Over President’s Day weekend, we had a four day action-packed trip to San Diego. We were invited by the tourism board, who split up all the family-friendly activities between a few different bloggers. As a result, our priorities were probably different than most families who visit San Diego.

For instance, we did not go the Zoo or Coronado Island or Balboa Park or the new Children’s Museum, or many of the other recommendations that people gave me on Snapchat and Instagram. We did get to discover some lesser known activities which were all awesome, so I can’t say we would do anything differently if we had to do it over.

Except maybe go for a longer vacation to squeeze more in. Or maybe we’ll just have to go back to go to the Zoo. Or to eat at Richard Walker’s Pancake House. Or sample some Cookie Monster ice cream. Those all sound awesome.

Also— a word about the picture up top that I posted on Facebook earlier today. I congratulated Mike on taking a great picture and someone said, “With Harlow’s sweatshirt saying BUTT and Mazzy’s doll crotch? Sure.” Alright. Valid points. But I got both girls to smile! I can’t be expected to get Harlow’s sweatshirt and Mazzy’s doll to cooperate too!

DAY ONE: Sunset and Sea Lions

We stayed in La Jolla right on the beach at the La Jolla Shores hotel. First thing we did after we got settled in our room was order fish tacos at the hotel restaurant. They were divine. Then we took the car the ten minute drive to La Jolla Coves to catch the sunset and see the sea lions.

I believe earlier in the day there is a beach with little caves to wander through, but we got there at high tide so that wasn’t possible. San Diego had also just had a pretty big storm the night before so the waves were huge. The weather did make for a beautiful sunset though.

Everyone watches the sunset from behind a railing on the street but you can climb down to see the sea lions at your own risk. We went down to take a few shots and then realized it probably wasn’t a great idea with the kids for safety reasons.

I think risking my life was totally worth it for this shot of two sea lions totally posing for me. I mean, does that guy look like a smiling sea lion emoji, or what?!

We finished up the evening with a little tree climbing. San Diego has excellent climbing trees.

DAY TWO: Flight Decks, Fountains and the Crack Shack

After breakfast at the hotel, our first stop of the day was the USS Midway Museum, which is one of America’s longest-serving aircraft carriers.

After boarding the ship, we walked the flight deck, toured the living quarters and were able to board a bunch of the fighter planes.

Mazzy, in particular, got really into following the self-guided audio tour and kept spouting random facts about the ship and the planes. She didn’t want to leave without listening to the entire thing.

She also loved the flight simulator so much that after she rode it with Mike, she wanted to do it again with me.

I was on it for about five seconds before I pressed the emergency stop button. I guess I would not make a very good pilot!

Next we stopped at the Crack Shack for lunch, which is owned by my favorite Top Chef contestant of all time— Richard Blais. 

You order from a window and then find your own seat in the mostly outdoor setting; complete with communal tables and a raised fire pit. It has a very cool in-the-know San Diego vibe.

The Crack Shack’s specialty is fried chicken and it did not disappoint. Best fried chicken I’ve ever had. 

Harlow approved too. And that is no easy feat.

The schmaltz fries (that’s fries fried in chicken fat) were a big winner as well.

Once we were sufficiently stuffed, we headed over to Waterfront Park. It was sixty degrees which I guess is a cold day in San Diego but that was not about to stop a couple of New Yorkers from playing in the massive fountain.

“It’s warm, Mommy!” Mazzy and Harlow yelled as they took off their shoes and pulled up their leggings to their knees. A woman passed by in a winter jacket and eyed me suspiciously. “We’re from New York,” I explained.

Then Mazzy and Harlow eyed the nearby playground and ran there faster than I could keep up with them. They had seen it from the car earlier and were so excited to climb and spin and slide on different structures than the ones they are used to at home.

Harlow surprised me by holding her own with the big kids on a spinning apparatus that took her flying in circles with her feet in the air. Even the other parents were impressed. She held on and spun again and again and again until I finally said it was time to move on.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter where we take them. Mazzy and Harlow will always judge a city by its playgrounds. This one got four thumbs up.

Next up, we went to Old Town, which was the first Spanish settlement on the west coast of the United States and now a historical landmark.

It is now a pedestrian village with outdoor Mexican restaurants, live music, lots of shops and open markets as well as a blacksmith, a leather shop, etc.

Mazzy got her caricature drawn.

And Harlow yawned all through hers.

And then she tried on some hats.

Old Town also had some pretty great climbing trees.

