San Diego County Car Shows: Classic Car Cruising

Classic Woodie Car
Classic Car Cruise Nights in Encinitas are a magnet for classic woodie cars. Car Culture/Car Culture ® Collection/Getty Images

If you're a fan of cars, especially those of the classic '50s and '60s vintage, then the car shows held in La Mesa, El Cajon, Chula Vista, and Escondido are must-dos. You can admire the lovingly restored machines, all shiny and glistening. My personal favorites are the '55-'57 Chevys, and the '50s era Ford Thunderbirds. Whatever your favorites are, classic car shows are a nice dose of nostalgia.

Even if you're not particularly enamored with cars, these various car shows are still lots of fun.

Depending on the venue, the activities range from live music, food and craft booths, and entertainment for children. Another lovely aspect of these local car shows is that you get a taste of the local community and its businesses. 

Here's a list of a few of the well-established classic car shows around San Diego:

Classic Car Cruise Nights in Encinitas

Third Thursday of the month from May through September, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Classic Car Cruise Nights is a fun addition to the classic car show rotation thanks to its Encinitas beach vibe and emphasis on woodie vehicles. Unlike the other weekly shows, this one is held only on the third Thursday of each month through the summer. But the cool thing is you get to see classic woodies in a true beach town setting. 

Cajon Classic Cruise Car Show in El Cajon

Wednesdays, June through September, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The largest weekly classic car show in Southern California takes place on Main Street, in downtown El Cajon.

Free to the public, the car show has a street fair flavor and features over 400 cars, live music, food, and craft vendors. Anyone may enter his or her car for one of the 25 trophies given out each night. There are no entry fees and the car show is a great place for the whole family to enjoy an evening of fun and excitement.

La Mesa Classic Car and Bike Show

Thursdays from July through August, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
One of the best in the county, the La Mesa Classic Car, and Bike Show is a perfect small town setting for cruising. La Mesa's charming village area, with its antique stores and popular restaurants, provides a perfectly nostalgic backdrop for hot rods and muscle cars. Each week there are as many as 160 cars parked along La Mesa Boulevard, and many more cruising slowly for a moving show. Each week there are between 2,500 and 4,500 spectators strolling the boulevard. People of all ages love the cars and there is a lot to see. There are Horseless Carriages, Antique Cars, Classic Cars, and Hot Rods. There is also a contingent of motorcycles for the crowd to enjoy.

Cruisin' Grand in Escondido

Fridays from April through September, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
On Friday nights a time warp hits downtown Escondido thanks to Cruisin' Grand. The streets are filled with strolling people of all ages, while a parade of pre-1970s vintage cars slowly cruise up and down Grand Avenue. All kinds of vintage cars—from American Hot Rods, Classics, Antiques, and Customs help make seven blocks of Escondido the place to be on Friday nights.

Blast from the Past Car Show in Chula Vista

Tuesdays in the summer, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Over 125 classic cars and motorcycles are on display at the Blast from the Past Car Show in Chula Vista as well as music, food and vendor booths. The show is located at Third Avenue in downtown Chula Vista.