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Queen Califia's Magical Circle in Escondido California

By Edited Jul 29, 2015 7 12

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Located within the Southern California City of Escondido is a beautiful and colorful sculpture garden.  The enchanting garden known as “Queen Califia’s Magical Circle” is a hidden treasure nestled within the 12-acre natural habitat in the Iris Snakey Arboretum, located in Kit Carson Park. The garden is virtually invisible from the park parking lot; you must walk to it by following the Snakey Magical Garden Trail. Midway through the trail, you will notice the breathtaking sculptures that await you.

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When you arrive you will see that the entrance is guarded by a large snake wall which surrounds the entire circle. As you walk into the garden, it feels like a maze with the floors and walls covered in bold patterns of black, white and mirrored tiles. When you walk through the maze you enter into the strikingly beautiful central courtyard, here you will find the stunningly bold, larger than life art pieces.  I was struck by the amazing creativity and the size of the structures; I felt like a child in a wonderland.

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Queen Califia’s Magical Circle was created by artist Niki De Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002), and opened to the public in October of 2003. The works of art were inspired by California’s mythic, historic and cultural roots. There are nine large-scale sculptures, a snake wall which circles and encloses the entire garden, an egg shaped fountain and bench seating within the garden.

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This one of a kind place was named after the legendary Amazon queen, Califia who is said to have ruled a terrestrial island paradise of gold and riches. The character has been depicted as the Spirit of California and she often figures in the myth of California's origin, symbolizing an untamed and bountiful land prior to European settlement.  The sculpture of Califia stands 11 feet tall and is atop an eagle standing 13 feet tall. This brilliant design is proudly displayed right in the “heart” of the garden, the center.  As you walk through this sculpture, you will find a gold egg-shaped fountain, a reference to Queen Califia’s magical reign over the oceans, and a symbol of the cycle of birth, death, and transformation.

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All of the sculptures are decorated with unique mosaic tiles, mirrors, and stones such as travertine, agates, quartzes, and turquoise.  The look and feel of this unique attraction may be different depending upon the time of day or season you visit. The colors deepen and seem to change slightly when the sun light reflects upon them.  In addition, you can almost feel the “magic” of the sculptures as the wind chimes throughout the courtyard.

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Queen Califia’s Magical Circle was financed entirely by the artist. The land, on-site grading, landscaping, maintenance and operations are donated by the City of Escondido.  The landscape design includes native trees, consisting of Coastal Live Oak, Valley Oak, and Canyon Oak; shrubs, Cactus and Aloes.

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The park is open daily from 8am – 6:30pm, and is closed on rainy days. Admission is free and you may arrange a tour by calling the park in advance of your visit.

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When in San Diego, specifically Escondido, be sure to visit this memorable attraction, which is not visible from any major freeway or highway, and not advertised (possibly because there is no charge to get in). Just ask the locals, they will know all about Queen Califia’s Magical Circle in Escondido California!

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Queen Califia's Magical Circle

Queen Califia's Magical Circle in Kit Carson Park.
Kit Carson Park ~ Queen Califia's Magical Circle Get Directions
3333 Bear Valley Pkwy S. Escondido, CA 92025, USA


Jun 17, 2011 7:15pm
I live in Southern California, and I had never even heard of this place! Wow! I think my grandkids and I will have a great time there one of these days. Thanks for enlightening me. I even added a comment about it on InfoPirate!
Jun 20, 2011 11:15am
Thanks Deb!
Nov 29, 2011 8:13pm
Same here! And I have family in that neck of the woods! I will have to check it out one these days when I am next in So Cal!
Nov 30, 2011 10:27am
Yes, tell your family about it! Thanks for the comment EGreen!
Jun 19, 2011 1:18pm
Like Debbie, this is news to me! I'm going to share this with my San Diego family. What a great summer treat for the kids. I know they will enjoy seeing this colorful display. This deserves a tweet!
Jun 20, 2011 11:16am
Thank you so much diva, I appreciate the comment and tweet!! :o)
Jul 12, 2011 11:10pm
How fun!!!
Aug 5, 2011 6:28pm
Yes, this truly is a fun place! Thanks Buffy10!!
Nov 30, 2011 4:26pm
This looks like an amazing place to visit for people of all ages.
Dec 1, 2011 10:48am
Yes, it is amazing and it's free! Thanks for the comment LLWoodard!
Dec 1, 2011 12:16pm
Loved all the photos and the new map. Looks like an interesting place to visit.
Dec 1, 2011 6:26pm
Thanks JadeDragon!
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