My two-year old daughter already has a case of wanderlust. She talks about hotels, planes and restaurants nonstop. I personally think it was San Diego that sealed the deal for travel. Powder sand beaches, oceanfront resorts, wildlife parks and a land filled with Lego. If toddlers ruled the world, this would be our reality. With so many children’s activities available throughout the San Diego area, we divided our time between Coronado Island in the south and Carlsbad in the north.
Coronado is a sun kissed visual feast. Quaint storefronts and colourful historic homes, with perfectly manicured gardens, reflect a host of architectural styles including Craftsman, Spanish Colonial and Italian Renaissance Revival. While the island’s picture perfect beauty may have been lost on my daughter, the iconic Hotel Del Coronado where we stayed made quite the impression.
The expansive Victorian style beachfront property looks like a seaside castle, and our suite – the Octopus – reflected this whimsical theme. It’s a kid’s fairytale room, with ocean-inspired décor and a toy chest filled with games, puzzles and books. Needless to say, naptime was pretty much non-existent here.
Daddy and daughter combed the beach so that mama could hit The Del spa. After my 80-minute Shell Coronado Facial and Goddess of the Sea body wrap, I barely made it out of the spa’s infinity pool. We booked an early dinner on the patio of the resort’s ocean view restaurant, Sheerwater. A meal of fresh seafood, sparkling wine and a kids’ snack pack to keep my daughter occupied, was the perfect finish to day one in paradise.
Balboa Park in downtown San Diego is just a short drive from Coronado. Although it’s home to the San Diego Zoo, we focused on some of the smaller attractions like the Miniature Railroad, historic carousel and Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre. There are also lots of playgrounds and gardens to explore. When our daughter tired of the stroller we let her run around one of the park’s many sprawling grass fields.
On our second night, we booked a babysitter through the hotel concierge and strolled along Orange Avenue to Chez Loma for dinner. Like many of the businesses on Coronado, the bistro is in a perfectly restored historical home. From the name I was expecting traditional French cuisine; however Chef Alejandro Martinez infuses the menu with a Mexican flair. The food, setting and service were all exceptional. I went with our waiter’s recommendation, the Ceviche “Verde” with rockfish, tomatillo sauce and avocado. To date it’s the best ceviche I’ve had. My husband devoured half of it.
From Coronado we drove forty-five minutes north to the Four Seasons Aviara in Carlsbad. The property is a residence club made up of villas with fully equipped kitchens and laundry facilities – ideal for families. As we were there for just three nights, I booked the bed and breakfast rate. In-room dining is a lifesaver with small children and ordering breakfast to the room was big hit with our daughter. By day two she was asking when her pancakes would be arriving. The highlight of her stay however was our in-suite Private Chef Dinner – a fantastic interactive dining experience for the whole family. My husband and I loved the crab cakes and pan seared Ahi tuna. Our daughter loved Chef Bradley.
California Legoland, which was a big draw for us, is only a 15-minute drive from the Four Seasons. We read the “What to Do When You’re Two” brochure on the park’s website prior to visiting. Our favorite activities were the Swabbles Deck splash park at Pirate Shores and the Duplo Village Playtown playground. Anticipating our daughter’s appreciation for anything water related, we brought a bathing suit, towel, change of clothes and lots of water, snacks and sunscreen. Kids two and under get free admission to the park.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is another homerun for toddlers. In addition to gorillas, lion cubs, giraffes and an abundance of other wildlife there are two interactive water parks, a playground and a petting zoo. We took the 25-minute Africa Tram ride, which is about the maximum amount of time a two-year old will sit for. A stash of leftover pancakes from breakfast helped with the last leg of the tour. Kids two and under are free, and all money spent at the park supports wildlife conservation.
Nothing wears out a toddler like a day at the beach. So on the morning of our flight home we grabbed chairs, towels and toys from Aviara’s concierge and hit the beach in Carlsbad. Scouring for seashells and buried treasure, building sandcastles and running through the surf was just enough activity to produce a peaceful sleep on the plane ride home.