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Old 10-10-2012, 01:56 AM   #1
DIS Veteran
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 663

San Diego with toddlers

Just wrapped up an awesome week in San Diego with myself, DH, DD3 and DS2. We're already planning to come back some time soon, it was a wonderful place for a family vacation. A few thoughts to share:

We stayed at Homewood Suites Liberty Station for eight nights. Great hotel! We had a one bedroom suite that was perfect for our family and the grounds are beautiful, backing onto a walking path along the water. The evening "manager's reception" was great for us, nothing fancy, but it was so nice to come back from a busy day and not to have to worry about supper. The staff was super friendly too.

The Liberty Station area was really nice, too. There was a nice shopping area with lots of artsy places and galleries. We also found a great independant children's book store called Yellow Book Road. The owners were great and we ended up going there twice. We also went to the Corvette Diner in the Liberty Station area. It was totally kitschy and over the top and the kids loved it. The food was just okay, but we had a blast watching the antics of the waiters and listening to that great fifties music.

Legoland was awesome for young kids like ours. We had spent three previous days at Disneyland and we loved that too, but Legoland felt more relaxed and easier to manage. I can totally see how a pre-teen might find it a bit "lame", but for a toddler it was great. We went on a thursday and there were almost no lines. We went back for a few hours on Saturday since we had second day free tickets and it was much busier, with lines at all the rides. Weekdays seem to be the way to go. Our tickets included the Sea Life aquarium so we went and it was okay, but I wouldn't pay extra for it. We maybe spent half an hour there. And bring a change of clothes. Even if the water park is closed, there's several water play areas that will get kids soaked in no time.

The zoo was probably my least favorite day. The zoo itself was great, but I think my kids were too young to appreciate it. It was enormous, and very very hilly. It felt like I spent the whole day pushing a stroller up hills. (Never down, all the hills only seemed to go up for some reason!) I'm sure if I went again in a few years I'd like it more, but it was too much walking for too little reward for my little ones. Their favorite things were the play areas scattered here and there. Another annoyance was how many vehicles seemed to be driving around the paths; tour buses, golf carts, service vehicles, etc. you couldn't let little ones just wander around and look at things, it felt like I was constantly pulling them out of the path of vehicles. Not the most relaxing day.

Balboa Park was just gorgeous. I couldn't believe that it could be a public park. It felt like something from Europe with the amazing architecture and beautiful buildings. We spent a whole morning wandering around and checking out fountains and gardens and hidden pathways.

We also spent a day at Coronado beach. Amazing! When we arrived at 9:30 or so there was a pod of dolphins frolicking around just offshore. The white sand was perfect and soft and the setting was like a postcard. The only downside was the several pounds of sand the kids managed to bring home in their clothes! And we also learned that even if it's cloudy when you head out, you should still put sunscreen on the kids before you get to the beach or else the sun will suddenly come out with a vengeance and you'll be stuck trying to sunscreen some very unhappy kids that are already covered in sand!

Our last stop was Seaworld. The weekday crowds were quite manageable, and the tots really seemed to like the shows. The Sesame Street bay of play was good for about an hour of entertainment and the animal exhibits were hit and miss, depending on their attention span. One thing that was a bit annoying was that many exhibits didn't allow strollers. It wasn't too bad with two fairly mobile toddlers, but with a baby you'd end up having to carry the child through the whole exhibit, the often the exit would be some distance from the entrance, so you'd have to traipse back a ways to collect your stroller at the end. And the food was pretty bad too, although it may just be that after 10 days on the road we're just sick of theme park food in general.

So that's my wordy and somewhat drawn out assessment of San Diego with toddlers. I'll be recommending this city to anyone who'll listen as a great place to bring kids. We could have easily stayed a second week and found lots more things to do!
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Old 10-11-2012, 10:30 AM   #2
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Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: San Diego
Posts: 337

Glad you enjoyed your stay here. Next time you visit the zoo try this trick. There are 2 sets of up escalators near the panda exhibit. One takes you to the elephants and the other up towards Alberts. I never seem to walk up those hills. It adds a few steps, but far better that those hills.
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Old 10-12-2012, 11:55 PM   #3
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 663

Oh, right, that's one thing I forgot to mention. I planned a rough route around the zoo to take advantage of the escalators.... and then they were both down for maintenance that day! It just wasn't our day that day.
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