San Diego, Lego and Disney - need help!

ambula603

Earning My Ears
Joined
Sep 4, 2019
We are planning a trip with our two girls (11 and 9) and need some suggestions. We plan to fly early into San Diego. We then have three days (Oct 3-6) to fill up and know we want to at least see Legoland and the San Diego Zoo. Otherwise, we are undecided. But then finish the trip with 4 nights at Disney.

Here are some specific questions I have:
  • My husband thinks we should just stay at the Lego Resort the first three nights as our home base. While I think it has some appeal for maybe one night, I also think it is expensive and will get old. I think our girls are too old and we missed the window. They do love legos but they also love the beach! He doesn't like the idea of lots of different hotel stays, I don't like the idea of overpaying when we could be somewhere else more convenient.
  • Should we add in Knotts Farm, Sea World or anything else? I don't want to over do it.
  • We would love for my girls to see a California beach. They are used to Florida/Gulf beaches and I want them to see the difference. Any suggestions?

I think these are details we have settled on:

Thank you so much for all your help!!
 

Lumpy1106

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jul 2, 2010
Your instincts are spot-on. Legoland will be good for a day - no more, even if you mix in the waterpark and/or aquarium. I'd stay somewhere in La Jolla or even downtown SD instead.
Both the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park are world-class, but are also pricier than you might expect. If your kids like zoos (mine don't - be sure and ask them), either would fill a day but I don't think I'd do both in one trip. If you've never been to Sea World that will fill a day.

As for beaches - note that the water will be a bit chilly in Oct;
If you want to see seals, go to La Jolla. They are everywhere. You can also do a kayak tour through the caves there.
If you want to just see a beach, La Jolla Shores (by Scripps pier) is nice, as is Carlsbad.
Did you know there is a historic old wooden roller coaster in San Diego? Most people don't - it's in Belmont Park, by Mission Beach which is another nice beach.
If you want to see surfers go to Blacks. That's a ...er... clothing optional beach - but sparsely crowded and you have to hike to get to it - from the glider take-off by UCSD below Torrey Pines Golf Course. Don't worry - it's tame, but don't be surprised if you do see more than you bargained for (or, ya know - indulge if that's your thing).
You can also take the hike out to Trestles in San Clemente on your way north. Get off on Christianitos, park in the lot by the Carls Jr. and follow the surfers down the trail - it's pretty iconic, and worth it for the experience alone IMHO.

Knotts is great. If you catch it on like a Tuesday in Oct. you might not even have to wait in a line. I'd avoid it on a Saturday or a school holiday as AP's are cheap there and it does get crowded.
 


Dreams&wishes

Mouseketeer
Joined
Nov 22, 2019
We did this same holiday few years ago and loved it. Specifically we stayed at hotel del coronado which we didn't like and then moved to the US Grant a luxury collection, which was very good. My kids loved the zoo, sea world wasn't that great. Legoland was great for a day, I looooved the Cinnamon apple fries with cream!!. We enjoyed the aquarium of the Pacific and Knotts Berry Farm. We spent 6 days at Disneyland and felt we could have stayed few days more. We also based ourselves in Santa Monica to visit LA
 
  • Jimsig

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Nov 23, 2012
    I have not been to Legoland but I would stay somewhere else closer to SD if you plan on doing some things there. My 10yo DD loves the SD Zoo and we did it 2 years in a row.

    As for Knotts it's right near Disney so I would not plan on that for the time you are in SD but as the PP said do it on a Tue if you want to do it. You could always drive up Mon night the 5th to avoid rush hour traffic on Tue.
     

    PHXscuba

    Mouseketeer since birth!
    Joined
    Jul 7, 2008
    The San Diego general area is spread out enough that no one hotel is going to be perfect for all attractions. I'd consider staying at the Legoland hotel for your first night so you could see a California beach (Carlsbad) and then check in early to enjoy the hotel amenities. Go to Legoland the next day. Then maybe move late that day to a hotel closer to the center area of San Diego for the Zoo, etc. If the weather is good, more beach/coast time. If not, more indoor stuff like the Balboa park museums.

    Your kids are old enough that moving hotels isn't the ordeal it would otherwise be. Tell your husband he will be driving less overall on with this idea. :rolleyes: If you really prefer less pricey and more room, maybe a VRBO/AirBnB for the first 3 nights? We have rented nice ones on Mission Bay with a nice calm beach and good freeway access. The off season in San Diego will have some great rates.

