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This is a trip report of a family of 4 who travelled by train from Santa Barbara to Oceanside. We stayed in Carlsbad, a beach town located in North San Diego. We also stayed two nights in Del Mar at a landmark resort and spa. Here's what we found delightful and what you could do without!
We thought we would have a little adventure on the way down by taking the train for the first time ever--a real thrill for the children. I found FREE companion fares on a website for living car-free in Santa Barbara. Google it and you too could have this great rate, which is the only reason that made taking the train worthwhile. Don't upgrade for $15 to Business Class because we found out the hard way that it is actually the same or worse than Coach. The ride was much bumpier in Business Class, oh but they serve a "free" drink and snack. The nice thing about the train is that for the first time we were able to watch dolphins diving right out the window as if we were travelling right on the ocean after leaving Santa Barbara. That was a real treat.
Carlsbad is delightful - a quieter town with really nice beaches. The beach here had great sand and really powerful waves, lots of surfers. The undertow is pretty strong and the waves are big so watch out for little ones.
If, and only if, you have small children, say under 10 years old, take them to Legoland. They will absolutely love it and you will enjoy their delight. Seeing the amazing thing these artists have done with lego bricks is fun too. Insider's Tip: Tickets are kind of expensive, but if you're a homeschooler take heart! They have "homeschool days" on one Monday per month through the school year where tickets are only $15 p.p. You have to sign up to receive their Homeschool Days coupon directly to your email address, which you print off and take with you in order to receive that discount.
Great restaurants, nice resort, Torrey Pines, the Del Mar racetrack...Del Mar has a lot to offer.
We left the kids with the grandparents to stay here two nights on our own, but we were surprised to see as many families with young children as we did. Turns out this would make a nice family vacation as well. The hotel staff were so accomodating and friendly. They remembered our name when we'd come and go. The valet attendants were very friendly and helped us out with recommendations pleasantly. The lounge area was very relaxing with a very large fireplace, soft leather couches and music in the evening by a great piano player on their grand piano. They even had a couple of puzzles for the kids if they so chose to do one. I recommend getting a massage while here as they have many to choose from and they all sounded wonderful. The pool was very clean...we would go in the evening and watch the sunset at the hot tub, and there was not a soul to be found. Very nice! The beach was lovely...it's a short walk across the street and down the steps. It was a lovely environment with flowers galore with beautiful sand, making for a nice, romantic walk. There is shopping and eating within walking distance so you'd never have to drive once you were here. Valet parking is mandatory at the hotel, and $20 per day.
Sitting outside means sitting on the patio overlooking the gorgeous beach. Unpretentious staff, very nice! The house salad was the best salad I've ever ordered in my life! We had a scrumptious fettucine with clams and shrimp in a lobster cream sauce...outstanding! We had a delicious ice cream topped with baked apple and granola for dessert. When we first arrived, we had a very rude waiter, but guess what!? You don't have to keep them...ask to be moved to another table (tell the hostess you want one outside that waiter's area if she just moves you to the table next to you). Once we switched to another table, our waiter was fantastic! By the way we switched tables to get out of the path of the bright sun that was setting below the unbrellas, but the waiter switch was a huge bonus! I recommend the Poseidon.
SKIP this one! We were staying at the L'Auberge Spa and Resort and J. Taylor's is right there. Plus the marketing of J.Taylor's is wonderful because we were led to believe that this would be an experience to remember. Well it was, but for the wrong reasons! This was the most pretentious restaurant we've ever been to, and we like to dine at 5-star restaurants when we can. The menu was written for chef's school--I'm a foodie and I know food, and I had much trouble understanding what was on this menu. I was fine with that until I tried asking a question or two to the high-brow waiter. When we were seated we were not asked where we'd like to sit and were seated inside, then asked if we wanted tap water. I said, I just want ice water with lemon please, but was made sure it was known that it was tap water. That just left a bad taste in my mouth from the get-go, no pun intended! The food was ok, but overdone and heavy. They changed the menu after I had ordered, but only the side dishes I ordered were changed from wonderful spring vegetables to corn grits and goose pate. I changed my meal and ended up with fried mashed potato balls...I mean croquettes de something. Those who were wearing designer clothes that came in after us were asked if they wanted to sit inside or outside. Others who were wearing regular dress-up clothes, not designer, and families who were more casual were seated inside without asking. I felt like I was doing a 20/20 investigation on how different classes are treated and snooty restaurants - "We sent in two groups, one wearing designer clothes and one wearing off-brands, to see how they were treated at restaurants like J. Taylor's!"
Gorgeous area, worth a stop. Walk around, take it in, bring a picnic.
So much to do here...art museums, we love the space and technology museum, and Imax! You could spend a whole day in this park.
I love Sea World, more than the San Diego Zoo. It's a must-do when going to San Diego with children. You can get passes for all the area attractions which gets you a discount (for the Zoo, the Wild Animal Park and Sea World). Sea World has some info on their website for educational packets for homeschoolers too. Enjoy!
This is our preference over the San Diego Zoo (though as a side note, the Polar Bear exhibit is one I could stay at all day over at the zoo and be done). At the Wild Animal Park you'll enjoy the tram that takes you down through the "kingdom" seeing these gorgeous creatures in a more natural setting. If you make reservations you can take a Photography Tour that takes you right up close to the animals.