Escondido, CA

Visitors Center: yes Escondido is a destination

Katherine Zimmer has been running the Escondido Visitor Center for four years, during which time she has been working to build up the idea of Escondido as a destination.

Katherine Zimmer is dedicated to promoting Escondido as a destination.

Yes, a destination. Escondido is not just a great place to live and operate a business, it’s a destination, with the California Center for the Arts, the Safari Park, dozens of top notch galleries, great restaurants, wonderful places for outdoors activities like hiking and fishing and, of course wineries.

“We are a destination, whether you think so or not,” says Zimmer, who has operated the city’s Visitor Center on Grand Avenue for four years. She also maintains the very useful visitor website:, where you will find an exhaustive compilation of things to do in the city.

There are over 1,600 events posted to the calendar every year in the Hidden Valley. “That’s a lot!” concludes Zimmer. “Everything is unique and eclectic. It’s different all the time, unlike, say, a coastal city where all the events are related to the beach.”

Zimmer came to her job from the Napa Valley in Northern California, where she was vice president of communications and marketing for the Napa Chamber of Commerce.

So, when she began her new job one thing that came naturally was promoting Escondido’s growing number of wineries, which recently reached 11.  There were four when she started. She published a wine and beer map right away (“Wine & Craft Beer Experiences”)—available from the Visitor Center— that can be used to make a tour of local tasting rooms.

“We’re starting to get great attention to our wineries,” she says. “The whole wine industry in San Diego is experiencing an awakening that is an awesome process to watch. Visiting these local wineries is still a unique experience where you can actually meet and talk to the wine maker.”

Zimmer started with a winery guide and then added one for Escondido restaurants, which is actually part of the “Historic Downtown Escondido” brochure, which also includes shops, arts, theater and fun things to do. It includes a very handy map that shows just how the city’s center is blossoming with an incredible variety of dining experiences.

Almost from the moment she came on board,  Zimmer got the idea for joining forces with Visit California to start “Dine Out Escondido” Restaurant Week, during the last week in January. That’s when residents are encouraged to postpone for a few days those New Year’s resolutions about losing weight, and to dive into some of the “diverse culinary experiences” Escondido offers.

“We leverage California Restaurant Month through our partnership with Visit California that has developed into a great relationship,” she says.

“We have everything from Lourdes to the Wooden Spoon, to Vintana, where you have a high-profile chef like Deborah Scott—the range between is pretty amazing!”

The Visitor Center is getting 2,000 people a year walking through the door, says Katherine Zimmer, who runs the center.

The next component to be added was the arts. Zimmer brought together MAGEC (Museums and Arts Growing Escondido Culture) group which meets monthly and which has its own page on the Visit Escondido website. This group revived the old 2nd Saturday Art Walk and expanded it to be 2nd Saturday Escondido Arts & Culture, and to include within its umbrella a larger expanse of the city, including nighttime activities. You can pick your time of day and—say in the early part of the day— visit the Escondido History Center or the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum. In the evening you can add galleries, such as the Escondido Art Association: Artists Gallery and visit venues that are open late—such as Distinction Gallery, the Arts Partnership & ArtHatch Studios and the Art Tradition Gallery.

There are activities listed for all ages.

In May, MAGEC had a section in the Spring Grand Ave Festival that was devoted to local art. MAGEC plans to expand it in the next street fair in October. “I’d like to call it the MAGEC local arts area. The purpose is to get everyone talking to promote Escondido arts,” she says.

Will there be a fourth component?  “The fourth one might be outdoor adventures,” muses Zimmer. “That’s a huge market. One of the biggest hits on the city’s website is our lakes. We are kind of the hub for North County outdoors activities.”

Zimmer will be one of five judges for the Escondido’s Got Talent show being sponsored by Escondido Shines and Patio Playhouse. The auditions are July 21, 6-8 p.m. and the talent show will be August 14, 6-7:30 p.m. at the stage at Kit Carson Park. The show is open to all ages and includes any kind of talent. The only requirement is that for groups that half of them must live or work in Escondido. It is open to both amateurs and professionals, but remember that there will be no pay involved.

You can register by emailing or by visiting

About 2,000 people a year walk through the Visitor Center door. “I love talking to visitors who come in. Last year they came from forty-two states and 16 countries,” says Zimmer. If she has her way, that number will probably jump to 43 states very soon.

The Escondido Visitor Center is located at  235 E Grand Ave.

You can reach the Visitor Center by calling 760-839-4777. Follow or like them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They recently reached 5,500 likes on Facebook.

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