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Hotel Review: Family Fun at the La Jolla Shores Hotel

Hotel Review: Family Fun at the La Jolla Shores Hotel

Sometimes you don’t need to travel farther than your own back yard for a wonderful family getaway. Recently we had the greatest staycation ever, with tons of family fun in La Jolla at the La Jolla Shores Hotel. With it’s prime beachfront location overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this hotel is well positioned for Southern California beach vacations. Whether you live in the area or visiting from out of town, La Jolla Shores Hotel is one of the best San Diego hotels on the beach.

girl views beach from balcony at La Jolla Shores Hotel

Our room at La Jolla Shores Hotel had this incredible balcony view

Best San Diego Hotels on the Beach

People think California beachfront hotels are a dime a dozen, but they’re not really. There are many amazing hotels on along the California Coast we love to stay in, but not many are oceanfront. In California, “oceanfront” can mean a lot of things. Sometimes the terrain can be hilly and unpredictable, meaning guests cannot typically walk directly out of the hotel and on to the sand. Sometimes “ocean view” can be misleading too. More than once, we’ve been surprised by hotels with “ocean views” from across the road. Or worse yet, a sliver view squeezed between two other tall buildings.

This is definitely not the case at the La Jolla Shores Hotel. This is Southern California beachfront, complete with the iconic boardwalk to boot. And this is why it ranks as one of our best San Diego hotels on the beach. AND THE BEACH IS AMAZING!

You can walk for miles on the beach in front of the La Jolla Shores Hotel.

Great History in La Jolla

Holding court on La Jolla Shores beach for decades, the La Jolla Shores Hotel has been fulfilling guests’ dreams for many years. Generations within families have grown up loving the casual vibe at this hotel. Many continue to come back year after year, now with children of their own and grandparents in tow. In fact, when we were staying here we saw many multi-generational families enjoying the hotel and its offerings.

La Jolla has long been recognized as the jewel of San Diego. It’s an affluent enclave with a beachy vibe, where surfer dudes in board shorts mix nicely with ladies who lunch. Home of Torrey Pines Golf Course, Scripps Aquarium, designer boutiques and bazillion dollar homes, La Jolla is also blessed with a chill vibe. At the center of all this Southern California energy, the La Jolla Shores Hotel holds court.

La Jolla Shores Hotel entrance

Main entrance of La Jolla Shores Hotel

Remodeled Rooms

After a recent room remodel, the spacious guest accommodations at La Jolla Shores Hotel are impressive. Our room had an enormous wrap-around deck and stunning views of La Jolla Shores beaches north and south. We could enjoy watching the waves along Scripps Pier, the kids playing in the surf, and kayaks paddling out to sea. Honestly, we were so close to the sand we could read the words on the sunbathers’ trashy summer novels if we wanted to. But who wants to do that when there are so many gorgeous vistas to take in?

Our room had two queen beds and a fold-out couch, along with sitting areas both inside and out on the decks. Our teen girls have gotten to the point where they refuse to share a bed, so the fold-out was very welcome!  Bathrooms were spacious but not overly luxurious. The emphasis is definitely on the view here, and why not. The La Jolla Shores Hotel is one of the best San Diego hotels on the beach for a reason: THE BEACH IS AMAZING.

hotel room view at La Jolla Shores Hotel

Enjoying the view from our room at La Jolla Shores Hotel

Fantastic Dining at Shores Restaurant

In my nearly 30 years of living in San Diego, I had never eaten at The Shores Restaurant inside the La Jolla Shores Hotel. And after having dinner and breakfast there, I’m asking myself why I’ve not been there before. Not only was the food excellent, but did I mention it is beachfront? And remember, THE BEACH IS AMAZING.

Arriving for dinner, we must have timed ourselves perfectly as we were seated by the giant picture window. Overlooking the beach, ocean, and setting sun, we felt so perfectly San Diegan. Instantly we were all in a good mood, and the rest of the evening was only up from there. As our attentive and knowledgeable waiter got us settled with drinks, we dug into the menu.

La Jolla Shores Hotel patio with roses

Outdoor dining at The Shores Restaurant has killer ocean views.

