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San Diego vacation questions from a newbie.


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  • San Diego vacation questions from a newbie.

    I am going on several trips this year without my daughter (8), so this trip (3 days) is "just us".
    I have booked Comfort Inn & Suites for April 16th - 18th, we will be driving in from Las Vegas on the 16th, I'm planning to leave early. (It's about a 5hr drive)
    We will be purchasing tickets from Costco.
    I am a Disneylander, so this vacation is absolutely foreign to me. I haven't been to these parks since I was my daughters age.

    I'm thinking:
    Day 1: San Diego Safari Park - we should arrive around 11am and from what I'm reading online, it sounds like we could easily do the Safari Park in 6 hours.
    Do you think we'll be okay with that amount of time?
    Day 2: San Diego Zoo - Getting there early.
    I am considering doing the Discovery Cart Tour. It sounds like San Diego Zoo is definitely a full day experience.
    Day 3: SeaWorld San Diego
    The website shows several different dolphin encounter experiences, but the description isn't really clear about what the differences are.
    Is dining with Shamu worth it?
    Is the photo pass worth it?

    What nearby restaraunts do you recommend?
    From Hotel Circle, is it easy to get to the beach? My daughter has never been to the beach and she seemed pretty excited about going.

  • #2
    We haven't been in years so not sure how much help I can be at this point. I know that being in Hotel Circle is a good spot and pretty much easy to get anyone to. So it would be a quick jump to the beach from there. The Safari Park is the furthest from the area. I remember we missed the exit on the freeway because we didn't see any signs for it really on where to get off. I don't remember being at that one all day. Same with the Zoo for us because we didn't do the extra stuff. We had just walked around the whole thing seeing everything and that was it. I think if you throw in extra stuff it can be a full day for sure. Sorry can't help on the Sea World stuff. I haven't been there myself since the late 80s and its not the same as it was then. I have seen the extras they have and I think if you feel its worth it then don't. Especially if your daughter will love it. Wish I could be more help. I know we are trying to plan a day trip down to take our daughter to the zoo since she was almost 2 when we last went.
    BTW, would love to know what you think of the hotel when you get back. I have a 100 giftcard to use with them. As well as how the trip was and what you decided to do in the end. Have fun!!!
    A crowded day at Disneyland beats a busy day of housework!!

    According to my princess, its not Star Wars land its "You stole my goats away from me!! progress land"


    • #3
      Both the Safari Park and Zoo are wonderful. I would stay away from any of the upcharge activities at the Safari Park (other than the tram ride). You should have time to spare, depending on how fast you can walk. I've never done any of the upcharge things at the Zoo so maybe they are fun - plenty to do without them, though.

      The Dine with Shamu option at SeaWorld is worth it (they will be splashing you and your food, though). Never done any of the dolphin activities but they are very pricy (and the you can get you hand bitten by a dolphin for free). Don't think the photopass is worth it.

      Kid-friendly restaurant recommendations: The Corvette Diner in Liberty Station (right by the airport) is a great post-Sea World spot, Anthony's Fish Grotto in La Mesa (inland from Hotel Circle), or our famous fish taco place Rubio's (literally everywhere - but maybe NOT the best post-Sea World spot). Honestly, the Safari Park, Zoo, and Sea World may make you turn vegetarian for at least a few days!

      It's easier to get to the Bay than the Beach from Hotel Circle. If you are willing to drive a little ways north, you could get to La Jolla Shores (a little more family friendly); if you were willing to drive a little ways south, you could get to Coronado (very wide open and beachy - with the added bonus of being able to peak into the Hotel Del).


      • #4
        As said above, I would recommend Coronado or La Jolla as beaches to go to. If you have any extra time, you can go to Belmont Park at Mission Beach, which is a small boardwalk area with rides, mini golf, and a roller coaster. The Zoo and Safari Park have a lot to do there, and I would recommend the Skyfari at the zoo, which is the same ride system as the skyway that was at Disneyland. Seaworld has a few rides now, and the sky-tower there is a must do, as it provides a fantastic view, and also comes with park admission. I don't know much about the dolphin experience, but I think one involves getting in the water with the dolphins, and the other one involves just interacting with the dolphin outside the water. I hope this helps.


