Visiting San Diego

Parent Reviews

We have vacationed in San Diego the week after Christmas multiple times with our 3 school age children.  Always had a great time.  Weather is usually good and lots to do.  In addition to the things you mentioned check out Balboa Park, Old Town and La Jolla Shores and LegoLand.  

San Diego Zoo is amazing.  Can eat Mexican food / shop in the Old Town (I think that's what they call it).  There's museums.  The beach.  There's a ship.  It would be fun, we went once during the winter several years ago.  I would check out a guidebook to see if you want to go.

Those are both long drives, but between the two I would absolutely pick San Diego over Las Vegas. It's beautiful, it has a variety of activities to suit all interests and age groups, and proximity to other interesting destinations. There are neighborhoods with Airbnb options in San Diego where the older kids could walk around on their own (South Park, Little Italy, North Park etc) and you'd have easy to access to the gardens, zoo, and museums in Balboa Park plus a good location to drive to beaches in Coronado, La Jolla, and Pt Loma (my favorite tidepooling is at Pt Cabrillo if the tide charts are in your favor) plus you have the Safari Park (newish name for Wild Animal Park), Julian, Anza Borrego Desert and Tijuana as possible day trips.  If you wanted a day or two of resort experience, the greater San Diego area has plenty of options for that (Loews in Coronado, Paradise Point in Mission Bay etc). Las Vegas in December could be quite cold, which would make the pools undesirable, and I wouldn't feel as uncomfortable with kids on their own. Las Vegas has fun, but you need to pay for all of it, and it can be overwhelming for kids. That said, I know some people LOVE it. But I wouldn't choose that for a group vacation unless I knew for sure it was everyone's cup of tea.

If a short flight is an option, I second the idea of San Diego/OC. There's so much to see (assuming no rain).

In San Diego: San Diego Zoo, San Diego Wildlife Park, Sea World, Balboa Park, etc. I would suggest to skip Legoland as the ride options available for a 3-4 year old are VERY limited.

If you fly to the SNA airport (in OC) you also have multiple options in the area: beach, visiting the Queen Mary (Long Beach), the aquarium (in Long Beach too), Pretend City would be heaven for that age (Irvine) and if you happen to go to Disneyland try Disney California Adventure which is less crowded and offers more options for 3-4 year olds (e.g. Carsland, Bugsland, Disney Jr. show, lots of musical mini-shows on the plazas, Ariel's Grotto, etc).

good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

6,7,8 year old destinations in San Diego

March 2016

We've got a six, a seven and an eight year old in San Diego this Saturday... Any recommendation for destinations? We've already got a scheduled trip to the zoo, the beach for some boogie boarding, and a trip to the harbour to visit battleships... (they are the children of historians, after all...), but I'm wondering if any of you have good ideas for interesting destinations that aren't on a normal tourist maps. Earl

We took our kids to San Diego when they were 6 and 9 and they had a blast at the zoo (a full day outing), Legoland, Old Town for dinner, the beach, Balboa Park, bike riding on Coronado Island. Tripadvisor actually has a great set of info on all kinds of outdoor activities. San Diego is a great family destination - have fun! Juanita

Last minute trip to San Diego with 3 kids

March 2015

We have decided that we'd like to try to take a trip to San Diego over spring break. Last minute, I know, but we'd like to try to pull it off. We have three kids, ages 11, 9 and 7, and would love some advice about places to stay and things to do. We'll have a car, and most of the week, so I was thinking about a day at a few of the museums in Balboa Park, a beach day, and a day at the Zoo. I am wondering about the Safari Park as well. Is it different enough from the Zoo to do them both in the same trip? We also thought about Legoland but I don't know if it would be too crazy over the break. Things seem very expensive, but I'm wondering if there are any discounts out there. Thanks in advance for the suggestions! Last minute traveler

Your plan sounds like fun! We did a last-minute spring break trip to LA and San Diego last year. We only had one day in SD, so we did the Safari Park - personally I think it's more fun than the zoo, and that they are similar enough that you wouldn't need to do both. Plus that leaves you more time to explore Balboa Park. My NorCal kids are always amazed and delighted by SoCal beaches -- not cold and windy and rocky! -- so that's always a hit. If you're driving, the missions make interesting places to stretch your legs and explore history - we've been to San Luis Obispo and San Capistrano. If you can, don't book up your schedule too much and you may decide once you're there that you want an extra day one place and to skip something else. Last Minute Traveler

The Safari Park is quite different from the San Diego Zoo, and it's well worth the trip: there's a monorail that goes all around the large savannah where the giraffes and rhinos meander. See if you can plan your visit to coincide with giraffe-feeding.

LEGOLAND is a fun all-day excursion, but do yourself a favor and hunt high and low for coupons and discounts; regular admission is awfully high. If it's warm enough, definitely get the Water Park tickets as well. (We haven't tried the Sea Life part, but the other two were plenty for us.) Also consider stocking up a cooler and leaving it in your car for a mid-day re-entry meal-- the food here is okay but it's also expensive.

LEGOLAND and Safari Park are in North County, which means that you'll need to plan travel time into your trip (unless you switch up hotels, another fine idea). Driving on I-15 (from San Diego to the Safari Park) can be a traffic nightmare; I-5 (from San Diego to LEGOLAND) is similarly very busy at rush hour.

HTH Erik

One possible money-saver, especially if you go to both the zoo and safari park, is to join the Zoo! Since you aren't local, the lowest membership level you can get ('Curator') is $300, but that gets two adults into both the zoo and safari park (for a year), free parking at the Safari Park (regular $12), and four guest tickets to get someone in free to either one (i.e., total of four admissions). Also assorted other perks like some discount admission tickets, a year of the magazine ZooNooz (my kids liked it), unlimited aerial ride, etc. You could also add one or more kids to the membership for $49 each - already pays off if you visit both the zoo and safari park. As members, another great benefit is SKIP THE QUEUE! (though I'm not sure if that's true when you use the guest passes). And part of it is even tax-deductible! store_id=1941&VIEW_DEFAULT=true&FOLDER=1355&TYPE=&NAME=

There are also assorted multi-admission passes for San Diego attractions, so you should look those up and compare. R.K. --

I spent three weeks in San Diego last summer, and my child was in YMCA summer camp for kids in La Jolla. She cancelled out on the Sea World week opting for water park themes, but then we went together to Sea World toward the end of the trip. It was so amazing, just beautiful animals and facilities, very knowledgeable staff. The park was celebrating an anniversary of some kind. It was affordable, and we signed up for a special membership rather than a day pass to be able to return for free, went back and had even more fun. We also rented bikes and biked along Pacific Beach as a highlight... There's an awesome yoga class on a cliff overlooking the water some evenings too, especially Fridays. There's a small $5 donation. Please go to Nosh Deli, in San Diego... and Warwick's if you need books/stationery/gifts. There's a cute original 1950s hotel called Capri right across from the Del Coronado, and we stayed a few days. So cute. Great parking. Have a great time! anon

Toddler activities in San Diego

April 2013

Hi all! We will be heading down to San Diego for a week long family vacation in April and would like to know of any must do places or things to do with an active two year old. Thanks! headed to San Diego

balboa park: zoo, science museum, museum of anthropology, -lots of interactive stuff the beach near sea world, also has small low key amusement park anon

You could head to the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, Sea World and Legoland. Anonymous

Hotel in San Diego for family with 3 kids?

Jan 2013

We almost always stay at relatives' homes, or at cabins or cottages loaned by friends. But now we are planning a 5-night trip in April to San Diego staying in a REAL hotel/motel with our 3 kids, ages 8-13. Can you recommend a decent, clean place in SD that: is in a safe area, yet close to tourist attractions & restaurants, has cheap or free self-parking, has a decent pool, is fairly soundproof (so we can sleep and won't bother others...), and has space for 2 queen beds & a sofa bed? Under $125 would be optimal. Thank you! Newbies to So. Ca.