    For many years San Diego has had "kids free October" with many attractions like the Zoo free for under age 10 or 12. Check it out as it gets closer.

    PHXscuba
     

    theluckyrabbit

    Moderator
    Moderator
    Joined
    Jul 23, 2012
    October is a very busy month at DLR! If you haven't already done so, jump on in and join the **Official** October 2020 Check-in! Keep following that thread to stay updated on all the news and events for Halloween Time! Here is this year's Halloween Time Superthread: Halloween Time Superthread 2020: Oogies back! and other Halloween Time Information. This will list all the offerings, special food and merchandise, OBB ticket information (dates, prices, times, etc.), etc. when Disney makes the announcements. Halloween Time is one the most fun times of the year at DLR!
     

    cruisehopeful

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 25, 2015
    My husband thinks we should just stay at the Lego Resort the first three nights as our home base.
    I would only stay one night if at all due to the cost. There are several other hotels next to the parking lot: Sheraton, Hilton Marbrisa and Grand Pacific Palisades. There are beaches right there, but I'm going to steer you to a different beach.
    Should we add in Knotts Farm, Sea World or anything else?
    Knotts is good if you want big roller coasters. It can be a let down compared to Disneyland. I haven't been to Sea World in years, but grew up walking distance to it. I don't recommend it for people visiting San Diego unless you have a different reason for wanting to go there.
    We would love for my girls to see a California beach.
    La Jolla. Start at the Children's Pool and there's a nice walk towards La Jolla Cove. It's a beautiful area, but not great for going in the water and the water will be cold. If you really want to go in the water, head a couple miles north to La Jolla Shores.
     
  • DLgal

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 12, 2013
    For your 3 days in San Diego, you'd be best to stay in either Carlsbad (which has a nice beach) or closer to Downtown for access to Balboa Park and the great restaurants down there. I would maybe add the USS Midway museum to your things to do. It's really neat and the kids would probably dig it. There is a Hilton Garden Inn right on the beach in Carlsbad very close to Legoland (5 minute drive). It is also near a nice outlet mall with lots of restaurants. There is also the Hilton MarBrisa which is adjacent to Legoland and is a timeshare/villa type place.

    Legoland is great, but it's a one day thing for sure. DO NOT stay at the Legoland hotels though. They are super overpriced, loud/chaotic and just kind of tacky IMO. There are many much nicer hotels to choose from. In October, Legoland will open at 10am and close by 8. 10am is plenty late enough to get there by 9 or 9:30. If you go mid week, it will be a ghost town. Legoland is about a 20-30 minute drive from downtown San Diego, in the opposite direction of traffic, so it will be easy to get to if you stay closer to downtown.

    It can be very hot in October (we typically get the Santa Ana winds and it's the worst fire danger month) so a beach day is a good plan. However, the water itself will be very chilly, so don't expect to actually swim without a wetsuit. You can buy shorty wetsuits pretty cheap online if your kids will want to splash around a bit. I personally don't love SD beaches (I'm partial to Orange County beaches myself), but Carlsbad is a nice, flat beach that is good for splashing around and sand play. La Jolla is more rocky and has tide pools for exploring. Pick your passion there.

    I'd skip Knotts and Sea World and focus on Disneyland. I'd add another DL day before spending a day at either.
     

    interstate70s

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 29, 2012
    I agree one day at Legoland. The last time we went there my kids were 9 and 11 and while they enjoyed it, they were a little getting old for it. I've never stayed at their hotel but it's kind of far from everything else.

    For beaches I agree with La Jolla. Very different from Florida beaches. And the plus the seals and sea lions! Torrey Pines is nice as well and very different from Florida.

    I'd add some time at Balboa Park in addition to just doing the zoo. The museums and gardens are beautiful and the whole thing is unique to San Diego. You can get passes that cover a bunch of them. My kids like the Nat, the Science museum and the Museum of Mann the best.
     

    ambula603

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Sep 4, 2019
    You guys are SO HELPFUL! I posted the same question on another (non-Disney) travel forum and I didn't get nearly the same friendly feedback. Disney people are my people! :o) After much research we decided to forgo Lego all together. I feel good with the decision because there are so many other beautiful places to see. We do want the rocky, low tide beach area of La Jolla because it is so different.