        • #5
          Hi....San Diegan here. I realize this thread is old (but not yet "closed") so I'd like to offer some updates to those that may read this thread in search of San Diego options.

          As a (now former) member of the Zoo, I've been to the Zoo and Safari Park many, many times. The Zoo still has both the bus tour and the Skyfari, and they will give you a good overview of what that park has to offer. You can go back and walk to the places/animals you'd like to see up close. Wear good walking shoes, and there are some uphills and downhills. If you're wheelchair-bound, the map shows where the accessible ramps are located. The pandas, sadly, left earlier this year, back in the spring. They hope to get more visiting pandas, though. As for food, it's not good. Albert's is about the best place, but it's a sit-down place and it's a bit pricier. You can BYO food, though. Parking at the Zoo is free. The Carousel is still outside of the Zoo and still runs, as does the little railroad. The "Kangaroo Bus" is the one that has about 6 stops around the park and you can get on/get off at your leisure.

          Out of the Zoo is Balboa Park. Every Tuesday, certain museums are free. Some will have horrendously long lines to get in, though.

          The Safari Park, AKA "the Wild Animal Park" to many long-time San Diego County residents, is located about 30 miles from the Zoo, and is also one that is difficult to see in one day. Take the tram ride -- trams are about the same type as the ones used at DLR to get you from the parking structure to DD. The tram ride takes you all the way around the African enclosure to animals that you cannot easily see by walking the park. Once again, though, wear decent walking shoes. I wear a FitBit and would easily get 3-4 miles in during one 4-hour period in either the Zoo or Safari Park. There's a new area in the Safari Park called Walkabout Australia -- lovely to walk among kangaroos and other critters and flora from DownUnder. For a completely different experience (and to get away from any crowds), go up to World Gardens. It's full of flora from around the world, as its name suggests, but because it's a good uphill (and then downhill) walk, and no animals, it gets ignored a lot. It's a shame, because it's a beautiful area. Food at the Safari Park is not wonderful, either. There is a restaurant that overlooks the African Plains area which is pretty decent (sit=down), the Watering Hole, and another one in the main area called Thorntree Terrace which was another one we liked.

          You can get two-park tickets, and with ranges of what you want included ... tram (Safari Pk), Kangaroo Bus (zoo), tour bus (zoo), Skyfari (zoo). If you think you'll come down more than once in a year, it may pay to purchase the membership. BTW, on the memberships, I don't think there are ANY black=out days like on the DLR AP's.

          I can't comment on Sea World, as I haven't been there in about 5 years. I know they've added rides and had to take away a show or two (thanks to the meddling of PITA).. I also cannot comment on LegoLand as I haven't been there....grandkids weren't old enough yet to appreciate it.

          Another lovely thing to do is a full day's drive with lots of stops. Head for Ramona, by way of CA-67 or CA-78, then continue up to Julian (CA-78). Along the way you could stop at one of the egg ranches for fresh eggs, or even better, Dudley's Bakery (closed Tu & W) in Santa Ysabel. Julian, this little mountain town, is quaint. There are little antique shops, wineries, and bake shops to check out. The Julian Pie Bakery and the Mom's PiesY are the two "best" ones. There are several great places to eat up there. Then continue the tour by heading south on CA-79. When you get to the turnoff for County S-1, Laguna Highway, take it. You can stop up there at the top for views into the Anza-Borrego State Park, desert, when you are at Laguna Mountain top. Continue down the Laguna Highway to I-8, which you can take westbound to get back to San Diego. Of course this trip can be done in reverse. This is just the way we take family or friends who come to visit.

          If you love history, check out Old Town State Historic Park. Lots of fun places to explore from San Diego's history, and there are some fantastic Mexican restaurants located right next to the Park. If you love old historic churches, you could also check out San Diego Mission, one of 13 missions set up hundreds of years ago in California. If you're a musician, check out Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, not far from LegoLand.

          1967, 1973, 1977 - DLR (RV parks)
          1980-1984 - DLR (multiple single days or at now-defunct motels)
          1994 - DLR (off-site hotel)
          2007 - DLR (single day)
          2008, 2009 - DLR (BW Stovall's)
          2012 - WDW (PopC)
          2013 - DLR (Candy Cane Inn)


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