The stylish, small beach community of Solana Beach covers 3.5 square miles, with Cardiff-by-the-Sea to the south and Del Mar to the north (and five beaches in between). This area encompasses a mosaic of public art, taking visitors and their pets on a tour filled with awesome surfing beaches, stunning sculptures, and a noticeable lack of chain stores, sprinkled with creatively motivated, health-conscious cafes.
Incorporated in 1986, Solana Beach is a mélange of airiness and art in all the right places. A dot on the map in northern San Diego County, this historic beach town cannot fail to entice. Packing a stunning array of art into a compact space takes some time to explore; some people miss it completely if they’re zipping along Highway 101 by car: don’t be among those in a hurry! One block east across Pacific Coast Highway on Cedros Avenue is an eclectic array of art galleries, boutiques and restaurants lining both sides, with many shops sporting a large bowl of water for canine visitors. My perennial favorite is the petfriendly and fashionable Muttropolis, a chic “must visit” pet boutique with irresistible gifts, gadgets and designer inspired pet fashions. Mutttropolis is fronted by a welcoming grass park, a prelude to a lavish display of canine fashions, comfortable beds, and leashes in all sizes and styles, color coordinated and styled exclusively for dogs from Chihuahuas to Chow Chows.
Sonny and Vito Rosato, our two-brother Maltese duet, began our Solana Beach day trip arriving at Alfonso’s of La Jolla on Hwy 101 (aka Pacific Coast Hwy). Before you could say “dog menu,” they made their way to their favorite table on Alfonso’s dog-friendly patio. Their usual bark of approval was heard as the server placed a bowl of cool water by the table. Alfonso’s of La Jolla is a family-owned restaurant with a legendary dog-friendly reputation that relocated to Solana Beach from La Jolla in 2015. After a great meal, we were off to Fletcher Cove Beach Park, a picturesque haven for surfers, joggers and any time of day, pets. The dog-friendly pet area is custom-made for pets, though the actual beach is off limits to animals. (See the sidebar on page 86 for the beaches that do allow dogs on the sand.)
COURTESY SOLANA BEACH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
An adjacent park perched by the cliff welcomes visitors with walkways, benches, and most of all panoramic views of the surf. Colorful mosaics donated by the community are everywhere, providing a perfect place topose with your pet. From this vantage point, the Pacific Ocean is in full view. Many visitors arrive at Solana Beach by train. The Amtrak station on Cedros Avenue offers free parking—look for the arched Cedros Avenue Design District sign. A few steps from the station, you can dine at Claire’s on Cedros (246 N. Cedros Ave), a bakery and café serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Take time to savor their roasted broccoli omelet or French toast (it’s actually brioche bread) baked on the premises. The menu changes daily, so check the chalkboard, but you can always count on daily fresh-baked pastries.
PHOTOS COURTESY SOLANA BEACH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
You’ll love the well-placed pedestrian bridges connecting Highway 101 to the Cedros Design District, now known for over 85 distinctive art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and more. Give yourself time to visit the art galleries, such as Aaron Chang Ocean Art Galleries; La Femme Chic, a classy consignment boutique; and, for those who take olive oil seriously, the inimitable Temecula Olive Oil Company. Amidst this mélange of art and cuisine is the David Alan Collection, where rare petrified wood, miraculous wood carvings, and monastic sculpture from Asia, Indonesia, and unpronounceable islands scattered in remote regions are fashioned into furnishings, from coffee tables to table tops. In one case, a carved golfer is swinging a five iron! If you can tear yourself away, reserve at least an hour to explore the unrivaled Leaping Lotus, a gallery on Cedros, where a grand marble staircase leads to a “secret” second level, boasting countless suspended mobiles of fluttering butterflies in all colors and sizes, seemingly in mid-air.
While meandering along Solana Beach Coastal Rail Trail, expect the unexpected. Every Sunday, from 1 PM to 5 PM, the Farmers Market at the South end of Cedros Avenue displays an array of local produce, pastries, crafts and chocolates. The expansive view of the Pacific Ocean reveals sculptures, pocket parks, and bridges every step of the way. And any time, when you’re ready for a Mason jar filled with refreshing lavender iced tea or similar beach-inspired drinks, stroll down Cedros to Lofty Coffee, in the heart of Solana Beach’s Design District, where pets are welcome on their patio, with free WiFi to boot.
