Michael and I have been talking about a 2013 vacation for a while.

We didn’t take a BIG vacation in 2012, for several reasons. For one, we bought a house in August 2011 and the majority of our disposable income has been going toward home improvement. Secondly, Nora is a TODDLER now, and travel with her is far more challenging than it was when she was an infant. So in 2012, we took a few short trips—our annual jaunt to the Poconos, and also to Boston for my 30th birthday.

But in 2013, we wanted to do something bigger. For a little bit, there were rumors swirling about one of our family friends getting married in Scotland in September, so we were holding out to see if that was really going to happen, because HELLO—it would’ve been awesome to have a good excuse to go to Scotland. But alas, she ultimately decided to get married stateside so that more friends and family would be able to swing it.

Then we were left with a simple, yet very difficult question… where do we want to go?

San Diego was on the short list because we have a friend who lives out there, and Michael has never been to Southern California. But although we talked about it a lot, we were non-committal. And then, several weeks ago, I got wind of a Southwest Airlines sale and within a few hours we were clicking the “submit” button on flights to San Diego.

It was the first time we ever had to buy Nora her own seat (she’s over 2 now!) but we still got a great deal. But I’ll admit that my mouse hovered over that “submit” button for a minute or two as I asked Michael if we’re crazy. Flying with Nora to Boston wasn’t the easiest thing ever—she was restless, and it was ONLY AN HOUR. This is… a lot more than that. But we don’t want to be people who let their kid hold them back from doing things like this, so we sent up a little prayer to the universe that this was a good decision.

We’ll know come January.

Anyway, I’ve been to Southern California a few times. Los Angeles, San Diego, Palm Springs. Our tentative plan is to stay with our friend in San Diego for a few nights, drive up to Los Angeles and stay in a hotel for a couple of days (with a stop in Anaheim for a day trip to Disney Land) and then head back down to San Diego to finish our trip. But nothing is set in stone, except for our flights into and out of San Diego.

Aside from Disney Land and the San Diego Zoo (we hear the zoo is a MUST with kids, and I’ve never been), we have no real agenda… yet. And if you’ve been reading here a while, you know where this is going. I rely on all of you to give me the inside scoop!

What are your Southern California recommendations? We want to hear what’s worthwhile in San Diego, L.A., and everything in between. Sightseeing, restaurants, suggestions for places/areas to stay in L.A., and any other miscellaneous tips. We’re hungry for it all. Oh, and if you are an experienced Disney visitor (I’ve been to both Disney Land and Disney World once each) and have tips on tackling the park with a 2.5-year-old, HELP.

The weather should be decent while we’re there, but it’s January, so likely not beach weather. But I’ll tell you what—60-degree temps are bound to feel GLORIOUS compared to what it’ll be like at home! I can’t wait for the short reprieve in the middle of what are always long winters up here in the Northeast.

I can’t wait to hear the governator say, “When can you start?” :)


It is November, and I am participating in Nablopomo. Are you sick of me yet? This “posting every day” thing is serious business.

NaBloPoMo November 2012


12 Responses to Going Back to Cali

  1. Kylie says:

    The wild animal park in SD is amazing, and is even better than the zoo. Disneyland is awesome, and there is a second park, California Adventure which is definitely worth going to. I would suggest planning a two day dland adventure. You don’t realize how great it is until you are there and then you won’t want to leave, even with a two year old! There are hopper passes, check costco for great hotel and ticket deals. You can pretty much get the tickets free if you buy through them. Sea World would be my first choice over the zoo, there are zoos everywhere, kwim? I have a toddler a month older than Nora and she freaking loved Sea World. Balboa Park is a nice area for good food and cheaper activities. January weather could also be warm enough for beach. One year in college I stayed down there instead of heading up north for Christmas/New Years and I was literally laying out in a bikini on the beach it was that warm!

