17 Fun Things to Do in Oceanside - Go Travel California (2024)

Southern California is home to so many picturesque beach towns, but one that we love a bit more than the others is the tranquil city of Oceanside.

This coastal haven boasts sun-soaked shores, leisurely beach activities, and a bustling downtown area. There are countless attractions such as museums, the quaint harbor village, and the historic Mission San Luis Rey de Francia to keep you busy, along with tons of great dining options and places to stay with oceanviews.

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Planning your trip to Oceanside?

Where to Stay in Oceanside:

  1. Mission Pacific Hotel (4.5-star luxury, amazing location)
  2. The Seabird Resort (4-star family-friendly hotel with poolside bar, and terrace)
  3. SpringHill Suites by Marriott(3.5-star hotel with free breakfast, 2 min to pier)

Best Tours and Experiences in Oceanside:

  1. Dolphin & Whale Watching (1.5 hr ride to see dolphins, sea lions, and whales)
  2. Mission San Luis Rey Museum Admission (National Historic Landmark founded in 1798)

To help you make the most of your visit, we’ve compiled a list of things to do in Oceanside. Whether you’re savoring a delicious meal at one of the many local eateries or embarking on a water-based activity, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy your time in Oceanside.

Our Recommended Oceanside Hotel

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Seabird Resort
✔️ Beach view
✔️ Perfect location

Table of Contents

How to Get to Oceanside

Situated approximately 40 miles north of San Diego and 85 miles south of Los Angeles, Oceanside is nestled right along the Pacific Coast, making it an ideal side trip when you’re visiting those metro areas.

The closest major airports are San Diego International Airport (SAN) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). From either airport, you can rent a car and enjoy a scenic drive along the coastline or opt for public transportation options like Amtrak or the COASTER commuter train.

The Amtrak Pacific Surfliner is a great way to go because it’s clean and comfortable and takes you directly to the Oceanside Transit Center, which is located in the heart of the city.

If you prefer driving, Oceanside is right off I-5, which runs along the California coast. If you’re doing a road trip from San Francisco to San Diego – or any piece of that trip – you’ll drive right past it.

What to Do in Oceanside

1. Head Down to the Oceanside Pier

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Ever since the city built its first pier back in 1888, it has been a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike.

Sadly, the original pier was destroyed and replaced at least three times due to storms and strong waves. The current pier opened to the public in 1987 with a total length of 1,954 feet (596 m)!

At the pier, you can simply enjoy the beautiful scenery and the exotic birds swooping around you. Plus, you can enjoy a picnic with your family in one of the picnic areas under the shade.

However, if you’re looking for something more fun, this is considered a favored spot among fishers as the water has a wide variety of fish to catch.

2.Visit Tyson Street Beach

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The first stop on our list is Tyson Street Beach, or Tyson Street Park. At this beach, you can enjoy all your regular water activities, like swimming or kayaking, or sitting back and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Moreover, you can enjoy the vibrant green grass of the nearby park and the scattered palm trees.

Tyson Street Beach is an excellent spot for families, as you can enjoy the playgrounds for the kids and the picnic tables for delicious meals.

One thing you need to keep in mind, though, is that this beach doesn’t allow dogs or any kind of camping.

3.Stroll Through Harbor Village

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Over 50 years ago, the people of Oceanside voted in to approve the development of the Harbor district. And as time went on, the area became one of the most popular attractions in Oceanside.

The village offers visitors an array of activities, such as walking through the old shops and restaurants, where you can enjoy the New England-style architecture.

You could also enjoy the scenery and watch all the boats come and go from their berths or head down by yourself to enjoy a bit of fishing.

While there, don’t forget to head down to the Oceanside Lighthouse to get a glimpse of the 60-year-old historic lighthouse. Just keep in mind that the Harbor area is a bit of a walk away from downtown. You can catch an Uber if it’s too far to walk.

4. Explore Surf Culture at the Surf Museum

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California is known for many things, such as the golden gate bridge, Disneyland, and, most importantly, surf culture!

Surfers have been going to California beaches since the beginning of the 20th century, and now, there’s an entire museum dedicated to this fantastic sport.

