CRUISE NIGHTS 2019-1-cvt


Many of the cool cars you rarely see come out for cruise nights

Cruising is an especially social, family-friendly ritual that is enjoyed around the world. Individuals and car clubs gather together to slowly drive down, and park along, a main street in town, going nowhere in particular. A cruise is sort of like a combination of a parade and a car show, but not quite so formally organized. Participants and spectators alike pretty much just show up on predetermined days and times. Cruises provide an especially good opportunity for people to give their prized automobiles a thorough cleaning, and then share them with others.

Considering the usually great weather in Southern California, and the vast number of incredible automobiles that are here, cruises are especially popular and frequent.

On any given cruise night, you have a good chance at seeing just about everything: vintage muscle cars, hot rods, luxurious cars from other eras, sportscars, imports, trucks of all shapes and sizes, customs, woodies, competition cars and more – and they do not all necessarily just have four wheels. The common denominator is that they are all brought out and driven by people who truly love automobiles and want to share them with other like-minded individuals.

One such Southern California cruise, and one of the most well-known, is called Crusin’ Grand Escondido. It runs for six months on Fridays. Now in its 20th consecutive year, Cruisin’ Grand San Diego is billed as the “Largest Weekly Car Cruise west of the Mississippi,” and I have no reason to doubt that it is. It is certainly one of the best cruises in the U.S.

In keeping with the informal nature of cruising, there is no pre-registration or fees. The only requirement is to have fun!

According to this cruise’s Facebook page (see the web address near the end of this column), Cruisin’ Grand Escondido’s focus is “on what works with our community history, i.e. 1973 and earlier American-made Classics, Customs, Vintage, Muscle, and Hot Rods cruising Grand Ave., just like they did 50-60 years ago, on a Friday night, hopefully shoulder-to-shoulder with a date!” Certain parking areas may be reserved for car clubs that have pre-reserved the night. Awards are presented weekly for five vehicles.

Participation in Cruisin’ Grand Escondido is by no means limited to those vehicles. For example, my Miata club participates in this cruise monthly, as we did on the day after the Fourth of July. In celebration of this holiday weekend, decorations on at least one of our Miatas included tiny American flags attached to the end of the car’s windshield wipers – which were lifted forward into their windshield cleaning position and turned on, so that they would wave back and forth as the car slowly drove along.

C​ars in the San Diego Miata Club gathering at an Escondido fast food restaurant before the cruise

The community comes alive on cruise nights. Shops are open and their business is brisk. Restaurants and cafes along Grand Avenue are filled with diners enjoying meals, chatting with friends and loved ones, and marvelling at the ever-changing parade of cool vehicles passing by in front of them.

The cars and trucks are parked on side streets as well, some of which are closed off to traffic during the cruise. Family-friendly entertainment typically includes several bands, “Name That Tune” contests, hula hoops and more. The atmosphere is light-hearted and festive. Official event T-shirts are available.

B​ands play music while the cool cars cruise

These events could not happen without strong support from the Escondido community. Supporters of Cruisin’ Grand Escondido include the local government and the police department, as well as many sponsors. There are too many to recognize here, but some are: Gosch Ford Escondido, O’Reilly Auto Parts, the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians, San Diego Gas & Electric, Matco Tools, Filippi’s Pizza Grotto and Toyota of Escondido. For more, see:

These cruises are very popular. Attendance for the 2012 season was estimated at over 200,000, with over 50,000 for “Nitro Night” (

Featured for the remainder of 2019 are: Poway Cruisers, Heartbeat Chevys; Panteras, Shelbys and Broncos; C-10 Trucks, Vintage Corvettes and tractors, T-Birds and Woodies, First Responders and Firetrucks, drifters, and Deuces Day and Nitro Night. For dates, see

For more information about Cruisin’ Grand Escondido, including photos and videos from past events, visit their Facebook page at: Also check out For questions, send an email to:


Jan Wagner

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