Looking for a special event to celebrate the holidays and Christmas while in San Diego? Here are some ideas of places to find activities, festive lights and decorations and events to thrill your kids and family. Happy Holidays! Updated for 2012
230 Quail Gardens Drive
The GARDEN OF LIGHTS takes place every evening from December 8 – 23, and 26 – 30, 2012 from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Enjoy touring the garden on foot or by horse led wagon rides to see the dazzling light displays and enjoy the festive music sung by carolers and mariachis. Roast marshmallows and s'mores or enjoyed mulled wine, hot chocolate and coffee alongside the campfire. There are also opportunities for children to make a variety of holiday crafts.
Weather permitting, SNOW will be available December 8 - 13 and December 26 - 30.
849 West Harbor Drive
San Diego, California
SURFIN' SANTA arrives to Seaport Village on November 24, 2012 at 1pm. A parade will follow his watercraft entry to Seaport Village along with photo opportunities, crafts and entertainment.
BREAKFAST WITH SANTA will take place at the Harbor House Restaurant on Dec. 15 and 16. Reservations required and can be made by calling Megan Capizzi at 619-235-4014. $25 per person.
2920 Zoo Drive in Balboa Park
San Diego, California
JUNGLE BELLS is a special holiday season occurring at the San Diego Zoo for 3 weeks in December from Dec. 15 - Jan 1. The zoo will remain open until 8pm daily (except for Dec. 24) and is free with paid admission to the zoo.
Families will enjoy many features of JUNGLE BELLS including: twinkling lights in the shape of animals, Santa’s workshop, extra encounters with animal ambassadors, Candy Cane Lane, the Treehouse "Blitzen" Light Experience, Skyfari with a Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer theme, the “Reindeer Express” bus ride to see the lights and Dr. Zoolittle’s holiday show in the Children’s Zoo.
Watch the "LITTLE PEOPLE LIVE" HOLIDAY SHOW on Dec. 15-16 for parents and kids 5 and under.
reviewed on: July 08 2012
I'm proud to say that I finally visited the San Diego Zoo for the first time, even though I grew up in California. Even though I had heard of it's grandeur, I was blown away by the amazing animals, the clever enclosures, and the great interactions that my kids had with everything.
BUS TOUR: We started our day by hopping on the bus (after a 20 minute wait!), because of some great Trekaroo recommendations. It was the greatest introduction to the zoo and set the stage for a great day. We sat on the top and saw so many great animals up close within the quick 35 minute tour. Our guide, Wendy, was amazingly humorous and informative and I felt like we had seen most of the zoo first thing. That made the rest of the day more relaxing because we could take our time with everything else, knowing we probably wouldn't make it back to many of the exhibits.
TIPS for the bus: For best viewing, sit on the top, right-side, in the middle. Most of the animals to be seen (except the polar bear) can be seen on the right side.
REPTILE WALK: The new Reptile Walk opened July of 2012, and is located behind the Reptile House. My kids were thrilled with seeing 2 Chinese alligators, and HUGE galapagos turtles. We were rewarded by seeing California natives and amphibians such as lizards, turtles, frogs, and snakes. We couldn't get over the snake-necked turtles and watched them swim around for quite a while.
TIPS for the Reptile Walk: This is located behind the Reptile House. Plan to visit this area in conjunction with the Children's Zoo, and the Camp Critter Show located right next to it.
SKYFARI AERIAL TRAM: Thanks to Trekaroo reviewers, we planned on riding the tram to the top of the zoo and then to walk down. Perfect plan! My kids had a blast on the tram and we got to see lots of the zoo on our way. The polar bear exhibit was too crowded to see anything, so we headed downhill towards the Pandas. The line snaked for about 1 hour (it was the busy July month!) so we headed towards one of the escalators that led up to the orangutans and the aviaries. We hardly walked up hill all day!
