California baby! I think we have all dream of California at some time or another. American pop culture idolises the place do they not? The movie stars live there and everyone says how great the weather is. What’s not to like right? Beautiful coastline and beautiful people with sunshine. California for families. Let’s go!
We were honestly planning a Hawaiian holiday. After looking at the map and then analysing the calendar and other planned trips, consequently it was going to be a while before we would fly to the west coast of USA again. The kids were at an age when a trip to Disney was possibly a cool thing to do. We extended the Hawaiian dream to include California. We don’t regret it for a second.
We flew into Los Angeles and collected a car and headed for San Diego. We arrived at 6.30am and thought we would have no problem getting to San Diego even if we drove slowly. It is a 3 hour drive and we were arriving early in the morning. Wrong. Too far for having got off a 11 hour flight with no sleep. The kids had about 2-3 hours sleep as the plane was descending so they had some sleep. In hindsight rather than drive we should of flown to San Diego and collected a car from there.
I had dreams of stopping at beaches along the way and meandering all the way down the coast, but to be honest most of the coastline between Los Angeles and San Diego is a replica copy of the beach prior. They are wide and flat, some have piers out in the sea and some just ugly car parks on the beach. As you get closer to San Diego the topography changes and it is a little more interesting. As a result – skip the in between and go straight to San Diego.
Where to stop
Huntington is a good way out of LA and allows you to of got out of the LA traffic before stopping. As far as picturesque postcard shots go, I would go to Newport or Laguna. These beaches are more similar to La Jolla on the outskirts of San Diego and due to cliffs they provide viewpoints of the beaches below.They all have a cafe society but you will need to carefully research for true coffee. We did find a niche coffee grinder in Huntington but as we didn’t spend a lot of time, consequently we missed coffee in Laguna and Newport.
If you’ve only allowed a short time here, reconsider there is so much to do. Here are the highlights:
This a beautiful upmarket neighbourhood with boutique style shops, a lovely relaxed mall for additional shopping, excellent food, pretty path-lined walks along the coast, seals frolicking and Galaxy Tacos!
We didn’t go. Seeing animals in captivity that are clearly not enjoying being in captivity upsets me quiet deeply. I don’t agree with dolphins being caught and kept in cages/ pools. Whales of any shape or size should not be kept in a tank. Having said that I think their PR has let them down. They do amazing work in supporting the understanding of these creatures. When they make a decision to continue to support rather than profit from them, I think they will have an amazing place. The shows are apparently really fun and enjoyable. If you don’t have deep thoughts like myself and no moral high horse…. it is the number one attraction in San Diego.
Legoland California is great for little kids. We went with a 3 and 9 year old. The Ninjago ride was out of action when we went as was the Waterpark. The 3 year old was in heaven and loved every minute of it. The 9 year old was disappointed there weren’t more rides for him. Having said that it was a lovely relaxed family day out.
San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo is situated in the amazing Balboa Park in San Diego. The Zoo covers 100 acres and is world renowned in animal conservation. San Diego Zoo lead the charge in created habitats for the animals that were glass free and cage-less, likening the enclosure to their natural habitat as much as they could. They have been on the forefront of many initiatives adopted by zoos all over the world. They invented moated exhibits. In the 1960’s children under 16 were free. They have the world’s only albino koala and the largest koala population outside of Australia. They have successfully bred Giant Pandas which many zoos have tried desperately to achieve.
In the summer of 1985 their orangutan, Ken Allen was reported escaped from an orangutan escape-proof enclosure. The stories of his ability to out-wit his keepers and his docility during his escapes are both legendary and endearing. I love these bug hairy guys and having been to Borneo am even more in love with them. Whatever is your favourite animal or species you won’t leave San Diego Zoo knowing less or loving an animal less.
Balboa Park is a 1200 acre urban cultural park. What does that mean I hear you ask? Well it means a very cleaver person indeed decided to house all of the museums and wonders of the city in this lovely abundance of space in the heart of the city. Each building is surrounded by gardens and fountains. It is a true marvel of someone’s mind allowed to dream big.
There are playgrounds, gardens and architecture from many different periods. A total of 17 museums with everything from space to dinosaurs resulting in every boys dream right there! Especially relevant is to mention girls will find something of interest. If you are in San Diego and want to see a play, or a musical, an orchestra, or the ballet, then you will find it here. Don’t miss Balboa Park and i pray you have more than one day to spend in this wonderful space.
This is an area of San Diego where you just have to agree that the lifestyle would be hard to go past. There are literally miles of foot path here where you see people bike riding and rollerblading with a prams, jogging, walking and skating. It all builds that quintessential Californian dream of a healthy life and it is difficult to not want to be a part of it. The houses here are sweet. They are small as the land is at a premium but there is a lovely community feel to the whole place.Imagine a English country cottage on the beach with a 1950’s surf vibe. The owners of these houses tend to their gardens and the result is a quaint and charming community.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
San Diego Zoo Safari Park covers an area of 1800 acres. Where in the world would you find a park of such size? Who would of thought it huh? Until 2010 it was named the San Diego Wild Animal Park and sits in the San Pasqual Valley region of San Diego. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions to the area. I am greatly disappointed we went to Legoland instead of here. San Diego Zoo is world renowned for conservation efforts. The park was a major contributor to the recovery of the American condor creating a successful breeding program.
The name change of the park leads to understanding the type of animals at the safari park and the expanse of the park. It is because of the expanse that consequently I am of the understanding a whole day would not be enough to see everything. I look forward to visiting on my next trip to San Diego. Most noteworthy, I have read it has the largest veterinary hospital in the world which means it must be large scale.
Tijuana Day Trip.
Mexico is right there. You could work in San Diego and live in Mexico. Not quiet but close. Add some Mexican flavour to your time in San Diego. I recommend travelling by coach on a tour – just eliminates all the border crossing problems you could face. The sites include the Cuauhtemoc Monument, Agua Caliente, the statue to General Zaragoza and the Avenue of Heroes. Bargain for souvenirs along Avenida Revolución. This area has a great range of places to eat.
SoCal eating which is inspired by Mexican ancestory and culture. Generally speaking the food in Mexico differs in that it is often less westernised (if that is a word) and is quick and cheap. Exactly what fast food tries to be and fails miserably. Furthermore, try to avoid the tourist strip as these will always be lower standards than just around the corner. Tijuana was once a thriving tourist destination and many stars of the 50’s would choose the easily accessible Tijuana over Acapulco. Acapulco was arguably the more popular spot but further down the Mexican coastline. You can do Tijuana in a day, but the tour companies offer a four hour tour (with hotel pickup and drop off) if you are time poor.
San Diego has a lot to see and in my opinion better for families than Los Angeles in my opinion and in conclusion I would state San Diego is the go. yes, it’s an extra transfer but it will be worth it.