We have stayed at La Jolla Shores Hotel with our kids and love it. It's one of the few hotels in the area with direct access to the beach. The pool is nice and the place is very family friendly. It is next door to another hotel that is much more expensive and more of a resort. I don't remember the exact rates, but they are reasonable. Check it out. Love San Diego

We stayed at Sommerset Suites in San Diego -- We had a bedroom with two double/queen beds and a living room with a double sofa bed. There was plenty of space and a full kitchenette. anon

San Diego with a 3-yr-old

Dec 2012

I will be at a 3-day conference in San Diego at the start of December. My not-so-adventurous mother will be taking care of my 3-yr-old while we are there (though I'm also hoping to find a bit of time for fun myself, in between conferencing!). What recommendations do you have for fun that's easily public-transport-accessible from the downtown conference area? I'm imagining at least one day at the zoo; what parts of the zoo do you recommend especially? We spend a lot of time at the Oakland Zoo, and would love to see things that are a bit different: is the Children's Zoo worth it, for example? Are there any attractions that are great for a toddler close to the downtown area? Any beaches that are easily accessible? I've heard that Legoland may not be that exciting for the youngest kids (my daughter is on the younger end of 3, and doens't meat the 36-inch height requirement for a lot of rides yet)..... Any hidden gems? Thanks for your help. -taking the toddler

If you are staying in downtown SD, definitely go to the Children's Museum: You can take the trolly to Old Town and walk around (the best Mexican food in Old Town is at La Pinata). As far as the Zoo in concerned, it's all pretty awesome. Walk to the opposite end of the zoo and THEN take the gondolas back (also, if your child still needs a stroller, make sure you bring an umbrella style to the zoo so you can take it on the gondola). Skip LegoLand unless your kid loves legos more than anything in the universe - it's really expensive and you need to rent a car to get there. As far as beaches, Ocean Beach is pretty chill & funky (it's often considered the 'Berkeley' of SD) and you can get a phenomenal burger at Hodad's (yes, wait in line - totally worth it!). La Jolla has kid friendly beaches as well but you'll need a car to get there or to any of the beaches. Miss my former home!

The best place of all is the pool at your hotel! Don't underestimate it. Your mom can go down there and then leave easily for mealtime, naptime, cranky time, etc. If I were her I wouldn't want to commit to any more than one full day outing with a toddler. Too exhausting! Don't try to do too much

balboa park! there's a zoo,gardens, a hands on science museum, interesting anthropology museum... not all of these probably or the beach... and/or a playground. anon

Affordable 'away from it all' place to stay in San Diego

Dec 2011

We are not interested in staying in the main beach area that many people have recommended - do you have a secret spot that your family stays that is both affordable and a little 'away from it all' and still accessable to Sea World, SD Zoo and more? need quiet and rest!

We lived in San Diego for two years and moved to Berkeley this summer. I would recommend staying in Hillcrest or in Mission Hills. Hillcrest has small hotels, apartment style suites and bed and breakfasts; Mission Hills is primarily a residential area but has some bed and breakfasts and you may be able to find a house let or house swap. Both locations are short (10-15 minute) drives to the beaches, Sea World, Downtown, Coronado, and La Jolla, and you could be walking distance from Balboa Park with all its activities including the zoo. Mission HIlls has some sweet commercial areas and Hillcrest is probably the most walkable place in San Diego, with great restaurants, cafes, bakeries and shops. Anywhere west of Balboa Park would be fine. Enjoy! PJ We stayed there two years ago with a 1.5 year old and 6 year old in the Cailfornia Suite. It's right on the edge of Balboa Park -- you can walk to the zoo. It's insanely well-priced for San Diego, and it's so great to have a suite. The included breakfast was awful (cereal or Costco pastries) but large, so we just took the two that came with the room and supplemented with fruit. We didn't eat out much in the immediate area because we were visiting family nearby -- I can't remember if there were restaurants within walking distance. The kitchen was tiny and bare-bones, but we did cook a bit. The biggest minus was no swimming pool, which for a SD vacation is a huge drawback, but the price is unbeatable. It was quiet. enjoy the trip!

San Diego over Spring Break with teens

March 2010

My husband and I are taking my 13yr old daughter and a friend to the San Diego area April 3 - April 10. We have rented a condo in the Solana Beach area (which is about 20 miles north). I want the girls to have a good time and am looking for recommendations on things for them to do hopefully not all expensive. I've heard the zoo is great but the wild animal park 'so so' unless you book an additional costly package. My daughter wants to go to Legoland but I've heard mixed reviews about it for their age group. She really likes 'big' rides and I'm wondering if it might be a little boring for her. I would appreciate any suggestions. Thanks! Shelley

I am originally from San Diego and lived in North County for decades. The best 'cheap' Mexican restaurant is Roberto's - greasy but good. If you head north five minutes to Del Mar, the best sandwich store is 'Board 'N Brew.' Both are on PCH. At the beach in Solana Beach there is a nice playground adjacent to the beach that that kids can play at. The Del Mar beach is two minutes away and has a grassy area above the beach that kids can play in. You can also walk to town from there to have lunch, shop etc. Sea World and the Zoo are great. Legoland is huge, but there is a little something for everything. Your approach should be to go to only the sections that are age appropriate - there is no reason to cover the entire park since some sections are for older kids. Balboa Park is also lovely. It is close to the zoo. There is a science museum, an art area, beautiful park, walking trails etc. Have fun! alison

Family friendly lodging in San Diego

April 2009

We are considering taking our daughter to San Diego for her 3rd birthday. We'd like to take her to the zoo and the Wild Animal Park as well as Marine World and the beach. Any recommendations on where to stay and other tips about traveling there with a 3 year old? Nadine

We stayed at the Balboa Park Inn in February and had a really nice time. The Balboa Park Inn is about as close as you can get to the zoo (if it hadn't been raining, we would have walked). Most of the rooms are more like small apartments - complete with kitchens and living rooms. Best yet, its really very reasonably priced and within a short driving range to some fun neighborhoods. We came to love our local Whole Foods. We cooked at home most nights and enjoyed having a separate room for our four year old at night (he slept on the pull out sofa).

After doing some research we discovered the Go San Diego Card. The card includes the Zoo and Wild Animal Park, Legoland, and just about all the museums in San Diego (which of course are right there by the Zoo). The only thing it doesn't include is Sea World. YOu can buy the card to cover a certain number of days and then visit as many attractions as you want on those days. It certainly made us visit places we would have never tried (and made us not feel guilty when our four year old's attention span meant we were at an attraction for just 45 minutes).

Aside from the Zoo (which we went to four out of five days) my four-year-old's top attractions were the Wild Animal Park and the Fleet Science Museum (which has a nice children's area). We actually watched two IMAX films which he loved. Legoland was fun, but a bit of a drive. We enjoyed the Birch Aquarium too. Have a great time! Katie

we just came back from spending a week in San Diego for spring break with our kids, doing the sights and the ''desitnations'' you mentioned. Sea World definitely wowed our kids. We stayed at the Bahia Resort near Mission Beach-- we got a place with a kitchenette so cost per night was $160, but there are other accomodations there that are cheaper without kitchens. Also it has a great big pool and jacuzzi for relaxing after the long days at the theme parks. It was packed with families with kids of all ages. Have fun! Luisa

San Diego Campgrounds

April 2009

I would like to take my almost 6 year old son tent camping in San Diego. I have seen that there are lots of campgrounds. However, since I've never been to San Diego, I have no idea about the differences among them or how far they are from one another or anything else. We are going to use a tent, would love a place with bathrooms and showers and close to the beach. We are planning on going to Legoland as well. I found a website that talks about San Diego North campgrounds. Have you visited or know of any campground you could recommend? Thanks for any info. San Diego camper

San Elijo State Beach has a wonderful campground in what I think is one of the most beautiful and scenic parts of the coastline. Beach access is right there. It is right next to Hwy 101, which can get loud with traffic during certain times of the day, but it is known by locals as one of the best beaches and surf spots in the area. It's a 15 minute drive to Legoland. It does book well in advance: South Carlsbad Beach is a good spot if you want a quieter, less central location. That is only about 8 minutes from Legoland. Happy travels! San Diego native

San Diego with 15 month-old

April 2008

We're are renting an apartment for 3 nights on Pacific Beach in San Diego in early May. Our daughter will be 15 months and we're thinking of taking her to Sea World. Is she too young for Sea World? Any suggestions for fun things to do in that area with a toddler? Thanks! Never been to San Diego

I've taken my children (now 3 & 5) to Sea World two-times times -- They went to Orlando when my younger was 18-months and to the San Diego Sea World when my younger was almost 2 1/2. (You know...I am blanking, but I may have taken my younger when she was as young as 8-months...that would have been to Orlando) Both kids enjoyed the trips. There is a lot for them to do -- the shows were fun, petting various sea creatures, looking at the penguins, etc. BUT, I am not sure that I would have considered it worth the money if we had paid for it. Anheuser Busch treats military families and their dependents to one of their parks each year. I think that it would have cost about just over $100 for the day when both of our kids were under 3 before eating/drinking. Both times we spent about four hours there (the kids fell asleep soon after lunch.) My husband makes a reasonable salary in his real life (airline pilot -- just does the military thing in the Reserves) and we still coul! dn't justify it with the kids so young -- 4 & 6...5 & 7...YOU BET. The shows are a lot of fun.