So, whether you’re an avid surfer or admire the sport, you’ll want to visit this museum. Over there, you’ll find multiple artifacts, exhibitions, and more, telling you the story and history behind this sport.

Moreover, the museum doesn’t aim to tell the sport’s history only; it has a mission to cater as a resource center for those who want to learn about the sport, its culture, living style, and how it affected pop culture.

Essentially, it mixes the past, present, and future of surfing culture in one place. By doing this, the museum hopes to preserve and promote the sport for future generations.

5.Get co*cktails at Pacific Coast Spirits

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One of our favorite things to do in Oceanside is visit Pacific Coast Spirits. It’s a short walk from downtown and is the perfect place for an afternoon co*cktail. They have both a huge indoor restaurant and a spacious outdoor patio, to suit whatever mood you’re in.

My personal recommendation is to go on a weekday when they’re less busy and sit at the bar so you can talk to the bartender and get specialized service.

Pacific CoastSpirits is Oceanside’s award winning grain-to-glassdistillery. It was ranked in the Top 100 American Whiskeys of 2022. You can even try all of their whiskeys in a flight. Or do like I do and get one of their creative co*cktails, like the Good Morning, Cowboy that has a fun surprise garnish.

Their restaurant is great too. The menu represents the bounty that can be found along the majestic Pacific Coast, from the mountains of the Eastern Sierras to the coast of California down to Baja.

6.Farmer’s Market

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If you want to experience Oceanside’s local culture and traditions, as well as agricultural and artisans’ products, then you must visit the farmer’s markets.

There, you’ll find many of the city’s locals selling fresh produce, flowers, baked goods, and various other products.

You’ll get to interact with them, see how they run their business, and understand more about the local community. You’ll also find many hand-made items like jewelry, clothes, and skin products made with natural ingredients.

This is also an excellent spot for an eco-friendly tourist who wants to support local farmers and reduce their carbon footprint. The farmer’s market in Oceanside is held downtown every Thursday from 9 AM–1 PM, as long as the weather is good.

7.Mission San Luis Rey

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During the 16th to 19th centuries, the Spanish empire was at its peak, sending out missionaries and building missions to spread Christianity to its people.

Among those missions is the Mission San Luis Rey, also known as the King of Missions, built in 1798 in Oceanside, CA.

This building underwent many changes as it started as a mission, then turned into a military post, and now it serves as a home to the Franciscan Friars.

A visit to the Mission San Luis Rey is a must for spiritual or avid history lovers. Just from the building’s façade, you’ll get to enjoy the unique architectural design of the past centuries.

Moreover, inside the mission, you’ll find a museum with many artifacts, hand-painted murals, and hand-carved wooden doors. The place also offers a spiritual retreat for those looking to reflect on their lives and spirituality.

8.Buccaneer Beach

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If you want a beach that offers almost the same experience as Tyson Street Beach but without the crowds and the cars, then Buccaneer Beach is the place for you.

Buccaneer Beach is the smallest beach on Oceanside, where you can enjoy the ocean’s view and scenery in peace.

Over there, you’ll find a basketball court, large pavilions, and a children’s playground, making it the perfect spot for families. Of course, you can also enjoy a dip in the waters if the weather’s good.

However, if you’re considering surfing, look for the checkered flags, as some spots on the beach are closed off to surfers as a precautionary measure.

9. Shop Local

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While visiting the farmers’ market can help you better understand the city’s community, it’s only around one day weekly and for just a couple of hours. Hence, if your schedule doesn’t allow it, you’ll simply miss it.

The only way to counter this is by visiting the local shops and purchasing their products. But where should you go? Well, there are many options in Oceanside, so we’ll give you some of the best places to visit.

For starters, there’s Carrillo Pottery, where you can discover some of the best eclectic selections of pottery and home decor—local artists even make some! Another stop to visit is Fine, an art, culture, and lifestyle store.

Next, we have Plantology, a quirky café where you can buy coffee while a garden of succulents, cacti, and other plants surrounds you.

Lastly, there’s Tremont Collective, a warehouse turned mini-mall where you can find anything from clothing to food.

