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When I was in my early 20s, I got a job that I thought would be a lifelong career. For someone who recently graduated and had their heart set on doing a whole lot of nothing before life got serious, that’s a big deal. So to pay my respects to the freedom of youth, I booked a flight to the other side of the world. I had to change planes in Los Angeles, so I decided to spend a few days there. And that was the first and last time went to California. And, as the children get older, it’s a State I want to explore more of.
Why San Diego?
Okay, I’ll be honest. I didn’t love LA. Actually, it’s not somewhere I’d hurry back to. So, I started to look at other parts of California to visit. And San Diego looks like just my sort of place. There are some fabulous San Diego beach rentals that I could happily base myself in to explore the area. And the activities on offer are just the sort of thing I’d enjoy. Here are my top six. What else would you suggest?
1. Whale watching
I had no idea that San Diego was literally the perfect place to go whale watching. It has 70 miles of coastline on the migration path for various types of whales. From mid-December until April, you can see grey whales travelling north to Alaska. Every year, they travel from Alaska to Baja in California, which is where they give birth to calves. In the Spring, you can see them on their return journey. They will usually be alone or in pods of up to three, but they may be seen in larger groups.
If you’re visiting San Diego between the middle of June and September, you may see blue whales passing by. These are the biggest creatures anywhere on earth and around two to three thousand of them feed off the coast of California in the Summer. They grow up to 100 feet long and migrate all the way from the Antarctic to California and on to Costa Rica. The large amounts of krill off the coast of San Diego attracts blue whales to feed there.
Remarkably, you can see migrating whales from the shore on various hiking trails. That said, to get the best view, you’ll need to get out on the water so a whale watching boat excursion is a must.
2. USS Midway Museum
The USS Midway was the longest serving American aircraft carrier during the 20th century. These days, it is an interactive museum, moored in Downtown San Diego. You can explore the entire ship, seeing the flight deck and 29 aircraft that have been restored. Visitors can also experience the flight simulators and be submersed in the onboard experience in the Midway Theatre. An audio tour is included in your ticket price and there are special activities to enhance the experience for children.
3. Balboa Park
I had to do a double take when I saw everything that goes on in Balboa Park. We have some beautiful local parks locally with children’s play equipment, picnic benches and even a football pitch. But Balboa Park is something entirely different. It has 16 museums, numerous venues for performing arts and stunning trails and gardens.
Other activities within the park include the San Diego Zoo and youth performance groups that children can watch and take part in. Of course, there are children’s playgrounds dotted around as well. And with 1200 acres to explore, nobody can be bored on a visit to Balboa Park.
4. Helicopter tour
I haven’t spent a lot of time in America, but the one thing I have learnt from my visits there is that they don’t do things by halves. In London, you could see the city on an open top bus. But in San Diego, they encourage you to explore by helicopter.
You can charter a private helicopter to explore for between half an hour and an hour. You’ll see the stunning San Diego coastline and fly over the city. If you take a longer flight, you can add in more sightseeing including a flight over other landmarks like Coronado Island and Lake Hodges.
5. Water sports
San Diego is an amazing place for water sports. There are a plethora of surf schools around the coast, and it’s also a great place to get to grips with a stand up paddleboard (SUP) or go windsurfing or kite surfing. Even if you think water sports aren’t your thing, a surfing lesson is an incredible experience. It’s also something that adults and older children can learn together.
There’s nothing quite like catching your first wave and standing up, surfing to the shore. Except when you fall off within seconds and realise your child is still merrily riding the wave.
With 17 miles of coastline, it’s unsurprising that San Diego has a vast choice of beaches. Nine of them have permanent, year-round lifeguard stations, with still more offering seasonal lifeguard posts. For snorkelling and scuba diving, head to the blue-green waters of La Jolla Cove.
Further around the coast is La Jolla Shore, the perfect place to learn to surf. It has a long, sandy beach and gentle waves ideal for beginners. It’s also great if you want to launch a boat or take out a SUP. For more experienced surfers, Swami’s Beach with its huge waves is the place to be. Children will enjoy watching the impressive display going on in the waves.
If you’ve been to San Diego, please do leave me a comment to let me know what are your top attractions that are not to be missed!