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San Diego road trip in August with 2 toddlers


Feb 19th, 2013, 07:38 PM
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San Diego road trip in August with 2 toddlers


We are planning a trip to San Diego with 2 kids: age 5 and 7. I would like to take them to San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park (recommendations of what to hit in the park), Sea World?? and LEGOLAND. I am wondering how days we would need here then taking a road trip up Highway 1 leisurely to San Francisco. (I read in other forums a week is much too long for San Diego.) Where is a good spot in between San Diego and San Fran to stop overnight? Would Big Sur be a good stopping area? I would like to see more coastal "things" along the way up. I have been to San Francisco and have been to Carmel, Yosemite, and Napa Valley (visiting family in San Francisco and flying out from there). Any suggestions will be appreciated.
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Feb 19th, 2013, 08:27 PM
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As you leave San Diego the major cities along the way are Anaheim (Disneyland), L.A., Santa Barbara, Monterey-Carmel- Big Sur, then San Francisco. Yosemite and Napa Valley are pretty far north and east of San Francisco but doable.

To give you an example, you could drive straight through directly up the coast from SD to SF in about 6-8 hours.

You would be doing a lot of driving up the coast of Calif then over to Napa and Yosemite in one week with 2 young kids and they'd be in the car for long stretches.
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Feb 20th, 2013, 07:06 AM
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The kids will probably love Sea World, the Zoo and the Wild Animal Park - as well as Legoland, but I have never been to Legoland.

They might also like Disneyland - in Anaheim - a little over an hour's drive from SD, if you wanted to use SD as a base.

They would also probasbly like the Ruben E. Fleet science exhibition/games in Balboa Park - http://www.balboapark.org/in-the-par...science-center and maybe the Model Railroad Museum, http://www.balboapark.org/in-the-par...ailroad-museum etc. http://www.balboapark.org/in-the-park/museums

And the tide pools out by Cabrillo Point/Point Loma are also fun to explore. http://www.nps.gov/cabr/naturescience/tidepools.htm

Driving up to San Francisco - while I love the great views from the Coast Hiway - not sure young children would like it as much - but they might like stopping at Hearst Castle - and nearby Cambria has some good places to stay.

And big and little kids would like seeing the Elephant Seals - hanging out on a beach a couple of miles north of the entrance to Hearst Castle.
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Feb 20th, 2013, 09:04 AM
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Cambria is a good idea for a stop before hitting the road up thru Big Sur. Pismo beach would be fun if you would like to go for a Hummer or ATV ride out on the sand dunes. Very fun. As Tom suggests, they may like Hearst Castle and checking out the elephant seals near San Simeon.

Hwy. 1 from Cambria thru Big Sur is car sick country. So be prepared if either of your kids is prone to it.

Monterey Aquarium is fabulous.
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Feb 20th, 2013, 09:11 AM
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I think the kids are too young to appreciate/enjoy Hearst Castle. No touching allowed,and you have to stay tight with your group.
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Feb 20th, 2013, 09:24 AM
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I agree with SF7307, your kids may not enjoy Hearst Castle. It depends on the kids, their attention spans and behavior.
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Feb 20th, 2013, 11:12 AM
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Strongly recommend two days at Legoland for your age group, whether boys or girls.

The Volvo Driving School is just so much more fun than any other ride for that age group. Imagine if the cars went really slow but were not on a rail. The kids actually steer them and stop/go. There is a whole neighborhood of streets/stoplights etc to maneuver.

Legoland does have some roller coasters that have enough action without being freaky--Dino Island, the Dragon and the Lego Technic were the ones we all enjoyed. The Aqua Wave Rider was great in warm weather. People not on the ride could squirt you with water blasters too.

It is a little slow-paced for adults, but you're going to this attraction to enjoy your kids' happiness. Admission tickets are often discounted btw. Check entertainment book/Downtown Disney store, local grocery stores.
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Feb 20th, 2013, 12:51 PM
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I was expecting 2 and 3 years old with the title....