NIGHTTIME ZOO: CHINA CELEBRATION: From June-Sept 3, 2012, there are lots of activities, exhibits, shows, and even a Pinterest and Instagram contest to enter. We enjoyed the Dr. Zoolittle: Explores Asia show in the Children's Zoo very much. It was hilarious and entertaining, and we learned a tiny bit about endangered animals. The Jasmine & Jade Jumpers were amazing trampoline acrobats that hopped around and up high and entertained us all. Seeing their high-calibur performance convinced me that all the other shows we missed were just as amazing.
TIPS: The shows start around 1pm and run at different times and many locations throughout the zoo until the finale at 8pm at Front Street. Check out the map for locations and times.
DINING: We devoured our cheeseburgers and kids meals at Poppy's Patio, even though we packed lots of snacks. So much walking and animal watching made for hungry kids and adults. We ate dinner at the Treehouse Cafe and found the pasta there to be pretty good and satisfying. The view was amazing too!
TIPS: Bring food to snack on. Save money by buying kid's meals and the $9.99 free refill souvenir bottle for sodas.
GENERAL TIPS: The month of July is one of the most crowded at the park, but we were still able to see most things and find quiet corners. The day was drizzly and grey in the morning and the tour guide said it is the best weather for seeing the big animals and cats. Don't be discouraged by any foul weather! It usually only discourages humans from coming out which can mean a better day at the zoo.
My favorite part of the day had to be the time we spent in the Insect House, also known as "Spineless Marvels" which is located in the Children's Zoo. This little building housed a full wall of leaf-cutter ants that were spellbinding. A see-through bee house entranced my little kids. I loved staring into the various tanks, looking for the bugs located inside, only to be shocked when they were right in front of my nose, so well camouflaged that I couldn't see them at first. A little spine-chilling, but at least I have a spine!
My family received complimentary passes to the zoo to review the new Reptile Walk and the Nighttime Zoo: China Celebration including bus tour, express bus and Skyfari Arial Tram tickets. I was not required to express a particular point of view and all opinions are my own.
7100 Aviara Resort Drive
A very special TEDDY BEAR TEA will be held December 2nd through 18th for the whole family complete with entertainment by the “Peppermint Princess”. The Resort will also be collecting teddy bears to donate to Rady Children’s Hospital during the holiday season. Price per adult is $40 and $47 for the Royal Tea, which includes a glass of port, sherry or sparkling wine; Children are $20. Available Friday through Sunday; 1:00 p.m.
GINGERBREAD DECORATING CLASSES will take place Dec 3rd-17th. All ages will get to sip and nibble on holiday treats as Executive Pastry Chef Franck Riffaud leads an engaging step-by-step tutorial on the art of gingerbread modeling. Saturdays from 2 - 4 p.m. Adults: $20, children: $15. Advanced reservations are required and can be made by calling (760) 603-6800 ext. 5056.
The GINGERBREAD MOUNTAIN VILLAGE has become one of the must-see attractions in Carlsbad during the holidays. The village is complete with Santa’s Workshop, Frosty’s Ski-Daddle Ski School, Snow Tube Rental, and Blitzen’s Ale and Spirits. Gingerbread Mountain Village will be on display in the Lobby from Nov 27 - Dec 26th.
1549 El Prado
San Diego, California
DECEMBER NIGHTS will take place at Balboa Park on Friday, Dec. 7, 5-10pm, and Saturday, Dec. 8, noon-10pm. Participating museums will be open free of charge from 5-9pm and more than 300,000 visitors are expected to enjoy this free festival. Enjoy food, music and entertainment from around the world at the International Christmas Festival at the House of Pacific Relations Cottages, Del Cerro Baptist’s Christmas Story Tree, the annual Santa Lucia Procession at the Plaza de California, and more.
