Fun, Fun, Fun: Top 10 Ideas and Solutions

Challenge: Do it with another sober person or a bunch of ‘em!

1.  Seas the Day (To the Beach! A la Playa! A la Plage!): God, give me coffee to change the things I can, and the Beach to accept the things I can’t!  We love the beach – whether it’s beach volleyball, paddling out for a surf session, bodysurfing, yoga, walking, collecting rocks, reading, meditating, napping… (the list goes on ad infinitum) – we love the beach. Did we mention we love the beach?  It wasn’t always that way though – before sobriety we resented and hated all the happy people going to beach as we isolated in our apartments.  But we don’t have to live that way anymore – and we sure as heck don’t.  Our favorite beach is Moonlight Beach in Encinitas.  Feel free to come out and join us every Sunday at Moonlight Beach from noon to sunset on the court closest to the water for some laid-back beach volleyball and a solid, co-ed sober hang out.  Some folks bring a surfboard and paddle out or a yoga mat for some sunset beach yoga.  Some folks toss the football or walk the beach.  Whichever tickles your fancy – we’re all really there to laugh, have fun and support each other.  It honestly feels like sober spring break every weekend! 😊  Obviously, Moonlight Beach ain’t the only game in town.  North County has tons of amazing beaches from Del Mar through Oceanside.  So check out your local beaches and see which one you like best.  If not, see ya at Moonlight!

Our Favorite Beaches

  • Moonlight Beach – Favorite Beach All Around
  • Beacons – Favorite Beach for Surfing
  • Del Mar Dog Beach – Favorite Beach for the Doggos

2.  Find the Secret Swings of San Diego: Looking for a fun activity that requires a little detective work? There are several “secret swings” hidden in San Diego with jaw-dropping panoramic overlooks of the Pacific Ocean.  They’re fun to find yourself, they’re fun to find with friends, they’re fun to find with family visiting – basically, they really make for a fun little adventure.  Not to mention the unforgettable memories and pictures you snap for the Gram.  We have found three of the secret swings – but maybe there are more.  Can you find them? (Hint: Google “Secret Swings of San Diego” for some clues). 

3.  Work it on a Walk, Hightail it on a Hike, Peer it from a Pier, or Park it in a Park (Free Fun): In our opinion, North County, CA, is one of the best places in the world to be broke as a joke and still have a blast. Probably cool to be rich here too but we’re not there yet.  For starters, going for a walk here is a gift (especially along the 101).  Just ask anyone from Wisconsin or the like.  The old walk around the block not doing it for ya? If only we had some of the best hiking trails, piers and parks in the world in our backyard?  Oh wait, we do!

Our Favorite Hikes

  • Torrey Pines State Park (Easy)
  • Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail (Easy)
  • Cowles Mountain (Moderate)
  • Iron Mountain Trail (Moderate)
  • Cuyamaca Peak Loop Trail (Moderate)
  • Mission Trails Regional Park: Oak Canyon Trail (Moderate)
  • Double Peak Trail (Moderate)
  • Potato Chip Rock / Lake Poway to Mount Woodson (Difficult)
  • Cedar Creek Falls to Devil’s Punchbowl (Difficult)
  • Three Sisters Falls Trails (Difficult)

Our Favorite Parks

  • Balboa Park
  • San Diego Botanic Garden (formerly Quail Botanical Gardens)
  • Leucadia Oaks Park
  • Glen Park
  • San Dieguito Park

Our Favorite Piers

  • Oceanside Pier
  • Ocean Beach Pier
  • Pacific Beach / Crystal Pier
  • Coronado Ferry Landing Pier
  • Shelter Island Pier

