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San Diego for Spring Break? Any ideas?

momlovemomlove Posts: 497Registered User Member
edited April 2010 in Parent Cafe
I'm thinking about taking my 3 teenagers to San Diego for spring break this year. For the first time, it will just be me and the kids (husband can't get away). I've never been to San Diego before, so I would love your help!

* Is San Diego a good spot for vacation? Safety? Plenty to do?
* We'd likely spend a day at the beach, but are not big water sports people.
* We'd rather avoid very crowded places (like Disneyland). We'll be going the week of March 15th.
* I will rent a car but hopefully the traffic isn't as bad as someplace like L.A.

Any advice on hotels, attractions, etc. would be great. Or, if there is another location other than San Diego that you would like to suggest, please do so. We are coming from the Midwest so our options are pretty open, but I know I have to get on the plans for our trip pretty quick! I need a break from this awful winter we've had :)
Post edited by momlove on
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Replies to: San Diego for Spring Break? Any ideas?

  • thumper1thumper1 Posts: 37,705Registered User Senior Member
    San Diego is terrific. You don't want to miss the San Diego Zoo...it is spectacular. Get a passport to Balboa park. It's actually admittance to, I think, twelve different "museum" types of venues that range from American Art to Air Museum to Trains. Honestly there is something there for everyone.

    Drive out to Coronado. The Hotel Del is there and it is well worth seeing. It has been the sight of some historical events, movie shootings, and many famous folks have stayed there. It's beautiful and a nice thing to do for an afternoon.

    The old hmm...was it an air force base has been transformed into a nice area of mixed shops, housing and businesses. DD says it's fun to go there for a walk. She went jogging there too so there must be some kind of park area with paths.

    Honestly, we've been there for three vacations each a week long and we could go back and still find plenty to do.

    OH....take a tram to Tijuana for the day...another adventure.
  • ebeeeeeebeeeee Posts: 5,199Registered User Senior Member
    Lots to do. Traffic isn't as bad as LA at all...San Diego Zoo is wonderful as Thumper pointed out. Lots of great restaurants etc in the old Gaslamp district.
    You will find a lot of information on trip advisor. I'm sure a couple of our SD Dads will post soon too.
  • coureurcoureur Posts: 11,386Registered User Senior Member
    When you fly into SD try to sit on the left side of the airplane if you can. You get a very nice view as you approach the landing. You see San Diego Bay spread out before you with the graceful curve of the Coronado bridge. You can see the aircraft carriers and other Navy ships in port below. As you fly past downtown you get below the level of the office towers and hotels and get the illusion that your plane is threading its way through them. It is actually going around them on the eastern edge of downtown. It's a scenic approach.

    I'll post my things to do, see, and eat recommendations later. I have to dig out that old post.
  • ebeeeeeebeeeee Posts: 5,199Registered User Senior Member
    Ah coureur, you didn't warn her about the landing in SD. The pilots fly over some buildings and then land on a dime. It's interesting to say the least.
    Scenic is one word for it. :)
  • thumper1thumper1 Posts: 37,705Registered User Senior Member
    Ah yes...flying into San Diego. We always seem to be the last flight to land there (the airport has no landings or take offs in the late night until morning). We have landed there several times with the gates all shut down. It's the strangest thing because it feels like the airport is closed.

    BUT don't let that dampen your enthusiasm for the trip. San Diego is a terrific place for a vacation. OH...do rent a car. We drove out to a darling little mountain town called Jullian which is the apple capital of the area. There are places that have the most terrific apple pie I've ever eaten.

    We also drove out to the desert to a park...I can't remember the name of it...but it was a beautiful drive and interesting park building/museum.
  • coureurcoureur Posts: 11,386Registered User Senior Member
    >>Ah coureur, you didn't warn her about the landing in SD.<<

    Yes, the planes must clear the tall Laurel Street parking structure and then immediately plant themselves on the runway. They seem to do it okay time after time though.
  • coureurcoureur Posts: 11,386Registered User Senior Member
    San Diego is Calfornia's second-largest city. Many people assume San Francisco is second since it is so famous. But San Franciso is actually only 4th-largest. San Diego is also California's oldest city. Juan Cabrillo was the first European here. He sailed into San Diego bay in 1542, only 50 years after the first voyage of Columbus.

