Two hidden gems of Escondido: Massive historic park and tactile art exhibit

Posted at 7:06 AM, Jul 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-27 10:06:39-04

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) - The city of Escondido, which sits about 30 miles northeast of San Diego, is home to multiple hidden gems.

Queen Califia's Magical Circle is an art installation that feels more like a multi-colored park. The exhibit, designed by artist Niki de Saint Phalle, has sat at Kit Carson Park for 22 years.

Volunteer docent Marty Tiedeman said Niki put thought into every element. The exhibit opens with a maze of black and white tiles, then visitors walk around a corner to an open space full of brightly colored statues and designs.

“As you are coming into through the black and white maze, it’s a transition and you soon enter the magical circle of Queen Califia,” said Tiedeman. “The real world is pretty black and white, and what she wanted to embrace is the colorful world.”

The massive display took four years to complete, but Niki passed away one year before it was finished, making this her last work of art. She has other smaller installations around San Diego County.

The exhibit is open every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon, plus the second and fourth Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tiedeman said volunteers keep the display open and said they would be able to have expanded hours if they had more volunteers step up.

Park and background information can be found here.

Just a few miles away from this display is one of the largest parks in San Diego County.

Felicita Park is named after a Native American woman who helped preserve history more than a century ago.

Dove Toler is a San Pasqual Tribal Council member and has studied the rich Native American history of his own tribe, writing a book about his family’s past, and the history of the surrounding San Diego area. He said one of the most unique factors about Felicita LaChappa was the information she possessed.

Toler said it’s estimated that LaChappa was born around 1820 during the Mexican era. He said during this era, Native people were dealing with the invasions of many different other cultures in addition to battling disease, so it’s incredible that she survived this period. This gave a window into a time period that many did not remember or live through.

“She was able to survive, she didn’t get the diseases, she was able to marry, she was able to prosper in a sense that she survived,” he said, adding that, “Felicita survived during that turbulent time, those that were here were able to photograph her, interview her and now in honor of her, name this beautiful park after Felicita.”

The park’s property was bought by San Diego County in 1929 and was named after LaChappa to honor her. To this day, there are still holes in some large rocks, evidence of the Native American people who once lived there. Toler estimates those artifacts to be 3,000 or 4,000 years old.