The nice thing about 15-month olds is that they are wide-amazed at pretty much anything. I would consider lots of beach time as you can actually go in the water (even if it is a lot colder than East Coast Beaches) and there is plenty that washes up on the beach for you to show and explain. The Birch Aquarium is nice (I like the Long Beach one better -- if you are staying in north San Diego County, then it wouldn't be that much longer of a drive than to Birch) lots of great tanks...The zoo is amazing. That is one thing that I think is worth every penny for kids of all ages. My kids have dug zoos since they were able to sit up. I have never been there with kids, but a few years ago (younger was 16-months) I took the girls to the Central Park petting zoo (I think that is is called the 'Tisch Children's Zoo') at which they could have spent all day. I am sure that there must be something like that in the San Diego Zoo. Regardless, kids dig the animals and the people watchi! ng. Take the Coronado Ferry and walk the one of those four people bike carriages and cruise around town. There is one beach where half is for dogs and half is for people without has a nice playground right across from it. My husband and I would take our girls there to play -- we'd alternate on going for runs, so that we could each get some baby-free time...there are showers at the beach there. Walk to Orange Avenue for Mexican food. Hope that is helpful... jan m

We went to San Diego twice with my son before he was 3 - my partner and I each had a conference there and the rest of the family tagged along. We our spent days kicking around Balboa Park, plus one day trip to the beach, and had a wonderful, relaxing time.

We stayed at a great place near Balboa Park, Balboa Park Inn - This is a fun, funky old hotel with theme rooms and mini apartments with a kitchen and separate room for the port-a-crib. Best of all, you can walk to restaurants and stores, including Whole Foods, and to the park.

There is so much to do at the park! You can spring for the zoo, which is amazing, but you can also check out: the playground, the mini-train, & the butterfly ride. There are fountains to play by, lots of grass to run around and picnic on, and museums that you and a toddler will enjoy, plus a fancier outdoor restaurant that is still kid friendly. Love San Diego

Vacation rental in San Diego with 2 small children

April 2007

We are planning a trip to San Diego in July for a week with two small children (3 yrs and 10 months) and are trying to figure out the best place to stay. We'd prefer a house or condo oceanside or bayside - don't need a ton of space, a one bedroom would be okay (though 2 bedrooms would be preferable). Any suggestions about best areas to look or specific rentals you know about? Thanks!

I would like to recommend a website we used to rent a place for a family vacation. They list privately owned condos and vacation homes for rent: We found it easier to do a condo than a hotel because we could really spread out, get comfy and pretend we live by the beach every day. We found a 2-bedroom condo by the beach in Mission Bay. It was pricey for us (around $1,600 for the week) but it was an incredible vacation. We could see water skiers from our living room window and take evening walks by the bay. The kids loved Leogoland, old town San Diego, and the model railroad museum in Balboa Park. Have fun!

We just got back from a family vacation in San Diego and had a great time. We stayed in the Mission Beach area, which was a really great central location. Sea World is right there, only minutes away, the zoo is about a 10 minute drive south. There are a ton of beautiful beaches there and you can choose either protected Bay beaches that are close to playgrounds (good for little kiddies, with beautiful sand and lot of sea shells to hunt) or the ocean beach (with a great path for running or biking). Belmont Park has a roller coaster and a huge indoor swimming pool that you can use for about 7 dollars. There are a lot of places to rent as well. We found ours at San Diego Vacation Rentals ( We also visited Legoland which was a 30-40 minute drive North. Mission Beach has a very SoCal beachy ambience and we found it much nicer than staying at some place like the Hotel Circle (which is only about 5 minutes away. You can find lots of shopping there). Our place was not on the beach, but we were really close and had some obstructed, but nice views of the beach, the bay, and could watch the fireworks from Sea World every night from our balcony. It was great! happy vacationer

December trip to San Diego with 3-year-old

Nov 2006

We're going to San Diego with our 3 year old son for his first trip there. Our plans? Legoland, Sea World, San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park. Our lodging? An apartment in the Mission Bay area. We're looking for recommendations on HOLIDAY RELATED AND OTHER FUN ACTIVITIES to do during the week of 12/02-12/07 with a 3 year old. Also, RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATIONS. We plan to hit Old Town for at least one dinner. Any other advice on: * THINGS TO SEE/DO * PLACES TO EAT * WEBSITES FOR MORE INFORMATION * ANYTHING I'VE MISSED would also be much appreciated. THANKS for your feedback! juliet

I would suggest La Jolla Cove and the Children's beach. La Jolla is beautiful, and there are usually seals on those beaches, which would probably be interesting (perhaps too interesting, since they are protected and you are supposed to keep your distance) to a 3-year-old.

If you like the zoo, I would suggest splitting up you visit over more than one day. There's certainly enough to see to keep you busy for two days. If you do that, look into a membership; it can be more cost effective. The Wild Animal Park is also lovely, although not worth the trek to some. The merry-go-round in Balboa park near the zoo is very cool--it's of the old- fashioned grab the ring sort.

Definitely make some time to just hang out on the beach, and bring your sand toys.

I lived in San Diego four years and I can't think of one darned holiday-related thing-to-do.

Visiting San Diego over Thanksgiving

Oct 2006

We will be visitng San Diego for a week over the Thanksgiving holidays with a 5 month old and a 2 year old. Does anyone have some advice on the best places to visit with a baby and a toddler in tow? Thanks! Lavina

We did San Diego last April with a 2.5yo and 7mo. It was pretty fun. We spent a little time at the beach (eg, Coronado), did the Zoo and Wild Animal Park (one day each) and walked around some mission/historic sites. The older one had a good time everywhere; the little one basically hung out in the Ergo most of the time. Our backup plan if it was rainy was the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center ( in Balboa Park (near Zoo). Through 2007 they have an exhibit called ''Kid City'' with conveyer belts, air chutes, a factory, grocery store and a telephone booth that kids can play with. I was kind of bummed it didn't rain! Balboa Park also has a miniature railroad similar to the one in Tilden Park, plus lots of room to run around.

Motel in San Diego like Pasadena's Saga Inn?

June 2006

Hi, I am looking for a place to stay in SD that is like the Saga Motor Hotel in Pasadena. To wit, a funky, smallish, under-the- radar place that has a pool and isn't too far from the ocean. I don't want a place with 100s of rooms, spas, or a cookie-cutter chain feel to it. We'll be going to the Zoo and Legoland. Two adults and two kids. Does anyone else get that retro 50s craving?
SD funky-style.

Greetings fellow Saga-lover!

I used to live in Del Mar (15 years ago) and there was a great old hotel in Solana Beach near a beach called ''the notch''. I think it was called the Solana Beach Hotel (or Motel). It will surely please you in every way, if it is still in business, except that it has no pool. On the up-side, the beach is only about 1 block away and all of Solana Beach is walkable. I LOVE this place. Don't try ''googling '' it because you'll get all the chains that pay a lot for internet publicity. Best is to try the White Pages or the Chamber of Commerce to see if it's still open. It's one story with about 20 rooms right in the ''notch.''

If that's too far north, there's also a way-funky place to stay in Pacific Beach right on the pier. It's got a bunch of old, funky bungalows built right on the pier. I'm not sure the name of the place, but Emerald Pier (Diamond Pier?) rings a bell. Solana Beach is way cooler than Pacific Beach, IMHO

Kid-Friendly hotel in San Diego

May 2006

Hi, We are travelling with 2 small children to San Diego. Does anyone have a favourite hotel i that you could recommend? Thanks alot. chez_ellen

We just got back from a weekend at the Doubletree Club in San Diego ( It's out in Mission Valley/Hotel Circle so not a glamorous location, but pretty central to everything. Clean, modern rooms, nice staff, nice pool - there were always tons of kids in the pool. And the rooms were very soundproof - I didn't freak out about bugging people when our baby cried, like I do in some hotels. Plus you get chocolate chip cookies at check-in! Our room had a king bed and a sofa bed, perfect for us and 2 kids. JP

Discount tickets for San Diego attractions

May 2006

We are headed to San Diego in June for a long weekend with our son and wanted to find out if anyone knows any ticket discounters to the San Diego attractions i.e. (Sea World, Legoland, Wild Animal Kingdom etc.) We were shocked to see how expensive everything was. Thanks!

If you're a member of AAA, go to their offices. They have tickets for most attractions in the San Diego Area, including the Zoo and Lego Land. While the prices are still pretty steep, they sell most at least a slightly reduced rate, or with lots of things included. And some tickets bought through AAA, like for Lego Land, inlcude a second day free if you head to guest services right as you get to the park. Have a good time!
Been There Done That

If you are AAA member you get $10 off each addmission ticket, but only if you buy the ''best deal'' they offer. also check costco web site for deals. if they still have them, they are pretty good deals. Enjoy
If you must go in June...