  2. Music says:

    Yay! You’re coming to my city! If you like beer (and I know you do), there’s lots of places in San Diego. I highly recommend you go to Station Tavern in South Park, which has a play area for kids (it’s a restaurant + bar, but VERY kid-friendly) and is close to a Stone Brewing Company tasting room AND Balboa Park (which is where the zoo is).

  3. Noisy Penguin says:

    I’ll second Music – Station in South Park is fantastic, great food and beer on tap, and my kids are happy enough to play for awhile so my husband and I can enjoy our meal and a beer or two.

    If you go to the zoo on a weekend, just south of the entrance there’s a small train that you can ride on for $3. It’s one of Will’s favorite things to do. There’s also a 100 year old carousel right near the train/zoo entrance, and it’s a couple dollars to ride for about five minutes. That’s Evie’s favorite thing to do; she cries when we finish.

    Sea World is pretty fun, and I can guarantee that it will be near empty in January. There’s a whole Sesame Street area with places to climb and three rides that Nora will be able to ride on. We’re not big on the whale/dolphin shows (they scare Will) but the show with the dogs and cats is cute, and we’ve spent hours watching the penguins there. It’s a little steep for just the day though – $69 or something, so I don’t know if you’d want to shell out for that.

    There are a few fun things up in La Jolla – the aquarium is fantastic http://aquarium.ucsd.edu/ and if you’re looking for a nice walk near the ocean, if you go to downtown La Jolla you can walk down a sidewalk at the top of the cliffs and see lots of pelicans and seals. There’s a little cove where there are lots of seals, http://www.yelp.com/biz/childrens-pool-la-jolla, and just in general it’s a nice walk and really gorgeous.

    We like to take people out to the Cabrillo Monument when they’re visiting – the views of the city from the monument and lighthouse are absolutely amazing, and when you go down to the ocean side of the park there’s some tidepools that are fun to look at with the kids, and a little sort of sheltered beach (that’s only there during low tide) where you can climb on rocks and play in the sand. We’ve taken people there in January and still played in the sand (though not gone in the ocean).

    I love (LOVE) the Wild Animal Park too. They have a tram/train thing that goes out through the savanna and you see so many animals there, it’s awesome. It’s a lot of walking though, more spread out than the zoo (which is also gigantic), but there are some other neat things there too – like, you can go into a little cage thing and get a $3 cup of nectar and little lorakeets land on your hand and drink from the cup. Will was SO excited the first time we took him. It is kind of a long drive from San Diego proper though – about 45 minutes, if you don’t hit traffic. But also out in that area (Escondido) is the Stone Brewery. I don’t remember if you guys like beer, but they’re fantastic. The restaurant is mostly locally sourced food and it’s delicious, the beer is amazing, and they have a big garden area and pond, so you can enjoy a beer while taking a walk through the gardens or lounging in the grass while Nora runs around.

    We’ve done Disneyland with the kids a few times. Evie was about Nora’s age when we went in June and she loved it – 9:30 AM to 11 at night. Both the kids really like Small World, fireworks, going to see Mickey in Toon Town (and they let you take your own picture with Mickey with your own camera, so that’s kind of awesome), and the parade. Evie loved the Winne the Pooh ride, which is hidden back behind Splash Mountain, King Arthur’s carousel, and the Nemo ride. I don’t know if both parks will be too much for one day (we did it once and the kids were fine, but we also came home to our own beds afterwards, which I’m sure is different than going to a hotel), but if you go over to California Adventure, I think the Muppet Theater shows stop around 5:00, so make sure to go to that earlier. The rides (except in Cars Land) have way, way shorter lines in California Adventure than they do in regular Disneyland. The kids loved the Bugs Life land so much. We went on all the rides there several times (partly because the waits were only 5-10 minutes). Snacks and phone games for long lines help.

