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  1. #1

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    Sully's (not-so) mini trip report to SoCal & DTD

    So last week was the culmination of lots of preparation, consideration, deliberation and more than a few posts on MiceChat. It was our first "family trip" with my (not quite) 2 year old daughter, Audrey Quinn. Where do we go? Do we fly? Drive? Stay close to home? What to pack?

    We decided to drive from our home in the San Francisco area to San Diego with a couple stops along the way. This way we could bring just about everything we thought we may need (crib, stroller, toys, etc). I am a notorious over-packer and I like to plan everything out ahead of time. Our dining room looked like a war room with maps, books, charts (really) and brochures.

    Since we've never stayed overnight anywhere with her before I planned a test trip to Monterey and their famous aquarium. Its about a 90 minute drive so if things really went south we could always go home. We booked one night at the Embassy Suites Monterey Bay to take advantage of the extra room and other family friendly features.

    We were mostly worried that our daughter wouldn't sleep in an unfamiliar place and in a different crib. Well all I can say is Audrey had a BLAST! She loved the hotel (it had koi and turtles), exploring the room and especially the Aquarium.









    When we got back to the hotel after a full day at the aquarium she went right to sleep in her portable crib, no problem. My wife and I closed the bedroom door and ordered some room service and a PPV movie to celebrate a succesful trip.

    The next day we booked our room at the Embassy Suites in La Jolla for a month later. That is where I really started the preparation (re: annoying my wife to no end). I began collecting books, DVDs, toys and other tools to entertain and distract a 23 m/o on a 7 - 10 hour car trip.

    We decided to take my wife's Passat since it has more room than my car and has limo tint windows in the back which would be good for the desert drive.



    I brought it in for service & oil change, washed and waxed it. The only thing it was lacking was a GPS (my car has one built-in). Conveniently my wife's birthday was this month and she always wanted a GPS for her car . . .

    With that taken care I was all set a few days later on the night before the trip. I packed up the car, filling the truck with all manner of luggage and baby paraphernalia. I stuffed the glovebox and door pockets with books and toys and prepped a cooler of snacks and drinks.



    Audrey knew something was up and we had a hard time getting her to go to sleep which was a concern because I wanted to leave shortly after she woke up Sunday morning.

    She did wake up late but we were still on the road by 9:30. Our first stop was a fun little place about an hour away called Casa de Fruta. It is a diner/fruit stand/recreation area on highway 152 (between 101 and I-5). That's were we had breakfast, gassed up the car and ran Audrey around to tire her out. She had a lot of fun and we may go back since she enjoyed it so much.



    We hoped she would fall asleep for the next 3 hour leg to Bakersfield for gas. She didn't but was being so good (not a peep) that we only stopped quickly for gas in Bakersfield and drove straight on to Downtown Disney.

    Unfortunately I didn't grab my camera from the car so I don't have any pictures but DTD was very crowded, maybe because it was Father's Day and peak season. We took Audrey inside The Rainforest Cafe where she loved the animals and fish tanks but the wait was 35 minutes so we grabbed pizza silces from Napolini and ate them in a shady spot by the fountain.

    We also stopped in the Lego Store where Audrey liked the giraffe and snake. I thought her head was going to explode though when we went into the World of Disney. She went CRAZY! She really likes watching The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and her eyes nearly came out of her head looking at all the plush Disney characters. She especially loved the giant plush Micky and Minnie that she would pull out of the bin and hug tightly. It was very cute since the plushes were bigger than her, but not by much. Here is me without my camera: While I chasing her around the store, mom picked out some cute Winnie the Pooh sunglasses for Audrey. We had to leave and I carried her out crying the whole way out the door . She was quickly distracted when the Nemo Monorail passed overhead. How cool looking is that?

    As we were walking back to the car I saw the purple monorail in the DTD station so I went to the edge of the parking lot where the track curves into the park. Audrey jumped when they honked the horn but waved to the monorail as it passed above us and the people on the monorail waved back.

    We made it to the Embassy Suites in La Jolla a little past 6pm with a total drive time of 7hr 20mn. Pretty good! Like Monterey, Audrey loved the hotel. Not only did they have koi in the lobby but also had food to feed them! Thanks to Audrey those koi didn't go to bed hungry. Audrey soon followed, tired from a long day and the fact she never slept on the longest drive she's ever had.

    The next morning mom wanted to tackle the San Diego Zoo even though I wanted to take a day to adjust. Audrey enjoyed the view from the 12th floor while mom and I got us all ready for a day at the zoo.


