Postcards & Passports

Rancho Bernardo — Northern Hills of San Diego

This post was most recently updated on October 26th, 2018

Rancho Bernardo lies within the city limits of San Diego, created as a master-planned community nestled among canyons and rolling hills. Temperatures are temperate, although a bit warmer than on the San Diego coastline. Its name comes from an old Mexican parcel map: “El Paraje O Cañada de San Bernardo,” or “The Place or Canyon of Saint Bernard.”

In the 1800’s, the land became known as Rancho San Bernardo, and it was known as one of the largest stock-raising operations in the region. After the Mexican-American war of 1846, the land changed hands and subdivided several times. By 1872, Rancho San Bernardo’s population was large enough to justify having a post office. In 1961, plans were laid to create a self-contained community, and in 1962, the city of San Diego annexed it, calling it Rancho Bernardo.

Today, Rancho Bernardo is a beautifully landscaped and rather quiet “backyard” to San Diego. It’s as nice a place to visit as it is to live here. In fact, many have chosen to retire here. You will find golf courses, a luxury resort, parks, a historic winery, a very nice public library, dining, and shopping. Every summer, Rancho Bernardo holds its own street fair, RB Alive! I’d like to show you some of Rancho Bernardo’s highlights, so you’ll know why it’s worth a visit. You might also enjoy using a GPS-embedded route I’ve created for you at GPSmyCity to duplicate my tour of Rancho Bernardo. If you make a purchase, I will receive a small commission — thank you!

Webb Lake Park

RIght in the midst of several business complexes and a Marriott Courtyard is a gem called Webb Lake. It’s really a large pond, but it is stocked with koi fish, turtles, and ducks. It has a small “duck island” in the middle and a waterfall at one end of the pond, with a small bridge at the other end. Surrounded by grass and mature shade trees with a paved path all the way around and some benches for sitting, this is an oasis for young and old alike. There’s also a beautiful rose garden and Veterans Memorial.

If you visit midday, you’ll see many people taking advantage of this park for a picnic lunch. Kids love feeding the ducks (and probably chasing them, too!). And the turtles that sun themselves on the rocks were a huge hit with my grandchildren! You’ll find it by turning on to Avena Place from Bernardo Center Drive. It’s directly behind the Pearl’s Chinese Restaurant.

Rancho Bernardo Inn

If you want to experience Old World charm and luxury, you’ll want to stay at the Rancho Bernardo Inn. But even if you’re not staying overnight, this is a resort you’ll want to see. Come for an amazing fine dining experience or just to see the beautiful grounds. The Inn reminds me of Italian villas with fountains, lights, and lush landscaping everywhere. We once attended a wedding reception here that magically transported me to Italy.

There’s the Veranda Boutique and the Cafe Granada for shopping, a full-service spa, and then there’s always golf! Resort rooms start at about $200/night and go up from there. But there are some great specials and packages that might just make staying here the right price for you.

Edelweiss Bakery

I discovered this treasure a few years ago when an out-of-town friend asked me if I would pick up some cannolis here and deliver them to her mother for her birthday. It was such a treat to discover a bakery that specializes in European pastries and cakes! They bake with the best of ingredients and use only authentic recipes. It was almost like being back in Paris choosing my favorites from a boulangerie or patisserie there. If you have a special occasion that warrants the best in desserts, I highly recommend Edelweiss Bakery. OR if you just have a craving for the most amazing sweets!

Rancho Bernardo Public Library

Perhaps because a larger percentage of Rancho Bernardo’s population is retired, the library is a popular place. And it shows, because the Rancho Bernardo Library is VERY nice! This library has everything other libraries have: lots of great books, tapes, CD’s and other resources, community rooms, and a cute children’s area. But it also has a large patio with an incredible view looking out over the valley to the east, a huge stone fireplace and reading nook with oversized armchairs, and a desert garden space.

When I was there most recently, there was a lively Zumba class going on. Their schedule of activities is most impressive, with everything from Hatha Yoga  to reading with therapy dogs and children’s reading/craft times.

Bernardo Winery & RB Historical Society Museum

You won’t usually find information about wineries on my blog because I just don’t drink alcohol. However, the Bernardo Winery is much more than just a winery. It has become a favorite destination. Why? There’s a cute collection of boutique shops, a weekly Farmers’ Market, an Italian restaurant (Bernardo Winery Kitchen) and soon-to-be opened cafe, beautiful events venue with a large expanse of green lawn and rustic dining area, shaded walkways, landscaping, and even a historic museum. Which totally makes sense since the entire site is a historic gem. The winery was established in 1889 and has been in the same Italian family since 1927. Some of the buildings here are original, and much of the area is like an open-air museum since you will see a lot of antique farm and winery equipment displayed throughout the property.

The Rancho Bernardo Historical Society Museum has an impressive display area with a beautifully restored working “mud wagon” (a favorite for photos with the kids!), a military wall of honor, a timeline of history in the area, and so much more. Admission is free although donations are welcome. A special speaker series includes free lectures monthly, given on a wide variety of topics, including the 1915 Pt Loma Road Race, the history of San Diego trolleys, and how World War II changed San Diego. An annual Pancake Breakfast fundraiser is held every May. This year, it will be held May 28, 2018 at Webb Lake Park.

The Bernardo Winery also hosts many special events for the public throughout the year, including special Valentine’s Day celebrations,  a spring Arts & Crafts Faire (this year May 12 & 13, 2018), live music on Sunday afternoons, and free tours on the weekends. In December, you’ll discover holiday sales and special events, including Dickens-era Christmas carolers. The Farmers’ Market is held every Friday, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.

More about Rancho Bernardo

  • Our family’s favorite places to eat are right next to the RB public library. There’s Souplantation with its amazing salad bar and outdoor patio with views of Rancho Bernardo AND Stir Fresh Mongolian Grill, where you can choose your own ingredients and watch while the cooks stir-fry your dinner right in front of you. If you give your cook a tip, you can ring the huge gong!
  • RB Alive! is Rancho Bernardo’s annual street fair, to be held this year on Sunday, June 3, 2018 from 9 am to 4 pm. Visitors can partake of tasty treats, browse over 300 booths featuring arts and crafts, information from regional and local businesses, service clubs and religious organizations. There’s a Kids’ Zone with games and activities as well as a Cultural Center with historical reenactments, and a Classic Car show.
  • Other attractions close to Rancho Bernardo include the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (about 9 miles away), Old Poway Park with vintage train ride and Saturday Farmers’ Market (7 miles away), and Potato Chip Rock with spectacular Instagram photo ops  (15 miles away).
  • In December, driving on the back roads where multi-million dollar homes are perched on the edges of canyons, you will see impressive Christmas light displays. You won’t find any published routes or maps of where to see the lights, but I guarantee you, it will be a nice drive.

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5 thoughts on “Rancho Bernardo — Northern Hills of San Diego

  1. Marilyn McPhie

    Thanks for highlighting this nearby community. I’m a fan of the RB Historical Society and their speaker series. And if the budget won’t let you stay at the fancy RB Inn, the Hilton Garden Inn (near the library) is an excellent choice for a getaway in the area.

  2. Heather Young

    I’ve always loved RB! In fact, that’s one of the cities where I stayed on my honeymoon (the cost of hotels was MUCH cheaper there than in downtown San Diego which was a major selling point to me and my frugal husband!)

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