1500 Orange Ave
SKATING BY THE SEA transforms the front lawn into a sparkling ice rink overlooking the ocean. Nov 21 - Dec 14: two daily sessions from 2-5 pm and 6-9 pm and a third matinee session from 11 am-1 pm on weekends and holidays. From Dec 15 - Jan 1, all three sessions will be offered daily. Adults: $25, Children $20 (10 and under) Skate rentals included. HOLIDAY FESTIVAL on Wed, Nov 28, A special event for the whole family where kids of all ages can visit with St. Nick and his elves at Santa’s Village and enjoy holiday booths with games and prizes from 4pm to 7pm. There will also be hot cocoa, libations and fireworks. VICTORIAN TEA served through the holidays. Available on weekends starting Thanksgiving weekend, with extended days closer to Christmas. Advanced reservations required.
324 Horton Plaza
San Diego, California
FANTASY ON ICE takes place November 15, 2012 - January 6, 2013 in the center of Horton Plaza. Adults: $14, Children (Under 12): $12. Price includes rentals.
1800 El Prado
San Diego, California
See a kid friendly performance of The Nutcracker, performed by The San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, held at the Casa del Prado Theater in Balboa Park. Tickets range from $10-$15. Show dates include:
Sun, 12/9, 2pm; Saturday, 12/15, 2pm & 7pm; Sunday, 12/16, 2pm; Friday, 12/21, 7pm; Saturday, 12/22, 2pm & 7pm.
8130 La Mesa Blvd.
La Mesa, California
CHRISTMAS IN THE VILLAGE Free fun for the whole family for one weekend only. Dec 14-15 from 5pm-10pm. Holiday Parade starts at 5 pm both nights. Enjoy strolling minstrels, carolers, street entertainment, food, Lazer Tag, and horse drawn carriages in this Victorian Wonderland. Children will enjoy meeting Santa, carnival rides, ponies and puppet shows.
2260 Jimmy Durante Boulevard
Del Mar, California
HOLIDAY OF LIGHTS will take place from Nov 22-Jan 1. Drive around a 1.5 mile route of the racetrack to see lights and holiday scenes. On Friday nights (Nov 25-Dec 16) take an open hayride and enjoy music, carolers, and food and drink. holidayoflights.com
San Diego Bay
San Diego, California
This annual boat parade will take place on Sunday, December 9, and Sunday, December 16. Fireworks begin at 5:30 pm and the parade begins following. See website for parade route, parking and viewing times. www.sdparadeoflights.org
Marina Park Way
San Diego, California
This park is one of the many great places to view the SAN DIEGO BAY PARADE OF LIGHTS taking place Sunday, December 9, 2012 and
Sunday, December 16, 2012; 5:30 PM until 9:00 PM. http://www.sdparadeoflights.org/
On Dec 7 from 4-7:30 pm, families will enjoy the ANNUAL CORONADO CHRISTMAS PARADE AND OPEN HOUSE. Play in real snow, greet Santa on the ferryboat, enjoy a holiday parade and the Christmas tree lighting. www.coronadoferrylandingshops.com Take the famous bridge to Coronado Island to view the SAN DIEGO BAY PARADE OF LIGHTS taking place Sunday, December 9, 2012 and
Sunday, December 16, 2012; 5:30 PM until 9:00 PM. http://www.sdparadeoflights.org/. Free parking and restaurants available for meals.
1363 Old Globe Way
San Diego, California
The family favorite presentation of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! will take place: Saturday, November 17 - Saturday, December 29. Check website for times and tickets. http://www.theoldglobe.org 11am matinee performances are open to ALL AGES. Everyone must have a ticket. Children under age 3 will not be
admitted except during 11 am performances.
4000 Coronado Bay Rd
The BUON NATALE CRUISE at Loews Coronado Bay Resort, is a special gondola ride where families are treated to favorite Christmas carols as they cruise through the enchanting canals and waterways of the Coronado Cays. $145 per cruise, includes hot chocolate and holiday cookies. Advanced reservations are required at 619-424-4000.
