La Mesa had its beginnings as a citrus and cattle farming community at the turn of the 20th century. Over the years, La Mesa has maintained its small town feel at a population of approximately 56,000. With a centralized downtown business district that celebrates small businesses and pedestrian traffic, the area has a draw to those who enjoy parking the car and spending an afternoon exploring on foot. Less congested than North Park or a beach community, La Mesa shares some of the same eateries and shops that are beloved by San Diegans as well as several that are unique to this fine city. As a parent, I have an increasing fondness for communities like La Mesa as a destination to bring my child for these reasons.
Having relocated to the area in Spring 2018, La Mesa has become a newly discovered treasure for fun eateries, playgrounds, and places to explore with our child. We have found plenty to keep us entertained in this community just to the east of San Diego city limits.
5500 Grossmont Center Drive, La Mesa, CA 91942| (619) 465-2900
Opened in 1961, this shopping center boasts over 100 unique stores as well as major retailers like Target and Walmart, 20+ restaurants, and a multi-screen movie theatre.
We love to grab a bite to eat, browse the books at Barnes & Noble, and spend some time at The Playground.
There are so many extracurricular and engaging entertainment options for kids here in addition to The Playground: Chuck E Cheese, Ceramicafe, Dance Dayz Studio, SD Gymnastics, and the Model Train Display.
Grossmont Center hosts a Farmers Market on Wednesdays from 2:00-7:00PM, Story Time with Traveling Stories on Sundays from 1:00-3:00PM, and the Shop Local Market event, which occurs the last Saturday of every month.
Check their website in the link above for the schedule of events, and more information about their retail shops and various offerings.
9001 Wakarusa St
La Mesa, CA
This park was a fun find for us on a Saturday after running errands at nearby Grossmont Center. We love that it has hands on musical chime and pipe instruments that anyone can play! It also has a nice path for bike riding, walking, or riding a scooter. There is a sandbox, climbing structure, swing set, grass to play in, and areas to picnic. There are also bathrooms! There is no parking lot, but it is a residential area and I have never encountered an issue finding proximate street parking.
Lake Murray Community Park
7001 Murray Park Dr
San Diego, CA 92119
Situated on the west side of the lake, this playground is our current favorite in the La Mesa area. We love that there is a merry go round, paved path, several sides, two large play structures, swings, big rocks to climb on, and covered picnic areas. There is a parking lot, though street parking is abundant. There are no public bathrooms, only a single port-a-potty on this side of the lake. Access to the lake path, boat rentals, fishing and duck feeding is best accomplished from the La Mesa side park entrance at 5540 Kiowa Dr, La Mesa, CA.
Other great Parks in La Mesa:
Northmont Park – 6030 Severin Dr, La Mesa, CA 91942
Features turfed play area, play structures, volleyball court, barbecues, picnic area, restrooms. and walking path.
Aztec Park – 7945 Morocco Dr, La Mesa, CA 91942
There is a turfed play area, play structures, barbecues, restrooms, picnic area, plenty of trees for shade!
8179 Center St, La Mesa, CA 91942 | (619) 303-7837
We love this brewery. It has an expansive outdoor seating area with picnic style seating and both sunny and shaded areas. The brewery is kid-friendly until 7:00PM, but there is a nice 21+ seating area around back if patrons are looking for a kid-free zone! They are also dog friendly. There is a grill in the 21+ area, and guests are welcome to use it! Kids can stay entertained with the selection of games, such as Connect 4. Adults can play a game of Cornhole in the back section. Bolt allows outside food, though food trucks visit as well. There is live music on weekend evenings.
Helix Brewing Co
8101 Commercial St, La Mesa, CA 91942 | (619) 741-8447
I love the set up of Helix. There are 2 taprooms, and the path to enter them is nestled between the 2 brick buildings and opens into a large outdoor seating area shaded by trees where musicians perform live on the weekends. Helix Brewing is on the left, and Sourworx, its side project featuring delicious sour beers, is on the right. It’s typical to find a food truck right out front in case you need to fill your belly before you wet your whistle. There are board and lawn games available to entertain children and adults alike. They are also dog friendly! Check Helix Brewing Co’s website for their music and food schedule.
