San Diego - Disneyland Add On
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San Diego Overview
by Kelsie Johnson
I’ve visited Southern California many times over the years. Even after hearing ‘you MUST visit San Diego’ a hundred or so times, it took a business meeting to get me there for the first time back in the early 90’s. I mean come on, was there really any reason to visit Southern California other than Disneyland? (So I thought). Even though most of our time was spent in conference rooms during that first visit , I saw enough to know it was time to actually plan a family vacation to San Diego. Since then, I’ve visited several times and have added it to my list of "must do's" when in California.
Many aren’t aware that San Diego is California’s 2nd largest city. It took a lot of convincing (and research) for me to believe this since San Diego has such a quaint small town feel. Located next to the beautiful Pacific Ocean with over 70 miles of coastline, world-class attractions and beaches, San Diego also boasts an idea climate with average temperatures in the 70’s, which is quite a relief from the heat of Los Angeles or Orlando.
San Diego offers a variety of attractions that will appeal to almost everyone. At the top of our list is the world renowned ‘San Diego Zoo’. The very cute and sometimes strange animals that appear on the Tonight Show come from here. The zoo has over 100 acres of exhibits that house thousands of animals.
The San Diego Zoo is located in Balboa Park, just north of downtown San Diego. We spent a day here but could have easily used two days to visit, still feeling as if we've missed something. When you go, wear your walking shoes because you are going to want to see it all.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located 35 miles north of San Diego (between San Diego and Disneyland. Our visit here was the reason why I had to explain a bit of the ‘facts of life’ to a 5 year old (keep reading, an explanation follows).
Some compare the ‘Safari Park’ to Disney World’s ‘Animal Kingdom’ but in my opinion, I enjoyed the San Diego version more. They offer a lot of the same type of attractions but their ‘Wgasa Bush Line Railway’ ride takes you through remote Africa and Asia enclosures to see the animals as you've never seen them before (and boy do they). And now for the rest of the story……..
We were enjoying our air conditioned ride with my 5 year old pointing out every animal she saw. We came around a corner to an enclosed exhibit. The tour guide explained this was where they keep the animals who were ‘expecting’ (you may see where I’m going here.) The guide decided to stop and point out the HUGE female Hippopotamus who was expecting any day. Well, just as we were about to pull away (you got it), she decided to give birth right there in front of 100 men, women and CHILDREN! Personally I thought it was awesome until my 5 year old asked me how she did that. Needless to say, I quickly pointed out the antelope on the other side of the tram and off we went. But at 5 years old her curiosity got the best of her and this is where my daughter had her first and HIGH LEVEL ‘facts of life’ talk.
Another attraction that I enjoyed more than the Florida counterpart was San Diego’s ‘Sea World’. Located in Mission Bay , Sea World is easily accessible from any part of the city. Again we spent one day here but could have easily planned more. Rides such as ‘Journey to Atlantis’ (this is a great ride), ‘Wild Arctic’ and ‘Shipwreck Rapids’ and attractions like ‘Shamu’s Happy Harbor’ and ‘Shark Encounter’ make ‘Sea World’ a must see when visiting San Diego.
‘Legoland California’ located 30 minutes north of San Diego is cashing in on the current ‘Pirate’ craze with it’s own swashbuckling adventure ‘Pirate Shores’. New pirate treasures include ‘Splash Battle’ where, behind your own water cannon, you’ll navigate through pirate-infested waters. ‘Swabbies Deck’ for the younger kids is full of surprise water jets, fountains and cannons. Soak-N-Sail has over 60 interactive activities that spray hundreds of gallons of water on unsuspecting pirates.
Pirates and scallywags can also feast at their choice of two pirate themed meals. 'Buccaneers Breakfast’ and ‘Pirates Feast’ are offered for an additional charge with an admission ticket. Your kids and you will be amazed by the Lego exhibits here not to mention the over 50 rides, shows and attractions.
To the south, there's Mexico, featuring various towns along the border and coastline, including Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada. Visiting here can be a challenge so make sure you do your homework and are prepared.
With over 6,400 dining options, 92 golf courses, beachfront resorts, spas, gaming, festivals, museums, art galleries and rich military history it’s no wonder San Diego is one of the most visited cities in Southern California.