San Diego is the ideal destination for family vacations, especially if you live in the Los Angeles area. It's only about 100 miles to the south, and there's so much to do, whether it's for a day or a weekend. There are numerous resorts, both inland and on the bay, and with SeaWorld, The San Diego Zoo, The Wild Animal Park and Legoland to choose from, you certainly won't run out of family entertainment.
Everyone, it seems, loves Sea World with its vast array of marine life exhibits and shows featuring trained animals of all kinds. If your child is lucky, he or she may even be selected to interact with Shamu, the SeaWorld mascot.
Some of the exciting exhibits that appeal to visitors of all ages are the Shark and Penguin Encounters. The Shark Encounter can be a little intimidating, as sharks with their sharp rows of teeth swim overhead as you walk through the exhibit. Of course there's sturdy glass between you and the creatures, but when you look up and see one coming, it's hard not to think of a scene from “ Jaws!”
The Penguin Encounter is just as awesome without the chills. Well, there are chills, but they're more from the temperature than from the creatures therein. Penguins of all kinds are shown in their “natural” habitat, jumping in and out of the icy water, interacting with one another or just “chilling.”
The younger set will most certainly enjoy “ Pets Rule,” a show starring dogs, cats, pigs and other critters that perform some amazing tricks on stage with their trainers.
Of course you can't miss the #1 show at SeaWorld “ Believe” starring Shamu and other trained “killer” whales; but a word of warning: don't sit too close or for sure you'll be soaked!
A little closer to L.A. is the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park in the northern part of San Diego County. It is about as close to Africa as you can get without going on Safari. Instead of being enclosed in cages or other limiting environs, many of these wild animals are allowed the freedom to wander the acres of “Africa's” desert, veldt, forest and mountain habitats.
If you're lucky on your “ Journey Into Africa” tram ride, you'll get to see giraffes, lions, exotic deer, rhinos and other endangered species up close. It all depends on the time of day. They say it's best to be there late in the afternoon when they emerge from their shelters to forage for dinner. But even on a hot day in August we were able to see some pretty amazing animal gatherings.
What's also fun for the kids is Lorikeet Landing where you can buy a small cup of nectar to feed these colorful birds. They'll gladly hop on your arm and feast on their favorite food till the cup runs dry.
San Diego is also a haven for water sports: swimming, sailing, water skiing, fishing and whale watching at the many resorts located on the beaches up and down the coast as well as San Diego Bay.
Even Downtown San Diego is close to the Bay, and one of the most beautiful facilities in that area is the Manchester Grand Hyatt, an urban resort offering four-star accomodations. It's actually the tallest building on the West Coast waterfront, and is right next to Seaport Village, a charming enclave of shops and restaurants. At the Top of the Hyatt you'll get awesome sunset views of the Pacific Ocean, the Bay and the famed Coronado Island.
There's even a camp for kids during summer months and holidays. You can check it out on their website.
The hotel has two water-view pools and decks, a secluded spa, tennis courts and a state of the art fitiness center. There are several restaurants on the property, including Lael's and Sally's, both named after the daughters of the hotel's developer. Lael's is open for all three meals, while Sally's is only open for lunch and dinner.
Sally's is located right on the harbor where you can dine al fresco with both a birds eye view of the bay and an ocean breeze or dine indoors, where you still see the boats bobbing on the water but keep your hair in place.
Chef Sarah Linkenheil hails from Germany and takes pride in presenting food with an international flavor: American Crab Cakes, Szechwan Slipper Lobster, Fish and Chips and Seafood Cioppino, a spicy concoction of tidbits from the sea with the broth prepared separately to prevent the shrimp, scallops et al from being overcooked. Entrees range in price from $28 to $35.
But you gotta leave room for dessert, because the dark chocolate cake with coffee bean syrup, topped with a vanilla/coffee sauce is “to die!”
Hey, you can always work it off at the gym.....it's open 24/7!