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Our guide to unique lodging and adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Miriam Raftery

June 13, 2018 (Valley Center) – Tucked into the largely rural Valley Center area of northeast San Diego County are two tribal-owned casino resorts on Native American reservations: Harrah’s Resort and Valley View Casino and Hotel.

Harrah’s, under same ownership as the Las Vegas casino by the same name, is a posh resort with splashy fun-in-the-sun options such as a swim-up bar, cabanas and day beds around a main pool, and a lazy river where you can float through waterfalls and grottos.  Paradise found!

Harrah’s also offers star entertainment, having the ability to book talent in conjunction with their Vegas venture, or opt for a VIP package with spa treatment. There are other entertainment options such as Reggae nights, movies under the stars (in summer), and more.  Lodging options include rooms and suites, with specials for those seeking show tickets and room combinations.  Of course, there’s also a range of gaming options if you wish to try your luck.

Hungry?  Dining options include a buffet with international fare, Fiore for fine dining with options such as Quail Tortellini and Truffled Cauliflower soup, a café, Chinese restaurant, Rita’s Cantina, an oyster bar, a craft brewery, a cocktail lounge and a Starbucks Coffee shop.

Valley View Casino’s hotel has deluxe rooms and spacious luxury suites, some with mountain views.  An infinity pool creates the optical illusion of swimming on the horizon with stunning views of the Palomar Mountain range in the background.

Stays include a VIP breakfast with options such as a make-your-own omelet bar and plenty of fresh fruits.  The casino has a lavish buffet with steak and Maine lobster specials, or opt for any of several other restaurants ranging from a steakhouse to casual dining options. 

Valley View Casino has gaming, but doesn’t have the relatively big-name singers that sometimes can be seen at Harrah’s Rincon. It does have live musical lounge acts in the Main Stage Bar, which also has a sports-viewing on 18-foot-wide screens.  

Though the casino resorts are destinations on their own, away from urban areas, there are some other activities you can drive to in the general vicinity.

Valley Center is also home to Key’s Creek Lavender Farm, which is open to the public with beautiful fields of blooms from spring to early summer.  The farm offers lavender products and activities such as high teas, yoga retreats and zen healing.

Other things to do in this northeast portion of San Diego County include visiting Palomar Mountain State Park northeast of Valley Center for natural beauty and hiking, as well as the Palomar Observatory for viewing celestial  astronomical sights. 

You can also visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park to see exotic animals in open settings in the San Pasqual Valley area southeast of Valley Center. 

Along the way, you can stop off at Orfila Vineyards for winetasting or head to Stone Brewing in Escondido for some acclaimed local craft beers.

In downtown Escondido, west of Valley Center, the California Center for Performing Arts offers a wealth of cultural programs and entertainment.  Escondido also has various festivals through the year, from classic car nights to a chocolate-tasting festival.  There are also restaurants and shops in downtown Escondido, with the Westfield North County regional shopping mall nearby. 

For more to do in Escondido, visit

East County Magazine gratefully acknowledges the County of San Diego for providing a Community Enhancement Grant to support our “Backcountry Hidden Pleasures” weekend getaways coverage.

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