    Here is our updated plan - thoughts?
    Saturday - fly into San Diego, check into hotel, explore beach area and have a nice dinner. Looking here - thoughts? https://thegrandecolonial.com/

    Sunday/Monday - head to Safari Park and Zoo. Possibly Balboa Park according to yall. Should we try to do all three in those two days? I think my kids will love ziplining and ropes course at the Safari Park but I don't know if it is an all day park? My daughter is obsessed with Pandas so we will start there at the Zoo on one of those days.

    Tuesday- check out of SD hotel and drive to Knottsberry for the day. Check into Disneyland Hotel that afternoon/evening

    Wed-Friday - Disneyland and DCA

    Saturday - Fly home
     

    DLgal

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 12, 2013
    Sunday/Monday - head to Safari Park and Zoo. Possibly Balboa Park according to yall. Should we try to do all three in those two days? I think my kids will love ziplining and ropes course at the Safari Park but I don't know if it is an all day park? My daughter is obsessed with Pandas so we will start there at the Zoo on one of those days.

    Tuesday- check out of SD hotel and drive to Knottsberry for the day. Check into Disneyland Hotel that afternoon/evening
    The Zoo is in Balboa Park, and IMO, it can be done (the zoo) in a few hours. I don't know how often you go to zoos, and the one in SD is always lauded as one of the best, but I wasn't overly impressed the 2 times I went there. Maybe zoos just aren't for me. You can explore Balboa Park's museums and such in the afternoon after a morning at the zoo.

    The Safari Park, on the other hand, is great. It is quite far from downtown San Diego, so I would actually suggest doing that one on Sunday so you aren't fighting traffic to get there and back. Do the zoo and Balboa park on Monday since it will be close to your hotel.

    On Tuesday, prepare for a LONG drive up to Knotts from San Diego. Honestly, trying to fit in Knott's after that drive is going to be tough. It's a good 2 hours (with no traffic) from downtown San Diego and you will have to leave SD at the crack of dawn unless you want to spend 3+ hours in the car. I'm talking, leave by 5am early. I'd recommend first stopping at the DL hotel to check in and drop your bags off, so that when you are done at Knott's, you have a room ready to come back to. You don't want to have all your suitcases sitting in the car in the parking lot at Knott's. Let's just say, security isn't super impressive there and the lot is easily accessible to anyone off the street.
     
  • marcar12

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 17, 2012
    I would recommend skipping Knotts on your Tuesday :( That day will be a lot of driving, and it might be a lot less stressful (and good preparation for your Disney days) to just relax once you get to the area of your hotel. Check in, explore a little, get dinner, and have kind of a recovery day after your San Diego adventures before starting your Disney adventures.

    We are planning a trip to San Diego this summer, and I was bummed to find out that the zoo no longer has pandas. But I am very much looking forward to the rest of it. We love zoos and have never been to the one in San Diego before :)
     

    Jimsig

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Nov 23, 2012
    @ambula603 My advice for the SD Zoo is to take the Skyway tram to the back of the park and work back to the entrance, that way it's almost all down hill.
    Also as an FYI the Zoo and Safari Park are not located near each other (about 30 miles away) so doing them in the same day is most likely not doable.

    If you plan on doing Knott's on Tue I would think about checking out of your SD hotel on Monday, do the Safari Park, and then drive to Anaheim Monday afternoon/evening and start you DL stay Monday night. That way you are only 20 min from Knott's to start the day on Tue and not having to worry about rush hour traffic and being delayed etc.


    We are planning a trip to San Diego this summer, and I was bummed to find out that the zoo no longer has pandas. But I am very much looking forward to the rest of it. We love zoos and have never been to the one in San Diego before :)
    We lucked out and saw the Pandas in 2018 when we were there and I was bummed as well to find out they were not going to be there last summer. They did have a small Red Panda, but it's not the same.
     
    Last edited:

    Lumpy1106

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 2, 2010
    Agree with others, do the SD Zoo or the Wild Animal Park but not both. The Wild Animal Park is REALLY spread out. We went there during the summer and it was H-O-T so didn't enjoy it - and it is out there, far from SD. We prefer the SD Zoo and it's not your usual zoo experience. It has a tour bus that circles the park and a skyway - both included in admission. Last I heard the Pandas headed back to China - they were on loan. The SD Zoo is very close to Downtown SD so it would be easy to do the zoo and the beach, or explore downtown, or some of the other museums in Balboa Park. Parking is free, the zoo is pricey, there is a reasonable entrance fee to the other Balboa Park museums.
     

    interstate70s

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 29, 2012
    I think your plan is good.
    Sat-Beach
    Sun-Safari Park
    Mon- Zoo, Explore Balboa
    Tues- Knotts, check into Disney.

