Family trip: Feb 27-March 4, 2009
We flew via Southwest Airlines, which has become our airline of preference, and rented a car from Ace aka Blue Oval. The car was a Nissan Versa, and we paid $122 for 5 days. It was quite suitable (though there was not enough luggage space for 4 suitcases and a large backpack — fortunately, we filled the car with luggage only twice, for two short trips to and from the hotel). The shuttle service was quick and the customer service quite friendly and efficient. We stayed in the Homewood Suites – Liberty Station, Trip Advisor’s top-rated hotel in San Diego. It’s deserving. It’s not luxurious, but it’s a new hotel, with new furnishings, a comfortable bed, and very friendly helpful service. The complimentary buffet breakfast was very good (scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, make-it-yourself waffles, fruit bar, cereals, muffins, and delicious cinnamon rolls). The kids really loved the breakfast, and so did I. Mondays through Thursdays they serve a complimentary “light” dinner, which was really enough dinner for us. Monday was Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes and gravy and a salad bar, and Tuesday was baked potatoes with toppings and a salad bar. Wine and beer were also served!
On Saturday we went to the San Diego Zoo. Our primary reason for going to San Diego was to see the zoo and its koala exhibit. Daughter has been crazy about koalas since she did a report on them in first grade. We headed to the koalas first and spent quite a while watching them. Adorable animals! We also got to see the elephants, which are Son’s new favorite animal, plus meerkats, gorillas and pandas. We managed about 4 hours in the zoo before travel exhaustion set in and the crowds got annoying. It’s a pretty extraordinary zoo, but one thing we didn’t like were the buses that ferry people all over the place. It’s crazy to have to watch for bus traffic when you’re walking in a zoo.
After a dip in the hotel pool, we went to LaJolla to see the seals at the Children’s Pool Beach. This is a natural seal haul-out, and the seals were quite adorable. I loved watching the seals, but the kids found it boring. Also, there was apparently a police event going on (complete with helicopter circling and police with bullhorns saying “Come out with your hands up!”) nearby, but it was more entertaining than scary.
We ate dinner at Denny’s in Pacific Beach afterwards. The kids were tired and we wanted a kid-friendly place for them to relax. On the way back to the hotel, we got lost, but wound up driving through a really beautiful, vibrant neighborhood of little surf shops and taquerias. It was a classic California strip along Mission Blvd.
On Sunday we spent the day in Balboa Park. We went to the Museum of Photography, the Model Railroad Museum, and the Natural History Museum, then we had a picnic outside the Botanical Building. The International Houses were having some sort of event, and we went from house to house and indulged in free snacks they were providing in each house. My favorite was the apple pie from the Germany house!
After another trip back to the hotel pool (our last — it got cooler/breezier the next 2 days) we went to the Hotel del Coronado to watch the sunset and play on the beach. The kids had a blast and got soaking wet and sandy. We had planned on going to Miguel’s, but at the last minute, we decided to go lower key and stopped at the La Salsa (fast food Mexican) on the corner across from the Del. A better choice for kids, especially when Daughter knocked her lemonade all over the table. Come to think of it, Daughter was spilling drinks the whole trip, including breakfast, and almost at Denny’s.
Monday we spent at Legoland. My expectations were low — I love Lego, but I thought the whole Lego theme park idea was stupid. Still, I had wanted to go to Legoland for years. Well, it turned out that for some reason I found the conceit of lego animals and statues to be really compelling. I kept looking to see what piece they used for what construct. We arrived before it opened at 10, and spent all day there, to 4:30. Anyway, Legoland is definitely geared for younger kids. My 9.5 year old was about at the high end of the age range to enjoy it. We had the best time in Pirate Shores with the splash battle, and a car-driving attraction. We also liked the Lost Kingdom Adventure, which was a sort of a low-rent but still fun version of Buzz Lightyear’s Ranger Spin from Walt Disney World. The main attraction, though, was Miniland. Our 6 year old son was absolutely thrilled and amazed by everything. We also picked up some fresh strawberries at a farmstand near Legoland, and they were delicious.
Dinner Monday was at the hotel.
On Tuesday we headed for Cabrillo National Monument and the tidepools. I was extremely disappointed that the monument is only open from 9 to 5. At other times, the park is gated, and you cannot enter. Firstly, I wanted to photograph the Old Point Loma Lighthouse at sunrise. Further, the famous tide pools were not available to us at the point of lowest tide. When we got there at 9:15, the tides were already rising. However, we did visit the Old Point Loma lighthouse, which did have a nice museum and keeper’s quarters available to view. Then we headed up to the visitor’s center to see a terrific movie about the migration of whales.
After lunch back at the hotel (it was too breezy for my wife to picnic at Cabrillo), we went to Old Town for a little bit. Had I realized there were some nice picnic tables there, we would have picnicked there. Oh well. Old Town had some really photogenic spots to explore, both exterior views and inside the quaint shops. I could easily have stayed there for hours, but we had only a short visit there because we were meeting friends up in Kearney Mesa for an early dinner. We went to Jasmine’s Seafood. Since we had free dinner waiting at the hotel, and we don’t really like seafood, we didn’t eat much there. But our friends enjoyed it quite a bit. After dinner, we decided to head to Ocean Beach/Sunset Cliffs. We ended up on Dog Beach, I think, the southern end, and we watched the sunset there. We liked the hippie feel of Ocean Beach quite a bit, and I was very amused by all the bad singing/guitar playing and even rapping going on.
We kept ourselves on an early schedule while we were there. We were asleep by 9 most nights, awake at 6 am, so I could keep on an Eastern time zone schedule as much as possible. We had a great time. The weather was perfect, the people were friendly, and the attractions were interesting and held my kids’ attention. If we had more time, I would have liked to have gone on a whalewatching trip and taken a side trip to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.