San Diego - America’s favorite playground
Round trip from Peacock Suites = approximately 300+ miles (or less)
Estimated time: 12-14 hours
Those families set on visiting the best family attractions southern CA has to offer will, if possible, need to head south to San Diego. After Disneyland® Park, Universal Studios and Knotts Berry Farm you may want to notch-off Sea World, the San Diego Zoo and Nature Park, and Legoland as well. San Diego is considered to have one of the best climates in the continental United States, so why not? The drive is interesting and the places to visit, big and small are enticing. Take a vote before you go, because this trip allows for a variety of interests and energy levels. Naturally, every destination will not be possible to visit in one day so plan accordingly.
First stop, Carlsbad, CA and Legoland California—an out of formulae theme park that will have you marveling at the creative genius of the Park architects and installations. From Manchester Ave. merge via the left ramp on I-5 South toward San Diego and travel just over 60 miles to the Cannon Road East, Exit 48. This is much more than an amazing Lego “museum.” There are rides and shows that engage the visitors, providing new levels of interaction. The grounds are immaculate and beautiful; the staff is friendly. The park is oriented toward younger audiences and pricey, but well worth the visit if you’re searching for something out of the ordinary.
Or, keep on driving south on I-5 toward lovely La Jolla and make a stop to the Torrey Pines Gliderport, the launching site for one of the most extreme sports in this region - Handgliding! If your adventerous or crazy, take on a tandem flight (with some of America’s most accomplished pilots) for 20-30 minutes over the coastal cliffs and Blacks Beach. Off I-5 take the Genesee Avenue exit, bear north onto local road(s) then turn west on to Genesee Avenue for 3/4 mile, merge onto N. Torrey Pines Road and travel almost .5 miles to Gliderport. The tandem program is available seven days a week. Because of wind conditions, most of the soaring takes place during the early afternoons (858.452.9983).
Afraid of heights? Want to see the earth up close? Hike Torrey Pines State Reserve, described as a “wilderness island in an urban sea.” Home to the country’s rarest pine tree, the Torrey Pine or Pinus torreyana, only grows here and in Santa Barbara. Travel south on Hwy 5, exit on Carmel Valley Rd. and go west 1.5 miles to Coast Hwy 101, turn left. The park entrance will be 1 mile on your right. Long before Europeans arrived, the Torrey Pines area was home to the Kumeyaay who established vast trading networks—even as far inland as the sand dunes of the Colorado River, and south into Mexico. These lands were linked together by vast trading networks. Deft seasonal hunters living in bands of extended families, they traveled the coast, mountains and desert foothills in search of food, materials for shelter and clothing, and trade. Hikers should know: only water is allowed in the reserve and you must carry it in yourself; no concessions are available. The Fleming Trail is easiest, with parking nearby. Enjoy a forested stroll along a path with nature markers, ocean vistas, sandstone formations and spring wildflowers. With timing and luck, you may even see bottlenose dolphins. The trailhead to the Beach Trail is at the park restrooms. Check the tides and weather conditions before you go as parts of the trail are narrow and precipitous. There’s a great Visitor Center open daily at 9am where you can learn about the naming of the Torrey Pine and the preservation of Park lands and this unique biosphere. This is a day-use only park.
Central to much of the preservation and scientific development of the area was newspaperwoman and philanthropist, Ellen Browning Scripps. She contributed to the Natural History Museum and was a leading area advocate for the study of marine science—crucial to the founding and funding of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the nearby Marine Life Refuge. Its Birch Aquarium with a stunning collection of Pacific marine life featured in over 60 habitats and its Tropical Seas Gallery have long been visitor favorites. See an intriguing world of colorful coral reef formations including the Institution’s coral propagation program and an array of interactive exhibits for the kids.
So, when do we get to San Diego? Many of you will just head straight to this marvelous beach town and spend the whole day exploring Balboa Park, Coronado and/or the Gaslamp Quarter. No doubt you can navigate your way to these popular spots on your own. (Reserve a spot on a FREE downtown Bus Tour that originates at the Downtown Information Center, 225 Broadway, 619-235-2222.) The Gaslamp Quarter is the heart of Downtown San Diego. It is eight blocks long (from Broadway to Harbor Drive) and two blocks wide (from Fourth to Sixth Avenues). This historic area is home to more than 125 restaurants, nearly 100 unique shops, coffeehouses and nightclubs. (Park nearby; metered spots are Free on Sunday.) From here it’s easy to visit Seaport Village and stroll San Diego Bay. Slow down. Shop and enjoy some unique eateries along the way. Or pop into popular Horton Plaza to shop many upscale retailers.
And, for those who favor an overview of the area’s natural and cultural history, a visit to Cabrillo National Monument and Point Loma is in order. Take Harbor Drive (west) past the San Diego airport, turn left onto Rosecrans Street, turn right onto Canon Street and then turn left onto Catalina Blvd.—also know as Cabrillo Memorial Drive—all the way to the end. This highway is part of San Diego’s 59-mile Scenic Drive, and affords spectacular panoramic views of the ocean and the city. Start at the Visitor Center; from there a short walk leads to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse that has been restored to its 1880’s appearance. In a nearby historic military building, the exhibit “They Stood the Watch” presents the history of the Point’s Fort Rosecrans. For those with the energy and the interest, a self-guided two-mile walk through a coastal sage scrub forest begins near the Lighthouse. On the west side of the park, accessible by car only, is a beautiful coastal area. Birding is popular year around, and during extreme low tides visitors enjoy exploring the intertidal zone. Be careful. It’s VERY slippery out there.
As you drive back to Anaheim undoubtedly you’ll be musing over the spectacular sights you experienced in the San Diego and La Jolla area and planning your next visit. Head North on I-5 (about 95 miles, 1.5 hrs. from San Diego) and take Exit 109 for Katella Ave. toward Disney Way. Merge onto S. Anaheim Way and left on S. Anaheim Blvd.