Welcome to our So Cal family travel guide, just in time for your family’s spring break travel plans! To be honest, we did the bare minimum on this trip and hit only the major spots. A long listed itinerary was not part of our agenda, because we wanted a laid back vacation and that’s exactly what we got.
Santa gave Kinsley a trip to Legoland, because he wanted to gift “experiences” rather than plastic toys. Being able to make lasting memories was what he had wished for her (wink!). So we made it a long weekend trip to southern California by also visiting the San Diego Zoo and worked our way up along the coast to see our friends in Orange County.
On our first day, we had an afternoon to relax and enjoy the sunny weather. I tried to convince the family to go sight seeing, but I lost that battle. I don’t blame them. We were in 80 degrees weather, the warmth we’ve been lacking n Seattle. So the first thing they wanted to do after lunch was to chill out and hangout by the pool.
Werewolf American Pub: Our first meal and it was just 10 minutes walk from our hotel. It’s a local spot at the Gaslamp quarter. A good kid-friendly place (with the exception of 90’s booty hip hop videos) to grab a quick bite, as we were starving by then. Kins got the “Homer Pancakes” a combo of donut + pancake with glazed frosting and sprinkles. Talk about sugar overload!
Mariott Marquis: The perfect location to be near downtown, as it’s close to the marina and walking distance to all the neighborhoods. Bonus, they have two large swimming pools, that Kinsley loved splashing in. We had to drag her out of them to get ready for dinner. That kid is a mermaid!
Lazy Hippo: We originally had plan to load up on pancakes at Richard Walker’s Pancake House, a popular breakfast joint with long waits. But we had to change to plan B, as we needed to quickly fuel up before our long day at the San Diego Zoo. We found Lazy Hippo on Yelp and we loved the large portions of tasty brunch food with their special “crepe on a stick”.
San Diego Zoo: I’ve heard nothing but great things about the best zoo in the US. So we were all excited to visit, especially it was Kinsley and my first time visiting! We bought tickets through City Pass, which was slightly cheaper than purchasing them at the gate. It also saves time and the hassle of long lines. We didn’t go to the Safari, since we only had one day, and it was 30 minutes away from the zoo.
Just 13.5 miles north of San Diego, lies the posh city of La Jolla, where Peter’s mom grew up. We’ve only heard stories of how gorgeous the beaches and sunsets were (see above photo), but had to see it for ourselves. Kinsley has been telling everybody she met on the trip that her grandmother was from La Jolla and how we’re going to visit her town.
Duke’s La Jolla: For a nice dinner, we love this family chain restaurant in states of Hawaii and California, this surfer themed restaurant is family-friendly with knowledgeable staff and a delicious menu. We were seated outdoors with the most gorgeous sea view of the cove, while watching the most incredible California sunset.
Both Peter and I ordered the roasted lobster tails both juicy and buttery. Kinsley had the fresh fish and chips. We were so full and wished we had ordered their famous hula pie. Definitely coming back for it next time!
After the zoo, we drove up to Carlsbad, so we can be well rested for Legoland. You know how much of an energy suck it is for any amusement park! We’ve been to Disney, so we know had a good idea.
Westin Carlsbad: We opted to book a night near Legoland rather than paying $600+/night at a Legoland Hotel. This Westin location newly opened less than year ago and short minutes drive from the park. Super convenient and saves tons of money, is a WIN for us! Kinsley didn’t even miss the Legoland Hotel. All she cared about was the pool at the Westin.
In-N-Out: We can’t come to California and not grab a cheese burger animal style and a milk shake. SO GOOD! My kid doesn’t eat burgers, so she settled for fries and a shake. Then we ordered chicken strips from hotel room service.
Legoland: The main attraction is FINALLY here! Kinsley and Peter were so excited for all the rides and attractions. I was excited to see her face light up and go nuts around the park. So didn’t even know where to begin.
Be ready to spend an entire day there, and I’m just talking about Legoland. There is an option to visit the water park and Sea Life, but we wanted to have enough time for all the attractions and meet the characters. The lines were manageable and maximum we waited was 30 minutes on some rides. There was an option to purchase the advance pass, which was over $100/person. We didn’t think it saved us that much time and within a day we rode on all the rides.
After 7 hours of adrenaline and on our feet, we were spent and drove our merry way to Orange County to stay with family friends and feast on our long day!
Kang Ho Ddong Baekjeong: We were craving for Korean BBQ and OC has the best! If you’re a carnivore, this is the place to be. From pork belly to short ribs, it’s a meat lover’s dream. The variety of meats are fresh and deliciously prepared. They have a long wait and don’t take reservations, so go early!
That’s a wrap! We seriously didn’t want to come home! The warm weather and laid back beach lifestyle, was so desirable. So Cal definitely has a special place in our hearts.
We enjoy our family trips together. Especially the ones we take Kinsley to do super fun stuff, all whilst everything is still so magical! Peter and I love reliving our childhood or there lack of, through her eyes. It’s also an excuse to bring out the big kid in us.