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Planning Southern California Trip with Young Children

Planning Southern California Trip with Young Children

Mar 10th, 2011, 09:03 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 139
Planning Southern California Trip with Young Children

I am planning a family trip to southern California with my wife, our 5 and 2 year old girls and my mother in early June. We will spend a week+ in the area and the main sights we want to visit are Sea World, Legoland and the Getty for the adults.

I have found several 3 bedroom rentals on VRBO and believe these will give us the most space for the money and also more easily allow us to prepare some of our own meals. I am leaning towards selecting a rental near to Legoland and then driving to the other destinations. I believe we could be to Sea World within an hour and the Getty in about 2 hours.

Possible Itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive/Settle In
Day 2: Legoland
Day 3: Recover/sights close to house.
Day 4: Sea World
Day 5: Recover/sights close to house.
Day 6: Open
Day 7: Open
Day 8: Getty/ Additional LA sight (stay in LA area)
Day 9: Head Home

I would appreciate opinions and advice on the following:
- Does my logic on the vacation rental and location seem sound?
- Are there any good beaches for tide pools between San Diego and LA?
- Are there any good farmers markets in the area?
- What other sights would you add to the list?

btw… We did Disney in early 2010 and want to wait until the youngest daughter is older before we do it again.

jgwagner4 is offline  
Mar 10th, 2011, 09:39 AM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 10,219
Remember to use lots of sunscreen and keep everybody well hydrated. Bottled water from a grocery store kept in a backpack is the best cheap solution.
I'm guessing the 5 year old will want to go back to Legoland on day 6 or 7. Maybe think about Knott's Berry Farm.
Renting a car downtown is usually cheaper than renting at the airport. Get the free shuttle to your hotel, and rent a car locally early on day 2 to head out to Legoland.
tomfuller is offline  
Mar 10th, 2011, 11:02 AM
Join Date: Oct 2010
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In between San Diego and Los Angeles is Camp Pendleton. LA traffic can be a nighttmare, so I would recommend a few days in San Diego and then a day or two in LA, rather than commute from SD to LA and back. Also, not sure if I would stay near Legoland. If you break up your stay, you can stay closer to SD and IMO, there is more to see and do there, like the zoo, tidepools in La Jolla or Point Loma, Coronado Beach, etc. There are farmer's markets all over SD and I presume LA as well.
egnolive is offline  
Mar 11th, 2011, 10:44 AM
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egnolive is right about not commuting from San Diego to Los Angeles. If you can make it to the Getty in 2 hours that would mean you don't hit any traffic which of course never happend. About the only time of day you'd make it to the Getty in two hours is that little window of time from about 10:30 am to 1:30 pm. The window could be a little wider but you never know. At least with your family you'd be able to use the carpool lane which would help.

Carlsbad is very nice so staying there would work if you find something great on VRBO. You would have to drive back and forth to San Diego which isn't a bad drive but there is some traffic. So I think that depends on what rentals you find. Maybe send us a link to a couple of them so we can offer some advice. If you could find something a little closer to San Diego that would be good. Maybe check Del Mar or La Jolla. The beach weather can be cool and gloomy in June (we call it June gloom) but you can still enjoy the tidepools, walking on the beach, etc.

I like your schedule that you are having some downtime between Legoland and Seaworld. What airport are you flying in and out of? If it's LAX then I would just go up to LA for the last day for the Getty and then stay close to LAX. If you're flying in and out of San Diego then I'd probably head to LA for Day 7, spent the night there, do the Getty Day 8 and then head back to San Diego. If you haven't purchased your tickets you could look into flying into San Diego and flying home from LA. You would probably incur a drop-off fee for your rental car if you did this.
paula1470 is offline  
Mar 11th, 2011, 06:33 PM
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Posts: 139
Tomfuller, Egnolive and Paula,

Thank you for the pointers and the advice. I was not clear on one part of our trip. We are from Arizona and will be driving, so no rental cars or airports will be involved.

Also, I am already planning on spending the last day in LA and staying up there once we arrive, so there will be no commute back to the San Diego area once we head north.

Paula, we have learned on our other trips, that it is best to plan downtime/slower days to give the children (and ourselves) time to recover. We end up enjoying ourselves more and don't come home eshausted and in need of a new vacation. Plus on these days we sometimes have the best experiences just sitting at a park or street cafe experiencing the local culture.
jgwagner4 is offline  
Mar 12th, 2011, 06:19 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
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We spent a week in San Diego (actually La Jolla) with young children. The highlights included Legoland (which continues to be my son's favorite)(they also have an ok aquarium and a new waterpark but I have not yet been), and Seaworld (we ended up going twice in the week). We also loved both zoos. The world famous San Diego Zoo (my kids still talk about seeing the pandas) and the Wild Animal Park (which is my favorite - the kids enjoyed the safari and the hands on experiences like seeing a hedgehog up close, one of the docents had brought it out). Maybe days 6 and/or 7 could be used for a trip to the Zoo.