AAA members get discounts on several attractions in San Diego. For instance, in my VIA magazine (AAA's monthly), I noticed that AAA members get into Seaworld for the child price and kids are 1/2 off the child price. Check their website for more info. four

If you plan to do both the zoo and wild animal park, look into becoming a member. The single adult membership ($79) includes two free guest passes, so if there are two adults, you can buy one membership and use one guest pass at each park. Each kid age three and up has to join separately, but the child membership fee is cheaper than the admission ticket (kid's membership is only available together with an adult membership)! Memberships include free tram tickets, discounted bus tickets, and some specials at the gift shops. And a great zoo magazine. In addition, it is FULLY tax deductible, so the net cost may be even less if you itemize. Membership also allows you to come and go any day for a full year (though the guest passes can only be used once). The zoo web site also offers three-attrction tickets, good for five days at the zoo, animal park, and Sea World at a good discount (assuming you were going to do all three anyway). R.K.

Cruise stopover in San Diego & Catalina Island?

Feb 2006

We are going on a cruise at the end of February and two of the ports of call are Catalina Island and San Diego. We have 10 hours in each place. I would like information on things to do with a 2.5 year old. I know that there are many things in San Diego. We have the money to enjoy one place. Should we go to Sea World, Wild Animal Park, Zoo or Legoland?? And why?? Thanks so much. alwaysweeding

In Catalina, I would recommend getting fish at Rosie's at the end of the pier and just walking along the front street with an ice cream from olaf's. If you want to work off some calories from the cruise, I would highly recommend renting a bike at Brown's Bikes to get a tour of Avalon--some bikes have bucket seats for your toddler. There is also a playground across the street from them.

LEGOLAND IS AWESOME!! I'm not usually a fan of amusement parks. I'd rather have a root canal than go to Disneyland. But I was incredibly surprised at how much I loved Legoland. It's a mellow and creative place with tons of fun things to do. Our son was only one at the time, but there was still enough for him to do. Now he's 3, and we're going back this year. I highly recommend it.

Two of your proposed destinations are pretty far outside of San Diego--the Wild Animal Park and Legoland. With only 10 hours, I think the transit would suck up too much time, and possibly leave you stressed about getting back in time.

I love the zoo. Besides the expected really nice animal exhibits, it has several walk-through aviaries. It also is really a phenomenal botanical garden--lush, green, beautiful, a whole world away from what's outside the gates. Adjacent to the zoo is an old fashioned carousel (grab the ring), a train ride (I think) and all of Balboa park with it's Spanish architecture, museums and promenade. It's in central San Diego, and quick to get to.

I'm not a huge fan of Sea World. An amusement park with big fish. But if you like that, it's close by and definitely do-able. Carrie

About San Diego: I think with a 2.5 year old and the amount of time you have, I would recommend Legoland if you have a way to get there (it's in Carlsbad, up the coast a bit). My son loved Legoland at 3 and 4 years. You might want to check the Legoland website to see how many rides your child could go on--they have minimum heights, and I remember my son was tall enough at 3 years for most of the ones that interested him. There is a lot of brightly colored stuff that is easy for a child to see and enjoy (large animals made from Legos, etc.). They have some shows too--we loved the Funtown Firehouse show. Carlsbad has a great beach, too--you might have time to check that out. The San Diego Zoo is presumably much closer to where your boat docks, and is a really wonderful zoo. Probably more crowded than Legoland, but if your child and you like animals, you could have a great time. The Wild Animal Park is also wonderful, but much farther away, so I'd pick the zoo over it. I think Sea World is better for older kids--we went when my son was 3, and he wasn't at a stage where he could enjoy sitting and watching the whale show (which is a big attraction). Lisa

We took our 2.5 year old to San Diego and based on our experience I would say Sea World. I loved it and there is a wonderful outdoor waterpark/play area that is good for all ages...bring a bathing suit and towels. My son loved the shows -- - Shamu was a big hit. You can pet the rays, great eel display, and the manatees were fabulous. My second choice would be the zoo. I've heard legoland is better for age 5 or so, so 2.5 may be too young to enjoy. And our toddler was very fussy at the Animal Park -- lots of tram riding and too far away from the animals to make an impression on a little one like that. We also loved Balboa Park -- free tram you can ride raround and pretty park areas, museums, etc. Have fun. anon

sea world, the Zoo and Lego Land are lovely and very pricey-the downfall is sometimes the weather is hideous and all those places fail miserably in the rain, cold or wind...Head to Balboa Park-minutes from downtown-lots of space to run and home to the Ruben H fleet Science Center with BIG toddler hands on type of science museum- we then hit the natural history museum, saw the chocolate faire, and the boys(who were just 3 and 5 loved the bones, snakes, fish type stuff...if you are members of chabot space and science I belive they have a priviedge swap BUT YOU NEED YOUR CARD... sydney

I absolutely second Sea World. What a fun adventure. And I would recommend Scripp's (Oceanography Research) Aquarium as well. Not too large, but nice creatures to see and things to learn. My son loved it when he was 2. Have fun

The zoo is fabulous and not to be missed but take a warm's a cool pocket of canyons and chilly winds alot of the time. Best deal is to ride the tour/bus around then go back to sites your kids loved....seals and monkeys and penguins are close by the entrance. The merry-go-round outside the zoo is a tradition I'd never miss. If it's a nice day, the beach in Coronado is endless. It can be foggy in SD, sunny in Coronado. If it's foggy, it usually clears by 11 a.m. lsemail

Wedding in San Diego

Nov 2005

my sister- who lives in amsterdam- wants to get married in san diego next fall. does anybody know a good wedding planner in san diego who could help? also- though both families are originally from san diego, nobody who's still there has any recent, direct experience with any of the potential venues (hotel del, valencia) nor any clue about other possible sites for an intimate ceremony near the beach. actually, any related recommendation would be great (florist, suggestions for long distance planning, etc.)thanks a bunch

We have a family house on Mission Bay in San Diego. Many times on our walks we see many, many weddings at the Catameran Resort. It's on the bay, the grounds are beautiful, alot like Hawaii. It also has a new spa that I've gone to that's relaxing, professional and great messages and the best pedicure I've ever had. Check it out, they have a web site. The wedding coordinator can help with many of the details. When I got married in Hawaii at a resort, I let them do everything, since I felt they were good, and their reputation was on the line. I'm glad I did, it was easy and I think the Catameran could do the same for you. good luck love SD

In a heartbeat if I had it to do over again I would get married at ''The Wedding Bowl'' outside in La Jolla. Here's a picture I found on the web: (By the way, the picture just barely does this beautiful place justice.) I am not entirely sure how to go about it, but on another website I found a note that said to obtain a permit, call Regional Parks at (619) 235-1169. Also there is a hotel directly across the street from this place where you could stay and then walk across to the wedding.

Also, although I wasn't married in SD, I had a woman named Nancy Burgess help with our wedding here in the bay area. I'm not sure if she is still doing that right now but I know that she's done a ton in SD. If you need her contact info let me know. She was more of our day-of coordinator, I don't know if she does full service type of stuff. kimberly

fiora floral in san diego. talk to meara. she is lovely with beautiful taste. 619-251 -2376. she can suggest venues too. rue

Look into Balboa Park. There are rose gardens, fountains, and San Diego is beautiful for outdoor weddings. There are many hotels along the beach and they probably coordinate weddings as well. I recently stayed at Pacific Terrace and it was very nice and right on the beach in the Pacific Beach Area. good luck! anon

Good family activities near La Jolla

April 2005

We are planning a vacation to La Jolla at the end of July and have already rented a house. I am looking for recommendations for good family beaches (our group includes 2 young kids under the age of 6 and one 13 year old child.) I'm also interested in recommendations for good restaurants and any other fun activities. I've read the posts regarding things to do in San Diego and would like suggestions for the La Jolla area. Anon

I have a recommendation for something to do in La Jolla with kids, and it's free! Take them to watch the hang gliders at Torrey Pines. That's right near the UCSD campus. It's spectacularly beautiful to watch and a lot of fun to see all the preparations people go through with the gliders before they go running off the edge of the bluff. It's completely safe place to be with kids, by the way. It's a long way down to the bluff from where you sit and watch. Patty

The La Jolla Shores beach is really nice. It's a long sandy beach great for long walks and sandplay. It would be fine anywhere along it as far north as the Scripps pier. The surf is serious So. Cal surf, so it would be ok for the 13 year old but not so fine for the little ones (unless you just splashed with them and kept a VERY close eye on them. They would probably be ok with you filling buckets with sea water and letting them play with them.

