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Thirty miles northeast of downtown San Diego, surrounded by vineyards, avocado and citrus groves, and even wild animals is Escondido, the county�s fourth-largest city. Agriculture and tourism are key industries in this bedroom community, home of the Wild Animal Park, featuring world animals in open habitat, where they can roam, graze, and even fly.
In recent years Escondido was named by Money Magazine as the Best Place in the West in which to retire and, at the other end of the spectrum, was named a Kid-Friendly City for its broad range of youth programs. Ladies Home Journal also ranked Escondido number eight among the Top Ten Cities for Government.
Downtown Escondido (centered on Grand Avenue) has undergone a renaissance in the past few years. Numerous fine restaurants, cafes, and galleries have opened downtown, and most are open every Friday night from April through September during the popular "Cruisin' Grand," where the public can view hot rods and historic cars.
In addition to the many art galleries on Grand, a branch of the Mingei Museum has opened recently, with handcrafts from around the world. Just off Grand are Grape Day Park and the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, featuring two theaters for live performances, a visual arts museum, an educational complex, and a conference center. The Escondido Children's Museum is located in Studio One at the Center for the Arts; the Escondido History Center, located in Grape Day Park, features the city's original Santa Fe Depot, first library, Victorian house, barn, and blacksmith shop.
Plenty of outdoor activities are available in Escondido. There are three large lakes within city perimeters: In the north is Dixon Lake, well-known for fishing and boating. Lake Wohlford is southeast of Dixon and also has boating and fishing. Lake Hodges is south of town and is the easiest to reach, as it is transversed by I-15. Parks are plentiful, with plenty of sports fields for the many children throughout, even an arboretum. An outdoor skate park, soccer park and a new city preserve for biking, hiking, and horseback riding, encourage further outdoor activity.
Escondido real estate is as diverse as its landscape, with plenty of single-family homes, mobile homes, vacation homes and condos. Real estate prices are more moderate here than in coastal communities. Median home prices are currently hovering at the $550,000-mark, with condos starting in the high $100,000s and single-family homes from just under $300,000, to a high of $7.4 million. Many homes are on hillsides and mesas, with views of higher mountains to the east.