4.  Movies AND Theatres AND Shows… OH MY! If we’re being honest, ever since getting sober we’ve largely lost interest in sitting inside and watching TV. We used to love the never-ending isolation of escaping our reality by living vicariously through someone else’s [fake and acted] life.  Calling out sick from work and binging a show was where it was at.  But now that our bodies and brains work pretty well, we kind of dig our lives and the outside world.  With all that said, given that we’re fairly active and don’t watch too much TV anymore – it makes it that much more rewarding when we’re tuckered out and it’s time to veg out.  Ahhh, movie time.  When we’re picking a movie – we’re not just picking any movie. We’re diving into the IMDB Top 250 and cross-referencing Rotten Tomatoes.  Or maybe we’re looking to take it to next level and make it more of an occasion at the movie theatre.  Shall we be fancy at Cinepolis or nostalgic at La Paloma?  Can’t really go wrong with either.  And if we’re feeling really extravagant and crazy (maybe once a year) a Broadway show down in San Diego.  We personally had quite a bit of contempt prior to investigation on the whole Broadway show thing – sounded like a lot of money, lot of work and not a lot of show.  But they’re amazing!  Whether it’s a Netflix movie, Cinepolis movie bonanza or Broadway show kind of night out – enjoy yourself.  Enjoy it with other people you love.  We’re sober – we’ll actually remember how fun it was. 

5.  Treat Yo' Self to a Stroll and Shop (Thrift Stores, Farmer’s Markets, and Window Shopping): In sobriety, we’re not too big on shopping and much prefer to spend our money and time on adventures and experiences with our friends. But we will also never forget the critical life wisdom imparted on us by Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle of the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department, once in a while everyone needs a “Treat Yo’ Self” day.  Our “Treat Yo’ Self” days look quite different than Tom and Donnas – mimosas and designer shoe stores are replaced with thrift shops, farmer’s markets and anything weird that catches our eye as we stroll by.  We’re not fancy but we’re picky and love a good treasure hunt with friends.  

Our favorite thrift store is Thrifty Threads in Encinitas but you can’t really ever go wrong in a TJ Maxx, Ross DFL or the like.  We really love that there’s only one of anything which makes it more unique and special to us.  Here's a little rule we follow: If we like it, we put it back.  If we think we might love it, we put it back. If we absolutely love it and gotta have it – you bet your sweet bottom its coming home with us (i.e. we buy it)!  

We love every farmer’s market (so fresh and tasty!) but if we had to pick a favorite it would be the Leucadia Farmers Market (Sundays from 10am – 2pm at the Paul Ecke Elementary School).  There are tons of great farmers market in North County, CA, and at least one in every town (Carlsbad, Del Mar, Solana, etc.).  It’s pretty darn hard to be mad at the world when you’re strolling through a farmer’s market eating fresh fruit.  Who knows, maybe we’ll even meet our soul mate there and ride off into the sunset for Hollywood ending. Magic 8-ball says, “Outlook not so good.” 

Last but not least, window shopping!  No – not window shopping for Birkin bags or Dolce & Gabbana at the mall.  Here’s how we window shop: we pick a main town or village, say the 101 in Encinitas (Exit 41B: Encinitas Blvd) or Carlsbad Village (Exit 50: Carlsbad Village Drive), and we walk the whole thing.  If something looks neat – we pop in.  Sometimes we have a good laugh at the price and other times it’s our lucky day – we can actually afford the item we want.  Whether we buy something or not, it’s just a fun day out in town.  Whether we’re thrifting, tasting at the farmer’s market or exploring the many funky (and wildly expensive) store fronts of North County – we remember to take the occasional Treat Yo’ Self day.  Don’t forget to Treat Yo’ Self once in a while too. 😊

6.  Nom, Nom, Nom – Foody Friend-zy: Ah, one of the best gifts of sobriety – actually enjoying eating a meal and keeping it down. Sounds silly but we vividly remember the days prior to getting sober of being repulsed by food and trying to choke down the occasional piece of bread as some type of sustenance.  With the active way we live now, we’re always ready for some good eatin.  There is so much tasty food in North County!  Whether it’s a quick breakfast after an early morning meeting or a glutinous feast after a day of fun in the sun at beach volleyball – we love to chow down on some good grub with even better sober amigos.  The only way to find your favorite food joints is to try new ones out – so nom away!  And if you’re looking for a palate expanding challenge – try eating at a restaurant that serves food from a country you’ve never tried before (i.e. Japanese (Sushi), Thai, Korean, Balinese, etc.).  You may just adventure upon your new favorite food!  We may not be fancy eaters, but we certainly have our favorite local spots to rejoice in flavor heaven.