North of the pier during low tides there is a tidepool.

There are 2 small beaches on the north tip of the La Jolla peninsula that are pretty protected from the surf by jettys and such. They'd be fine for the little ones. One has a lifeguard. I d have a hard time giving you directions, but one is called La Jolla Cove ( it's the one with the lifeguard, and it's also really nice for older kids to snorkel there as there's a lot of nifty stuff to look at swimming around. The beach part is small, small) the other one is about 1/4 mile west of there. It might be called the Kid's Beach. These days there tend to be a few lazy seals that hang around there all day long but do not bother people. It's also a small beach but there's a bit more sand to spread your towel out there. The ocean there is ok for splashing but the snorkeling would be a big zero (I think).

I can only remember one really nice place to eat. It's on the cliff just above the La Jolla Cove. If you park at the Cove, it's just to the right (south) on the hillside in an old white bungalow with umbrellas all around on patios. It's lunch-type fare with a to-die-for view!

have fun, JM

I went to UC San Diego, so spent 3 years in La Jolla. I would recommend The Cottage for breakfast/lunch. It is right down in La Jolla Cove on Pearl Street (?) It is good and kid friendly (I recently ate there with my newborn). Sorry I don't have the address, but you could look it up or ask around. There is a wait for breakfast on the weekends. I would also recommend going over to Del Mar, which is very close to La Jolla and a beautiful place. There is a great beach and lots of shops and restaurants. Have fun in the sun! Miranda

you must must MUST go to seaworld! where else can you see beautiful beluga whales (in northern ca). wonderful for the entire family, not so large as sd zoo. i thought it would be terribly like disneyland, but we were able to appreciate the animals and a few fun shows as well. we went 2 years ago with our 2 year old son and we had a fabulous time. check into AAA if you are a member, they had discount tickets at that time. another fabulous stop would be UCSD's scripps aquarium (more along the line of lawrence hall of science). you can see sharks in their small tank and they have an absolutely beautiful series of seahorse tanks set up as well. have fuuuun! been there and had a terrific time, jennifer

You don't mention exactly where you are staying the LJ area, but I would recommend Antonio's Hacienda (i think that's the name), a great mexican food restaurant towards the ''beginning'' of the village on prospect. The cove and the children's pool are both on the water by the village, but can be crowded. Another place to check out (I haven't been in a long time) is wind and sea beach. Take girard ave away from the village and turn right on nautilus ave, it dead ends into wind and sea. Not as many tourists there, usually. The Living Room is a cafe on Prospect with fun, yummy coffee drinks and a pretty tasty food menu too.

If you aren't staying near the village there, you can always go to La Jolla Shores -- it's a beach with ''real'' waves, and also head over towards UC San Diego; take Torrey Pines Rd. to La Jolla Village Dr. and then you'll find the UTC shopping mall and tons of other places. Over that direction is a Peets, Whole Foods, etc.

Have fun! -wishing for the sand myself

San Diego Beach Front condo/home rental

Feb 2005

My family of 4 (and possibly another family) are planning on taking a one week vacation in San Diego area in June. Ideally, we'd like to rent a place on the beach. We'd love to hear recommendations for what beaches are the most family friendly (two kids, 7 and 3) and if there are suggestions for specific rentals or sources of rentals. Thanks! Alan

You definitely want to check out Mission Bay. It's a little crowded and gritty (kind of like Santa Cruz), but it is perfect for families. It is a little peninsula (about two blocks wide) between the bay--perfect for little ones tootin' in the water--and the ocean--which has your classic body surfing, beach volleyball type feel. We went last year and rented a small cottage through Beach and Bayside rentals. Elizabeth

We loved our San Diego rental last summer. It was on Mission Bay that is peninsula that is about three blocks wide. One side was ocean and the other was a calm bay which was great for little kids to play in. There is a bike/walking path on the ocean-side and I loved riding the rented bike. Eleven of us (three families) stayed in a house/compound that included a main house, cottage, and studio off the garage. I was decorated very tacky, yet expensive. Like Graceland. Here is the web site, They don't list the studio and cottage for some reason. You have to ask for them. Mission Bay is very close to Sea World and we could see their nightly fireworks from our roof-top patio. BTW - our 2 and 4 year old boys loved Legoland and Balboa Park. Helena

San Diego trip with a 2-year-old - Coronado?

March 2005

We are looking for a place to getaway with our 2 year old in mid April. In order to assure decent weather, it seems that we have to go south. We are considering Coronado Island, near San Diego. Has anyone been there with toddlers? How was it? Any reccs of good places to stay? Any other great finds that we haven't thought of? Thanks! Martha

The BEST place in San Diego with a Toddler is the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. The best beach in San Diego, especially for small children, the rooms have kitchens, there is a play structure and a kids menu. The downside is that it is expensive. In the summer a non-beach front 1 bdrm suite is more than $400 per night and there is a 7 night minimum if you can even get in. However, the trick is to go in the off season. We were there last week with our 3 and 6 year old. We had a 1 bdrm non beach front (room 201 - it has a peak of the ocean) with breakfast included for $229 per night. The weather was great and the kids were delirious they were so happy. It is a short 30 minute drive to Legoland if your toddler is old enough or you can just hang out at the LJBTC - it's our favorite beach in California

The LJBTC also has a sister property next door called the Sea Lodge - we've never stayed there, but I think it might be a little less expensive.

If you have questions feel free to e-mail me. We've also stayed at the Hotel Del Coronado - it doesn't begin to compare kristi

San Diego trip with a toddler

Feb 2005

Hi- My hubby and I are thinking of heading to San Diego in March with our 15-month old son. This will be our first ''trip'' as a family and besides the nervousness of flying with a toddler, I am now trying to find acceptable accomodations. Neither my husband nor I have been there before.

After reading the old postings in the archives, does anyone have any recent recommendations for hotels and things that would be fun for a toddler? We were thinking that a mini-suite might be nice for access to fridge and separate sleeping areas, and that a heated pool might do the trick for on-site recreation. We tend to be more ''resort'' type folks, but that of course, was before we had our son! :)

I hear Legoland would be good. Is that within bus/walking distance or should we rent a car? And is the zoo worth it for what will be a 18-month old?

Any insight much appreciated! We want a family getaway without going into debt but we would like to relax and have some fun too. Thanks! -Deniene

I have been to San Diego with my toddler and then with two little ones. We rented a condo in Carlsbad which was great because we could make our own meals and they had a nice pool. The kids could have spent most of their time in the pool! The condo was across the street from the beach so we could just cross over for a nice walk. Check on rates with AAA for discounts on attractions. Legoland is fairly expensive but little ones really like it. They serve beer (to get parents thru the experience? LOL). Last time we bought a three day pass which was good for unlimited in and out at San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Wild Animal Park and Marine World. That was the way to go because individually they are all expensive and this made you feel less bad when your kid gets pooped. Take some videos for the condo while you take a little rest or are making meals. A stroller is a must for all these places. kl

We loved Balboa Park. Our kids liked the train museum and the little ride-on train ride. I wasn't that in to the Zoo nor Sea World. 15-months is a bit young for Legoland because the rides are for about three and up. If I had a 15-month old, I would rent a cottage on the beach and explore the parks and beaches. The ammusement parks are expensive and limited for a 15-month-old. Helena

We just returned from 10 days in San Diego with our 25 month old. We stayed at Paradise Island, a resort just out of the city that sounds like what you are looking for. They have 2 room suites, heated pools & hot tub and a mini fridge to fill with snacks. My son loved the tropical settings and we had a lot of fun feeding the many ducks that were in the ponds. There was a casual eating restaurant there that did not mind toddlers running about and had an outside pond with sharks in it that fascinated my little guy. The concierge also put us in touch with a lovely baby sitting service and we hired them to watch our son while we wined and dined in the upscale restaurant right there on the island!

I'd highly recommend hiring a car as there are so many things to do, but it all is a little spread out. For an 18 month old I'd skip Legoland - it is really a lot of fun and my son loved it, but you need to be 36 inches to get on the rides, even with a parent. For the $100 you'd really only get to play in the toddler area and it wouldn't be worth it. The San Diego zoo is wonderful, but really large - you'll definetely need a stroller and even then I suspect you will not get to see it all. They have a petting zoo which is fun and you can catch a tour bus within the zoo that will allow you to see most of it. Do not go out to the wild life park - it is far too big for a toddler and the animals are too spread out - my little one got bored and tired there.

Balboa Park has many wonderful things for you to do. We got a Museum pass and spent a lot of time looking at the many museums. There is a children's discovery museum that has a great toddler play area similar to Totland which we thankfully stumbled across on the only day it rained. The playground near there was fun too.

