Southern Cal City Pass

Trip Start Nov 17, 2011
Trip End Dec 14, 2011

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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, December 7, 2011

As I concluded my last entry, Maria and I decided to make for the south, after our tour of Alcatraz Island. Our first stop was Santa Cruz, CA., where we spent the day near the ocean. Upon arriving in the city, we headed to the municipal wharf where we wandered aimlessly, enjoying the quiet sounds of birds and the waves... Until a new noise broke the calm. We soon discovered a number of very vocal sea lions barking from their resting spot on the cross beams on the underside of the wharf. After watching one particularly rowdy sea lion, we went in search of Aldo's restaurant - another Triple D location specializing in seafood. While the calamari was slightly overcooked, the two main dishes, consisting of shrimp, calamari, clams, mussels and fish, were very well done. Plus the serving sizes were enormous! After gorging ourselves to an uncomfortably full state, we went and sat in the beach and watched the sun begin to set. From there, we proceeded to drive in the dark to a KAO campground in Santa Margarita, CA.

The next day, we hit the road early, and eventually arrived in San Diego, CA. Tired of fighting traffic - the number of vehicles was insane - we went in search of another renowned dive... A place in downtown San Diego called Hodad's. While not necessarily located in the nicest part of the city, the neighborhood was clean and safe enough. Hodad's (surf slang for a poser; someone who hangs around the beach, but really only pretends to surf), is the most amazing burger place I have ever been to! The venue had license plates on the walls, surfboards for tables, and belted out rock, metal and grunge music. Maria had a burger with blu cheese, while I worked my way through a double bacon cheese (it was so thick that it took two full jaw-unhinged-bites to get from top to bottom bun. Not only were these things huge, but they were incredibly flavorful. After dinner, we continued a few minutes south to Chula Vista, CA., where we decided to call a KOA campground home for the next few days...

The following morning saw us up early and at the San Diego Zoo. Here, we purchased our city passes (which gave us access to the Zoo, Sea World, Universal Studios Hollywood, and 3 days at Disney all for a steal-of-a-deal price). While I don't necessarily support a lot of the things zoos do, I must say that the SD Zoo is quite impressive. The enclosures are well developed, informational displays are high quality, the animals do not seem overcrowded or unhealthy, and the zoo touts itself as a leader in reintroducing endangered species in wild environments. Some of the notable animals worth mentioning include: reindeer, various eagle species, flamingoes, Pandas, hyenas, numerous bear species, Koalas, kangaroos, wombats and a Komodo Dragon! After leaving at the 5pm closing time, we found another Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, place... A small pizza joint known as Luigi's Pizzeria. A total 'hole-in-the-wall', the place served awesome thin crust pizza by the slice, while you watched the guys in the back prep the pizza crusts and listened to rock and metal music. While it didn't look like much from the outside, it is definitely worth seeking out!

The next day we continued with our animal viewing by hitting up Sea World. Here we enjoyed Seymour and Clyde the sea lions; saw a school of piranha feeding; watched Shamu and a number of other Killer Whales; and a dolphin show - where a damn gull shit on my head! I found the various aquariums (freshwater fish, reef creature, sharks, etc.) to be very interesting and educational and well designed, but I struggled somewhat with the aspect of the various live performances... The sea lions, whales and dolphins were all entertaining, and the trainers try to stress their research efforts, but I am not necessarily fully convinced such activities are good for the animals. Yes, by giving people a chance to see these animals, and develop a sort of emotional connection with them (from watching the performances) it makes it easier to appeal to people to help support research and conservation efforts, but is this really the most animal-friendly way to do it? Well, having spent the entire day around sea life, we'd worked up quite an appetite, so we went in search of a local SD fish market and grill... Blue Water Seafood. ;) Haha! Here we enjoyed excellent clam chowder, ceviche, mahi mahi tacos, and a swordfish. Great food, very interesting restaurant concept, you need to check it out.

Next up on our to do list was to backtrack to Anaheim, CA., and hit up Disneyland for a couple days. We spent three days, two nights at a quality in a couple blocks from the theme parks. In Disneyland, we watched the very cool 30 minute fireworks show one night, as well as Fantasmic, which was basically Fantasia live, with fireworks, pyrotechnics, water displays, floats and plenty of Disney characters. Of course I hit up plenty of rides, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Finding Neimo subs, tom sawyer island, the teacups, its a small world, splash mountain, buzz lightyears shoot-em-up, the NEW Star Tours, space mountain, Thunder Mountain, the Matterhorn... But no Indiana Jones... It was sadly closed for maintenance!

Our last day of the city pass was used when we visited Universal Studios. Out of all the days this past week, this was really the only day where we came close to seeing the whole park. We went on Shrek 3D, the studio tour and King Kong 360 3D... The coolest, most incredible experience ever! Terminator 2 3D, Simpsons the ride (Maria loved this one!), the newish Mummy rollercoaster ride, Jurassic Park, and WaterWorld.

After five fun-filled days, tired legs, blistered feet, full bellies, and a thinner pocketbook, we felt in need of a rest. So we headed to the desert for some R&R...
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