    Oh my gosh, I’ve rambled on a lot. I’ll stop now. =)

  4. louvigilante says:

    Agree, wild animal park is better then the zoo. Check living social, they’ve been having lots of deals for it. For LA area, check out Santa Monica Pier, tour Olvera street (and eat!) and downtown LA where you can also check out the Disney concert hall. Go to the griffith observatory and if Nora likes trains, while you are at Griffith Park, see travel town. Check if you’ll be in town during Chinese New Year, if so check to see what dun things are going on. Make sure you follow food trucks too. Can’t go to LA without trying some amazing ones. Welcome to our neck of the woods!
    As for DL,park hopper if you want to go to both parks, stay away from the weekends and definitely away 19-22 (twinkerbell half marathon weekend). Hard to do both parks in one day with a toddler. (our oldest is 2.5) bring lots of snacks, and use the hotel you’re staying at for transport to the parks. Price line rooms (bid) in Anaheim.

    Have fun planning!

  5. Tara says:

    Having worked for Disney for the past 4years, wishing I didn’t have to leave the company to pursue our “being home” dream, I have a few generic tips. I’ve never been to Disneyland unfortunately however we’ve been talking about it for years & would like to go in a year or two when the girls are a little older.

    We are BLESSED (I say that bc of the terror scenes I have witnessed lol) with a child who will cry in line to see the characters only bc she has to WAIT in line to get there. However your best bet for characters is to tag along with Nora & get her excited in line; no promises but this is how we started with Kira when she was originally hesitant & we only visited characters she was familiar with first. ALWAYS give the Photopass photographer your camera, they give you a card where you can view & purchase your photos online; yes they’re nice but they’re an arm & a leg. Most of the time we get just as good quality of a shot, if not better, with our camera we gave them. Please ask the cast members to take family shots of you wherever you like, in front of rides-signs-etc. They don’t mind, I promise! I actually go out of my when even when off the clock to ask families if they’d like help taking a group photo. Disney parks allow you to bring in your own coolers/food so definitely bring in snacks as it’ll save you a few dollars. I hear World of Color is an amazing show, a must see!!

    Enjoy!! :)

  6. Lisa says:

    I lived in San Diego for a couple of years. It is a great city and there are so many places to visit. I would definitely go to La Jolla to at least see the seals on the beach, plus they have a great grassy area for Nora to run around on. I personally think the best beaches in the area are on Coronado. If you go to Coronado make sure you take a peak at Hotel Del Coronado. We always liked to visit Sea Port Village. It is along the harbor and has some little shops, restaurants, and areas to run around. I would definitely go to Balboa Park. If you have the opportunity go to the Point Loma Lighthouse and Mount Soledad to see the giant cross and an amazing view. Sunset Cliffs in the Point Loma/Ocean Beach area is a great place to view the sunset.

    I’m sure your friend will give you suggestions for great restaurants. However I must throw in my recommendation for Point Loma Seafood….if you like seafood. It is a market with fresh seafood, but you can order stuff to eat at the picnic tables outside. And don’t forget to stop at one of the many taco stands. When you get back to NY you will miss the tacos! There used to be a really good Mexican restaurant in Old Town that had amazing margaritas.

    I can’t wait to see the amazing pictures you will take in San Diego, especially of Nora.

  7. Deanna says:

    With a 2.5 year old, you must go to Legoland, she will have a blast!

  8. Jennifer says:

    We vacationed in San Diego last fall and had a great time! Like Lisa, I also recommend Coronado, La Jolla for the seals, and the Sunset Cliffs for a great view. We thought Pacific Beach area was pretty nice too. Mission Beach and Ocean Beach are not as nice, but there is a little theme park/carnival area near Mission Beach. We really enjoyed the zoo, but be prepared for lots of walking and hills if you decide to go on foot! I think we spent several hours there and that didn’t include the safari park. Enjoy your trip!!