If you get a car you can drive for a day to Mexico - it is only 30 minutes away. Don't forget your sons birth certificate or else you won't get in! Have fun - we did!

Although I haven't stayed there for a couple of years, I've always liked the Balboa Park Inn -- It's got a slightly-funky flavor in a gay-San Diego sort of way -- it's clean and comfortable. There are lots of suites in various configurations, many with fridge, kitchenette, or even full kitchen, and the prices are very reasonable. No pool, though.

It's very conveniently located if you want to go to the zoo -- pretty much ''just across the street.'' And the zoo will be great for an 18-month-old, trust me. The zoo is located within Balboa Park, and you'll also find a wonderful old merry-go- round in that section of the park (plus a couple of other kiddie rides).

Legoland is up near Carlsbad and while there is probably a bus that will take you there, it might be easier to just rent a car. Renting a car will also get you easily to the beach, Old Town, Sea World, etc. etc. But I think Legoland is better for a slightly older kid -- 3 to 7 years old.

I think that an 18-month-old will get just as much fun from what you can walk to from the BP Inn. Kid-play-friendly fountains, the zoo, a lovely botanical garden -- there's a ton of stuff to do and see in Balboa Park. See their website at http://

I'm all for keeping vacations simple, especially with a toddler.

Best wishes, Letitia

re: stuff to do, I'd skip the zoo though Balboa Park itself would be fun. The wild animal park is worth the drive if you're wanting a zoo that's well, less of a ''zoo.'' Beautiful trails, safari-like feel where the animals have lots of room to roam. La Jolla has really nice beaches, and one in particular where lots of seals congregate. I'd also highly recommend Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma- just gorgeous to go for a walk, see a lighthouse, if it's the season you can often spot whales from there. Nearby in Ocean Beach there's a great kid-friendly organic and delicious Mexican food place called Rancho's they actually have 2 restaurants near to eachother, one in Point Loma and one in OB which has a nice small patio so I'd stop there after Cabrillo. Chris

San Diego Vacation Rental

Feb 2005

San Diego vacation rental sought (prefer house or condo) My family is meeting in San Diego to vacation in late March and would love your advice on where to stay. Specifically,
1) Can you recommend a house/condo that we could rent for a week (March 25-April 2)?
2) Can you recommend a (not-too-expensive) hotel (pool OR walkable beach access is a MUST) that is kid-friendly?
3) Can you recommend a beach or park that would be good for a family to hang out on/in?

We are: 3 couples (me and my husband, my sis and her husband, and my parents) and 3 children (my 7- and 9- year-old niece and nephew, and my 1-year-old).

Please post your response and/or mssg me. I checked out the Web site and found the San Diego postings pretty old, and not so helpful. The travel agents on the Web site have either gone outa business or don't return my calls. So if anyone has a travel agent that would actually bother helping someone such as me, please let me know. Thanks! Jennifer

We went to San Diego last summer and had a fabulous time! We stayed at this house (, which was perfect because there 3 families and 11 people in all. It is located two blocks from the ocean and two blocks from the bay in Mission Beach. The property has a large main house, a cottage, and a room off the garage with a large courtyard in the middle. It is decorated in expensive-tacky, kind of like Graceland. But my kids still talk about the ''fishy room'' that had an ocean motif. Renting a house was fabulous for us - everyone had their own space, we could do laundry, stock the fridge, cook meals together. Helena

San Diego Resort

Nov 2004

We are looking for a resort like place in San Diego area. We are really ready for a relaxing vacation, but don't want to go to faraway places like Hawaii (especially to pay $3000 for tickets for our family of 4). We've been to Palm Springs a few times in December and liked it a lot, but now want to try something else. San Diego seems to have lots of interesting things to do with kids. In addition to all this fun we would like to have a nice hotel with comfortable rooms, suites or cottages, heated pools, jacuzzi, close to the beach, kids friendly, possibly spa. Does such place exist? Thank you for all recommendations. Natasha

I'm not sure if it's within your budget but the Hotel del Coronado would fit the description of what you're looking for: Anon

I just returned from San Diego yesterday and stayed at the most FABOULOUS resort, right on the beach, with suites, overlooking the Ocean. Pacific Terrace Hotel was wonderful... we saw many families staying there. They offer free breakfast in the morning and a hosted wine hour in the evening. The staff were excellent. I was able to get a signficant discount by booking the room through Their website-

There is also a Hilton on Fiesta Island, right across the street from Sea World. It is not on the beach, but in the bay at Mission Bay. It was a little far from the friends I was seeing there, but it is a wonderful place for families. San Diego is GREAT for a family vacation. I can give a few spots if to go if you want to email me directly. Kerri

Coronado is the perfect small town resort feel without leaving California. The Hotel Del Coronado is a bit pricey but across the street is the Spreckles Mansion hotel that is more reasonably priced. You can go across the bridge and be right back into the main SD downtown and thirty minutes to the zoo, take the subway type train to Tijuana, if you desire. Its a great place to go and the warmth of a family beach environment is still accomplished. Kristie

We love San Diego and go about 4 times a year. The two places we like are Paradise Point Resort (beach front rooms pricey) has pools, spas ect and is walking distance to Sea World. The other is Catameran Hotel. On Mission Bay, nice a few different price points and on the bay. We like this area becuase you can get a great, easy, fast workout on the walk way on mission bay that loops to the beach side- about 3-7 miles depending on how far you want to go. The bay beach is lovely and quite and the hotel supplies alot of things , some free some for a price.(like sailboats, jet skiis etc) Has a pool and spa. Then you can walk across the street to the beach which is low key in the winter and spring months, but not spring break. At leasst on the beach side. The Zoo is 20 minutes, Sea World 5 mintues, Wild Animal Park and Lego Land, 45 minutes. Both resorts have resturants. It's our favorite. My husband surfs, I kayak surf and the kids surf, boggy board and play in the sand for hours. They are 5 & 2. We always find something new to explore each time.

Have fun. We'll be there in February! love our SD vacations

Place to Stay in La Jolla/San Diego

May 2004

We are planning a family vacation to San Diego in August. We have been told La Jolla is the place to stay. We'll be travelling with a baby and a 4yo. We are bargain travelers that do not need a fancy place to stay, although a pool would be nice. We like to walk to as much as possible. Any ideas? Elizabeth

My husband and I just got back from a wonderful trip in San Diego (we went right before I went back to work after maternity leave). We went down with our 3-month old son and 6-year old dog. We stayed at the Lowes Coronado Bay Resort. It's not cheap (I think our average Expedia rate was $178/night), but it is amazingly family friendly and beautiful. We could bring our dog, it has babysitting and dogsitting available, it has 3 pools and 2 hot tubs, gorgeous grounds, across the street from the beach, and nice views of the Coronado Bay and San Diego. We were ready to book our August vacation even before we left! Have fun and San Diego is awesome!! Definitely do the zoo. Neela

Summer trip to San Diego

April 2004

My husband and I are planning to take our then 2 year old daughter to San Diego this June. I checked the archives but didn't see any recent recommendations for kid friendly, reasonably priced places to stay. Also, do you think 2 is too young to appreciate Sea World, Legoland and the Zoo or maybe the Wild Animal Park. She turns 2 mid May. We thought this would be a good trip because she LOVES animals and seems to really enjoy the Oakland Zoo. Thanks. Alicia

We just returned from a spring break trip to Legoland, and Sea World. I was very impressed with Legoland. The food was quite good and well priced, the rides were very fun for kids and adults alike, the park was clean and there were many activities that just used the simple joys of creating with Legos (my son could have stayed in the room where the kids build racecars and race them against each other down ramps all day!). At ages 6 and 8, I felt my kids were just the right ages for this park (we spent two days there, and there was plenty to see and do). We also spent a day at Sea World, which was chosen over the Zoo or Wild Animal Park based on what the kids wanted to see and the fact that we had not been there previously. I was not as impressed with Sea World. First of all, even with a $20 AAA discount, it was $150 for the four of us for one day's admission. The food was overpriced, and I felt that they were pushing souveniers and stuff at you every time you turned around. I enjoyed the animals, but there is always that vaguely squicky feeling of seeing these magnificent animals running through their repertoire of tricks. Frankly, I looked at many of the other families at both these locations who had brought very young children, and wondered why? I think the kids would have been just as happy running around the beach or playing in a hotel pool. If I had to choose from the list you are considering for a two year old, I would think the zoo is your best bet. Claire

I don't have a good recommendation of where to stay in San Diego, but I would recommend against going to the Wild Animal Park with a 2 year old. The ride around the park gets pretty long for a little one and the animals are pretty far away.