    Although I brought the camera I didn't take any pictures because we were VERY disappointed with the San Diego Zoo. It was hot & humid and it wasn't the easiest place to navigate a stroller. We didn't take the bus tour which seems like what the zoo was designed for. So if you're not on the bus tour you have to get out of the way of the bus as it comes rumbling by every 8 minutes.

    Most of the animals were hiding out from the heat and there is a serious elevation change from the zoo entrance to the opposite side. I'm leaning back going down this steep hill and then it's like "Bus!" and everyone has to crowd on the sidewalk as it passes. Some areas can only be viewed from the bus. What goes down, must go up so I pushed the loaded stroller up what at times seemed like a 40 degree angle for what was seriously a 1/4 mile!

    We did have a nice lunch in the treehouse, that was cool and we also made it to the Children's Zoo. I wasn't that impressed since it was about the same size as the one at the San Francisco Zoo and seemed to offer less. I guess the biggest problem is we had very high expectations for the zoo and Audrey is still too young for us to take full advantage of what it has to offer.

    Next: Legoland, Seaworld and back to Disney!

    I'll get to that tonight

  2. #2

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    Re: Sully's (not-so) mini trip report to SoCal & DTD

    Awesome start! Can't wait to see more.

  3. #3

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    Re: Sully's (not-so) mini trip report to SoCal & DTD

    Love i so far
    Sorry the zoo was a disappointment.
    Good morning, son
    In twenty years from now
    Maybe we'll both sit down and have a few beers
    And I can tell you 'bout today
    And how I picked you up and everything changed
    It was pain
    Sunny days and rain
    I knew you'd feel the same things...





  4. #4

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    Re: Sully's (not-so) mini trip report to SoCal & DTD

    This is so cute so far. Your daughter is also very cute and it seems like you are a very good father. I cannot wait for the next part.

  5. #5

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    Re: Sully's (not-so) mini trip report to SoCal & DTD

    I think your daughter is an angel.

  6. #6

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    Re: Sully's (not-so) mini trip report to SoCal & DTD

    You just went on the wrong day to the zoo and you need to realize that the animals are not their to entertain you. It's not disneyland, so the animals will only show up when they want to. I have an annual pass , so I have experienced some great stuff.

    Now, I'll turn that little mouse's dream into a nightmare Fantasmic!

  7. #7

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    Re: Sully's (not-so) mini trip report to SoCal & DTD

    Quote Originally Posted by CelestialImperium View Post
    You just went on the wrong day to the zoo and you need to realize that the animals are not their to entertain you. It's not disneyland, so the animals will only show up when they want to. I have an annual pass , so I have experienced some great stuff.
    I'm not saying the zoo is not a good zoo although I guess it may have come across that way. I also understand about the animals. (Isn't that why the ones on Jungle Cruise are animatronic?)

    I had just built up the SD Zoo so much in my mind that I was expecting to have a fantastic time. As you said, I went on the wrong day; it was crowded, hot and humid.

    A lot of the zoo does seem to be built to be viewed from the bus especially with the very steep hills. (I saw one young boy (10?) crying because he started running down the hill but then couldn't stop until the bottom.) Granted there are "buses" on Main Street but I imagine if you were strolling through Critter Country and a large double decker bus came cruising by every few minutes it would kinda ruin the tranquility.

  8. #8

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    Re: Sully's (not-so) mini trip report to SoCal & DTD

    Awsome so far!! loved the aquarium pics, got more?? man this is looking to be an awsome report!!!!!

  9. #9

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    Re: Sully's (not-so) mini trip report to SoCal & DTD

    Great! That reminds me how much I need to get back to the aquarium.

  10. #10

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    Re: Sully's (not-so) mini trip report to SoCal & DTD

    This is the second time I've seen that Jelly Fish tank and I love it! It looks so much better than the Jelly Fish tanks here in Long Beach! I need to go there.

  11. #11

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    Re: Sully's (not-so) mini trip report to SoCal & DTD

    Quote Originally Posted by Hakuna Makarla View Post
    Awsome so far!! loved the aquarium pics, got more?? man this is looking to be an awsome report!!!!!
    Quote Originally Posted by Rapunzel View Post
    Great! That reminds me how much I need to get back to the aquarium.
    Quote Originally Posted by clara View Post
    This is the second time I've seen that Jelly Fish tank and I love it! It looks so much better than the Jelly Fish tanks here in Long Beach! I need to go there.
    I do have a few more pictures of the Jellyfish but don't have access to them right now so I will post them later. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has an incredible Jellyfish exhibit and a new Sea Otter one as well. It is an amazing Aquarium and must be one of the best in United States.