615 Prospect Dr
La Jolla, California
The LA JOLLA CHRISTMAS PARADE & HOLIDAY FESTIVAL will take place on Dec. 2, 2012 with the parade starting at 2pm. The parade route is along Girard Ave and Prospect and ends at the Recreation Center. The Christmas Tree lighting will take place at 4pm. http://ljparade.com
1 Legoland Drive
Families will love the HOLLY JOLLY HOLIDAYS at LEGOLAND starting on Nov. 26 with a celebrity guest lighting of the tallest LEGO® Christmas tree The season concludes on Dec. 31 with Kids’ New Year’s Eve. Enjoy HOLIDAY SNOW DAYS November 23 - December 31 with real snow, extra treats, and special entertainment. WINTER NIGHTS take place November 23 and 24, December 1, 8, 15, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 30
which includes everything featured during Holiday Snow Days, PLUS: Extended Park hours from 5pm - 7pm; Holiday Lights Show, live music, carolers, strolling entertainment and nightly fireworks December 26 through 31. Included in the price of admission.
reviewed on: June 16 2010
The Christmas Holidays are celebrated in a snowy Lego style at LegoLand. We visited on a Saturday on the first week of December and were pleased to discover minimal crowds on a sunny day. The kids liked seeing the giant Lego Christmas tree and hearing the live Christmas music entertainment. We walked by the small snow play area and saw kids riding on sleds down small hills and decorating the large snowman in the middle.
Without even realizing it until later, we mostly went on rides that all of us could ride on, from our 3 year old (37 inches) to our 11 year old. We were able to find rides and attractions that we all thought were fun, and it made for a great day.
Rides we enjoyed as an entire family (Going in a clockwise direction around the outside of the park)
* Coastersaurus. This has been all of my kid's first "roller coaster". My 3 and 5 year old on this trip giggled and thought it was so funny!
* Volvo Jr. Driving School (for ages 3-5), Volvo Driving School (ages 6-13)
* Skipper School (boat driving) We "raced" which made it extra fun for my older boys.
* Captain Cranky's Challenge (Large boat that flies back and forth and around)
* Treasure Falls (Log ride)
* The Hideaways (Large play area with slides, stairs, bridges, rope ramps, and more). This is always my kid's favorite part of LegoLand.
* Lost Kingdom Adventure (laser shooting on a moving car ride)
* Dune Raiders (Large slide)
* Pharaoh's Revenge (Ball play structure with very loud air guns)
* Miniland. This is an amazing part of LegoLand to visit and should not be missed. I mistakingly thought on my first visit to the park that it wasn't worth spending time there. Now I know my whole family could spend hours looking at the miniature models!
The Star Wars section of MiniLand was exceptionally great. My Star Wars Fan husband was impressed with the detail of the scenes from each Episode. I heard kids all around me saying things like, "This is awesome!" "Look over here, mom, this is so cool!" When my husband "discovered" the Ewoks in the trees that he had previously not seen, he was quite amazed. A definite "must-visit".
Rides I would suggest skipping.
* Safari Trek. The wait for this ride is usually greater than 15 minutes and it is a very "ho-hum" ride. Pretty boring for adults, so-so for kids unless they love Lego animals. It can be a "parent buzz-killer" for the day if you make it the first ride... as it is close to the entrance.
* Splash Battle. Definitely skip on a cold day. I saw tortured parents getting sprayed by onlookers as the "pirate ship" slowly sailed by unprotected. I felt especially bad when I realized the onlookers were my own kids!
* Bionicle Blaster. ("Tea-cup ride") Kids have to be over 40 inches to ride this ride. I don't understand this logic because it's only my kids smaller than 40 inches that want to ride it!
We really enjoyed our day at LegoLand and we brought home very tired kids and adults!
I received complimentary tickets to LegoLand in order to complete this review. All opinions expressed are my own and the business owner did not state any requirements for a particular point of view.