10. Living Tea Kombucha

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While many cities had wineries you can visit for wine tasting, Oceanside takes it in a whole other direction with kombucha brewing!

With neon murals and a funky vibe, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a different world when you visit the Living Tea Kombucha.

It’s basically a hot spot for vegan tourists and locals where you can enjoy some kombucha tea, vegan food, and ice cream—all hand-made, of course. We tried four different flavors of kombucha and liked them all.

11. Oceanside Museum of Art

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No trip is actually complete without a visit to a museum! Also, If you’re into art, then the Oceanside Museum of Art (OMA) is the destination.

This museum opened its doors back in 1997 and has provided the public with extraordinary exhibitions ever since.

Inside the museum, you’ll find unique paintings, sculptures, light installations, and all kinds of artwork that’ll surely leave you speechless. Moreover, you can attend films, concerts, and fundraising events there.

The museum aims to preserve the local arts and culture by showcasing the work of local artists and providing a venue for the community to come together.

12.Catch the Sunset From the Rooftop Bar

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After a long day of exploring the city, you can enjoy a nice drink at the Rooftop Bar in Mission Pacific Hotel. The bar offers a great view of the city with a lounge seating area, a pool deck, and amazing music.

They have all kinds of drinks and some food to enjoy while you’re up there. Just grab a seat anywhere you like and order from the servers. We had some tiki-type co*cktails that were tasty.

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What’s even better, you don’t have to be a hotel guest to go to the rooftop bar. You can’t take advantage of the amenities, like the pool, but you can enjoy the view.

It does get pretty busy up there at certain time, so if you want to ensure you get a spot I’d call ahead.

13.Check Out the Street Murals

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As you walk through Oceanside, make sure you head to these streets to enjoy a different art form. Street murals are large-scale artworks that cover buildings’ sides or other surfaces.

In their own way, murals are like the people of Oceanside; it shows their character, how they view beauty, and how they represent themselves.

Each mural is unique and tells a story; some are a bit dark, while others are bright and colorful. Hence, if you want to look deeper at the city and its personality, watch how its locals build their own identity through the street murals.

14. Visit the Sunset Market

Sunset market is very similar to the farmer’s market, except it has some added bonus!

The sunset market is more of an event than a market that happens every Thursday. It offers locals and tourists a chance to enjoy food, various products, and live events!

Throughout the year, the market holds an international food court event, public safety night, author’s night, world marketplace, and so much more.

This festival-style atmosphere is perfect for those who want to experience a little bit of everything and have fun at the same time.

15.Rent a Bike From Wheel Fun Rental

Can you guess what the best way to explore a city is? That’s right; it’s by using your own two feet with the help of wheels! The Wheel Fun Rentals by the Oceanside pier offers you all kinds of bikes to navigate the city.

They have standup paddleboards, electric, surrey, tandem, and two-wheel bikes! Moreover, you don’t need to place any reservations to get your bike. Just head down to the rental and take your pick.

Lastly, they offer you a free helmet, lock, map, and bag with every rental you make to guarantee a safe and enjoyable ride through Oceanside.

16. Enjoy Pizza and Beer at Breakwater Brewing

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There’s a reason why pizza and beer are such a popular combination. The spices and flavors of your pizza contrast and complement the bitterness of the beer.

With that in mind, Breakwater’s owners opened their restaurant and set up a brewery in the back! They serve up some of the most delicious Oceanside food, along with 18 uniquely crafted beers.

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Plus, because they care more about their customer’s needs than their profit, Breakwater also offers around 20 or more beers from different competitors.

Inside the restaurant are video games and pinball machines that you can enjoy with friends after your meal.

17.Eat!

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Finally, it’s time to look at the restaurants! I’m always amazed at how many great restaurants there are in Oceanside. It’s not one of those beach towns where you can’t find any good food because it’s too touristy. If anything, there are too many choices. I’ve been there a number of times and still haven’t tried everywhere I want.

Here are a few of our most favorite places to eat in Oceanside.