We also enjoyed going to brunch at the Hotel del Coronado (my daughter thought the chocolate fountain was amazing) and renting one of those multiple people bikes and riding around. It was a pretty silly morning but we enjoyed the old-fashioned fun.

We have also stayed several times at West Inn and Suites in Carlsbad. The rates are usually reasonable and it has a pool and free breakfast.

If it is on the way, you could stop in Long Beach at the Aquarium of the Pacific. My kids really enjoy our day trips here.

A couple of thoughts on LA. You could stay in Santa Monica - you might have to splurge on one night's hotel. In Santa Monica, you could go to the Pier, the beach, and you are close enough to either of the Getty museums (either off 405 or the villa in Malibu). If the timing is right (Wednesday) you can go to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market.

Another fun day for kids would be to head inland a little and go to The LA Farmer's Market and the Grove. My daughter loves The American Girl store. Also nearby is LA County Museum of Art and La Brea tar pits.

If you head east out of LA, there is a terrific Children's Museum at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena called Kidspace.
POlson is offline  
Mar 12th, 2011, 08:35 AM
Join Date: Jul 2009
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Can’t answer re Farmer’s Markets everywhere, but here in LA we have multiple on every day of the week, in different neighborhoods. Here is the link to all the farmer’s markets in LA. You might find something similar for San Diego counties

What is not so clear from your post is this: do you primarily want a beach vacation, where you step out of your rental and spend the morning on the beach, shower and lunch, the kids nap while you read, or grandma stays with them while you and wife take a bike ride or do some shopping, come back pick up the kids for a park run and maybe out to dinner or bar b q as a family, with maybe a late night drink at a local watering hole after the little ones go to bed; and while you are on vacation you plan a day trip or two, then renting near Legoland can work great. If what you are really looking for is the opportunity to live at the beach then I concur with your thinking about staying near Legoland.

If you wanted to “see” more things, then I would stay in San Diego, and either make Legoland a day-trip from SD or spend a night there enroute to LA.

San Diego is a great place to stay for a few days, and you might consider spending the bulk of time there. There is much to see and do, and many places to successfully have your “recovery” days. There are nice beaches, and Balboa Park can be returned to time and time again. (If you are familiar with the “Carl” books about the babysitting Rottweiler Carl, the book “Carl’s Afternoon at the Park” takes place at Balboa Park and your children might really enjoy comparing the places in the book with the places in the park. And if not, they will still enjoy each separately – the Carl books are great pre-reading books, and Balboa Park is a great multi-day destination. )

As you are driving from AZ, I would either start in LA and end in SD, or reverse it, and either make Legoland a day-trip from SD, or spend a night there enroute to LA.

You cannot visit the Getty as a day trip from Carlsbad as you recognize in your post, and with a two-year old I wouldn't plan on seeing the Getty on any "car day" ie not the day you drive up from Legoland and not the day you drive home to Arizona.

We should also clarify that there are TWO Getties; the Getty Villa, and the Getty museum. In LA when people say the Getty they usually mean the museum (reserving “Getty Villa” for the Villa) but they are not close to one another, and you need to know which you want to see. The Villa (in Malibu) requires a parking reservation; it is, in my mind, less “child friendly” (which is not to say that children are not welcome, but more that I think it provides less for them to do.) The Malibu location is a little harder to deal with – there are no alternate routes if PCH is backed up, but it is on the beach (always a great place for young ‘uns to let of steam) and there are some fun and interesting restaurants in the area. The Getty museum is directly off the 405 in the southern Sepulveda Pass; although traffic can get hairy, there are alternate routes, for example, Sepulveda Blvd. It is a kid’s dream location, with architecture made to explore, a children’s center at the museum, a sketch room for anybody, and a garden to delight in. The cafeteria at the Getty has good food and million dollar views. (BTW my tip for art museums with children is to visit the gift shop first, and each child chooses a post card that he/she likes. Then we look for that art work (represented in the postcard) during our visit. Keeps them interested, involved, engaged, and invested – and buys Mom and Dad a little more time in the museum!)