    I personally really like the San Diego zoo. We've been to a lot of zoos moving around with the military and its great, really beautiful. I also have a soft spot for Knotts. I really like all the little live performances and the themes of the different areas.

    Have a great trip!
     

    cruisehopeful

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 25, 2015
    Saturday - fly into San Diego, check into hotel, explore beach area and have a nice dinner. Looking here - thoughts? https://thegrandecolonial.com/
    While I am not familiar with that property at all, I am very familiar with the area and it is a great area to stay. I love to walk from the Children's Pool down past the Cove. There are lots of seals and sea lions and the waves can be very aggressive and fun to watch. If you are planning on actually going into the water, I might recommend a different beach, but still stay in this area. There's a small gift shop by the cove that has a paid entrance into a sea cave. You go down a lot of stairs. It can be wet and stinky, but it's something that is kind of cool to do.

    You will have a lot of places to eat and shop within walking distance.
     

    ambula603

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Sep 4, 2019
    Thank you guys for the suggestions! I am SO SAD about the pandas! I guess I was listening to one of the older Day 6 podcasts and just assumed they were still there. Lucky for us, we have seen them in Memphis a few times. That was going to be a highlight for my daughter but I know she will love other things.

    Good tips about traffic, these are things we clearly don't know! Now we are discussing Knotts and what to do there. Eek. I would love to switch from SD hotel to another night at Disneyland Hotel but I am not sure that is feasible. I would also love to add a day to the whole trip overall! I love having rest days at the resort, remember :o) Right now I think we will try to get up really early and just drive on Tuesday. Not ideal but it is what it is.

    I am glad to hear that La Jolla resort is in a good area but I can't commit to it just yet. Anyone else do that!? I feel like I need to see EVERY option and read every review and even then I second guess myself!
     

    PHXscuba

    Mouseketeer since birth!
    Joined
    Jul 7, 2008
    The first week of October Knotts shouldn't be very busy on a weekday. It rarely opens before 10 a.m. and it won't take you all day to do everything (and favorites twice). So leave San Diego at 6:30 or 7 am and if you get to the area early-ish, drop your stuff at the Disneyland Hotel. You'll be done with Knotts by mid/late afternoon and still have a lot of time to enjoy the DLH and Downtown Disney.

    PHXscuba
     

    theluckyrabbit

    Moderator
    Moderator
    Joined
    Jul 23, 2012
    ... I am glad to hear that La Jolla resort is in a good area but I can't commit to it just yet. Anyone else do that!? I feel like I need to see EVERY option and read every review and even then I second guess myself!
    We have stayed at the Grande Colonial in La Jolla (the on site restaurants is one of our favorites in that area). It is a nice property in a great location, but the building itself is older and the rooms show their age. The plumbing is old (and a bit noisy). Might be quaint for some, but if you are used to newer hotels with newer amenities, this hotel will just feel old (not run down, but aged). Also, the patio area is lovely, but when the wind is blowing the wrong direction, it brings a strong smell of the sea lions and their "business" up from the beach. Ahem... That's when we move indoors.
     

    cruisehopeful

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 25, 2015
    If you are still unsure about the hotel in La Jolla, I can suggest a few others:
    https://www.missionbayresort.com/ This used to be a Hilton. I am not sure by it went independent. It has lots of bayside activities on site. This is not on the ocean, though.

    https://hoteldel.com/?WT_mc_id=zAREC0US1QQ2OLG3Directory4Yext_May56SANQQQQ7EN8i1?SEO_id=GMB-QQ-SANQQQQ It has the ocean right next to it.

    https://paradisepoint.com/?utm_source=google-local&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=gmb Haven't stayed here in a couple decades, but the grounds are full of stuff for a stay at the resort day. It's also on the bay instead of the ocean. It's extremely close to Sea World. They also sell day passes if you just want to spend the day there using the pools and doing activities.

    https://www.grandpacificpalisades.com/ This was the first built hotel/resort next to Legoland. You can walk from the hotel to Legoland, but it's a bit of a long walk because the "special entrance" puts you in the middle of the parking lot. Ignore the photos of the flower fields on the website. The flowers are only in bloom in the spring, it's a dirt lot the rest of the time.
     

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