Try Smith Ranch in Julian
My young boys loved SeaWorld and the zoo.
They enjoyed the tide pools.
You could catch a baseball game.
Disneyland is fun.
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Feb 22nd, 2013, 07:16 AM
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Great tips! I am not putting Disneyland on the radar because I am from the east coast and my girls have been to Disney in Florida. I am little afraid of the "are we there yet" syndrome, though. So I am hoping to drive up but stop at a town where it is exciting for both the adults and the kids and have a place to spend the night.

I don't believe I have been as south as Big Sur on my last trip to San Francisco and I heard the scenery is absolutely amazing. Any insights?
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Feb 22nd, 2013, 07:39 AM
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I have two toddlers, and did this exact same road trip! Here is what I would recommend, upon leaving San Diego:

San Diego --> Santa Barbara (spend the night)
Santa Barbara --> Monterey (drive through Big Sur on the way, and spend the night)
Monterey --> San Francisco

In Santa Barbara there aren't a ton of Legoland-type kids activities, but the town is very kid-friendly and there are tons of great shops/restaurants and the beach. I really think you would all love it. I can recommend some good hotels here that won't break the bank, as well.

Big Sur should truly be on everyone's bucket list - the scenery is, as you said, absolutely amazing. Just be sure to build in enough time for the drive, and be prepared that the road is VERY windy and the locals driving it can make it a little dangerous (passing, zipping around curves, etc). While this will easily be the most beautiful part of your road trip, it may be the place where the kids will start to ask "are we there yet"? Even Big Sur, in all its beauty, can get tiresome when you're driving 40 miles at 25 mph.

As for in between San Diego and SF, I would definitely spend the night in Monterey. They will LOVE looking at the seals on the rocks, and the aquarium (while pricey for an aquarium) is world-famous (and truly as good as they say). My kids thought the aquarium was the greatest. Lots of family-friendly shops along the Fisherman's Wharf area in Monterey, so that should be fun, too. We stayed at the Intercontintal right by the aquarium, which (like us) you may be able to get for a steal if you are government/military/AAA.

Another fun thing you may want to do with the kids in between monterey-SF is go check out Watsonville. My kids are strawberry fiends, and Watsonville is right on the way to SF from Monterey, and is also the strawberry capital of America. I think it would be a great way to really understand where the food they eat in the grocery store comes from!

Please let me know if you have any more questions. I not only do this for a living, but lived in Southern California for 3 years and did this exact trip myself, so I am very familiar with the area.
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Feb 22nd, 2013, 12:14 PM
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Personally I'd want at least two nights on Highway 1 and 3 would be better with small kids.
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Feb 23rd, 2013, 02:32 PM
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Although I would love to spend three nights along Highway 1, I don't think the driver (my husband) would like it. It's more of a way to get from point A to point B but actually taking time to enjoy the ride.

Thanks louisag: I will definitely check out Watsonville.
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Feb 23rd, 2013, 10:46 PM
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Way back when - thought Watsonville was known as the Aritchoke Capitol of California?

The kids might have fun - but there is no there there.
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Feb 23rd, 2013, 11:10 PM
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Tom- Castroville is the artichoke capital of the world, both now and way back when.

2r Ascals -skip Watsonville.
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Feb 24th, 2013, 06:20 AM
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Fooey - lost another post getting this page: http://www.solvangusa.com/

Driving from SD to say Cambria/San Simeon Hearst Castle - the kids (and adults too ) might enjoy a Danish pastry/cookie/lunch in Solvang - about 45 minutes above Santa Barbara and a nice break during that drive.

And thanks MichelleY. Both of them are fairly non-descript towns but the kids might enjoy picking Strawberries?
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Feb 26th, 2013, 05:17 PM
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Agree with MichelleY~skip Watsonville. Yes, it's kinda cool to drive through and see the strawberry fields, but as far as stopping, most kids wouldn't appreciate it. Besides, strawberry harvest is over and done in August. Your kids might enjoy Monterey (south of Watsonville) and the aquarium, or Santa Cruz (north of Watsonville) and the Boardwalk.
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