Our last stop was Puesto for dinner, an upscale taco restaurant that had been recommended highly by pretty much everyone. Harlow passed out in the car on the way there (this was a theme for our entire trip) so Mazzy and I ate at the restaurant and got Mike to-go tacos to eat in the car.

They were delicious and I only wish it was earlier in the day so that we could have all enjoyed them together!

DAY THREE: Legoland and Liberty

When we originally told the kids we were going to San Diego, the thing they were most excited about was Legoland. Mazzy and Harlow are both HUGE Lego & Friends fans and they couldn’t wait to see a whole park themed after one of their favorite toys.

“Can we stay at the Lego Hotel???” Mazzy asked. “Not this time, Mazzy.” Once at Legoland, we got a little nervous when we realized we had no official plan in place. But then we just followed the tips we had recently learned from our Disney World trip— we got a double stroller, downloaded the app and got their version of a FastPass for $25/person. You make reservations for the rides you want, it buzzes when it’s your time slot and then you get on a separate shorter line.

Mazzy was especially excited when she realized she was just tall enough to go on a few of the rides by herself. 48″ on the nose.

And Harlow loved Duplo Town.

The water park was closed this time of year (I was actually happy about that) but the kids got more than their fill of freedom from the Hideways play structure in Pirate Cove. It’s a huge treehouse looking thing with rope ladders, slides, suspension bridges, etc.

It can drive an overprotective parent insane trying to keep track of your kids but as I quickly learned, there is only one way out, so instead of trying and failing to follow your kids around, your best bet is to just plant yourself at the exit.

Wouldn’t this be an awesome way to give your kids ice cream cones with less risk of them dripping it on their clothes?

After we had our fill of Legoland, we visited a friend in Carlsbad who had just moved into his house. The backyard hadn’t been mowed yet and there was a single orange tree in the back corner. He apologized for the overgrown landscaping but I thought it looked pretty fantastic.

Mazzy and Harlow picked oranges and then asked if they could eat them. “It tastes like a real orange!!!” Harlow exclaimed. “Yes, Harlow. It is a real orange!” Probably more real than the oranges we eat at home.

For dinner, we drove to Liberty Public Market, a big specialty food and craft market in the old Navy Building. Again, Harlow fell asleep on the way so Mazzy and I were on our own to explore the numerous food stalls inside and pick out dinner.

After delivering some sushi to Mike in the car, I opted for a brussel sprout squash pizza which was FANTASTIC and Mazzy got excited about a display case full of plain pasta. “You are supposed to pick a sauce to put on it and then they will cook it on the spot,” I informed her. “I just want it plain!” She insisted. As you wish…

I really need to go back there with more adventurous eaters.

I did get Mazzy to be a bit more out-of-the-box when it came to dessert. We went to Mootime and got an ice cream sandwich with fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and rainbow sprinkles.

After staring it down and determining it was my dessert and not hers, she opted for a huge slice of birthday cake at the adjoining bakery. Made for an excellent over-the-top ending to our day.

DAY FOUR: Surfing and Saying Farewell

Our last morning in San Diego, we woke up to the most AMAZING sunrise. This was the view from our hotel balcony.

Once we stopped gawking, we ate ate breakfast and then walked over to Surf Divas surf shop so that Mike and Mazzy could take a surfing lesson together.

After wriggling her way into a wetsuit for the first time, Mazzy was excited to learn that all Surf Diva’s instructors are girls.

On the walk over, I had prepped Mazzy that she would probably fall a lot and that she shouldn’t get frustrated. Honestly, I didn’t even think she would be able to stand once she was in the water… but the joke was on me, because Mazzy turned out to be a total natural!

She got up on her very first try. (I got it on video so you’ll see when I put the San Diego travel vlog together.) Mazzy rode that wave pretty much back to shore before she fell. And then was able to get up again every time after that. The waves in La Jolla are a little gentler than other areas on the coast which makes it perfect for teaching kids.

I was watching and filming on the beach while Harlow played in the sand.

This is Harlow checking out her monster shadow.

At one point, an older woman with a surf board passed by and pointed to Mazzy, who was riding a wave as far back to shore as she could. “Is that your daughter? She’s gonna get bitten by the surf bug. That’s exactly how I started.”

You know who couldn’t get up once? Mike. Poor guy.

After the lesson was over, we went back to the hotel to take a quick dip in the pool, shower, pack up and head home. It was a fun-filled few days with back-to-back activities, so six hours on a plane watching movies did not sound like a bad thing.

I’m serious when I say I want to go back though. I came away from San Diego with a feeling very similar to when I came back from San Francisco— that’s a place I could live.

Huge thanks to the San Diego Tourism Board for planning our trip! Video coming soon!