4970 avenida encinas
VILLAGE HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE AND TOYS FOR TOTS DRIVE will take place on December 6 from 5-8pm as a celebration featuring a special appearance by Santa, Mrs. Claus and their elves. Families will enjoy carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides, crafts and a photo opportunity with Santa. Attendees are encouraged to bring an unwrapped toy for the Toys for Tots Drive.
reviewed on: December 13 2011
With LEGOLAND and beautiful beaches nearby, the West Inn & Suites is perfectly located for families looking for a top-notch place to stay while enjoying all that Carlsbad has to offer. But location, great price, and nice amenities is not all that makes the West Inn & Suites wonderful. We were amazed at all of the thoughtful complimentary items that made this place really shine and cater to traveling families.
Complimentary items we enjoyed:
* Cookies and milk in the lobby at bedtime
* Free WiFi with no login requirement
* Free shuttle service to LEGOLAND, beaches and local activities (within 5 miles), including cars seats and boosters.
* Pool toys, swim diapers, magazines, and water poolside
* Water bottles on check-in
* Hot breakfast buffet
* DVD lending library to use with DVD player in room
* Library of books and family games to play in lobby
* Turn-down service (with chocolates)
* Free parking
BEAUTIFUL ROOMS Our family of six stayed in a Double King Suite which had 2 king size beds and a separate family room with a pull-out sofa and additional TV and DVD player. It must be noted that although it is labeled a suite, there is no separating door or wall. The large bathroom creates a division of the two rooms with a wide hall connecting the two areas. We were able to open the large door to the bathroom and create a bit of a light and noise barrier so that my husband and I could enjoy a movie after the kids went to bed. Each room has a microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker, TV with DVD player, hair dryer, dressers, closets, irons and robes. Unique features include a beautiful shell on a ribbon to hang on your door to indicate “privacy please” and the painted rocks to place on your bed to request a sheet change.
SWIMMING POOL We enjoyed “swimming” in the Jacuzzi both nights in December. Because the nights were cold, the heated pool was a little too chilly for us but the Jacuzzi was large and not too toasty for our little ones. I was delighted to find pool toys, including floating noodles, swim vests, beach balls, and a baby float waiting for any guest to use. I had to make sure we had our room key on us at all times in order to get into the pool area, but more importantly, to get back into the hotel on the cold night!
SHUTTLE SERVICE While enjoying the cookies and milk before bedtime, we chatted with many of the families we met who were heading to LEGOLAND the next day. Our kids were so excited in the morning when we headed to the shuttle outside the lobby to take the short 5 minute drive to the park. With parking upwards of $15 at LEGOLAND, and the long walk from the parking lot to the front entrance of the park, we really appreciated the free ride to the side entrance and a short walk to the front gate. I arranged the shuttle with the front desk and they kindly set up a booster seat and car seat in the shuttle van for our 3 and 5 year olds. A quick call to the hotel after our fun-filled day brought a friendly staff member back to pick us up.
HOT BREAKFAST The staff and food at the breakfast buffet was top-notch. Breakfast burritos with hot eggs, tortillas, bacon, and salsa was such a pleasant surprise compared to the typical breakfast buffets I’ve had before. The kids enjoyed the cereals, muffins, and juice. In the eating area, there were three very nice picnic style tables with long benches that fit our large family and other large families. High chairs, and plenty of other, smaller tables were also available.
GREAT LOCATION The ocean was partly visible from our third floor room, but I knew there was a great shuttle service that could take us to Tamarack State Beach in about two minutes. It’s most likely too far for families to walk to the beach, and beach access is tricky in Carlsbad with it’s many miles of shoreline cliffs. Right next door is Bistro West, an upscale, family-friendly restaurant specializing in American food and fine wine. We enjoyed delicious filet mignon, swordfish, and wine. Our kids, mesmerized by the bubble wall and big-screen TVs, enjoyed pizza, spaghetti, mac and cheese, and cheeseburgers from the extensive kid's menu. LEGOLAND, Sea Life Aquarium, the Flower Fields, Carlsbad Premium Outlets, Carlsbad Strawberry Company (u-pick strawberries), Museum of Making Music, and several state beaches are all within close proximity to the West Inn & Suites.
