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4 days in San Diego w/kid using public transportation

4 days in San Diego w/kid using public transportation

Old Feb 25th, 2020, 06:53 PM
  #1  
yk
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 24,361
4 days in San Diego w/kid using public transportation

Hi all,
Our family of 3 went to San Diego for 4 days in mid-Feb (school vacation week) and I wanted to report back how we fared on mostly public transit during out trip. Our trip was 6 days total but 2 days were travel days. We picked San Diego because my husband had a conference to attend, so he spent all 4 days at the conference while I took my son (age 7) sightseeing. My son and I had been to San Diego 18 months before - that time we stayed with friends outside of the city and had a rental car. This time we stayed in downtown and I didn't want to pay the exorbitant parking fees at the hotel (not to mention rental car fees). I did rent a car on the last day to go to Legoland.

in case you're wondering - why bother with public transit? Why not take Uber/Lyft? 1) I am a firm believer in Public Transit - if it is available, I'll use it. and 2) with our son age 7, he needs a booster car seat for uber/Lyft and I don't want to drag it with me every day and I don't know how easy/difficult to request a Uber that has booster seats.

Hotel
We stayed at Hotel Republic on B Street. It is one of the cheaper hotel options via the conference. I like the fact that the rooms are actually quite big and nicely appointed. Staff is very nice. Location-wise it is not as convenient - the area is quiet so not that many dining options especially at night. It is about a 15-min walk to Gaslamp or to Little Italy. 20 minutes to convention center. The 3 of us ended up booking 2 rooms, one for husband and one for myself and my son, so that we can all get some sleep without waking one another up.

Public Transit tips
I enjoy taking public transportation and I was pleasantly surprised by how well connected San Diego is by bus and trolleys. Before our trip I studied the transit map on mts and downloaded 2 apps - the MTS app and also the Compass Cloud app. MTS app has all the routes/maps and also real time arrivals. It is super helpful knowing where the bus stop is and when the bus will be arriving. The Compass Cloud app allows you to purchase day passes ($6) on your phone and all you do is activate it and show your ticket on your phone to the driver. That way I don't have to buy the Compass card and load money all the time. Moreover, with my son, he has to pay full fare if paying cash fare, but using the Compass Cloud app I can buy him a Youth day pass ($3). Finally, kids ride free on weekends with a paying adult. (kids under 5 also ride free all the time)

Our hotel's proximity to Broadway and also to Santa Fe Depot gives us plenty of bus stops and trolley stops nearby, rarely needing to walk more than 2-3 blocks before we get to a bus stop.

Day 1 & 2
We flew nonstop on Alaska Airlines from Boston. The flight was uneventful. The plane is very new with huge overhead bins that allow you to stow your luggage upright - like books on a shelve. Inflight entertainment is provided via free onboard wifi to your tablet/cellphone , therefore no seatback entertainment system.

Our flight arrived at 10pm and with our luck, the city bus (#992) was just rolling up the curb as we got out of the terminal. We paid cash fare ($5 for 2 adults, son was free because it was a weekend) and were at our hotel within 15 minutes. After settling into our rooms, we showered and went straight to bed.

Next morning was sunday and Hotel Republic has a outdoor restaurant that serves weekend brunch. So I thought, why not? I went with my son at 10am and it was already sunny and warm enough to sit outside. Remember, we live in Boston and have been cold for months? That moment of enjoying brunch outside in the warm sun made the trip all worth it already. The food was actually so-so but once again staff was very nice.

Son and I finally were on our way just before noon - we walked over to the America Plaza Trolley Station to pick up the Vintage Trolley (SDG&E Line). That was lots of fun (my son particularly loves vintage vehicles) and we rode to the 12th and Imperial (last stop). Reason for this is we needed to go to the San Diego Public Library to pick up a Feb Museum Pass. For the month of Feb, if you have this pass (free to pick up), you can get into most museums for half-price. They are available at certain Hilton hotels, Macys stores, and library.

Afterwards, we decided to walk over to the convention center (by way of Petco Park) to meet husband for lunch. We ate at Tin Fish, which is directly across from the convention center. I had a fried fish taco which was very fresh.