  • Harbor Fish & Chips. It’s a fifty-year-old family-owned restaurant where you can order soups, salads, sandwiches, and specialties.
  • The Lab Collaborative – This is a great place to go when it’s nice outside – sit on the terrace and order great co*cktails and inventive food.
  • That Boy Good BBQ joint! They offer you mouth-watering southern flavors of chicken, ribs, brisket, and more!
  • Craft Coast Beer & Tacos – Ahh-mazing tacos and beer. You have to try the Birria tacos.
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  • Flying Pig Pub & Kitchen restaurant, which takes special care to deliver you the best meal made with the freshest ingredients!
  • Swami’s Cafe – There is always a huge line here for breakfast, but it moves fast and it’s worth it. You can order so many great things from the menu, then find a seat and enjoy. We loved the benedict and breakfast hash.
  • Toasted Gastrobrunch – I wouldn’t suggest going on a Monday morning – it’s always super busy – but otherwise this is one of the best breakfasts in town.

Why Visit Oceanside

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There are numerous reasons to visit Oceanside, a charming beach town with a relaxed atmosphere, beautiful coastline, and an array of attractions catering to various interests.

Here are some compelling reasons to plan a visit:

Scenic beaches: Oceanside boasts over three miles of picturesque sandy beaches, providing ample opportunities for sunbathing, swimming, surfing, or simply enjoying leisurely strolls along the shoreline. The iconic Oceanside Pier, one of the longest wooden piers on the West Coast, is a popular spot for fishing and enjoying spectacular sunsets.

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Outdoor activities: The city’s year-round mild climate makes it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts. You can indulge in activities like kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, and whale watching in the harbor or explore the nearby nature trails and parks, such as Guajome County Park and the San Luis Rey River Trail.

Rich history and cultural attractions: Oceanside is home to the historic Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, a stunning 18th-century Spanish mission that offers a glimpse into California’s past. The California Surf Museum and Oceanside Museum of Art further enrich the city’s cultural scene, showcasing the region’s artistic and surfing heritage.

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Vibrant dining scene: Oceanside’s culinary landscape is diverse, with numerous farm-to-table restaurants like The Lab Collaborative, craft breweries like Breakwater Brewing, and even a distillery (Pacific Coast Spirits), ensuring a memorable gastronomic experience. The city’s proximity to the ocean also means that fresh seafood is readily available in local eateries.

Family-friendly attractions: Families visiting Oceanside can enjoy the nearby LEGOLAND California Resort, SEA LIFE Aquarium, and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which are just a short drive away, providing fun-filled experiences for all ages.

Proximity to other attractions: Oceanside’s location makes it an excellent base for exploring other Southern California attractions, such as San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange County, with their respective theme parks, museums, and landmarks.

Final Words

So, what did you think of our list of things to do in Oceanside, CA? We hope that you liked it!

To give you a short recap, make sure you head down to Tyson Street or Buccaneer Beach for a lovely dip in the ocean.

If you’re more interested in arts and culture, then head to the Oceanside Museum of Art, Surf Museum, and Mission San Luis Rey.

You can also check out the street murals and weekly markets to explore Oceanside’s vibrant culture. After that, you can enjoy some shopping and a good meal!

» Looking for more inspiration along the route? Check out all our guides to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Diego. Find the best beaches in Monterey, waterfalls in Southern California, and national parks.

Travel Planning Guide

🚙💨Where should I book my rental car?

Renting a car is one of the best ways to get around in California, no matter where you’re visiting. Public transportation can only get your so far, even in big cities. I always rent withDiscover Cars, which checks the prices of all major rental car companies, so you get the best rates.

🛌What’s the best way to book my accommodations?

For hotels and vacation rentals,Booking.com or Expedia.comare the best sites, but you can also book through TripAdvisor. If you’re considering renting a house instead, don’t forget to also checkVRBO, which is often cheaper than Airbnb.

🧳What do I pack for California?

Head to theour California Packing List or Disneyland Packing Listto get all the info on packing.

✈️What’s the best site to buy flights to California?

For finding cheap California flights from around the world, I recommendSkyscanner. I’ve also had pretty good luck with Kayak.com.

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Laura

Laura is a travel fanatic who loves seeing and doing new things. She lives in Ventura, CA, and spends a lot of time exploring California’s cities, beaches, and national parks.

17 Fun Things to Do in Oceanside

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