COOKIES AND MILK
We came downstairs in our PJs after our swim in the pool to enjoy our bedtime snack of cookies and milk. Our kids played Chutes and Ladders from the game cabinet and my husband and I perused the library shelves for a book to read.
With the friendly staff, clean and beautiful rooms, great location, and extra special complimentary items, it is clear why the West Inn & Suites is an excellent place for families to stay. It is also pet friendly with an on-site dog park and patio dining. I highly recommend staying here while visiting LEGOLAND, beaches, San Diego attractions, on a road trip, or just for a weekend getaway.
This review is based on a complimentary stay at West Inn & Suites. I received no other compensation and the business owner did not state any requirements that I express a particular point of view. The opinions I express are my own.
410 Island Avenue
San Diego, California
San Diego pets and owners are invited to the GASLAMP HOLIDAY PET PARADE on Dec. 9, 2012 starting at 3 p.m. Pets are invited to dress up in their favorite costumes for a special promenade throughout the Gaslamp Quarter to celebrate the holiday season. Prizes will be given out for Best Costumed Duo, Cutest Critter, Best Pet Costume & Best of Show!
1404 Vacation Rd
San Diego, California
Kids will enjoy a one-hour excursion on a water taxi with Santa or have Breakfast with Santa on December 3rd and 10th. The resort's "Good Tide-ings" holiday package includes luxury island accommodations, a traditional holiday dinner or brunch and a beautiful Paradise Point collectible ornament for this and next year's tree. Guests can also visit the resort during the 40th Annual Mission Bay Parade of Lights where more than 100 vessels take to the bay decked out in a spectacular display of holiday lights. The "Winter on the Water" package, available during the dates of the Parade, includes a bay front room for an excellent view of the parade, as well as a s'mores kit guests can indulge in with their family during the parade. These packages start at $219. www.paradisepoint.com<http://www.paradisepoint.com>
Sea World Drive
San Diego, California
SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration will take place Weekends Nov. 17-Dec. 16, and daily Dec. 22-Jan 5.
Christmas decorations and special fun fill the park.
Enjoy a special Shamu’s Christmas show, play in the snow in SnowWorld, see the pet-stravaganza Christmas Tails show, and be amazed at the wonders of The Polar Express 4-D Experience. Event included with park admission.
15954 Woods Valley Road
Valley Center, California
Celebrate CHRISTMAS IN THE VALLEY on December 7th and 8th. Fri 4 - 8 pm & Sat 10 - 4 pm. Enjoy live entertainment and the POLAR EXPRESS and HAY RIDE to visit Santa Friday 5:30 - 7:30 / Saturday 11 - 2. Free Activities: Living Nativity, Polar Express Hayride, Crafts, Storytelling and more!! Popcorn, Hot Chocolate, BBQ and Tacos for sale. For information 760-749-4976.
Del Mar, California
The HOLIDAY WONDERLAND & TREE LIGHTING will take place Dec. 1 from 2-6pm. Families will enjoy photos With Santa, Holiday Arts & Crafts, Music & Dance Performances, a Snow play area, Fun Zone, Horse & Carriage Rides, and more.
2688 East Mission Bay Drive
San Diego, California
The MISSION BAY CHRISTMAS BOAT PARADE OF LIGHTS will take place Dec. 8, 2012 starting at 7pm with fireworks at 9pm. The best viewing is from Riviera Shores, Crown Point, Santa Clara Point, the east side of Vacation Island, and the west side of Fiesta Island.