Stick with Legoland, the Zoo and Sea World and you will have LOTS of good fun! We've done this several times with our little ones and it's a great trip. My girls ask to go back and we're just about due. Jill

Places to stay San Diego/Legoland

May 2003

Our daughter wants to go to San Diego and Legoland (I realize that's not in SD) for her 5th birthday in early August. I was checking the website for recommendations for places to stay, but there is nothing more recent than 1999. We would like either a condo type place or a hotel/motel with suites. Any recommendations? We have not been to the area with her before and it's been ages since either my husband or I have been there. Thanks! Lori

We just went to SD for a week while my husband attended a conference. We have a 15 month old and we stayed at the Crystal Pier Cottages. It was great. They are these cute little cottages that are literally ON the pier in Pacific Beach. You can hear the waves at night. It was perfect as it was walking distance to lots of places to eat. And of course there is a great beach right underneath you. The cottages were recently renovated so they were nice and clean with a kitchenette so I could store my son's food.

Legoland is pretty far north. But Pacific beach is a good centrally located spot if you are also going to some other SD attractions like Sea World (loved it!) Balboa Park and the Zoo.

To be closer to Lego land you might try a place in Del Mar like the Del Mar motel. But I haven't been there for years so can't give it a recommendation. Have fun!

We stayed in San Diego for a week last December (and spent a day at LegoLand). We stayed in a rental that was managed by Foxwood Suites. The property manager was Darrin-- email: Darrin [at], Phone 619-236-0708 The unit we stayed in was 802 San Luis Rey -- a house converted into two apartments. It was very comfortable and clean and a great location. Both the property manager and the owners were very nice and it was reasonably priced (not sure what it's like for summer though). cain

Last summer we did a San Diego & Legoland vacation. I got a good deal through Hotwire on the Woodfin Suites hotel near La Jolla / La Mesa. Hotwire doesn't tell you the exact hotel, but I think this was the cheapest suites type hotel in the La Jolla area. It was very pleasant with a nice pool, nice breakfast, and a door to the bedroom so when the kids went to sleep we could watch one of the free videos they offered or whatever. The hotel was nicely situated between Legoland and the rest of San Diego (zoo, balboa park, mission bay, etc). You might also try directly with Woodfin's web site for any deals they may have. Have fun! Mike

We recently stayed at the Best Western Beach Terrace Inn in Carlsbad. It's literally right on the beach, has it's own pool and hot tub too, and is about 5 minutes from Legoland. We requested a room with a beach view, a mini fridge and a microwave. The room we got was large, with a great beach view and a sizable ''kitchen'' area with a microwave, mini fridge, utility sink, equipped with very basic kitchen supplies. No range or hotplate, but we did fine. It was a decent value and we really liked the option of being on the beach in a moment's notice. The place was clean and well-run. anon

We just went to Legoland and stayed in Carlsbad at the Ramada. It cost us $75.00 for a 2 roomed ''suite'' (I use inverted comma's because it is small)which also included a small kitchen. There was a fold out bed in a couch besides the queen in the bedroom.There is a shopping ctr for food very close by (2mins). The Inn also has a outdoors swimming pool and hot tub. A note of caution, we went to Legoland on a Monday before school has broken out for the summer and there were lines already. We waited in some instances 40 minutes for rides that last less than 2 mins. Having said that, the kids had fun although we parents thought it was expensive and overrated.

We drive to San Diego often with family on Mission Bay. I can't say enough good things about Mission Bay, clean, easy walking, the bay and beautiful beach just steps from great hotels. The Catermaran Hotel is lovely, can be pricey but has what I think you're looking for.

Legoland would be about a 30 minute easy drive. There are other hotels on Mission Bay too, I just forget their names. Sea World is rightthere and has been my son's favorite since he was 1 (he's now 3 1/2). have fun!

Anza-Borrego State Park

Re: Joshua Tree National Park (Jan 2003)
You are wise to think about how much time you want to spend in the car in planning your post-San Diego camping trip! Distances ''down there'' are indeed vast -- especially with kids in the car. It's a great time of year to visit the desert, but if you don't want to chew up your vacation time with a LOT of driving, you should consider Anza-Borrego State Park.

To try to describe all the wonderful things about Anza-Borrego in the few minutes I have to respond to this message can't be done. Please look on the web for details. It's a vast expanse of desert and mountains, with Native American sites, scary/fun canyons you can twist around and get lost in, palm oases, gorgeous ocotillo plants, colorful stories and much more. And it's only about a 2-hour drive from San Diego (as opposed to all- day to get to Death Valley).

Another advantage is that it's a state park rather than national, so it's far more likely to offer some peace and quiet over the busy Easter break than either Joshua Tree or Death Valley.

We went for several springs in a row when our daughter was a baby/toddler. Even though we're campers, too, we chose to stay in a motel with a pool. The desert gets hot! And the small town of Borrego Springs is fun in a funky kind of way. We knew some people in town through my husband's work, so were able to line up good babysitters. We'd get up at dawn and hike until about 2, come back and enjoy the warm pool, and take a short hike with our daughter for sunset. Your kids are older now, but I still wouldn't count on a full day of exertion under the desert sun. I think some of the motels in town let you pay for day use of the pool, even if you're camping somewhere else. (The motel where we stayed is called ''Casa del Sol,'' I recall -- something ''del Sol,'' anyway -- right in Borrego Springs. It had small bungalows with kitchens, plus the pool and nice desert garden paths.)

The one big campground (sorry -- name escapes me) is crowded and unexciting. Better to camp higher up in the mountains, at the smaller campground. Again, you can get details on the web site, or by calling the excellent visitors center.

Wherever you end up, it should be a great spring in the desert. Have fun. Janet

Best Bets for a 2-day Trip


Hi. I'm planning a trip to San Diego for Labor Day weekend with my husband and son who will be 4-years-old when we travel. We will only really have 2 days to do stuff, so I'm trying to figure out what is best to see between Legoland, San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park, Sea World..... Any suggestions? Also, can anyone recommend a relatively cheap but decent place to stay down there? Heather

We were in San Diego in Feb with two boys-ages 5 and 4. I would recommend Sea World and Legoland. We went to Wild Animal Park and I think they found it a bit too much. We did not go to the San Diego Zoo for two reasons- first we had stopped at the Santa Barbara Zoo on the way to SD, and second some friends had found that it was too tiring for their young children. The SDiego Zoo is big with long walks (at least for young children)between animal habitats. There is good Mexican food in Old Town. We stayed at a Holiday Inn near Sea World- this was certainly acceptable. The room, actually a suite, was small and dark, but otherwise comfortable and not too expensive. Of course our boys had the most fun running on the beach, building castles, etc Ellen

We went to San Diego in December when (for some reason) it was off-season and got a chance to do all of the things you mentioned with no waiting and no lines. We went with our 5 year old and (then) 6 month old and I think our favorites were Legoland and the Wild Animal Safari. Legoland was surprisingly fun, but I think it was made much better by the fact that we just walked onto all of the rides, and could even go several times on the favorites. I have heard that, during on-season it can be like Disneyland with up to an hour wait for rides, which would considerably cut down on the fun. The Wild Animal Safari has the advantage that, even if crowded, you don't have to stand on lines, but can walk around and see the animals in a really beautiful, lush atmosphere. The Zoo seemed somewhat dated and shabby in comparison. I would also recommend bringing your own picnic, as the food is very pricey at all of these places. In terms of a place to stay, we stayed in La Jolla at the La Jolla Cove Suites (800-248-2683). It is not at all charming, and the furniture is somewhat worn, but it is a wonderful location and the price is right. We got a two bedroom suite with a big living room/kitchen area for under $200/night (but it may be different in different seasons). We loved staying in La Jolla. It is beautiful to walk around, right across the street from the beach, and close to everything (all of the theme parks are outside of San Diego) Have fun!