In LA the Grove IS fun, but not a “destination” I would recommend going out of your way to see. The American Girl store might be a little “old” for your 2 year old, and possibly the 5 year old as well. Although it’s amazing, it is also a store, and the intent is to get you to purchase things. The dolls and their accessories are visible, but you can’t play with anything and it might be more frustrating than anything else. And, the AG phenomenon can become an expensive habit to get into ha ha ha ha! On the other hand, the Grove has a fountain choreographed to music which is fun, and little garden with a path and a bridge over the fountain which provides lots of entertainment to kids, a trolley…and the Farmer’s Market (not to be confused with farmers’ markets, which are temporary; set up each week for a few hours to which farmers drive their truck loads of produce in to sell but the Farmer’s Market on 3rd and Fairfax) has a sticker store (stock up on car activities) and some unusual foods (an entire store devoted to hot sauce; a restaurant that serves alligator or ostrich or something (I’m a vegetarian so I don’t pay lots of attention to these things) and also home-made ice cream, fabulous fresh English toffee, etc. The Grove and the Farmer’s Market are next to one another; they are operated and owned by different companies, but you can walk between one and the other without knowing that you have done so. The only real difference is that their parking lots are different, with different prices etc, and only take validations from their own vendors. But, if you are in LA, the Tar Pits and Page museum in the morning, going to the Grove and Farmer’s market later in the day would be fun for the entire family. The fossils in the Page museum are of mammoths and saber toothed tigers, and it’s really weird to think that these types of animals were hunted by humans right here a long time ago, where now it is the middle of the city! Next to the Tar Pits and Page Museum is also LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. They have a special place and special programming for kids which you might find interesting and productive. Very near by is also the Peterson Museum (the car museum) which the entire family might find entertaining. Also close-by is the Zimmer Jewish Children’s museum; a hands-on exploration of the Jewish culture.

There are some modest hotels mid-city which would be convenient to stay at (close to the Tar Pits and the Grove) these include Best Western Carlyle Inn on Robertson (includes breakfast) and Farmer’s Daughter hotel directly across the street from the Farmer’s Market. There is also a Residence Inn at Pico and Beverwil as you like cooking for yourself. If you budget can bear it, a night or two in Santa Monica could be fun…especially if you could walk to the Pier! There is a Loew’s in Santa Monica but I’ve never stayed there; I’ve REALLY enjoyed the Loew’s in Coronado (ie San Diego) (much more than the Del Coronado, frankly) and it’s a great place for families and thus I would recommend looking into the Loew’s Santa Monica. I did stay once at the Shangri-La hotel in Santa Monica. It’s an old art deco hotel and it’s right on Ocean Ave. It doesn’t have the “conveniences” of a more moden hotel, for example, no room service, and that makes it less expensive, but we stayed in room #604 (yes, I wrote it down because I liked it so much!) which has a wrap-around balcony and the view was incredible. The location can't be beat -- the Pier, the beach, 3rd Street Promenade; same as the more luxury hotels but without the pool or in-hotel restaurants.
absthegal is offline  
Mar 12th, 2011, 09:15 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 18,762
"You cannot visit the Getty as a day trip from Carlsbad as you recognize in your post"

I live in San Diego and I've visited the Getty off the 405 as a day trip several times. It is perfectly possible, but it is a long day.
Barbara is offline  
Mar 12th, 2011, 09:30 AM
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Barbara is right, it can be done but not something I'd try to do with a 5 and 2 year old. But sounds like the OP is going to stay in LA so not really an issue.

absthegal gives you lots of great information. One thing though about the Shangri-La hotel. I used to stay there when I was in Santa Monica for work because it was such a great value. But the hotel was closed for 2 years for renovation which does look spectacular. Unfortunately their rates are now spectacular. The hotel did need renovation but it's too bad it's so expensive now. The rooms are huge and some even have kitchens. It's worth checking out if the rates fit your budget.
paula1470 is offline  
Mar 12th, 2011, 02:46 PM
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<< I’ve REALLY enjoyed the Loew’s in Coronado (ie San Diego) (much more than the Del Coronado, >>

absthegal: Your post has such nice information in general. But I wanted to mention that Loew's is south of the city of Coronado about 10-20 minutes depending on the time of day & how heavy the traffic is. It isn't really in Coronado and you'd have to have a car to get back and forth. The beauty of staying in Coronado is you can bike or walk everywhere, as the entire "island" is only about a mile or two from end to end. When you are in Coronado you want to enjoy the parks, beaches, town, etc without spending a lot of time traveling back and forth. The Coronado Loews is really closer to Imperial Beach (an ok tourist spot).
nanabee is offline  
Mar 12th, 2011, 05:06 PM
Join Date: Jul 2009
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Thanks so much for your kind words.

