Exploring La Mesa’s downtown village with the kiddos is like taking a step into days gone by. This East County community is a neighborhood feels like the inviting small towns of yesteryear. With its old fashioned buildings, train depot, family-friendly restaurants, and a fun 1950s style summer car show, your family will want to make La Mesa the new family destination.

train depotPhoto Credit: Cherie Gough

What to Explore
Little ones will cheer to hear the trolley bells ring as you explore the Pacific Southwest Railway Train Depot. This historic site features a steam engine and two box cars that are open to train aficionados on Saturday afternoons, from 1 – 4 p.m. Future train conductors can climb inside and feel what it’s like to yell, “All aboard!” on a vintage train. Learn the history of the stop at the small museum located next to the trolley tracks.

While you can easily walk throughout La Mesa Village, why not add something extra special to the day by taking the San Diego Trolley? After all, getting there can be half the fun. The trolley stop is located just a half-block from the train depot. two kids ages 5 and under are free for each paying adult.

photo-7Photo Credit: Cherie Gough

If you have a car-loving kiddo, La Mesa hosts a fun 1950s car show every Thursday from 5 – 8 p.m. during summer. Enjoy a summer’s evening stroll and explore the vintage cars, trucks and motorcycles parked along the historic La Mesa Blvd. You can also sit and watch as them cruise down the street and enjoy the sweet sounds of live 50s music.

Gypsy TreasuresPhoto Credit: Cherie Gough

Where to Shop
Don’t miss a chance to check out the one-of-a-kind Gypsy Treasure Costume shop that has hundreds of costumes to try on from every era. The friendly staff can help you navigate the store to find just the right costume or accessory for a special event. Get a head start on Halloween costume shopping with a room full of animal costumes and excellent customer service to help fuel your imagination. Everyday fun can be had with their magic supplies and gags, crazy wigs and sunglasses.

Head to La Mesa Civic Center on Friday afternoon and you will find a laid-back farmer’s market with plentiful free parking. The market has all the fresh beautiful fruits and veggies, plus vendors selling food and awesome crafts. While shopping, enjoy the music spun by a DJ that adds to the easy-going Friday afternoon feel.

photo-9Photo Credit: Cherie Gough

What to Eat
Stop into family-friendly SanFilippos Pizza located across the railroad tracks from the train depot for a delicious pizza pie. You’ll be greeted by red checked tablecloths and a friendly staff. Kids will love to get their very own ball of pizza dough to play with while you wait for your dinner.

Sit and watch the world (or the cruising cars) go by at Cosmos Coffee Cafe. This coffee shop offers a fun, funky atmosphere with space decor galore. Its couches, patio, bookshelves, games, and eclectic artwork invite families to kick back and relax while enjoying coffee, smoothies, or a light meal.

latortaPhoto Credit:  Robert C. via Yelp 

Tummies rumbling? You won’t walk away hungry from La Torta Cafe. Located just behind the village’s main drag, La Torta offers a large, breezy patio and huge portions. Besides tortas, you can find standard Mexican fair, delicious tortilla soup, and lots of options for kids. Don’t miss their home fries, a tasty mix between a french fry and potato chip.

For a totally different experience, book a table for afternoon tea at the Aubrey Rose Tea Room and play princess. The tea room offers an authentic English tea experience complete with the opportunity to dress up in fancy hats, boas and “pearls.” The food is seasonal, and gluten free options are available. Kids and adults will love the and a beautiful array of pastries and sandwiches presented to your table. You may want to call ahead though, as reservations are highly recommended.

Good to Know: Parking is metered throughout the village until 6 p.m., so bring your quarters!

Have you visited La Mesa Village? What’s your favorite spot? Tell us in the comments!

 – Cherie Gough