5300 Grand Del Mar Court
San Diego, California
The NUTCRACKER HOLIDAY TEA will take place Dec. 22-23. Two performances and tea services each day: 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. A two-course family-friendly tea service of tea sandwiches and French pastries is followed by a mini 45-minute performance of “The Nutcracker Suite,” danced by members of the Scripps Performing Arts Academy. $58 for adults; $30 for children (ages 4–12) Reservations: 858.314.1988.
HOLIDAY FUN AT THE EQUESTRIAN CENTER: Nov. 20 - Dec. 24, Tue-Sun 9-4pm. The Equestrian Center will be decked for the holidays and offering Jingle Bell Pony Rides for the little ones and trail riding through picturesque Los Peñasquitos Canyon. Cost: 15-minute lead line pony ride (ages 2–6), $35 per child; Trail rides (ages 7 & up), from $125 per hour. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. To reserve, please call 858.314.1988.
reviewed on: July 14 2011
The Grand Del Mar is an absolutely stunning and beautiful hotel nestled in a canyon in San Diego county. This resort-style hotel was filled with friendly staff and had very spacious and comfortable rooms. Our kids were welcomed with happy smiles and a gift from the treasure box. This place offers luxury vacations with many kid-friendly activities. As my family was ushered into our spacious suite of rooms at the Grand Del Mar - rooms filled with large bathtubs, flat screen TV’s, and beautiful views of both the golf course and countryside - I asked the bell hop one important question: How do you stay anywhere else after you have been here?
"Vacation starts on arrival"
BEAUTY IS ALL AROUND
One of the first things I noticed upon entering the majestic lobby was the delightful scent in the air. We were offered a cooling cloth for our hands dotted with eucalyptus. As we walked into our room, the smell of fresh linen and lightly scented soap was incredibly pleasant. It seemed that everywhere I went, I was surrounded by beauty - flowers in the landscaping, amazing architecture, and scents that relaxed me. The Grand Del Mar is beautiful and lovely!
UNDERWATER MUSIC AT THE FAMILY POOL
The first thing our kids want to do at any hotel is to jump into the pool. Our family was welcomed by the pool staff, who promptly set up towels for us on the comfy pool chairs. We were brought ice water (with fun cups and straws for the kids) along with the menu for all the fun snacks, drinks, and lunch items that are available poolside. The kids just loved hearing the music playing under the water of the large pool. There were no steps in the large- or middle-sized pools and the shallowest they got was approximately three feet. This meant that our two-year-old and four-year-old had to swim with us. When we discovered the one-foot wading pool next to the middle pool, my little ones were delighted, and so were we. However, we were disappointed with the Jacuzzi – it was very small, only had three seats, and no steps. In addition, it had an odd shape with relatively sharp corners that didn’t really allow the six of us to enjoy the nice warm temperature.
My older boys (8 and 10) spent several afternoon hours in the Explorers Kids Club playing air hockey, Nintendo Wii, and making sand art. The ladies on staff in the Club room jumped right in to help our boys feel comfortable by playing foosball and engaging them in friendly conversation. Ages 5 and up will really enjoy the bright, cheerful room that offers toys, games, crafts, and many other activities. The staff members also frequently take the children outdoors onto the lawn to play games in the afternoon.
The staff at The Grand Del Mar were all smiles when they saw our kids. The treasure chest of toys was offered on our arrival which delighted my four children. The concierge offered them a chance to participate in a scavenger hunt that was meant to help them explore the hotel grounds and to discover the fountains, statues, and activities of the hotel. My kids absolutely loved finding all the answers to the questions and were delighted with a reward upon the completion of their quest - a free scoop of gelato in the coffee shop! We saw many kids and families enjoying tennis, swimming in the pool, eating dinner at Amaya restaurant, riding horses in the equestrian center, and strolling the grounds by the golf course.
