Fallbrook

Visitor Information

A friendly farming town with a close-knit community and rural ambience, Fallbrook came into being when the Vital Reche family settled here in 1869 and named the area after their former homestead in Pennsylvania.

Originally populated by oak trees, the landscape changed as settlers grew olives before switching to avocados and nursery crops, which continue to be the primary agricultural crops today.

The town is bordered by Camp Pendleton to the west, Temecula to the north, Bonsall to the south and is a few miles off Interstate 15.

With its annual Avocado Festival, lush golf courses, the peaceful quiet of Live Oaks County Park, the charm of quaint stores on Main Avenue and a destination wedding site, Fallbrook is a draw for golfers, shoppers and day-trippers seeking to step back in time.

Around 1986, a group of ladies with the Chamber of Commerce noticed that nearby towns like Oceanside had themes such as Harbor Days to promote themselves, but Fallbrook hadn’t branded itself, so they came up with the idea of an avocado festival. The idea caught on and the town celebrated its 28th annual festival this year, drawing crowds of more than 70,000.

Held on the third Saturday in April, the main draws are the avocado-themed food -- from guacamole to avocado gelato and popsicles, even cigars -- and local artists such as woodworkers, crafters and painters who set up on the Avenue of the Arts, aside from live music shows.

“It takes six months to organize and still has a down-home feel,” said Lila MacDonald, CEO of the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce. “The whole community comes together, people come out early in the morning to help erect stalls and pitch in where needed.”

Festival organizers put together events like guacamole eating contests, dressing up an avocado and the Avocado 500, where participants make cars out of avocados, attach wheels to them and race them.

In the fall, another event that attracts outsiders is the Scarecrow Festival, which is held all month long in October. Started three years ago by a local senior citizen and her friends, the festival transforms Main Avenue and several parts of the town into a display of scarecrows.

MacDonald grew up in the town and like many others, chose not to leave, preferring to live close to family while raising her own children.

She said the town is not all that different from when she was growing up in the 1970s and 80s, even if the population has increased to about 30,000 now.

“It’s pretty much the same. There’s a strong sense of community and you’re raised to be philanthropic.”

What has changed is that while the town still has many entrepreneurs and small businesses, more locals are becoming professionals and commuting to office jobs in Orange County or San Diego, making the town somewhat of a bedroom community.

MacDonald remembers going to the town’s only movie theater as a child and recalls that the owners used to hand out Christmas presents to all the children who came to watch movies during the holidays. Mission Theatre is now a live theatre.

Long-timer Charlie Wolk Jr. also remembers another era.

“I’ve lived here since before traffic lights and shopping centers. I remember buying 5-cent ice cream cones,” Wolk said.

What did children and teenagers do back then to keep themselves entertained?

“Ice blocking and cow tipping,” comes the prompt answer from MacDonald.

Those dubious activities involved taking big blocks of ice and dropping them on the golf course to surprise unsuspecting golfers, and waiting around until cows were asleep before tipping them over.

There were also backyard skate ramps and swimming pools. Celebrity skateboarder Tony Hawk used to visit the town to use its skate ramp when he was a teen. The town is now working on building a full-fledged skate park, called the Avocado Bowl.

The town still has its share of famous residents, from Magnum, P.I. actor Tom Selleck, who keeps a ranch here, to crime novelist T. Jefferson Parker.

Many brides and grooms have exchanged vows at Grand Traditions, a picturesque, graceful estate with a lake, several waterfalls and lush green lawns. It’s been a destination wedding location for two generations and recently began serving lunch on its veranda, opening its doors as an upscale restaurant to locals and visitors.

On a weekday afternoon, residents stop to greet you as you walk down Main Avenue and shop owners are happy to exchange stories with browsers and shoppers.

“Fallbrook is still a friendly village. If you want to step back in time and visit a place you’re going to fall in love with, this is the town,” MacDonald said.

-By Padma Nagappan. Nagappan is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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Spotlight on Fallbrook

A friendly farming town with a close-knit community and rural ambience, Fallbrook came into being when the Vital Reche family settled here in 1869 and named the area after their former homestead in Pennsylvania.

Originally populated by oak trees, the landscape changed as settlers grew olives before switching to avocados and nursery crops, which continue to be the primary agricultural crops today.

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