Southern California with a 2.5 year old.
March 2, 2011 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Southern California with a 2.5 year old. Tips for things to do in and in between SD and LA.

At the end of this month, my husband, daughter (2.5y) and I will be in Southern California for a week. We fly into San Diego on a Saturday afternoon, and have to be in Rancho Palos Verdes on Thursday evening for wedding-related stuff that will continue until we fly out of LAX on Sunday afternoon. We are visiting with friends in La Jolla all day Sunday but apart from that our itinerary is open. We will probably go to the SD zoo on Monday. What other things are toddler-friendly either in SD or en route to LA?

Of note:
We don't tend to do a lot of kid-centric stuff, but like to have plenty of options. We do try and do kid-friendly stuff, if you get the difference.
Hotel recommendations either in SD or the area are really appreciated.
I have read and bookmarked california-tagged threads.
posted by gaspode to Travel & Transportation around California (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: SD Zoo could really be a 2 day thing. It is HUGE.

LegoLand is down there as well.
posted by k8t at 1:23 PM on March 2, 2011

If you do not get beach time in La Jolla (you probably will though) you can head up the Coast Highway and go to the beach at like Encinitas or Leucadia. Nice beaches there.

In LA, when my kid was little, we always hit the La Brea Tarpits.
posted by Danf at 1:34 PM on March 2, 2011

You should definitely hit the Balboa Fun Zone and take the car ferry between Balboa Island and Balboa Peninsula for some classic seal-seeing frozen-banana-eating action. There are nice beaches on the Peninsula. That area has some nice flat bike paths and you can rent kayaks and paddle around in the (shallow, wave-free) Bay. I'm not sure if it's the right season but there is a whale-watching tour that leaves from that area.

And if you are going to the San Diego Zoo, DEFINITELY go to the San Diego Wild Animal Park. It's affiliated but in a different location and 1000 times better.
posted by bq at 1:38 PM on March 2, 2011

Most of the distance between SD and LA is Camp Pendleton, which isn't open to civilians.

What you need to do is take your girl to Legoland. She'll love it. And take swimsuits; there's a water park.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:42 PM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yep, the SD Zoo could definitely be a two-day event by itself; you'll certainly have to add on an extra day if you go to their Safari (aka Wild Animal) Park. You could also spend another day at Sea World. Then on the way up to L.A., there's Legoland! (There's also Disneyland, of course, and Knott's Berry Farm, both in Orange County. Of the three theme parks, Knott's is most affordable, esp. as they tend to have fairly decent discounts for things like Auto Club members.)
posted by scody at 1:44 PM on March 2, 2011

There is plenty in the Los Angeles area to do that is kid-friendly but not necessarily kid-centered.

I highly recommend the Griffith Park Observatory if you're into that kind of thing. The Leonard Nimoy theater is really fun and kid friendly. Also, if you're a walking sort of family, Venice/Santa Monica has tons of stuff to do including the pier and the 3rd Street promenade which is mostly just people watching.

I personally wouldn't bother with the majority of Hollywood unless you're star-struck, in which case I am under the understanding that the new Madame Toussaud's is fabulous. The original Farmer's Market at the Grove is nice for lunch and shopping and is totally kid-friendly.

The Skirball has a very kid focused museum in Noah's Ark - but also some non-kid focused exhibits.

The weather is supposed to be gorgeous next week, so if all you wanted to do was drive up the coast, stop at Neptune's net for some shrimp and look at the waves crash, it would be a fine week to do it!

Feel free to pm me if you have questions about any specifics. I was born and raised here and would be happy to give you insider info.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:47 PM on March 2, 2011

I don't think a toddler would enjoy the Wild Animal park (now known as the Safari Park) as you're really riding around on something, looking at animals. Legoland is just about right, even if she doesn't play with actual Legos, yet.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:49 PM on March 2, 2011

When we were in LA in March of last year, we stopped off at the beach at Crystal Cove State Park, which had the most awesome tide pools (ok, so perhaps they are not the most awesome tide pools on the planet, but I'm from the midwest, and it was the first time I'd ever SEEN a tide pool). I think that'd be fun for a toddler, even if it's coolish, because...sqeee.....STARFISH.
posted by drlith at 2:00 PM on March 2, 2011

Best answer: The SD Zoo is located in Balboa Park, but so are many other museums and gardens, a permanent local craft fair, and more. The park is large but much of it is walkable. There are kid-friendly museums like the Model Railroad Museum and Natural History Museum, as well as others focused more on art or history.

San Diego also has a cute Old Town.

For hotels, the Marriott Residence Inn SD Central was a great value for spacious accommodations, although it's in a suburban neighborhood without much to recommend it except great Chinese food. If you want to spend more and be by the beach, it's hard to beat the historic Del Coronado.

En route to LA, if you all like aquatic life there's the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach and also the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium which also has tidepools.
posted by unsub at 2:04 PM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

We took my daughter to San Diego when she was that age. She liked the zoo but she LOVED the beach. It was like the best ever sand box that went on for miles. At one point she was actually making sand angels.
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:13 PM on March 2, 2011

When we went to San Diego a few years ago, we stayed at the Paradise Point Resort, which we got through some sort of deal with Expedia (that may have been bundled in with our flights or something like that). It stands out as being one of the nicer (and more kid-friendly) places that I've stayed.
posted by schmod at 2:22 PM on March 2, 2011

I recommended the Bob Baker Marionettes a while ago.
posted by brujita at 3:20 PM on March 2, 2011

Lots of people find the Wild Animal Park to be far less exciting than the zoo because there's not the intensity of experience there. It's much more placid, especially in cooler weather, and the animals are less dense (though so are the people). My son, who has gone three times in the last year, enjoys it but not in the same way he enjoys the San Diego Zoo, which he's probably been to 30 or 40 times in the last year (we have a family pass and live close to it!)

There are great tidepools in La Jolla on this beach:,-117.281912%287076+Neptune+Pl%29

Plot the tides here for when they are their lowest:
posted by Mo Nickels at 3:31 PM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

While in La Jolla check out the 'Children's Pool' a neat little cove that is mis-named now that the seals and sea lions have taken over.
posted by shakobe at 4:17 PM on March 2, 2011

The Getty Center outside LA was quite a comfortable visit for our family with small children. We even managed to see an exhibit of medieval illuminations, since before and after, the kids could run around the extensive buildings and stick their hands in all the fountains. There's even a small children's room. Beautiful, too.
posted by palliser at 5:05 PM on March 2, 2011

I thought the Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institute in La Jolla was pretty neat and well put-together.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:09 PM on March 2, 2011

I don't recall being two and a half so well, but I got a lot of childish glee out of riding the Angels Flight a bunch of times in a row. Plus it's only a quarter a ride! Also Downtown is the Grand Central Market and a bench seen in 500 Days of Summer.
posted by creade at 12:01 AM on March 3, 2011

2nding a stroll around the Hotel del Coronado. It's completely fantastic, no matter how old you are. The model for the Emerald City, hosted every famous person ever and where "Some Like it Hot" was filmed. (The classic story is that the director, trying to wrangle the extras, yelled "millionaires gather over here" and half the actual hotel guests shuffled over.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:06 PM on March 3, 2011

Response by poster: They were all useful answers, thanks guys! We ended up doing Not Very Much for a variety of reasons, but it was great to have the resource. The kid loved Old Town and the zoo.
posted by gaspode at 8:00 AM on April 26, 2011

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