Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cruisin' San Diego Bay

"Many people come here for vacation to see the sun, palm trees, beach and water....and, we get to live!" kept running through our minds as we spent Father's Day on San Diego Bay.

It was another typically gorgeous San Diego Sunday. Sunshine, ocean breezes and minimal crowds in the morning.

We were out on Coronado Island at the Ferry Landing complex to catch the Coronado-San Diego ferry. Its a bare bones ferry that reminded me of the ships plowing out to Suomenlinna in Helsinki. Only the adults needed the $6 round-trip ticket. The "cruise" takes about 15 minutes, but it gave us some great views on the city, the Midway, Seaport Village and Coronado Bridge.

Peanut and Tex got to pretend they were on a big boat and enjoyed spotting all the sailboats, motor boats and real Harbor Excursion ships.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Sea World - Beyond the Splash Zone

We love Sea World.

Its a 20 minute drive away. Its just like spending the day at a gorgeous park. Its full of unique experiences every time we visit. Peanut and Tex can't get enough AND both their parents enjoy it just as much - a rare combination in child amusements :-)

We worked out the best season-pass combination for us:
> one adult and Peanut picked up the "Fun Pass" early in the year giving entry through 2008 for the price of a single day
> the other adult upgraded to the "Silver Passport", which includes free parking (otherwise its $10/visit or $12/visit during summer) and discounts on guest passes among other benefits
> little Tex is free until he turns three

We've also scoped out the back-trails and less-known entrances to shows to help avoid the crowds.

This insider info came in handy this past weekend as we sloshed through the massive crowds of vacationeers. We managed to hit all the major shows (Shamu's Believe and the Dolphin Show) and exhibits as well as a "no-line, no-waiting" lunch pit stop and shopping in under four hours!

Here are our favorite Sea World San Diego hints:
  1. Buy your passes online - skip the ticket lines and get access to the best-priced deals.
  2. Arrive by 10:00 am for great parking and a chance to look around before the Shamu Show.
  3. Check the map for Show times.
  4. First Shamu Show is almost always at 11:00 am. Get there at least 15 mins before the show.
  5. For Shamu - use the back entrance to the stadium. Go around toward Shipwreck Rapids to see it. Plenty of stroller parking, very little foot traffic so you can really get in and out quickly. We usually sit on the sides since the center stage seats are too loud for the kiddos.
  6. Dolphin feeding is often right after Shamu so you can go straight there or head for lunch along with most of the park :-)
  7. Lunch in the back of the park at Coconut Bay Cafe is a good way to dodge crowds and get a great view of Mission Bay.
  8. The Shark exhibit is nearby. You can choose to skip the viewing pool at the entrance as the real view is in the Shark Tunnel underneath.
  9. For the Dolphin Show, park your stroller to the LEFT of the entrance where there are less strollers parked and puts you in the right direction to head for the Arctic Adventure. This show is always packed so if you want a seat - get there early! We have also stood at the top and had the children sit on the railing space. The stadium seems to be facing the sun at all show times, so it will be hot and sunny - bring drinks & sunscreen!
  10. Risky Rescue show is one we had to leave because it had a mime that terrified both children. Grandy and Nana say its a fun show.
  11. The Arctic Adventure is one of our favorites. Similar to the Shark Exhibit, if you are in a hurry, you can walk past the first above water viewing station as the beluga whales are visible later from an underwater station.
  12. If possible - bring your own drinks, snacks and food for the kids. Save some money and have it all available when you need it. Though officially not sanctioned, we've never been asked to not bring it in and we've never hidden the fact we have it with us.
  13. Oh, and there's free beer samplers at the Anheuser-Busch Hospitality Center -- or so Gandy and Nana tell us :-)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The BEST kind of festival

Tex -- who loves to eat above all -- must have thought that an International Food Festival is the best kind of event ever!!! Booth after booth of food! More food! and more food!

We are here just to EAT!!!

On Sunday the International Houses of Balboa Park had their annual food fest and we happily strolled among the tents.

Hungary seemed to pop up on every corner -- the hot dishes here, a few tents down - desserts, at their house - a whole patio full and as we walked by they were bringing out a portable table of more sweets. So, how could we not try something? The Langos bread topped with cheese, sour cream and melted garlic butter went fast. Everyone kept trying to grab another bite. Papa & Tex stayed behind to savor a sausage roll while Peanut & I went for a bathroom break.

Palestine and Lebanon offered delicious shawarma. We picked up some empanadas Argentina to see what Dora the Explorer eats at her abuela's luncheon.

While Tex hungarily glupped down anything offered, Peanut soon decided she just wanted a hamburger. Luckily, the America House was nearby. They didn't have hamburgers, but a hot dog made an acceptable substitute.

We saved some space for dessert from the House of Finland -- freshly made lettu (pancakes) with whipped cream and strawberries. Peanut wanted to go back for a second round of desserts so we picked up some pulla and other pasteries. The House of Finland organizes a number of annual events and the hostesses were all keen to tell us about the upcoming Juhannus festivities at Mission Beach. While the group can't sleep out on the beach, they promised a bonfire and plenty of action into the night.

The Lorax

Perhaps it was reading classic Dr. Suess The Lorax that started me thinking about our environmental impact. Then, I just happened across the China edition of National Geographic and thought how similar the images in the tales were - though one was as real as the other fanciful.

I still clearly see myself in a classroom at Gulf Breeze Elementary as the lights are switched off and the projector started up for a viewing of The Lorax. Its always been one of my favorite stories.

A few months ago I found out that Dr. Suess spent many years here in San Diego (in La Jolla). When you see the wondrous purple and red flower-filled trees, plants of all shapes and sizes, you have to wonder how much the scenery here influenced him. I don't find it too far-fetched.

Peanut sits quietly as we read The Lorax. She stops me to ask where the bears, birds and fish go. And Why Mama? Why do they go? I try to explain that we have to share the trees, fields, sky and waters with the animals and take care not to use too much ourselves.

Lorax in Suessville.