8141 La Mesa Blvd, La Mesa, CA 91942| (619) 724-6465
Bloody Marys, frittatas, and Benedicts, oh my! This place has an expansive – and delicious – array of brunch menu items, including a kids menu. Reservations aren’t available for brunch, so be sure to take that into account when planning your visit here!
BO-Beau Kitchen + Garden
8384 La Mesa Blvd, La Mesa, CA 91942| (619) 337-3445
Blackberry lavender mimosa, anyone? BO-Beau’s menu features quiche, flatbreads, frittata, and biscuits and gravy to name a few favorites. They also have a kids menu with breakfast or lunch options. Brunch is available Sundays from 10:30AM-1:30PM, so be sure to plan accordingly. There is indoor and patio seating as well as a small kids play area with a mini school bus to explore.
8555 Fletcher Parkway, La Mesa, CA 91942 | (619) 589-0071
Happy Hour: Mon-Tues – All day, Wed-Thurs 2:30-6:30PM, Fri-Sat 2:30-5:30PM, Sun 11:00AM-6:30PM
We love this spot for its expansive menu, great quality seafood, and fun ambiance. My daughter delights in their garlic edamame and chicken fried rice. The happy hour menu features drink specials, including $5 drafts and house wines. The food selection is pretty top notch too. Faves include the Cobe Beef Style Roll and the Baja Norte. We even enjoy hanging out here after our meal on the outdoor sofas around the stone fire pit!
4253 Palm Ave, La Mesa, CA 91941| (619) 461-4887
Happy Hour: Mon-Fri- 3-6PM
If craft beer and tasty food is what your palate craves for a happy hour outing, Craft Kitchen is your spot. Happy hour pints are $4 and there are great specials on appetizers. Have your kiddo in tow? Not a problem! There is a kids menu available for them too!
More great Happy Hour spots:
Coin Haus – 8361 Allison Ave, La Mesa, CA 91942
Happy Hour til 6pm, Tuesdays until 8pm
Free games, premium drinks $5 and select beers are $4.
The Hills – 8758 La Mesa Blvd, La Mesa, CA 91942
Happy Hour 2-5pm M-F, 10pm-12am Sun-Thurs
Brigantine – 9350 Fuerte Dr, La Mesa, CA 91941| (619) 398-2600
Happy Hour – Mon – All night; Tues-Sun – 3:30-6:30pm
5500 Grossmont Center Drive Ste 125, La Mesa, CA 91942| (619) 724-6350
We love this place on a hot day as a place to play that escapes the heat, on a rainy day to burn some energy, and in the winter when it is dark outside by 5pm and we still have playing to do! Open 7 days a week, a $16 admission gets your kids play time for the day. This means that you can let them jump on trampolines, build towers, and navigate the ball pit, then take them out to shop with you, have lunch, and then COME BACK under the previously paid admission. Pretty nice. There are comfy chairs for parents to sit back and relax in, but truth be told, I engaged in the playtime with my daughter the entire time. If you want to save a few bucks, entry drops to $13 on Mondays and Wednesdays. There is no charge for parents.
La Mesa Depot
4695 Nebo Drive, La Mesa, CA 91941| (619) 465-7776
Explore a bit of local history at this old train depot and check out La Mesa’s oldest building in its original form. The building is open on Saturdays from 1-4pm for free visitor viewing, but you can check out the train, which is on permanent display beside the depot building. Let your child climb up (carefully!) and have a look around the engine and explore how an old locomotive worked!
Beyond Pilates La Mesa
6195 Lake Murray Blvd, La Mesa, CA 91942 | (619) 872-2593
More than various levels of pilates classes, Beyond Pilates also offers spin, yoga, spinlates, barre, and dance for those that want more variety to their fitness routine. They offer morning classes on weekends, as classes as late as 7:30pm on weekdays. Check out their website for introductory offers on class pricing that are valid up to 30 days.
Move Fitness and Dance
8674 La Mesa Blvd, La Mesa, CA 91942 | (619) 363-3885
This place is great. Not only are a variety of classes offered for adults, (Zumba, Bodybarre, Piyo, cardio, and yoga to name a few!) but kids can come here for classes too for Zumba Kids, Toddler Music and Movement, Yoga, and Hip Hop/Funk. You can even take classes with your child: Family Yoga and Mom and Kiddo Zumba. Move also hosts workshops focused on nutrition, stretching, energy and healing. Check out their website to try your first class free!