For the afternoon, I had planned for my son and I to go over to Coronado. With advice I got from Tripadvisor, we decided to take the ferry over (terminal right outside convention center) and the bus back. This was a good decision. Although we got to the ferry pier right on time, the ferry was already full and we had to wait half an hour for the next one. Given this was a sunny Sunday, plenty of people were heading over there, and the ferry is tiny - it only seats 33 ppl - I don't know why they can't run a bigger boat? Ferry crossing is $5pp.

The ferry ride is only 10 minutes or so. On the Coronado side, the line for the ferry is very long - those in the back must have to wait at least 3 or 4 ferries before they can get on (which means 1.5-2 hrs). the hotel and beach is on the other side of Coronado from the ferry pier, so we waited for the Coronado shuttle (an MTS bus) to take us there. The bus dropped us right outside hotel Coronado and we headed for the beach. Wow, the beach is absolutely beautiful - the sand is super fine and very big. Even though we flew with carryon luggage only, I managed to pack a towel, a few yogurt containers and a small shovel so my son could play on the beach. We were there for over 2 hours. If you don't have beach gear, you can rent a beach chair and towel for $50/day (!!!)

The bus back to San Diego (#901) runs only once an hour so we definitely don't want to miss it. With extra time on hand, we had ice cream from Moo Time Creamery. the bus was a bit late and it also made quite a few detours so we didn't get back to SD until after dark. Also, while #901 usually goes into downtown, on Sundays it only stops at 12th and Imperial which is the last stop. So we got off there and changed for the Green Trolley to Santa Fe Station. We decided to meet husband for dinner at AA-HARN, a Thai restaurant next to Santa Fe Station. I had Laksa and husband had mango curry. We enjoyed the food. From there, it was only a 2-block walk back to our hotel.

Last edited by yk; Feb 25th, 2020 at 07:14 PM.
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Old Feb 25th, 2020, 07:18 PM
  #2  
yk
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 24,361

Vintage trolley

Ferry to Coronado

Sand castle at Coronado Beach
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Old Feb 26th, 2020, 03:21 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 25,617
Great photos! I like public transportation although Uber is getting more of our business when I travel with friends. San Diego is a great convention town for this time of the year. As you found out, there is plenty to do for the family while one parent is at a convention. You always find the best deals when you are traveling. Great advice.
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Old Feb 26th, 2020, 03:11 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2008
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Brava as always, yk, for great planning and for using public transportation. Nice to read that SD is making it easy.
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Old Feb 27th, 2020, 03:53 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
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Looks like you had a fine time getting around without a car. Thanks for the post.
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Old Feb 29th, 2020, 07:37 AM
  #6  
yk
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Day 3
Today is Monday President's Day. Our plan was to visit Balboa Park and reason is because the bus to Balboa Park runs a regular schedule on holidays. We grabbed breakfast at Bruegger's Bagels near our hotel, then took Bus #215 to Balboa Park.

There is no shortage of attractions inside Balboa Park - many museums, gardens, as well as the San Diego Zoo. I gave my son several choices - he ended up picking the Automobile Museum and the Model Railroad Museum. These might be unusual picks but my son loves all things transportation. Besides, we were just in Washington DC over Xmas and had visited the National Zoo, the Air & Space Museum, the Nat Hist Museum there so he wanted something different.

We began our visit at the San Diego Automotive Museum. With the museum pass we had picked up the day before, we get 50% off our admission. The museum itself isn't that big, and the current exhibit is 1970s cars. We still managed to spend over an hour there. Then we walked over to the Japanese Garden to meet our friends for lunch at the Tea Pavilion. I didn't realize the place is take-out only with picnic benches outside. Luckily it was warm enough for us. The food was so-so but mostly we wanted to spend time with my friends. After lunch we walked along the Prado to the Model Railroad Museum. Even though my friends had no interest in it, they came along so i could continue to catch up with them while my son amused himself with the trains.

My son spotted a childrens' playground near the bus stop when we got off this morning, so he requested playground time. We spent over an hour there and then it was time to bid goodbye to my friends and we took #215 back to hotel. We stopped by a 7-Eleven to buy some yogurts and pastries for breakfast the next morning, given that our hotel room has a mini-fridge.