    Places to Stay

    1. The Hotel Del Coronado (called “The Hotel Del” by the locals) which is on Coronado Island (actually a peninsula). It’s a fabulous old hotel and supposedly the largest wooden structure in the US. Several movies have been filmed there.
    2. The Grand Colonial Hotel. 910 Prospect Street in La Jolla. An old hotel in downtown La Jolla that has been completely refurbished up to modern standards. Great location next to the beach and great ocean views. Terrific gourmet restaurant on the premises. Good location for touring and shopping in trendy downtown La Jolla.
    3. Beyond that there is the usual selection of Hyatts, Marriotts, etc and of course the vacation motels too.

    Places to Eat

    Italian
    Lorna’s – My favorite place. 3945 Governor. Moderately priced. It’s a caf
  • AerienneAerienne Posts: 174Registered User Junior Member
    San Diego has... Coronado (Hotel Del, as mentioned... you see the bridge when you fly in. You can take a ferry to Coronado instead of driving the apparently scary bridge!), Downtown (Horton Plaza mall is beautiful), the USS Midway, Sea World, San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park, Legoland (more suited for younger kids, but it's fascinating anyway), Old Town, La Jolla shores and La Jolla coves (my favorite beach), Torrey Pines (hiking and a beach, but can be foggy), Pacific Beach (and many more beaches), Mt. Soledad (amazing panoramic view - you can see Mexico, the beach, all the lovely freeways, haha), Cabrillo Monument, Balboa Park (my favorite place in San Diego*)... and much more! haha

    Balboa Park is beautiful. It has a huge organ pavillion, ponds/fountains, gardens, architecture, museums, The Butterfly Garden where I like to eat a sack lunch (The Zoro Garden), the Prado restaurant, Reuben H. Fleet science center (has Imax dome theatre and awesome science educational... center!), The Old Globe theatre and of course it's right next to the Zoo so those can be done in the same day. It's a must! You can also eat a sack lunch at the park right near by. There's also a rose garden across the street and a cultural center but I haven't been there since I was young, so I don't know if it's just open to students or what.

    You must eat some In-N-Out if you haven't already! They're all over. (I recommend a Double-Double with onions. Check their website for "hidden menu items" or order a mixed shake, like chocolate and vanilla. Also.. dip your fries in a shake! Classic.) In regards to flights, I've never had a problem with landing. The view coming in is beautiful to see though! There are also special Southern California packs/tickets to see the Zoo, Sea world, etc, even Disneyland and other attractions in the LA area. I wouldn't really recommend taking a dip into Mexico though (Tijuana isn't worth it... lots of traffic.. just... no! ha). There's plenty to do in San Diego alone and I know I haven't seen it all even living here for 17 years. :)

    There may be a sports event or convention at the convention center when you're here. Check those out--they're in Downtown. Taking the trolley isn't a must, but there are several (Old Town, Balboa Park, etc) that can be useful. I'm afraid I don't know much though.

    And that's my view as a teenager living here^ Have fun!
  • BatlloBatllo Posts: 3,047- Senior Member
    Go to LA. You'll be hero to your kids.
    Let the teens plan where they want to go in LA- Malibu, Hollywood, Westwood, Melrose, Universal Studios, Citywalk, Rodeo Drive, taping of a live TV show, the OC for Disneyland, anywhere they want-plus you can stay out late. LA at night is great
    You can do a campus crawl while there in SoCal-UCLA, Caltech, USC, Pepperdine, HMudd, blah,blah, blah
    If you are afraid to drive, get a GPS and let one of the teens drive.
    IMHO, SD is boring for teens.
    It is still too cold for the beach in March.
  • ellemenopeellemenope Posts: 11,380Registered User Senior Member
    I don't know if the whales will still be migrating as late as spring break...
  • lightmomlightmom Posts: 225Registered User Junior Member
    Last year we did a whale watch at spring break time in San Diego. It was truly wonderful, not for the whales as much (although we did see some of those) but for the hundreds and hundreds of dolphins! I have never seen anything like it, they were everywhere surrounding the boat. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Even the jaded teenagers were impressed ;-)
  • ucsd_ucla_daducsd_ucla_dad Posts: 8,573Registered User Senior Member
    San Diego's a great place for a vacation and IMO a much more enjoyable destination than LA (sorry Batllo) depending on what one is interested in.