I guess I was unclear about the Loew's. I was not recommending the Loew's Coronado to jwagner4 as a place to stay in San Diego -- he seems clear that for a longer stay he would prefer a place with a kitchen -- as much as to say "Loew's Coronado is great for families; you are travelling as a family; you might stay in Santa Monica for a night or two; I can't speak directly about Loew's Santa Monica as a place to stay, but I'd recommend researching it with the hopes that it too is a family-friendly place to stay." But um, I guess I didn't say that and I apologize to everyone who was confused, and I apologize to jwagner4 if I have given "bad" information.
absthegal is offline  
Mar 12th, 2011, 09:26 PM
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I appreciate everyone’s advice. This is why I love these forums!

absthegal, You provided great information, and did not confuse me at all.

As to your questions and the ideas posed by you and POIson:
- We are more interested in a laid back vacation. There is only so much we can do in a given day with a two-year-old. This vacation will be as much about cooking ourselves good meals, watching old movies after the kids go to bed and catching up with our favorite authors as it will be about seeing the tourist sights. We will probably only visit two theme parks (Legoland and Sea World), and the rest of stops will be to small beaches, parks and maybe a museum (The Getty) or two (both Kidspace and La Brea Tar Pits sound very interesting, but I will do more research).
- Right now we are leaning at staying in Carlsbad, but I am also looking at a few rentals in La Jolla (close enough to walk to the tide pools at the Cove).
- We are very familiar with “Carl” and that will probably be a large incentive to see Balboa Park (We saw the “Make way for Duckling” statues last summer in Boston).
- We will drive from Phoenix via Yuma to San Diego on I-8, spend a week in the area, then we will drive north to LA for one or two (If we decide to do the tar pits or Kidspace) nights before heading home on I-10.
- We are interested in the Getty Center and its exhibit, “Fashion in the Middle Ages” that will begin on May 31st. I really like the post card idea!
- We will save the zoos for a future visit.
- I will look into the brunch at Hotel del Coronado. I like these sort of things.
- Santa Monica sound like a good area to stay in the LA area. I will do more research on that as well.

Thanks again and I am still open to more ideas… especially good places to eat with the family in the La Jolla and Carlsbad areas.
jgwagner4 is offline  
Mar 13th, 2011, 06:31 AM
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absthegal: No! My mistake, I should have made it clear that I understood what you were saying - that is why I mentioned it was good advice (All of it!) However, I was just adding that the location of the Loew's in Coronado being so far away from the city of Coronado might be a concern if someone is reading for general advice. Sorry!

jgwagner - I love the Cove but because it is the heart of La Jolla (aka The Village) it is extremely crowded, and properties within walking distance are few (there are a lot of hotels though). I would recommend staying in the La Jolla Shores with a young child. It is a residential community on the beach. It has a very cute "main street" which is like one block, a huge park right next to the beach with a brand new play set for kids.

You can always drive into the Village of La Jolla (it's about 5 minutes by car) to go to the Cove.

Restaurants in La Jolla -
The best fish tacos and fish in general - El Pescador on Pearl St.

Breakfasts: My favorite is The Cottage on Fay St, Harry's Cafe on Girard, Pannikin Coffee on Girard, The Coffee Cup on Wall Street (but you have to really like rosemary!)

Lunch: Burger Lounge on Wall St.

Dinner: Piatti's in the La Jolla Shores, but many of the dinner restaurants in La Jolla are very expensive. I like Zen Bu on Fay for sushi (go during happy hour), Sammy's Woodfired Pizza (is reasonable) on Pearl St.

You might drive south from the center of La Jolla (about 2-3 miles) into Bird Rock (check out the Bird Rock Roaster's for excellent organic coffee), Lupi's Italina Cucina, Beaumont's, all on La Jolla Blvd.
nanabee is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2011, 07:04 PM
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Posts: 139
I think we have found the place we will spend our week at: http://seabluff.com/

It is in Encinitas and we have contacted management and already identified the unit we will rent. I just need to return the rental agreement. Does anyone have a compelling reason why I should not?

The benefits I see with this property are:
- Close to the attractions we want to see in the San Diego area.
- We can walk to the beach.
- Community pool (better than having a pool in the backyard that we have to worry about).
- Price ($1650ish inclusive for the week for 3 bedrooms!)
jgwagner4 is offline  
Apr 5th, 2011, 06:53 PM
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I cannot see in all the posts (I did not read every word) if you are planning on taking your girls to the zoo? If not, I would recommend it... it is wonderful!
MomDDTravel is offline  
Apr 5th, 2011, 06:57 PM
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Posts: 1,257
In La Jolla there is the Birch Aquarium which is great for kids. It is a good size--not too big as to overwhelm. We really enjoyed it. After that you can drive down to the cove.
europeannovice is offline  
Apr 6th, 2011, 08:58 AM
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 40

I am not familiar with this particular management company or the rental units so cannot comment about the specifics of it. However, as far as location goes, and what you said you wanted for the kind of vacation you are looking for, I think this is a great bet.

Welcome to California!
absthegal is offline  
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