  9. rockess says:

    We did Disneyland with our 4 year old in August. The rest of our Cali trip was baseball and the beach, so that doesn’t help, but if you have any Disneyland questions, let me know :)

  10. Kristin says:

    We really enjoyed the Farmer’s Market/The Grove in L.A. We didn’t have a kid when we visited Hollywood/LA, and our plans were largely centered around the Sunset Strip and baseball, but it was a cute area, a nice change of pace and had a ton of yummy food options. We often see The Grove in the background of movies now, too, which is pretty cool :)

  11. Rachel says:

    Yay, my city!

    I’m a manager for a hotel downtown and you can really do a lot of things easily in the area. Balboa Park is great and has a children’s science museum (Ruben H. Fleet Center) and fun natural history museum with dinosaurs, etc. to play on (those two are right across from each other, just separated by a HUGE fountain). Plus the park has beautiful architecture and landscaping! You don’t even need to go to a museum to have fun there. The zoo is right up that ally as well and a blast!

    I personally prefer the zoo to the Wild Animal Park/Safari Park that is up in North County. The zoo has a lot more animals, but it is cool to see all of them in a more natural environment at the Park. There’s a tram that takes you through that area so you can see all of the grazing animals that live there and you can see the cheetahs, but that’s about all I do when I go there. Both have hilly terrain, but they have made it stroller friendly!

    Legoland up in Carlsbad is also tons of fun for little ones, even if she’s not into Legos! It’s been awhile since I’ve been (I was 18 and went with smaller cousins when they were visiting), but I had a lot of fun! There is (was?) a dragon roller coaster that took your picture and we rode that multiple times! And there was also a dress up place, fire fighters station, and cute story land ride with all the fairy tale characters made out of Legos.

    I haven’t been to sea world in awhile… Normally when I have the chance, I’d rather spend gas money and an $10 to go to Disneyland. I hear the new Manta ride is cool, but I’m sure Nora’s too little for that… But seeing the shows (the seal one is the funniest!) is always cool.

    Seaport Village is one of my favorite spots in the downtown area. Cute European inspired atmosphere and touristy shops (the t shirt shop, a shop dedicated to shells, etc) and its rig on the water. There’s an awesome bookstore, The Upstart Crow, that sells a lot of other things aside from books and makes some pretty darn good coffee drinks and pastries! The kids section is upstairs and it’s just a neat store to roam around in, although I’m sure you don’t do that with a 2 year old! :)

    Old Town is another favorite area close to downtown! Cafe Coyote is the BEST restaurant and they even have a lady who makes tortillas outside to sell to the passerby. Their tortillas are amazing as are the drinks and salsa! You’ll definitely want a reservation. And their location is pretty prime to all the fun shops on the main strip. A fun soap shop, the old timey five and dime store, and the old timey candy store that’s essentially connected to Cafe Coyote are must visit places.

    In actual downtown, my ABSOLUTE favorite restaurant is Chianti. It’s on 5th avenue (a main street of the Gaslamp District) and right across from Ghirardelli! Their seafood pasta (Fettucini mare e terra) is the best. I consistently finish THE WHOLE THING without needing to take any home! There some other good restaurants too, obviously, but the price is right on this one and you can sit outside and people watch!

    I’m not sure where in the county you’ll be staying, but I just moved to Carlsbad from Cardiff. Off of the 101 in Cardiff is where you will find the best Mexican food of your life. No joke. It’s in the campground site, so if you pull up to the gate and tell them you’re their to eat at Bull Taco they’ll let you in for “thirty” minutes for free/enough time to wait to order (the long part), get your food (which happens almost instantaneously), and eat (the delicious part). And up the road a little bit is the cute downtown section of Encinitas with delicious gelato that’s made from scratch daily at Bubby’s!

    Sorry it’s so long and kind of repeating what everyone else has said, but those are my two cents! I only have a 3 month old, so it’s still pretty easy to travel with him (we went to the Midwest when he was 2 months old!) in and around the city.

  12. […] vacation to southern California is rapidly approaching, and it really cannot come soon enough. I am ready for a break, and I am […]

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