    For parents of small children there is lots of hands-on stuff for kids and a special area just for toddlers.

    Monterey is a great place to visit with Carmel and Big Sur just South of it and Santa Cruz to the North. Laguna Seca Raceway is there too. It is a great place to kayak or scuba dive. Drive around 17 mile drive and stop at Spanish Bay for drinks outside by the fire pit while a "highlander" serenades the setting sun.

    Now on to the rest of my trip report (and I did have my camera)

  12. #12

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    Re: Sully's (not-so) mini trip report to SoCal & DTD

    Quote Originally Posted by Sully View Post
    I'm not saying the zoo is not a good zoo although I guess it may have come across that way. I also understand about the animals. (Isn't that why the ones on Jungle Cruise are animatronic?)

    I had just built up the SD Zoo so much in my mind that I was expecting to have a fantastic time. As you said, I went on the wrong day; it was crowded, hot and humid.

    A lot of the zoo does seem to be built to be viewed from the bus especially with the very steep hills. (I saw one young boy (10?) crying because he started running down the hill but then couldn't stop until the bottom.) Granted there are "buses" on Main Street but I imagine if you were strolling through Critter Country and a large double decker bus came cruising by every few minutes it would kinda ruin the tranquility.
    I have never been on the bus but perhaps I am rarely in the areas where the bus even gets near. I am usually where the orangs and gorillas are and all those wild birds are. It is very relaxing in there and maybe next time you should try the wild animal park

    Now, I'll turn that little mouse's dream into a nightmare Fantasmic!

  13. #13

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    Re: Sully's (not-so) mini trip report to SoCal & DTD

    After the day at the San Diego Zoo Audrey went right to sleep at 7pm. This is nice because the hotel has an open bar happy hour from 5:30 to 7:30 so I ran downstairs and got us a couple drinks (we needed them). The hotel also shares a parking lot with P.F. Changs so we got take out from there.

    (The following is off-topic and for the parents reading this)
    Spoiler
    For the parents out there we picked Embassy Suites not only for the separate room (so we don't have to go to bed when Audrey does) but there is also a kitchenette with a fridge and microwave, laundry machines on each floor and a free hot breakfast buffett every morning. (Did I mention the free drinks at night? ) The pool is indoors too so you don't need to worry about sunscreen on the little ones.


    The next day after breakfast at the hotel we packed up and headed to Legoland. We hadn't considered this but heard from so many people that this was the place to go for young children.

    We get to Legoland and are presented with three choices for parking:

    Normal: $10
    Preferred: $20
    Volvo Preferred: $20

    Since we had a wee child with us (and were driving a German car) we sprung for preferred parking. We park relatively close to the entrance and as we approached sure enough there a spots just past the handicapped parking marked "Volvo." In the spots are a bunch of Volvos but sticking out like a sore thumb is a big GMC SUV!

    We were surprised by the size of Legoland and the shear number of rides and attractions. The food was very good too and healthy to boot! Although Audrey is still too little for a lot of the rides (but not by much) there was still plenty for her to do and see.

    Miniland was very cool with replicas of cities done in Lego. There were working miniture water features and moving vehicles including boats & ships. I think one of my favorite parts was the new Las Vegas section. There was even these Lego cops busting a lego "perp" and several Lego people passing out "flyers" (those who have walked The Strip know what I mean). There were several spots where you would press a button and something would animate. Audrey liked this little hotdog stand where if you pressed the button a little (Lego) dog would chase a (Lego) boy on a (Lego) bike holding a string of (Lego) hotdogs complete with sound.



    You could also drive (Lego) boats:



    Audrey liked watching the older kids and parents on this big Pirate Ship ride that spun around and swung back and forth while a life sized (Lego) pirate turned a crank and taunted the riders. We found a nice shady spot to eat Dippin' Dots and watch the "show."



    My daughter's favorite part was this area of the park with water fountains to play in and run through.



    She played in the water for a while, holding her own with the older kids including the little boys that were complete spaz's .

    It wasn't easy to extract her from the park but we had a very quiet car ride back to the hotel.



    Evenings were now routine at the hotel. We would feed the koi, play around the hotel and room, dinner, bath and then down she would go at 7. That is when mom & dad had some time to chill in the room with dinner and a movie.