On the first morning of our stay, we were led on a nature hike through the local Penasquitos Canyon. Our nature guide was very personable and taught us so many amazing things. We learned the history of the wagon trains that rode through the area from San Antonio to San Diego. We heard about the Native Indians who used the plants and rocks for their everyday living, and we learned about the Mexicans who used the wild mustard and lemonade berry to spice up their food. My ten-year-old loved crushing the wild mustard seeds in his mouth to taste the kick of the spice. We scrambled over rocks to see the cascades of water from Penasquitos Creek. The nature guide laughed with my boys as they ran up and down the hills of the “rollercoaster” section of the trail. He was friendly and knowledgeable and was able to teach my young ones well - and keep my husband and I interested at the same time! Guided nature hikes, bike rides, and horse rides are available.
Relaxation awaits weary parents at the wonderful spa at The Grand Del Mar. I was grinning to myself as I walked down the beautiful stairs with yet another amazing scent wafting up from the quiet rooms below. I made sure I enjoyed the steam room, the sauna, and the Jacuzzi as I waited for my facial appointment. Not wanting to miss a thing, I sampled the 2 chocolate truffles, nuts, and orange-infused water as I relaxed in a chaise lounge in the women’s room. The facial itself was heavenly. A whole hour lying on a heated bed with cleansing, massaging, and pampering left me a very happy mom. A separate men’s room and treatments are available for dads needing that relaxation as well.
COMFORTABLE AND SPACIOUS ROOMS
One of the favorite activities that my kids enjoyed on this vacation was playing hide and seek in the suite of rooms we stayed in. Couches, dining room chairs, closets, and deep bathtubs became favorite hideouts. I couldn’t have been more comfortable on the wide, clean bed as I surfed Trekaroo on the free WiFi and heard them counting. We all took baths in the super deep and wide bathtubs because it was just too much fun. I did think that a parent of an infant or young toddler would have to take a bath with their youngster because you can’t reach over into the deep tub. Flat screen TVs are in every room, including the bathrooms. Microwaves and refrigerators come standard. The hotel staff had a full-size crib, sheets, bumper pad, quilt, and all the baby essentials already setup in our room when we arrived. Coffee makers are available, but are not complimentary. The Grand Del Mar water bottles offered in each room - and by most of the staff we ran into - are a wonderful complimentary feature. Our rooms opened onto patios with beautiful views of the golf course and the surrounding canyon environs. Settling into the comfortable patio chairs to watch the sunset was a delight. Turn down service was an unexpected fun gift to our family as we came back to a room with organized shoes, folded clothes, chocolates on the pillows, slippers to enjoy, and rose petals on the bathtub. I just wish I had turn down service at home every night!
Our family took muffins and breakfast bars for our morning meal in our room. Room service is available but there is no continental breakfast. We enjoyed an amazing dinner at the family-friendly restaurant, Amaya (please see my other review) with reasonable kid menu prices. Lunch poolside is a moderately priced and delicious option with good kid menu prices. A gourmet café near the lobby offers sandwiches and more, but with limited seating for large families. We ate lunch out at a nearby restaurant after our nature hike. Dinner out at a family restaurant near by was another good choice for our second night.
Parents may want to bring strollers for young ones as the hotel is spread out over a large area. It took us about 5 – 10 minutes to walk to the family pool from our room at the other end of the resort with our 2 year old.
During our two-night stay, we didn’t have enough time to enjoy all the family-friendly activities available at The Grand Del Mar. They offer shuttle service to the beach, golfing, horseback riding, and so much more. Despite that, our time there felt like a long and wonderful vacation.
I highly recommend staying at The Grand Del Mar. It is a very family-friendly resort where all of the staff members seem to know you by name and want to help you have the best time possible. Your vacation will start the moment you drive up, are greeted warmly by the valet, and are ushered into the beautiful lobby.
This review is based on a complimentary stay at The Grand Del Mar. I received no other compensation and the business owner did not request that I express a particular point of view. The opinions I write are entirely my own.