Sun, surf & San Diego

Locals might complain that San Diego is 75-and-sunny all year long, but when you’re staring at single digits on the thermometer and snow drifts by your door, that sounds pretty near perfect. But even if you don’t take the weather into account, there are lots of reasons that San Diego–and its sister city, Coronado–are a great escape for your family this winter.

Tired of the cold weather? Hop on a plane and head west, to warm and sunny San Diego.

The San Diego Zoo is world-renowned, and it definitely lives upto the hype. The zoo is home to lots of animals you don’t see on aregular basis or even at most zoos-flamingos, koalas, elephants andpanda bears all captured our attention. Be sure to stop by PandaCanyon first if you’ve got your heart set on seeing theblack-and-white bears; lines form quickly and can be a challengewith kids. And if you need to get from one end of the zoo to theother quickly, consider taking the Skyfari Aerial Tram, whichprovides a bird’s-eye view to the whole place. The zoo is locatedin San Diego’s famed Balboa Park, also home to several museums andother kid-friendly attractions, so you should probably plan for awhole day.

Animal magnetism

If you don’t have your passports on hand for a quick trip southof the border, head to Old Town San Diego. The historic site isconsidered the birthplace of California, and it’s got plenty ofMexican flair. Kids will love the colorful marketplace full oftrinkets and other authentic items, as well as the old-fashionedbuildings that make up the “downtown” area. Wake up your taste budswith a fish taco at one of the many authentic Mexicanrestaurants-we liked Coyote Café and Coronado’s Miguel’s Cocina-andfinish it all off with a delicious churro with vanilla icecream.

Taste of Mexico

Looking for the ultimate combination of aquarium and amusementpark? Try SeaWorld. The San Diego park is ideal for families,whether you’re into thrills or gills. The star of the show,naturally, is Shamu, the majestic killer whale who put SeaWorld onthe map. Be sure to check out the awe-inspiring One Ocean show, andbring along ponchos or a change of clothes because you will getsoaked. If you have a smartphone, download SeaWorld’s app for somehelp planning your day. It helps to know what you want to see anddo ahead of time, so you don’t spend too long wandering the parkand getting sidetracked. But even if you spend a little longer thanplanned with the sea lions or manta rays, it will be time wellspent.

Under the sea

The practically perfect weather means that outdoor activitiesare the name of the game. The historic Hotel Del Coronado offerssurfing and paddleboarding lessons to kids and adults, or rent aboogie board or surfboard on your own. If you’re looking for sometwo-wheeled fun, bike rentals are available across the island ofCoronado, or explore the area by bicycle with Where You Want to BeTours. Other outdoor options include kayaking, golfing andparasailing-the sky’s literally the limit.

Get moving

San Diego’s right on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, so even ifwater sports aren’t your thing, there’s lots of other wet-and-wildfun. Flagship offers one-hour Harbor Tours headed either north orsouth, but we’d recommend the North Bay Tour for the sea lionsalone. Those interested in the military should try the South BayTour, combined with a visit to the USS Midway. Kids will love thecollection of restored aircraft from various wars, as well as theclimb-aboard cockpits and aircraft and flight simulators. Plus,there’s a special audio tour just for kids in grades K-8.

Water, water everywhere

You can’t visit San Diego’s sister city without a stop at theHotel del Coronado, the historic resort where Marilyn Monroe filmed”Some Like It Hot.” The luxurious hotel is the heart of Coronado,with a beautiful beach, shops and a spa. If you’re looking for theultimate indulgence, consider Sunday Brunch-although “brunch”doesn’t really do it justice. The seven dining stations range frombreakfast items to salads to a carving station-and lots of yummydesserts!-plus champagne for the grown-ups. Brunch takes place inthe Crown Room, whose regal chandeliers were designed by Wizard ofOz author L. Frank Baum.

Star of Coronado

While in San Diego, we stayed courtesy of the Catamaran ResortHotel & Spa, a Polynesian-flavored escape in the heart of thefunky Mission Bay neighborhood. Close by is Belmont Park, ahistoric amusement park with rides for all ages. In Coronado, ourhome base was El Cordova Hotel, a boutique hotel that featurestruly charming Spanish architecture and is within easy walkingdistance to the island’s main attractions, including the beautifulbeach.

Home away from home

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