|Where's Margot... San Diego|
San Diego: Sensational family fun
San Diego offers up no shortage of activities to thrill both children and adults alike.
By Margot Black
Seeking the ideal family vacation destination? Think San Diego, California. Nestled along 70 miles of stunning California coastline, family-friendly San Diego County offers a wide variety of activities and arguably the best year-round weather in the U.S. of A.
HOTEL DEL CORONADO
We spent a night at The Hotel Del, which offers endless family recreation opportunities like surfing, biking, boating, kayaking, golfing, kids and teen programs. Tent City Kids' Camp and Kids' Crafts are offered year-round and offers a variety of activities for kids aged four to 12. Teens can hang out in the Coast Club Teen Lounge (open daily throughout the summer and during holidays), which offers video games, a pool, music, computers and the chance to meet other teens or enjoy spa treatments created just for them.
There's a magnificent new on-site spa, The Spa at The Del, with ocean-inspired therapies and special spa packages available for individuals, teens, couples, mothers & daughters and fathers & sons (this one includes a 90-minute surf lesson followed by a Swedish massage!) I enjoyed the Signature Del Massage and it was one of the best massages I've ever had. When you're done with your treatment you can relax by the spas private outdoor pool and fire pit. Both face the ocean and are an oasis of calm and serenity; a superb spot to take in a sunset.
Between the history, the elegance, the beach and the ingenuity of the place, there is something for everyone to enjoy at this hotel. And should you ever desire to leave the hotel, you're walking distance from the quaint town of Coronado and a 10-minute drive from downtown San Diego.
San Diego offers such a wide variety of family friendly activities, the best advice I have is this: Parents – eat your Wheaties. You'll need lots of energy and organization to take advantage of all that this city has to offer. Hotel del Coronado, 1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA, Tel: 800-HOTELDEL.
To get the lay of the land (or rather, the water) we began our journey with a harbor cruise. The cruise is divided into North and South and the narrated tour is chock- full of history. The bottom deck of the boat is enclosed in case you're traveling with small children or infants (strollers are welcome) and the upstairs has ample outdoor seating and a tiny enclosed section in case the wind is too much. One- and two-hour narrated tours are available and take guests on North Bay, South Bay or full San Diego Bay tours. The entire family can take this trip; it's an easy way to enjoy some time on the water. With a plethora of both historic and active U.S. Navy ships in the bay, budding sailors and pirates are sure to be dazzled. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about some of the ships you see around the bay, check out the Maritime Museum of San Diego, which consists of several historic sailing vessels including the Star of India, built in 1863 and the world's oldest merchant sailing vessel still in operation today.
We traveled from the San Diego harbor to Seaport Village via bicycle rickshaw. I was expecting a cookie-cutter type of wharf mall but Seaport Village was charming and distinctive. There are lots of unique shops and I was happy to see they weren't all chain stores. In fact, there were hardly any. There was a great hammock store, a shell store and lots of other places to wander in and out of, lots of walking paths, bathrooms accessible for families and the entire village overlooks a marina. The Old Town trolley stops there, too and it's a spot you'll definitely want to hop off and check out. We chose Seaport Village as our sunset viewing spot for that evening.
We dined at a super-fun, family-friendly hot spot, a restaurant called Corvette Diner. The waitresses sport mile-high hairdos, dance the occasional choreographed number and throw bazooka gum at patrons. Visiting little boys get dressed up as pirates from a resident balloon sculptor, girls of all ages get their hair done up with soda straws while a DJ spins tunes that had us dancing in the aisles. The menu features traditional '50s diner faves including Sloppy Joes, huge ice cream sundaes and root beer floats. Bring your kids to the Corvette Diner and they'll think you're the coolest parents on planet Earth -- well, at least for the duration of your dinner. Corvette Diner, 3946 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest, CA, Tel: (619) 542-1476.
SAN DIEGO ZOO
For first-time visitors, the two essential family activities in San Diego are The San Diego Zoo and Sea World. The San Diego Zoo is a world-famous, 100-acre tropical garden that houses 4,000 animals of 800 other rare and exotic species. One of the most popular exhibits is a family of Giant Pandas. The zoo has the largest population of Giant Pandas in the U.S. and is one of only four facilities in the nation to house the critically endangered species. There are abundant displays of animal prowess available throughout the day and many additional family activities including making monkey masks and interactive exhibits on illegal animal poaching. Two popular zoo activities, the three-mile guided bus tour and a sky tram, require you to park your stroller -- so if you're traveling with stroller, you may want to bring the cheap collapsible type. The children's petting zoo and the baby animal nursery are additional family hits. And there's face painting available so the kiddies can go home looking like their favorite animal. San Diego Zoo, Tel: (619) 234-3153.
