There are so many places that are known for being wonderful family destinations that it really does take some guts and creativity to be willing to take a big family to one of the less traditional family vacation spots. Planning a family vacation that is equally fun for children and adults is quite the challenge, but such vacations do exist, and my columns are here to assist you in finding them!
My family had planned a California visit to see my husband's side of the family, in the San Diego area. While we have visited California previously on our Disney World trips, my husband and I were really hoping to find that San Diego offered more fun for the adults, while still keeping the children occupied. My In-laws had some wonderful suggestions for child approved activities, and our time in San Diego was an ideal family vacation. Following are our family's favorite San Diego activities.
Balboa Park was really quite a revelation for us. We had imagined that we would be able to pass a pleasant hour with the children here, but there is so much to enjoy here. The primary reason that we visited Balboa Park was San Diego's world famous zoo. We were quite impressed with the zoo, and most of all the new Elephant Odyssey exhibit. The elephants sculptures are huge, life size actually, and every child in the place was drawn to them. There was also some really interesting ways to learn more about elephants, like the elephant tracking collars. This exhibit is very well suited for young children: All three of our kids are all under the age of six, and this was the hit of the day. The hippo underwater exhibit was just wonderful, as were the pandas. The bus tour is highly recommended, especially if you visit the zoo with small children. The sheer size and scope of the zoo means that children will tire very quickly if there is not some handy transportation. The bus tour will take you over the entirety of the zoo, and takes approximately 45 minutes to one hour. Following that, you can explore any areas of particular personal interest on foot, then jumping on and off the bus at any of the stops around the zoo. The zoo will easily take up a whole day for any family, but I would highly recommend pacing yourself.
Balboa Park is also home to the Fleet Science Center, which is a large interactive science museum. We visited the the science center on the day after our zoo excursion. Trying to do both activities in one day is probably overly optimistic for a family with children who will tire easily. The Fleet Science Center has very educational and engaging displays that include a host of hands-on scientific experiments. Any parents will love this because the experiments are teaching some rudimentary concepts of science, without letting the kids know they are actually learning something while they have fun. All three of our kids were fascinated, especially my boys. The IMAX movies were quite entertaining and succeeded in keeping every child in the room utterly entranced. For this reason alone I would highly recommend a visit here!
SeaWorld was expected to be a thrill, since our family had already visited another SeaWorld location and had a wonderful time. SeaWorld San Diego is just as impressive as you would expect, and in fact really exceeded our expectations. Every sea creature your kids would love to see lives right here. The killer whale show, called "Believe", was by far our favorite of the presentations, but each one was a joy to watch. The children have never been so enthralled in their lives. The experience that will unquestionably live in all of our memories forever was that of feeding the sea lions and dolphins. Even though it costs extra, buying a tray full of fish to feed these graceful creatures is worth the price. The children were more excited than I have ever seen them, and it was tremendously fun for my husband and me also. We chose to purchase the lunch buffet option, because it gives a really close up experience with Shamu. This was not inexpensive by any means, but SeaWorld is the sort of experience that we will all be talking about and remembering fondly for years, so I consider it an investment in our family.
San Diego is a very family oriented city, and we were extremely pleased to find so many activities that we could all enjoy together. This is an ideal city to visit with children of any age, from toddlers up through teenagers.
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