Legoland definitely. You'll like it and so will your 4 year old, very clean, fun, well organized and manageable with small children. I wouldn't recommend the wild animal park unless your child REALLY loves wild animals. It's at least 45 minutes away, quite warm in the summer as it's inland and the wait for the train can be very long. That leaves lots of walking for a 4 year old. The zoo would be a much better choice. We found that our kids (2 1/2, 3 and 4 1/2) loves just playing at the beach as much if not more than the themes parks, zoos etc. Kristi

The zoo and Wild Animal Park are both fabulous. Ruth

We went to San Diego 2 years ago when our son was just over four. The Wild Animal Park was fun for us, but miserable for him. It was too hard for him to see the animals and the train ride was too long; I would definitly NOT go there. Sea World was wonderful, we couldn't get him to leave. Legoland wasn't open then, so I can't tell you about that,, but I've only heard fantastic things about it. We are going with him now 6 and a 2 year old over Memorial Day. San Diego Zoo is great. Sorry, I can't remember where we stayed. Linda

I've stayed a number of times at the Balboa Park Inn, see . Their rooms and suites are reasonably priced, and loaded with a very funky kind of charm. My favorite suite is the Monet which has a bedroom and a living room with sleeper couch, plus a small eat-in kitchen (microwave, fridge), and balcony with table overlooking the peaceful inner courtyard, $119. The hotel is right across the street from the entrance to the zoo and other fun stuff at Balboa Park -- an old-fashioned merry-go-round (like Tilden Park's), a little train ride, aerospace and science museums, art galleries, wonderful botanical garden, great climbing tree (I think it's a banyan), lovely Spanish plaza for strolling, pools, fountains -- these are all the remains of the 1914(?) World's Fair. Very nice. With a four-year-old and only two days, I'd schedule as little as possible. This location is perfect for getting in a lot of fun, all in walking distance. Letitia

Wild Animal Park in San Diego

4/00 Andrei

Has anyone visited Wild Animal Park in San Diego recently? I looked up some information in travel guides and on the internet, and it seems that different sources totally disagree with each other. While some of them say that it is a great park to visit with encyclopedic variety of birds and mammals, the others write that as most animals hide during the day, the visitors are likely to see only dusty valley with an occasional glimpse of a deer in a distance, unless they pay for a safari trip. Any advice will be appreciated.

We visited the Wild Animal Park in San Diego in Dec. 1998, with our then 4-year-old son. We didn't pay for the safari trip, but did take the train ride around the park, saw shows, etc. The weather was sunny but cool, which may have affected animal behavior. We saw lots of animals wandering around, especially in the morning. However, it is quite possible that in hotter months they do hide in the shade. That said, the animals were far away from us for the most part on the train ride. The adults enjoyed seeing the animals from the train; my son (a train nut) just enjoyed the train ride. He did, however, enjoy seeing the shows, especially the bird show, and liked to see the animals as we walked through the park. He also enjoyed the petting zoo. For him, it wasn't much different from a visit to the Oakland zoo, except for the animal shows. On a related note, we visited Legoland this past Thanksgiving. Our son, then 5, LOVED it, but the adults were bored.

It has been about 3 years since I have been to the Wild Animal Park (we used to live in San Diego) but I like it and actually prefer it to the SD Zoo. The park is set in a valley which is full of free roaming animals -- giraffes, rhinos, water buffalo, etc. It is different from a zoo in that you can only stand on the edge of the very large paddocks and watch the animals -- sometimes they come up very close and sometimes they are in the distance. It was built as a breeding facility so their primary goal is to have the most natural habit for the animals. Many of the paddocks are visible only from the monorail. There are two good ways to see the animals 1) at the overlook (with picnic tables -- a good place to have lunch with a view of East Africa -- giraffes galopping in the distance, etc) or 2) on the monorail. I would recommend you do both. The monorail takes about 45 minutes (I think) and takes you around the perimeter of all the paddocks. You will definitely see animals from the monorail, but there may be a line to get on if you go in the busy season. There is no extra charge for the monorail. There are a few other exhibits to see -- the lorikeet landing where you can feed the birds from your hand is good (but may be scary for little kids) and the butterfly house is beautiful during butterfly season, but empty the rest of the year (sorry, can't remember when the right season is). The gorillas and elephants are good too. Otherwise you will probably be disappointed if you just try to walk around the Wild Animal Park like a zoo. My advice is to go directly to the monorail, then the overlook (bring a picnic rather than pay exhorbitant zoo prices for bad food), then wander past the other places on your way to the exit.

We went a couple years ago with a 7 and 3 yr old and had a great time. We took the shuttle-bus tour first and then walked around some areas--it's huge. Bring a stroller if there's any chance your kid will want it. Bring your lunch--food was yucky and expensive (surprise surprise). Bring water bottles. Some animals are out of view at times (I really wanted to see the bonobos, but no luck!), but many were visible

Places to Stay in San Diego

Debbie 8/99
Does anyone have recommendations for reasonably-priced places to stay in San Diego? We are thinking of taking in the San Diego Zoo, Legoland, and Sea World. Thank you.

Letitia 8/99
I'm so glad you asked this question! I have a hotel in San Diego which I love. It's the Balboa Park Inn, at the corner of Park and Upas, almost directly across the street from the zoo and the many other amenities of Balboa Park, San Diego's largest city park. I can't find their exact address or phone # right now.

The Balboa Park Inn is a very old and slightly funky collection of buildings. Every room is different, but I would say the decoration tends toward an opulent gay style.

I've stayed there three times, most recently in June, when my four-year-old and I stayed for five nights in four different rooms (we made our reservations quite late; they moved our stuff for us). All the rooms we stayed in were under $100, topping off at $95 for a suite with bedroom, living room (with convertible futon couch), and kitchen -- two adults & two children would fit the space with breathing room. That room is called either the Matisse Room or the Monet Room, I can't remember which because it had a lot of reproductions of both artists' work. It had a balcony opening above (with staircase down to) the inner courtyard, a very pleasant environment.

I thought we got a great deal, considering that my sister & her family had a similar arrangement at the oh-so-corporate and hard-to-reach Residence Inn for something closer to $200. No pool or hot tub at the Balboa Park Inn, though.

A continental breakfast is included, which means fruit, lots of breakfast roll choices, coffee, juice, and milk. On our last day, we had to catch a cab to the airport before 7 am, so they delivered the rolls & milk the evening before (most of the rooms have refrigerators, I think). They are really very accommodating; even found a makeshift stepping stool for my son to reach the bathroom sink.

So, if you aren't freaked out by, ahem, and insect or two (only one, spotted in a hallway), or things like the fountain out front that is painted the most vivid turquoise you can imagine, you should definitely check it out. Walk to the zoo!

Karen 8/99
Last March we stayed at La Jolla Suites in La Jolla, which we got out of a book about traveling to San Diego with children. It has two parts, one a more conventional hotel, but the other consists of little apartment-like units with kitchen and bedroom(s) which is great for a family, and it was very reasonable compared to other things we checked out. Great location, right on the ocean in La Jolla. It's also a good location for the things you want to do (Zoo, Legoland etc). They have an 800 # and also a website i believe which is If you can't find it, or want more info, e-mail me back. Our only complaint was that the mattress on the bed was soft, (we moved it on to the floor), so you might want to specifically ask about the mattress type.

Wed, 31 Jul 96 From: Janette

As a native San Diegan, I wanted to respond to the letter about a trip there. I would recommend looking into the Birdrock area of La Jolla. Its almost to Pacific Beach and is pretty close to the water. There is a motel called La Jolla Shores which I understand is reasonably priced and has a pool. (there are a number of them in a row next to the La Jolla Shores but I can't remember the names...) From there it is a short distance to Sea World and the zoo.

You might also consider going to the new Scripps Aquarium (at UCSD) and the Wild Animal Park (go in the late afternoon and take the bus- all the animals are out). The races are on in Del Mar so traffic gets pretty congested in that area (on surface streets and I-5) from about 1-2PM and then again after the last race which is at 6PM. Have fun...

Date: Wed, 31 Jul 1996 From: Lynn

Just got back from great vacation in San Diego. We have a 5 and 6 year old who love water! So we stayed at the La Jolla Shores Inn, 454-0175, in La Jolla. Management is mellow. The rooms are modest, sometimes noisy, but clean, and you can get ground level. There are two fine, warm pools, a jaccuzi that sometimes works, and you can see the ocean a couple blocks away. It is right on La Jolla Blvd. halfway between Sea World and La Jolla Cove, both areas great for kids. The beach at La Jolla is great, especially in the mornings, and there are sea lions to see and tidepools to examine. I did some snorkling and it was great too. (The hotel next door is under the same management, so you can use the pools of both). This hotel is not fancy! It does have cable TV, closets, some rooms with kitchenettes. We stayed there 10 days, in two different rooms, one your standard two queen beds, and one a king with a rollaway. The rollaway was definitely sunken in the middle, the beds middling, though the king was better. In one room, the phone did not take incoming calls. But as I said, clean. Management nice and unobstrusive. Restaurants of various ethnicities in walking distance, including a french bakery, Japanese restaurant, etc. though the street is a busy one. I just really liked it and had a good time.

If you have triple A, the rates are 68.00/night, otherwise 75.00. Use your own long distance company when calling. They say on the phones that they charge for local calls but they do not.

Have fun! Lynn