    The next day was Seaworld, we hadn't planned on going originally so (advance planning) dad didn't have discount tickets already in the travel folder (in small marked envelopes, like the others). We were still able to use our AAA discount at the gate and Audrey is under 3 so was free. We took her to a show, one with trained dogs and cats (she loves animals). It is hard for a 23 m/o to sit still and wait for the show to start especially in the hot sun. The show was fun but it didn't really hold her attention since the action is somewhat far away. That is why we hadn't planned on going in the first place since Seaworld is alot about shows (Shamu, dolphins, sea lions, etc). We still had a lot of fun doing other things at the park and Audrey enjoyed watching Shamu cruising around his tank.



    There is also a great shark experience, a penguin zone and Manatee exhibit all thankfully indoors out of the hot sun. I didn't get too many good pictures since my little HP camera doesn't work well in low light. Audrey also spent most of her time pressed up against the glass so unless I suited up and took the picture from inside the tank, I'd only get the back of her head anyway (I do have a lot of those).

    Seaworld has this great "Arctic Station" experience with beluga whales, and polar bears. The theming is excellent and very immersive right up there with Universal and Disney. It includes a motion simulator ride to "transport" you to the arctic circle via helicopter but we sat in a room and watched some of the movie minus all the motion and special effects since Audrey was too small to ride. I think my wife was thankful for this. This attraction is very cool literally especially the 25 foot long ice wall.



    Back to the hotel again where mom & dad got to relax a few hours a night and catch up on some of the movies we haven't seen since Audrey was born.

    Thursday was going to be a beach day but the three of us were (very Irish) a bit pink already from three straight days at themeparks even though we wore hats and were slathered in sunscreen. Looks like dad finally gets his "day to adjust" the day before we leave. We hung around the hotel and room and decided to hit the hotel pool.

    There were lots of kids and friendly parents. We (I) read in different books and sites about traveling with children how even when you take young children to Disneyland or other fantastic destinations the thing they seem to enjoy and remember the most is the hotel pool. I can see why.

    We put Audrey in her little swim vest that made her look like a "baby on light rye" and stayed in the pool until her and I were prunes. Mom took this time to lounge poolside and snap some pictures.



    I had a lot of fun too.



    We packed up the car that night and headed out Friday morning, our first stop was Downtown Disney.



    We are dieing to take her to Disneyland proper but we are planning (and saving) for a big trip when she is 4 or 5. We think she'd be more likely to enjoy more rides although now we are thinking 3 or 4 since we think she'd have so much fun.

    The wait for Rainforest Cafe was only ten minutes so we walked around the store and Audrey loved the big fish tanks. We were sat upstairs "under the stars" in the center of all the action. She really got a kick out of all the moving animals and even liked the rainstorm. She thought the pizaa was pretty good too.



    Instead of doing the World of Disney again we headed over to the Disneyland Hotel to see the waterfalls and koi. Well the koi were there but the waterfalls were off!! What a disappointment! According to FantasyWatersDude they were off due to a short in the new lighting. Audrey still enjoyed the koi and the small waterfall.

    Walking over to the Disney's Fantasia Shop we came across these Disney character standies, near the Neverland Pool and Audrey spontaneously went over and gave Mickey a kiss.



    We went to the Fantasia Shop which was a lot more manageable with her and picked her up a Minnie Mouse shirt. Soon it was time for us to leave so Audrey said good-bye to Mickey and we walked back to our car.



    That's not the end though, on our way back to the car as we were passing under the giant Sorcerer's hat there were two Dream CM passing out DREAM EARS!!!! We all got one and wore them out to the car! What a great way to end our trip!

    I hope you all enjoyed my Trip Report even though there wasn't a lot about Disneyland and maybe too much about my daughter for most readers. It was our first family trip and was very exciting for us.

    My wife and I are exhausted and are planning an overnight or weekend in Napa of our own fairly soon with Audrey staying with Grandma and Grandpa. I am also starting to plan our trip to Disneyland in fact I bought Disneyland with Kids while my wife was still pregnant with Audrey.

  14. #14

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    Re: Sully's (not-so) mini trip report to SoCal & DTD

    WOW, this was an awsome report. thank you so much for sharing!!!

  15. #15

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    Re: Sully's (not-so) mini trip report to SoCal & DTD

    omg - the picture of you and your daughter in the hotel pool



    this was a great tr!!! thanks for sharing it with us!

    kingdom hearts <3er

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