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East County

For mountain hiking, Las-Vegas style gaming, shopping and more, East County’s the place. The foothills and canyons provide a scenic backdrop for outdoor enthusiasts.

For a small-town delight, stop in La Mesa and stroll through a farmers market. Or pick up gifts at two area shopping malls, Parkway Plaza and Grossmont Center. The latter is home to Casa de Pico, a festive Mexican restaurant serving famous enchiladas, warm handmade tortillas and giant birdbath margaritas.

In El Cajon, discover North American artifacts at the Heritage of Americas Museum or watch planes take off and land at Gillespie Field, a county-owned airport that is home to an annual air show and the San Diego Air & Space Museum’s extended collection of military aircraft.

Also don’t miss the Santa Ysabel Store & Backcountry Visitor Center in Santa Ysabel, an iconic landmark dating from 1884, or The Warner-Carrillo Ranch House in Warner Springs, which served as a Butterfield Stage Stop and was California's first regular overland stage connection with St. Louis.

Spending time with the kids? Swing over to FUNBelievable Play, an award-winning indoor play and party arena for children in Lakeside. Or take them to Alpine, home of the Lions, Tigers & Bears sanctuary. The nonprofit provides a safe haven for unwanted and abused big cats and other exotic animals like brown and black wild bears. Also enjoy a day trip or weekend in the historic gold-mining town of Julian, offering camping, horseback-riding and famous apple pie.