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San Diego trip

January 1, 2013

We traveled down to San Diego between Christmas and New Year’s to spend a few days checking out the sights. Kate and I had been to San Diego before and visited the Safari Park back when I interned at Disney Imagineering in 1999, but we didn’t make it to the zoo or SeaWorld. And we hadn’t yet taken Anna down to San Diego, so it seemed like a worthwhile trip.

When figuring out how to travel, we went back and forth between driving and flying. Flying is more expensive but faster, while driving provides an opportunity to see more of the country and is significantly cheaper but takes significantly longer. In the end, we figured we weren’t in a hurry, we wanted a car to get around San Diego anyway, and it’d be fun to see some of the country in between, so why not drive?

One thing I remember from living in LA for 5 months: you can get traffic jams anywhere, at any time, for no apparent reason. And sure enough, when we got to the LA sprawl we ran headlong into traffic. Google Maps optimistically suggested it’d take a bit over 7 hours to travel the 471 miles, but it was actually more like 10 by the time we actually made it to the hotel (by contrast, we barely hit any traffic on the way back and made it back it something closer to 8.5 hours). The trip wasn’t awful (thank heavens for audiobooks borrowed from our local library for helping to keep our daughter entertained), but I think we’ll lean heavily toward flying and renting a car next time.

For our stay in San Diego we opted to stay in the Hotel Solamar, both because it was conveniently located in the Gaslamp District relatively close to both the zoo and SeaWorld. While there are disappointingly few gas lamps in the Gaslamp District, there are a ton of good restaurants within a short walk.

We hit SeaWorld our first day, in large part because one of Anna’s friends was also in San Diego that day and was also visiting SeaWorld with her family. So the two of them ran around together catching rides and shows. I was the only one brave enough to sit with them in the splash zone of several shows, so I don’t have too many pictures (I gave my smartphone, wallet, and everything else that didn’t play well with water to my wife to carry; I’m glad the day was pretty sunny…). But I did sneak in some during a few of my drier moments.

Orca leaping at SeaWorld

The next day we hit the San Diego Zoo, which was indeed impressive. It’s definitely the largest zoo I’ve been to, both in physical size and in the number and variety of animals they had. We spent the whole day walking around and checking out the exhibits, even during a few afternoon showers (thankfully we had packed a hotel-provided umbrella and my rain coat). I think my favorite exhibits were the red panda (which I personally find much cuter than regular pandas) and the mountain lion (which was clearly checking out the babies in the crowd to try to figure out which one it should try to consume first).

Red panda

A mountain lion considers which child to eat first

We visited the Safari Park on our last day. One of the things I remembered from our 1999 trip and was reminded of again on this trip was how much more I like the Safari Park than a regular zoo, in large part because most of the animals have much more space to move around in. Even in the San Diego Zoo, which is world-renowned, many of the animals are restricted to relatively small spaces. But in the Safari Park, they have a couple of valleys to move (and run) around in. I particularly liked seeing the crash of rhinos (the first time I’ve seen enough clustered rhinos to merit actually calling them a crash) and all the newborn animals (the zoo has roughly one animal born a day, and on our second ride on the tram we saw a Cape Buffalo that was roughly an hour old).

A crash of rhinos

One of the Safari Park's valleys

One other cool but weird thing: seeing the circling swarm of turkey vultures throughout the day. Made me wonder what they knew that we didn’t…

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All in all the trip was a lot of fun, if not quite as sunny as we’d hoped (the weather hovered more in the 50s than 60s, although luckily we chose to visit SeaWorld on the sunniest day). We’ll definitely be back, but next time I’m voting to check out the USS Midway.

From → Travel

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