SAMMY'S WOODFIRE PIZZA
After the zoo we headed north to La Jolla and dined at Sammy's Woodfire Pizza. After a day of eating at park concession stands, we very much appreciated the adult pleasing (and delicious!) menu in a family-friendly environment. The food here was extraordinary and the place was filled with patrons of all ages. Unique artesian thin-crust pizzas include combinations such as blue cheese with tomato, olive and arugula. I devoured my Oak Roasted Salmon with Ponzu Salad; it was listed under the menu heading "Sammy Recommends" and now I recommend it, too. There is also a kids menu that features kid-sized servings of pizzas, pastas and chopped salads. Make sure to save room for one of Sammy's Messy Sundaes -- it's an irresistible presentation and it's impossible not to order one, especially after watching them be delivered to every table around you while you're eating. Sammy's Pizza, 702 Pearl Street, La Jolla, CA, Tel: (858) 456-5222.
PARADISE POINT RESORT
Before heading over to Sea World, we checked into the Paradise Point Resort and Spa, which is a private, 44-acre island located on Mission Bay. The resort features comfortable, California beach bungalow-style guest rooms amidst lush, tropical gardens and lagoons. The rooms come with a kitchenette nook, sensational for traveling with families and we loved being able to meander from our rooms right onto the beach each morning, cup of coffee in hand. This hotel made me feel like I was miles away from the big city and offered tons of activities.
This resort is beautifully designed and has lots of nooks and crannies for both adults and kids to enjoy exploring. We lingered looking at lilies in a pagoda, ate S'mores by a fire pit on the beach (loved that!) and kicked back with a cocktail (try the Paradise Punch!) at the waterfront Barefoot Bar and Grill. My family enjoyed a most unusual lunch companion, a blue herring, which the waiter told me are there all the time and visit from nearby Sea World. The amazing bird just sat perched on the side of a nearby chair during our entire lunch.
The resort features an Indonesian-themed spa (called SpaTerre), which offers Thai- and Japanese-style massages and treatments. I sampled the spa's signature Balinese Massage, which was a combination of acupressure, rolling motions and rhythmic thumps. The treatment rooms and the presentation are beautiful.
The Paradise Point Resort is huge and after two days, we kept discovering new nooks and crannies. Also, this hotel is walking distance from Sea World. Well, a very vigorous walk. Both places are huge pieces of real estate. Paradise Point Resort and Spa, 1404 Vacation Road, San Diego, CA, Tel: (858) 274-4630.
SeaWorld is an essential stop for the first-time visitor and a place that families will want to return to many times. There are currently six major shows going on (almost hourly), fascinating attractions and dozens of exhibits containing marine life from around the globe. We caught Believe, which featured Shamu and friends gliding through water and air amidst a giant water fountain, a high-tech stage, four giant moving screens, underwater cameras and a cast of impressive human swimmers/assistants. The show was an incredible display of marine life, showmanship and sheer talent on the part of both fish and humans. Most shows take place in outdoor amphitheaters and have seating on a first-come, first-served basis, so for popular shows, you'll want to get there with time to spare to get a good seat. Before the Believe show began, SeaWorld gave acknowledgement and thanks to all people serving in the Armed Forces and had anyone serving stand up for a round of applause. It was one of the most stirring public displays I've seen in a long time and my hats off to SeaWorld for doing it. This park also requires stroller parking, so again, you might want to take the collapsible kind or utilize a Baby Bjorn (our choice for this park) if you're traveling with an infant. For families, the park has tons of bathrooms but most appreciatively, also had ample family bathrooms and nursing quarters for moms. SeaWorld of California, 500 SeaWorld Drive, San Diego, CA, Tel: (800) 257-4268.
FUN FOR ALL
We didn't leave ourselves enough time to do all that we wanted in San Diego. Average vacation times in this city are between three and four days, but I think a family could be here for a full week and still not have time to do it all. We would have liked to continue riding on the trolley, stopped at a few museums in Balboa Park, hung out at the beach a little more and have had time to take in Legoland and the Wild Animal Safari animal park. San Diego is such a great family vacation spot, I'm happy to have myriad reasons to return.
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Note: This trip was sponsored by the San Diego CVB.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Margot Black developed a love of travel and tourism as a senior account executive at an international public relations/marketing firm in New York City. She has traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America and the South Pacific. A move to Los Angeles expanded Margot's expertise and writing skills into the world of entertainment/comedy. She has appeared on NBC, A&E, TNN, GSN and Comedy Central. Her writing has appeared in Written By, She’s So Funny, Joke Soup, and The Comedy Thesaurus. Margot Black recently launched Black Ink Communications, a writing/marketing company and likes to be outdoors when ever possible. An avid traveler, Margot Black knows how to say “what’s for lunch?” in twelve different languages.
Pictures From The Trip
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