Our Favorite Food Joints

  • Breakfast: Honey’s  
  • Post-Surf Brunch: Swami’s
  • Post-Yoga Brunch: Potato Shack
  • Tacos: Taco Stand
  • Chicken: Crack Shack
  • Southeast Asian (Thai, Lao & Vietnamese): Birdseye Kitchen
  • Asian Fusion: CHIKO
  • Fast Food: In-And-Out
  • Fish: Fish Shop
  • Italian: Buona Forchetta
  • Pizza: Del Mar Pizza
  • Bakery: Darshan Bakery
  • Burger: The Bier Garden

7.  Yum Yums – Tasty Treats: We’ll keep it short and SWEET here (ah, we crack ourselves up). First off, we firmly believe that North County is home to the best ice cream in the world.  Yep, we said it and we’re sticking to it.  We also certainly do not discriminate against any of the other critically important dessert categories such as cookies, chocolate, donuts, and churros.  We love ‘em all (just not every day).  Whether we’re celebrating a great day out or in dire need some ice cream therapy – we know where to turn to satisfy our sweet tooth fantasies.  On the other hand, sometimes its more fun and fulfilling to roll up our sleeves and bake a cake or cookies at home.  Either way, when it’s earned, a tasty treat really hits the spot.  Here are our favorites to check out:

I Scream for Ice Cream

  • Cali Cream Homemade Ice Cream
  • Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream and Yogurt
  • Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream
  • Salt & Straw
  • JoJo’s Creamery

The Other Yums (Cookies, Chocolate, Donuts, and Churros)

  • The Baked Bear (Cookies)
  • See’s Candy (Chocolate)
  • Leucadia Donut Shoppe (Donuts)
  • Taco Stand (Churros)

8.  Aminals: We love animals. They just rock. All of ‘em. And we live in (arguably) the most bio-diverse ecological metropolis in the world!  If you’re ever looking for a happy day outside – you can’t go wrong with hanging with animals.  Before sobriety, the closest we got to nature was Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.  How things have changed for the better!  Whether its as simple as walking into a dog park or as extravagant as ziplining over lions at the San Diego Safari Park – being around animals just makes us happier.  Below are our favorite places to get wild!

Our Favorite Animal Adventures

9.  Stalk Sober Celebs (A Little Guilty Pleasure): We can’t explain it – but its somehow amazingly fun checking out which celebrities are sober. It’s almost like they’re on our team or something.  Some of them shocked us too.  One in particular was Colin Farrell.  Who would have known he’s been sober since 2008?  A simple Google search of “sober celebrities” makes for great, guilty pleasure sober celeb stalking.  One thing is for sure, there’s surprisingly more than we realized.  Enjoy the rabbit hole!

10.  Plan-A-Fun (Day Trippin > Future Trippin): This one is really a hidden gem in terms of having fun. There’s a lot of legit research that supports that planning a trip is often psychologically as much fun as actually going on the trip you planned.  Here’s one article with some science stuff in it entitled, “Here’s why planning a trip can help your mental health” from National Geographic.  There’s more concrete, scientific evidence readily available with a simple Google search if you want to research the theory a bit more.  We were pretty skeptical at first but it kind of made sense as we thought about it more.  Sometimes planning something is just as much fun as the event itself.  For example, thinking back on it, we had way more fun making a Christmas list and thinking about the excitement ahead than actually getting (or not getting) the present.  So if we’re bored and looking for a fun mental adventure – we plan a trip somewhere.  Even if there’s no chance we’re going in the near future it can be exhilarating to plan a trip to Japan, Australia, Greece, Italy, etc. for “someday”.  We don’t have too much in travel funds so day trips are the most realistic to pull together and easiest on the piggy bank.  Fortunately, there are awesome day trips just hours away from North County.  Our favorite it is cruising out through God’s country with some sober friends to Julian for some Mom’s Apple Pie (which we like a smidge better than Julian Pie Company).  Big Bear is definitely on the short list of super fun day trips to take on some snowboarding or hiking.  Maybe you love LA or have never been up there (we love and recommend a day in Santa Monica).  Maybe its Joshua Tree for some camping.  Whatever and wherever it is – have a blast planning your next trip!  Stay sober and we bet you get there someday – and sooner than you might think. 

Bonus: Looking for More Fun Stuff To Do?  Make a bucket list or cheat with someone else’s.  We love this one from Local Adventurer: Ultimate San Diego Bucket List: 101 Things to Do in San Diego.  Enjoy, and don’t drink or use!