Behind Lofty Coffee is Mabel’s Clothing & Gifts (for women, babies and moms-to-be), where Sonny and Vito discovered Tiffany, the shop’s resident personable teacup Chihuahua (just 1-½ pounds!). Mabel’s has been a Solana Beach favorite for more than twenty years, with the owner’s family portraits on display. Tiffany’s owner told us she was a rescue who is now six years old and loves to hang out behind the counter or mingle with old and new customers. It seems like dogs are treated like first-class citizens in Solana Beach—should it be any other way?
Stop by the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce adjacent to Fletcher Cove Park to get the latest news on local events happening at this tight-knit coastal community such as their Fiesta del Sol, May 19 and 20, 2018, taking place on the streets surrounding Fletcher Cove Beach Park.
For more information, contact the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce, 210 West Plaza Street, Solana Beach (858) 755 4775.
Dogs on the Beach Regulations
The City of Solana Beach City Council adopted new regulations that allow dogs on-leash in limited areas of the beach, as of 2014.
■ Dogs are allowed on-leash year round north of the Tide Park Beach (Tabletops) stairway access (located at the intersection of Pacific Avenue and Solana Vista Drive) to Cardiff State Beach and south of the Del Mar Shores Beach (Rock Pile) stairway access (located at 180 Del Mar Shores Terrace) to Del Mar.
■ Dogs are NOT permitted on the beach or access at Fletcher Cove or Seascape Surf at any time of day year-round.
■ Dogs must be on a maximum 6-foot leash at all times.
■ Owners must pick up after their dogs at all times.
Fines of up to $1,000 were also adopted as part of the new ordinance, and owners are highly encouraged to know the rules prior to heading down to the beach. For more information, contact the Marine Safety Department at 858-720-4444.
San Diego Area Dog Parks
24 hours a day at:
Nate’s Point – Balboa Drive at El Prado, south side of Cabrillo Bridge.
Morley Field northwest of tennis courts.
Cadman Community Park
Cadman Park located at 4280 Avati Drive in Clairemont. For hours and boundary information, please visit our Cadman Park Leash Free page.
Located at the corner of Felspar Street and Soledad Mountain Road in Pacific Beach, this 1-acre park offers two fenced pens: one for small dogs and one for large or all dogs, areas to provide water for dogs, a drinking fountain, picnic tables and benches, and a parking area. It is open 24 hours.
Charles L Lewis III Mem. Park
Located at 4750 Home Ave. In City Heights, this linear park has a .5-acre single pen off-leash dog park located on the northern end of the park.
Located in Ocean Beach at the foot of Voltaire Street, this site offers 24 hour access to the beach and ocean.
Doyle Community Park
Located at 8175 Regents Road in University City, this park is situated behind Doyle Recreation Center and offers two fenced turfed areas, one for small dogs and one for large or all dogs. It is open 24 hours however it is not lighted.
Dusty Rhodes Neighborhood Park
Located on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, between Nimitz and West Point Loma, in Ocean Beach; this 1-acre park offers one area for all dogs.
Located in Mission Bay Park, Fiesta Island offers a 5.2-mile asphalt path around the island for dogs walkers. Hours are from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Grape Street Park
Located at Grape and 28th streets in South Park, this site is unfenced and is available for off-leash use during the following designated days and times: Posted leash free hours, Mon. thru Fri., 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sat., Sun., and holidays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Kearny Mesa Community Park
Located at 3170 Armstrong St. in Kearny Mesa, this 1-acre park near the Kearny Mesa Recreation Center offers one area for all dogs. Lighted. Hours are from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. There is a water station for dogs and fountains for people.
Maddox Neighborhood Park
Located at 7815 Flanders St. in Mira Mesa, this .65-acre park offers one turfed area with a walkway and drinking fountain.
Located at 8820 Judicial Drive in University City, just east of the North University Community Branch Library building, Nobel Park offers adjacent parking and separate sections for large and small dogs.
Rancho Bernardo Park
Located at 18448 West Bernardo Drive, this 2.66-acre park offers leash-free space adjacent to Rancho Bernardo Community Park.
Rancho Peñasquitos Park
Located on Salmon River Road at Fairgrove Lane. 1-acre park offers two fenced, turfed areas; one for small dogs and one for large or all dogs, benches, and a street parking area. Open from dawn to dusk.
Torrey Highlands Park
Located on Lansdale Drive off Del Mar Heights Road, 1-acre park.
Ward Canyon Neighborhood Park
Located at 3905 Adams Ave. Park includes two fenced pens, one for small dogs. Open from dawn to dusk, seven days a week.