Kill a couple hours in San Diego before checking in
August 1, 2019 1:07 PM   Subscribe

We will be landing in San Diego around noon on Monday and have about 4 hours to kill before we can check into our rental house. What should we do? Some complications below the fold.

We'll have 2 kids (6 and 10) and 3 grandparents. We'll be in a minivan full of our suitcases. Ideally we'd like to get some food (4 vegetarians) and hang out where we can park easily and have access to sitting or air conditioning. A museum perhaps? We'll all be frazzled from travel I'm sure, so something low key would be nice. EASY PARKING a must. Our house is in the La Jolla area, so that direction a bonus. Thanks for any ideas!
posted by LKWorking to Travel & Transportation around San Diego, CA (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The New Children's Museum in San Diego fits your bill, with the added bonus of keeping two children occupied with minimal effort from their frazzled adults! It has a small cafeteria with vegetarian options. Paid parking is available in the building. It is also close to the beach and downtown San Diego, so you can wander around on foot and explore other places to eat if you choose to. The museum is within ten minutes of the airport and La Jolla is about a 20-25 minute drive away, depending on traffic.
posted by Everydayville at 1:19 PM on August 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Balboa Park - lots of parking, things to do that'll suit everyone with many different kinds of museums, gardens, a little craft village, lots of places to sit and rest, and cafes and restaurants to suit all tastes.
posted by essexjan at 1:24 PM on August 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you do decide on Balboa and want the full vacation food experience I would highly suggest Evolution Fast Food at 2965 Fifth Ave, a stones throw from the park. All vegan/vegetarian deep fried, grill-cooked goodness.
posted by extraheavymarcellus at 1:28 PM on August 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hell yes to Evolution Fast Food. It's really, really good.
posted by essexjan at 1:44 PM on August 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

posted by wowenthusiast at 2:09 PM on August 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Liberty Station has vast amounts of parking and lots of interesting restaurants, plus a nice playground near the water.
posted by exceptinsects at 2:27 PM on August 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography is located in La Jolla. They provide free parking, an outdoor playground, a cafe, and discounts for military, AAA & Bank of America members. Check the website for the schedule of feedings and watch the sharks eat!
posted by Z if for Zillah at 2:41 PM on August 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Children's Museum and Liberty Station are both great suggestions.
Also, Seaport Village canbe fun to wander around, and it's only about a 10 minute walk from the Childrens' Museum.

Honestly though, I would just go to La Jolla Cove.
Parking isn't bad if you're not trying to park right next to the water, and there's a ton of restaurants. Unfortunately the Museum of Contemporary Art there is closed for now, but I could (and have), killed 4 hours easily at the park on the cove, watching seals in Children's pool, and eating at Puesto. I'm less sure about A/C, but you often don't need it right on the water there…
posted by mmc at 2:54 PM on August 1, 2019

Wouldn’t call the parking in La Jolla “easy” but you can definitely always get spaces away from the water.
The airport is close to the downtown bay front, where you could visit the maritime museum, Midway museum and MOCA. Not necessarily air conditioned but should be tolerable. The waterfront park is right there as well which has fountains and a nice playground.
Balboa Park is a good suggestion as mentioned, your 6yo would probably enjoy the model train museum but my kids current favorite is the reading room at the top floor of the Natural History Museum which is new and quite nice, and very relaxing.
posted by q*ben at 3:17 PM on August 1, 2019

Response by poster: Question about parking and Balboa Park: last year we tried doing that and it was packed. Literally not one parking space and we drove for a long time. Is that typical for a Monday afternoon or was there maybe an event or something going on? Thanks for the suggestions so far, these are great.
posted by LKWorking at 11:33 AM on August 2, 2019

Balboa Park can be busy depending on the time of year and day. Weekend days in the summer are a crapshoot, and since the park is so large you may end parking somewhere far from where you want to be. It's one reason why I didn't suggest Balboa, although on a Monday around noon it should be far less busy. If you do end up going there, and think you'll be tired and not wanting to walk around too much, I'd figure out where exactly you want to go and park close to that location.
posted by Everydayville at 4:16 PM on August 2, 2019

If you do want to go to Balboa Park you can park in the Inspiration Point lot and take the park tram wherever you want to go. There’s pretty much always parking there unless there’s a major event going on.
The model train museum is really fun!
Panama 66 near the art museum is an outdoor restaurant but it’s in the shade and always seems to have a nice breeze. The food is great.
posted by exceptinsects at 8:42 AM on August 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

There's an emphasis on "doing stuff" in these answers and I want to respectfully dissent. I think Liberty Station is good, but that puts you in traffic to La Jolla at rush hour on a weekday. Not optimal. Same problem with situating yourself in Balboa Park or downtown - traffic which is precisely what you don't want to be prompt for checkin.

I'm going to be boring and suggest that the UTC mall in La Jolla (it's right at the edge of La Jolla). It's mostly an outdoor mall but has a food court with AC (in fact it's got an ice rink inside) with a lot of food options including vegetarian ones. There's also True Food Kitchen at the other end of the mall for higher end vegetarian. The bookstore is not great (Amazon Books) but there is a newsstand by the food court. There's a lot to look at and ample seating throughout the mall. They're working on the Trolley that will go to that mall adjacent but that will not impact you at that time. Lots of indoor stores with plenty of AC but I think resting and planning for your stay is what a group that size will be up for after a flight. As I think of it there's a nice movie theater too which, if you can all agree on one, would also be a lovely way to decompress after flying. And the parking on a Monday at 1pm - EASY PARKING.

Now, if your party is higher energy? Or hates malls? Then the paragraph above was written by a jerk and consider: Downtown La Jolla. There's plenty of shopping in the village, Warwick Books, a number of restaurants and art galleries and you could even walk down to the Cove or the Children's Pool (but again, that would be walking in the outdoors and it's been hot lately). Heck, depending on where your rental is you might just park at the rental and rent bikes down to downtown. Parking in downtown La Jolla at this time would be pretty easy just make sure you're in a spot that will account the length of time you'll need. There's also THE LOT which is like a mall/movie theater that you could sit in easily for a few hours.

There, I've given you a first suggestion, and disagreed with myself in a second suggestion. Really you can't go wrong.

· UTC Mall
· Downtown La Jolla
posted by artlung at 10:13 PM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I went on vacation and forgot to update! We ended up going to Old Town San Diego and it worked out fine. We got a little Mexican food and wandered around looking at stuff and it killed the couple of hours. We did go to Balboa Park later in the vacation and had a great time. Parked at Inspiration Lot and took the trolley and it was easy peasy. Thank you!
posted by LKWorking at 11:37 AM on August 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

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