That evening my husband was meeting colleagues for dinner. My son and I ended up walking to Little Italy - the area around our hotel is very quiet but Little Italy is jam-packed with people and restaurants. We ended up going to the Little Italy Food Hall where there are several options. I had taco from Not Not Tacos and my son wanted a poke bowl.
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Old Feb 29th, 2020, 07:55 AM
  #7  
yk
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 24,361
Day 4
Today is the day I thought it would be "fun" to take the bus all the way to La Jolla. Bus #30 goes from downtown, via Old Town San Diego, then via Mission Bay and eventually to La Jolla. The bus ride takes 1 hour. By the time we got off, I was feeling nauseated from motion-sickness. It was almost lunch time by then so we picked a random place for lunch - Puesto, which turns out to be quite delicious. From there we walked over to La Jolla Cove and saw many many sea lions. Our friends had told us low tide was 12:45pm so that worked out pretty well. I would have happily spent more time watching the sea lions but my son was obsessed with the idea of playing on the little beach at the Cove. The sand there is not nearly as fine as Coronado beach and it is tiny. Also, the waves are a lot rougher so it was not as fun as Coronado beach. Our friends decided to join us and we spent an hour there. It was not as sunny a day and I was feeling rather cold despite wearing a light down jacket. Our bus ride home on #30 was okay - both my son and I were dozing off on the bus.

We got back to our hotel around 4pm and immediately i knew I was getting sick - I developed a low grade fever and I crawled into bed. Called husband and asked him to pick up dinner to-go from a Japanese restaurant - Ramaki - in the Gaslamp quarter to bring back to the hotel. He had a salmon don, son had a mini katsu, and I got a vegetable udon noodle soup. Husband also went to a nearby drug store to get me some advil. I went to bed early that night and slept for 10 hours.
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Old Feb 29th, 2020, 08:13 AM
  #8  
yk
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Posts: 24,361
Day 5
Our last full day in San Diego and I had promised my son we would go to Legoland. Fortunately I was feeling slightly better in the morning and didn't have to cancel our plans; otherwise he would have been devastated. This would be our second time there as we also visited Legoland in 2018. I agreed to go again because it is a pretty fun place, AND I know my son will age out of it in a few years' time and it's unlikely we will go to Legoland again before then. It is however super expensive - luckily I have a coupon for BOGO (buy one adult, get one child ticket free) so that saved me almost $100.

Going to legoland via public transit is impractical, so I reserved a rental car. By the time I reserved it, I couldn't get one from local outlets so we had to go to the airport to pick up. So first we met up with DH for breakfast at Bruegger's Bagels, then son and I took the #992 airport bus to the airport, change for the car rental shuttle, and finally got our rental car from Avis.

The drive from airport to legoland was pretty straightforward and not much traffic (took 35 minutes?), we managed to get there just after 10am (10am is opening time). Parking fee has gone up since 2018, now it is $25 for regular, $35 for premium. Despite being school vacation week, Legoland was not that busy except for the most popular rides (roller-coaster rides that my son does NOT want to go on). We were able to do 13 rides over the course of the day. Many of the rides were 5-10 minutes wait, the longest ones took maybe 20 minutes? I felt the place was fun however food options are limited. Some were not open at all, and others only serve a very specific menu with limited opening times (say, pizza only). The one that has the most options has long lines and we didn't want to wait. So we ended up eating snacks throughout the day (apple fries, churros, ice cream). My Legoland coupon is valid for both Legoland and the Sea Life Aquarium. The Aquarium is located right by the park entrance and it is open later until 5:30pm (park closes at 5). Anyway, we were in the main Legoland Park from 10:30am-4:30pm and spent the last hour in the Aquarium. It was a very full day and we left happy.

On the drive drive back we hit traffic and took almost an hour. I was lucky enough to find a metered spot on the street near our hotel (hotel charges $50/d valet parking). Met up with husband and we once again walked over to Little Italy for dinner. After checking out the menus of many restaurants (most offer the same fare), we randomly picked Mimmo's. It turned out to be very good. We had a Burrata to share, I got the Cioppino and husband got Spicy Shirmp linguine. they also had a kids menu and our son got mac and cheese. We all left happy.

Day 6
We had an early flight out - we retrieved our rental car on the street and drove to the airport to return it and then flew Alaska Airlines home. Flight back was super fast thanks to jet stream - we arrived an hour early but ended up getting to the gate at the scheduled arrival time because our gate wasn't open.
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Old Feb 29th, 2020, 05:22 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2008
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Excellent TR, yk.
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Old Feb 29th, 2020, 06:40 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2020
Posts: 49
So fun for your son and nice that you got to spend time with friends too. Thanks for reporting!
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