Lions, Beaches, and Ships, Oh My!

Trip Start Oct 22, 2010
Trip End Nov 02, 2010

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Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, October 23, 2010

     We arrived in San Diego at 11:00 pm local time, got our rental car, and headed to our hotel.  The kids were so excited, they had yet to sleep.  Finally, around 2:00 am local time they passed out.  It would be an early morning, as we had the world famous San Diego Zoo on the itinerary.
     We awoke early for our zoo adventure to dreary overcast skies and a good chance of rain.  Having faith in the San Diego weather reputation, we set out undeterred.  The zoo is located in the spectacular Balboa Park and the parking was free.  We entered the rather unassuming gates, and were blown away by the size of the map.  A good tip would be to view the map online and plan your route because this place is just massive.  We plotted a course and headed forward.  As the day went on, the overcast misty skies quickly turned into the bright blue sunny skies San Diego is known for.  We saw Lions, Koala Bears, Jaguars, Rhinos, Giraffes, Elephants, Kangaroos, and lots of other interesting animals that you would rarely, if ever see.  And of course, we could not miss the Giant Pandas!   The other thing that was really amazing about the zoo was the landscaping.  There were trees and plants and shrubs from all over the world that were as unique as the wildlife.  We even stumbled upon some of our favorite Madagascar Palm Trees.  The zoo is really a must see for adults and kids alike.  Just make sure you plan to be there a whole day because it is hard to see all of the expansive grounds in any less.
     The next morning took us to a beach that is regularly on the Travel Channel's Top 10 List, Coronado Beach.  We had the wide beach practically to ourselves on this cool October morning.  You can not help but notice the stunning Victorian Architecture of the Hotel del Coronado anchoring the beach.  The Hotel was built by the original owners of the island back in 1888 and has been listed on USA Today's "Top 10 Resorts in the World".  It is easy to see why it became a National Historic Landmark in 1977.
     We left Coronado Beach and headed across the island to Coronado Ferry Landing.  This is a great place as it has something for everyone.  We grabbed a gyro and enjoyed sitting by the bay observing the best view of the modern San Diego skyline.  The Ferry Landing has a variety of restaurants and art galleries under the swaying palm trees and amongst flowing fountains. 
     We then left the island and drove back to the mainland to visit Balboa Park.  We intended to take in a few kid friendly museums, but were quickly sucked in to the art and culture in the El Prado district.  We strolled up and down the pedestrian street admiring the amazing architecture and different cultural events taking place in the plazas.  Balboa Park is truly a place where you can do it all with more than 15 museums, many lush gardens, hiking trails, cultural events, art, and architecture.  If you have limited time to visit San Diego, you should visit The Zoo and Balboa Park.
     We left the park just before dark, headed to Little Italy to grab a pizza, then took a drive along the harbor.  My son immediately saw a huge "pirate ship", so we stopped to check it out.  This was the Star of India, part of the Maritime Museum, dressed up slightly for Halloween.  The Museum was about to close for the night so we knew what we would be doing the following morning before heading out to LA.  The next morning we checked out and headed to the Harbor and walked through 4 ships, including the one used in the Russell Crow film, Master and Commander.  There was also a Cold War era Soviet Submarine which was really cool to walk through.  The floating museum is great for kids and any history buff.
     It didn't take long for San Diego to cast it's spell on us.  The people were very courteous and helpful.  There was a lot of things to do and see, and it seems like you can get anywhere you want to go within 10 minutes.  The downtown area is modern and clean.  It seems to be an active city with people jogging, biking, and generally spending time outdoors.  And why wouldn't you want to spend time outdoors? Other than that first overcast morning, the weather was amazing.  San Diego had some lofty expectations to live up to, and it did with ease. 
     Now it's time to hit the Pacific Coast Highway!  Next stop, Newport Beach!

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