absolutely! Numerous parks, playgrounds and ball fields dot the base, so there is plenty of grass to run around on with your kids and throw a ball if you need to expend some energy during house hunting (or so I’ve heard). The base movie theater has been undergoing renovations for years, but, when open, is an affordable way to see the latest flicks. Insider tip: 13 Area Pool is awesome…when it’s open. While the year-round pool weather in San Diego would make you assume it’s always open, think again. Hours are seasonal and even in the summer, hours are severely limited. Do yourself a favor and check the schedule before packing the kids up for a day spent poolside.


  1. Find Your Taco Shop: Congratulations, you’ve arrived at the land of taco trucks! Now, find your favorite. No, seriously, any out-of-town guests will assume you have a go-to place for Mexican food since options abound in North County San Diego. However, opinions will vary greatly, so make it your mission to find your local favorite. Try a different one each week until you find that perfect taco. Some places to start: Senor Grubby’s, Roberto’s, Miramar Fish Tacos & Beer, Los Tacos and our family’s current front runner: Valerie’s Taco Shop. Insider Tip: For a rollicking good time, don’t miss Rockin’ Baja Lobster Coastal Cantina in Oceanside Harbor. The fish tacos are out of this world and the self-serve salsa bar means you really can have it your way.



  1. Donate Your Rain Jacket: You mean it doesn’t rain here? Ever? Oh, it does, a little, but you won’t need your jacket. Even a passing shower can cause a change in plans. North County is simply not set up to accommodate rainy weather. Many outdoor activities do not have a back-up plan for rain, so events are simply canceled and rescheduled. Better get used to staying home, hunkering down with some soup, despite the 70-degree weather, and wait it out. Don’t worry, the rain will pass shortly, and you can once again don your flip-flops and sunglasses. Insider Tip: If your kids play outdoor sports, same rule applies. A rain shower or sprinkle? Practice will be canceled. Because who can be expected to play soccer in the rain?

This is simply a list to get you started. Venturing further south to San Diego, you’ll hit Sea World, Seaport Village, Balboa Park, Pt. Loma and Coronado. Traveling north will take you to Orange County, home to Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland. North County is truly a special place with unlimited options for experiencing the outdoors. Welcome!






  1. Jen on July 17, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    Great post! We loved Camp Pendleton and hope to end up there again eventually. We never made it to Legoland (we don’t have kids, and I’ve heard it’s really more of a kid place) but we got annual passes to Disneyland and went up there all the time! And we don’t have a favorite taco shop, per se, but are obsessed with the burritos from Alejandro’s in Carlsbad! My husband loves the California burrito.

  2. Kara Ludlow on July 17, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    Jen, Alejandro’s, yes! So good. You made the right choice in picking Disneyland over Legoland if you don’t have kids. I love Disney, too, but haven’t made the leap to the annual pass yet. So much to do around North County, glad you enjoyed it here too.