When you have four kids, one-on-one time can be hard to come by especially when they are all teenagers. So, one tradition that we have been very blessed to share in our family is that my husband takes our boys and I take my girls on a special trip when they turn sixteen. This year was my youngest daughter’s turn, and she picked San Diego. I had never been to this part of California before, so I’m not sure who was more excited, me or my daughter!
We stayed at the Loews in Coronado Bay. The service, room, facilities, and onsite activities are outstanding! The property is located on Coronado Island and is surrounded by the San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Because of its location, guests have access to every sport imaginable, not to mention to one of California’s best beaches, the Silver Strand State Beach where the hotel provides its own valet and beach service. Loews also has three swimming pools, a full-service spa, and fitness center, along with five restaurants. My daughter and I loved our hotel so much, we both said we could have just stayed there and had a wonderful time! San Diego, however, has so much to offer, that we were hard-pressed to prioritize what we wanted to do.
The first item on my daughter’s bucket list was to visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo. We were very fortunate to go on a weekday because parking was easy (parking is free by-the-way) and there were no crowds. We purchased the one-day pass ($54 for ages 12+,) which gave us access to most of the shows, the aerial tram, Kangaroo Express Bus, and the Guided Tour. For what we wanted to do, I think this option was more than adequate. It’s also worthwhile to start out with the Guided Tour. It takes about 30-40 minutes and it gives you an overview of the park. One thing to keep in mind about this zoo is that it is VERY hilly! So, the guides definitely give you little tips and tricks on how you can get around that park and not hate your feet by the end of the day.
Because there weren’t huge crowds during our visit, we were able to linger and spend time with the animals and enjoy the beautiful and peaceful surroundings. Some of our favorite fur friends were the pandas, the hippos, the polar bears, the elephants, and the meerkats. By the end of the day, we were pretty tired and so thankful to enjoy a delicious meal at our hotel, watching the sunset over the bay.
Another must see and must do for us, was to hang out at La Jolla Beach. All I can say about it is – “Wow!” It was a little crowded when we arrived, so parking was hard to find. We had to walk a few blocks to finally get to the beach, but it was well worth the hike!
We scheduled a snorkel and kayak tour for early afternoon, but unfortunately, the water was a bit too tempestuous for our group to splash around in the water. We were pretty bummed about that but decided that it would be fun to go kayaking anyway.
We kayaked with Bike and Kayak Tours which we booked through Trip Advisor. They had a nice office to get outfitted in and did a good job giving us the basics of kayaking.
Once we got to the beach, we could see why the guides were concerned about snorkeling, and truthfully, I was a little worried about trying to get over that surf. The guides were awesome though and gave everyone in our group a HUGE HEAVE HO over the waves so that we could safely navigate the water. Once everyone had paddled a good distance from the shore, our guide gave an interesting talk about local history and lore and brought us close enough to the sea caves so that we could hear the echo of sea lions barking. Although we enjoyed the kayaking, I think the overall experience would have been better if we could have snorkeled, especially since we were in a nature preserve, teeming with all sorts of marine life. After about an hour of kayaking and taking in the beautiful views, it was time to paddle in. There were several guides who came out to help us navigate the surf once again (which was really fun) and thankfully my daughter and I didn’t catapult onto the beach as another lady sadly did.
After grabbing a quick bite and a bit of rest (we paddled about 3 ½ miles), we decided to drive over to Torrey Pines so that my daughter could go paragliding! Yep! PARAGLIDING!!!! Torrey Pines Gliderport is a world class flying site where people come to hang glide, paraglide, and operate remote control models. It has over 100 years of flying history and is considered “…the most historic aviation site in North America.”
- February 24, 1930 – Charles Lindbergh set the first gliding distance record when he soared from Mt. Soledad to Del Mar on his initial flight over the cliffs of Torrey Pines.
- During the 1930s, Hawley Bowlus, who managed the design and construction of Spirit of St. Louis, flew sailplanes at the Gliderport.
- Many inventions were tested at Torrey Pines, including wing air brakes, and aircraft parachute recovery systems.
- Model airplanes that were radio-controlled were first invented and tested at the Gliderport during the 1960s
- In the mid-1980s, paragliding was popularized at Torrey Pines
Today, Torrey Pines Gliderport is a world-class destination for flying enthusiasts who have a passion for paragliding, hang gliding, and radio-controlled aircraft. Even if you have no desire to fly off of a cliff, they have a food truck and viewing area where you can grab a quick bite and enjoy watching others take their lives in their own hands.
Going paragliding was not as difficult as I thought it would be. Once you sign your life away on all their waivers, you meet your pilot to go over the basics of safety and how to take off and land safely. My daughter was given a helmet and helped into her harness (which looks like a backpack that you can sit in). After completing the final safety check, my daughter was “attached” to the pilot for a tandem flight. As I watched my baby girl literally take a flying leap, I had a brief moment of panic until I saw the parachute fill with air and take her gracefully up over the cliff and ocean below. She spent about 25 minutes gliding all along the coast, enjoying every breath-taking peaceful moment of it! When my daughter finally landed, she happily informed me that she is ready to go sky diving next and has made me promise to go with her– EEK!
The following day we relaxed at our hotel and enjoyed the pool and the Silver Strand State Beach. Later that afternoon, we explored the town of Coronado and probably spent too much time “enjoying” all those boutiques. Coronado has a lot of dining options as well, but we decided to end our day at Clayton’s Coffeeshop, an old fashioned diner, that has awesome milkshakes and hamburgers.
On our last night in San Diego, we decided to see Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego’s Balboa Park. What an unexpected treat that was! This 150-year-old park has so much to offer with the San Diego Zoo, 16 museums, parks, nature trails, restaurants, and other cultural venues located all on 1200 acres of the biggest cultural urban center in North America. In addition to the natural beauty throughout Balboa Park, we enjoyed the Spanish-Renaissance architecture along the famous El Prado walkway.
My daughter and I were also pleasantly surprised by The Old Globe which is modeled after Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. This outdoor theatre in the round was built in 1935 and has been the home to many accomplished actors, playwrights, designers, and directors. The Globe received a Tony award in 1984 for Outstanding Regional Theatre and has received 13 Tony awards and multiple nominations for its Broadway and off-Broadway productions.
We thoroughly enjoyed Much Ado About Nothing! Watching Shakespeare under the stars all made for a perfect evening and a perfect way to end our trip!
Where to Buy
Roam Day Packable Backpack
This is a great day back to take with you on the beach, hiking, and on any type of day excursion. It’s lightweight and water resistant, too! Easy to pack in your suitcase as well.
Beach Towel Clips
We love the beach! Just not when the wind blows our towel away! Durable beach towel clips that keep your towel in place.
These sandals kept my feet happy all day long! They held up during our day trips, short hikes, and out on the beach.