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San Diego help, please!

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Greetings! I am planning a 5-day (or so) excursion for my family (2 adults, 2 boys, ages 13 and 9) to visit San Diego this August. We're hoping for a blend of beach time and non-beach stuff (SeaWorld, nosing around the Gaslight Quarter, Padres game, etc.). I think my kids have aged out of Lego Land, and, to be honest, one mega tourist spot is probably all I could handle in one trip. None of us goes in much for rides - more into animals, thus SeaWorld or maybe the zoo.

I'd love to get some advice on a couple of things:
1. Where to stay - We are bound by Starwood properties (Westin, Sheraton, Four Points, W Hotels) because that's where we've accumulated points. Which will be best, balancing proximity to non-beach stuff and easy access to a swimmable beach?
2. Which beaches are best, anyway? Our boys just love romping around in the sand and in the water - nothing special needed, but reasonable parking (or public transportation) and general ease would be nice.
3. Do you have any favorite (hidden) things to do that you'd recommend?
4. Do you have a favorite San Diego-area restaurant?
5. Depending on your answer to #1, how much do you think we'd need a car? We'll need one to get to the beach, right? But maybe not to anything else? It's not a big deal to rent one, but sometimes finding places to put it is difficult/expensive.

Many thanks for any suggestions--San Diego is totally foreign to me, and I'm just starting the research process!

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