    If the 3 teens are viewing this as a vacation then there's a good chance they wouldn't greatly enjoy doing a campus crawl.

    coureur and the others already outlined most of the pertinent points but if you have more questions or can tell us more about what appeals to you or the kids we might be able to help out further.
  • bclintonkbclintonk Posts: 6,487Registered User Senior Member
    We visited San Diego about a year ago for the first time. It was OK but IMO a bit bland. If you can get beyond the kitsch, Old Town is a serious introduction to Spanish- and Mexican-era California history, as are the missions. Balboa Park is a gem. There are some stunning ocean vistas on the Coronado Peninsula, up around La Jolla, Torrey Pines, and probably many more places we didn't get to. Beyond that . . . eh-h. I thought the Gaslamp District was wildly overhyped, restaurants were OK but not particularly worth traveling for, and the thin veneer of urban charm was . . . well, pretty thin.

    Visited LA on the same trip. For my money, LA is a far more interesting, diverse, complicated, culturally rich, gastronomically rewarding, and intellectually stimulating city. Maybe it's just San Diego's fate to be overshadowed by its larger neighbor to the north.

    I will say this: the highlight of our visit to San Diego was a day excursion by bus down to Ensenada. We thought long and hard about this because of warnings about drug cartel violence and H1N1, but our daughters had never been to Mexico and lobbied hard for it, so we decided to chance it. Ensenada's nothing special but the trip does give you a real taste of Mexico, portions of the trip down the coast are unbelievably beautiful, and the portion just along the Mexican side of the border where literally dozens of people were desperately pacing back and forth in broad daylight looking for their opportunity to climb the wall, dodge the Border Patrol, and make their run for it was mind-blowing. You knew most wouldn't make it. You knew some would. And you knew that, even with those odds, all calculated it was worth taking the chance. A powerful human drama was being played out there right before our eyes. It made you realize that in some ways San Diego is just the walled-off, comparatively affluent, comparatively privileged, and predominantly Anglo northern half of a much larger binational San Diego-Tijuana metropolitan region. Make of it what you will, but I think you'll never see San Diego quite the same once you've seen it from the Mexican side of The Wall.
  • ucsd_ucla_daducsd_ucla_dad Posts: 8,573Registered User Senior Member
    San Diego versus LA - it just comes down to what people like. Obviously I'm biased to SD since I chose to live here but I understand that some people like the big city more.

    It's hard to imagine one couldn't find an adequate number of restaurants they like in a metro area of over 3 million people. I'm not a gastronome but I don't see much difference except for some ethnic restaurants which I'm sure LA would have more of but I'm more than satisfied with a choice between Mexican and Italian.
    I will rent a car but hopefully the traffic isn't as bad as someplace like L.A.
    Traffic isn't anywhere close to as bad as the LA area (including north of UCLA down to Orange County and east to Riverside) but it does have rush hour(s) traffic on certain corridors at certain times.
  • ucsd_ucla_daducsd_ucla_dad Posts: 8,573Registered User Senior Member
    Give us an idea of what you're looking for in a hotel -

    - hi/mid/low priced
    - on the beach, on the bay, or just near to them
    - resort style, big hotel style (i.e. big hyatt or marriot) or motel style (holiday inn express, comfort inn, etc.)
    - historic or not
    - closer to downtown or closer to north of the city (La Jolla, Del Mar)
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