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Queen Califia's Magical Circle, Escondido

4.3
#5 of 23 in Things to do in Escondido
Monument Tourist Spot
Queen Califia's Magical Circle is a sculpture garden located in Escondido, California. It is one of the last works of French artist Niki de Saint Phalle. The garden is named after Califia, the fictional warrior queen of the mythical Island of California, and inspired by California's rich history and culture. It includes a circular wall and maze entryway, ten large sculptures, and native trees and shrubs planted both inside the plaza and around the outer wall.The garden is part of a 12-acre habitat in Kit Carson Park's Iris Sankey Arboretum, and was opened to the public on October 26, 2003.The sculpture garden is only open the second Saturday of each month while undergoing repairs.Materials and constructionThe garden's wall is covered mostly in Mexican pebble stones, while the snakes and other sculptures are clad in many thousands of hand-cut glass, ceramic and stone mosaic tiles. Some wall segments are also decorated with ceramic plaques engraved with Native American rock art and other symbols, as well as handprints and signatures from Saint Phalle's family and art team. Queen Califia herself is embellished with hand-cut mirrored glass, while the fountain uses gold leaf glass and is controlled by a solar-powered pump.The wall, maze and sculptures were constructed using polystyrene encased in a polyurethane skin, with applied fiberglass coating over a steel armature. The designs were based on Saint Phalle's original maquettes, with the aid of computer modeling and prototyping. The artist began work on Queen Califia in 2000. After her death, completion of the work was overseen by Niki's granddaughter, Bloum Cardenas, and her longtime assistants. This was Saint Phalle's last major project.
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Reviews
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating
135 reviews
Google
4.3
TripAdvisor
  • We happened to be driving through San Diego on a Thursday so we decided to stop. The younger kids could have stayed and explored for hours, the older kids were finished after maybe 30 minutes (probabl...  more »
  • There are only limited times you can see this, On tuesdays and thursdays and on saturdays with limited hours. Check ahead of time.  more »
  • What a little gem. I have been here several times and every time I see something I missed before. This place is MAGICAL just like its name says. The bad thing is it is now opened on a VERY LIMITED hou...  more »
Google
  • What a beautiful place!! The hours and day availability is limited (9-12 Tuesday - Friday) but if you're able to visit you definitely should. The statues and artwork is breathtaking and even more amazing in person. BTW it's free admission! (!!!)
  • The art docent that was there that day was really helpful, and I had a huge download of information when he explained the history and the ties to the name of California. If you're within a 50 mile radius, it's worth the trip!!!!
  • An amazing work of art set in the arboretum section of Kit Carson Park. It was damaged by teens, so they had to put up fencing around it and limit access to it in order to protect it from further damage. One of the last works by Niki de Phalle, and well worth the visit to this lovely park and sports complex. Always free to enter this Park, and playing at the golf course there is free too!
  • Always closed, never open, looked so cool, please open. I would love this park when it's open, I feel so bad! 😞😞😞😞😞😞😞
  • This place is truly a treasure! Niki de Saint Phalle's last public work before her passing. Words can't describe my adoration.

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Where to stay in Escondido

Like many California cities, Escondido is spread out. Downtown lodgings are close to dining and transportation. If the purpose of your visit is to see one of the notable attractions outside of downtown, then consider staying near the attraction.
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