Visiting Queen Califia’s Magical Circle in Escondido

Last week, the boys and I went on another one of our weekly adventures. Queen Califia’s Magical Circle had been on our radar for a while now. In March, we saw an exhibit on Niki de Saint Phalle‘s work at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido.  That was when I first learned about Queen Califia’s Magical Circle and decided that I had to take the boys to see it when they were older.

Model of Queen Califia’s Magical Circle from the Niki de Saint Phalle: Mythical California exhibit

Incidentally, I had previously been exposed to another one of Niki de Saint Phalle’s works when I last went to Paris in 2011 and stopped by the Stravinsky Fountain.

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Stravinsky Fountain in Paris, France

About Queen Califia’s Magical Circle

Opened to the public in 2003, Queen Califia’s Magical Circle is a sculpture garden located in Kit Carson Park in Escondido, California. It was one of the last works of Niki de Saint Phalle, a Franco-American sculptor and artist, whose later years were spent living in La Jolla.

The garden is named after Califia, a mythical warrior queen from the Island of California and inspired by California’s history and culture.

The Magical Circle includes a circular outer wall and maze entry, ten large sculptures and is surrounded by plants and trees.

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Entering into Queen Califia’s Magical Circle
Once your enter the Magical Circle, you make your way through a wall maze until your reach a courtyard, which features 10 large sculptures.
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The central piece is a sculpture of Queen Califia standing on top of an eagle and holding a bird above her head.

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Visitors are able to walk underneath the sculpture to view a golden egg.

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The remaining sculptures were designed as totems that were influenced by Native American and Mexican traditions.

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How to Get There

As this was my first time visiting Kit Carson Park, I had a difficult time locating Queen Califia’s Magical Circle and had to ask someone for directions. I entered Kit Carson Park from Bear Valley Parkway and turning left onto Entrance Drive. Follow the road and if you see the snake sculpture, you are getting close.

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Drive past the snake sculpture on your left and then turn left after the Maintenance Building. Once you reach the next parking lot, park and then walk straight into the park. You will see a sign for Queen Califia and then it is just a short walk to the Magical Circle. The path changes from paved to dirt, so if you are pushing a stroller, keep this in mind. I used my BOB stroller with all-terrain wheels and had no problems. I am glad I brought it with me instead of our Maclaren umbrella stroller, which would have made it difficult to make it along the dirt path.

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle is completely surrounded by a security gate and there is one entrance into the garden that will give you access.

I was allowed to push my stroller through the maze and parked in by the wall inside the courtyard. This was a life saver for me since I have twins and it would be near impossible for me to walk through the garden without the aid of a stroller.

How to Prepare

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle has very limited hours of operation and they can change at any time. Currently the hours of operation are as follows:

Tuesday, 9 am to noon
Thursday, 9 am to noon
2nd and 4th Saturday of each month, 9 am to 2 pm

The garden is closed for rain or when there is puddling from rain within the last 24-48 hours.

Docents are available during all open hours to answer questions.

Be sure to wear sun protection when you visit as the only shade that is available is underneath the central sculpture by the golden egg. All other areas of the courtyard are exposed to the sun.

We arrived around 10 am and there was only one other group of people there. I recommend arriving early if you want to get photos without a lot of strangers in them or want to enjoy the garden alone.

Kid-Friendly

The garden was a hit with the boys. They especially loved running around the open courtyard and exploring underneath the Queen Califia sculpture. We will definitely be back later this fall!

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