The Shores Restaurant Menu

Right away, one item stood out that we had to try – Brussels Sprouts with Habenero Sausage, Pecans and Goat Cheese. We love all those things! Never have we had crispy Brussels sprouts served with melted goat cheese, and we could not get enough. Another stand out was the Pesto Ricotta Flat Bread, colorful and delicious with tomatoes, artichokes and spinach. The Chicken Potstickers were also out-of-this-world, and surprised us with their perfectly flavored Asian bite. We were off to a great start.

chicken potstickers at La Jolla Shores Hotel

Chicken potstickers and a cucumber gimlet at The Shores Restaurant? Yes please!

Our entrees were also delicious and well prepared. We sampled the Maine Diver Scallops, Dynamite Wild Shrimp with Forbidden Rice (why is it forbidden when it’s sooooo good?) and more. Everything was superb – well seasoned, not too fussy and extremely well prepared and plated.

And in the midst of this amazing meal, the sun set over the blue Pacific Ocean directly in front of our table. Honestly a postcard-perfect view and by the way, the view of THE BEACH IS AMAZING!

Sunset at La Jolla Shores Hotel

Watching the sunset from Shores Restaurant at the La Jolla Shores Hotel.

We finished with The Shores Restaurant version of Banana Split Mudd Pie, a sinfully delicious concoction we shared along with the Passionfruit Layered Cheesecake. Ridiculously rich and tasty.

Banana Split Mudd Pie at Shores Restaurant La Jolla

This Banana Split Mudd Pie was gone in 60 seconds.

La Jolla Family Activities

After all that feasting, we had to get up and be active the next day. There are so many thing to do in the area, we came up with a list of things for a fun family day at La Jolla Cove.

Or you can simply stay put at the La Jolla Shores Hotel. With so many activities right there, you may not want to leave.

sunset over pool at La Jolla Shores Hotel

View looking west towards Pacific Ocean from La Jolla Shores Hotel.

Booking Details

For room details and pricing, visit LJShoresHotel.com. The room we stayed in starts at approximately $499 during high season, and other rooms can be booked starting at around $319.


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A Family Day At La Jolla Cove

A Family Day At La Jolla Cove

The gorgeous California enclave of La Jolla may be famous for a lot of things, but a family day at La Jolla Cove is definitely one of the most fun things to do in this Southern California beach town. A community just minutes north of San Diego, La Jolla is famous for the challenging links at Torrey Pines Golf Course, the famous stages of La Jolla Playhouse, the renowned expertise of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and the sunswept surfers at Windansea Beach.

However, our family loves visiting La Jolla Cove the best. We could go back again and again to watch the blue ocean waves, the kites flying above and the harbor seals sunning themselves on nearby rocks.

seals on rocks at La Jolla Cove with wildflowers

In the spring, tons of harbor seals climb the rocks at La Jolla Cove to please onlookers.

Here’s a suggested itinerary with ideas on how best to enjoy a family day at La Jolla Cove.

Family Day at La Jolla Cove

As locals, we feel extremely well qualified to give you our recommendation on how best to spent a family day at La Jolla Cove. After all, we live a few minutes down the road and have done this dozens of times with our kids.

Start With a Good Breakfast

Depending on which end of the Cove you choose to start, there are two great breakfast spots with menus to please both the younger and older members of your clan. Brockton Villa, perched on the hillside overlooking the cliff and seacaves, offers oceanview seats from almost every table and a menu of treats to die for. Our favorites are the Cinnamon Roll Pancakes with cream cheese frosting, and the breakfast tacos.

Brockton Villa restaurant interior

The Brockton Villa is a former home, now converted into a delicious restaurant overlooking La Jolla Cove. (photo courtesy of Brockton Villa)

On the other side, Richard Walkers’ Pancake House is located on Prospect Street and always sports a line of folks waiting for a table. But don’t worry, the line moves quickly and you will soon be enjoying a ridiculously delicious breakfast. Try the fresh strawberry crepes or the crowd-pleasing German Pancake with lemon and sugar.

strawberry crepes with powdered sugar

Strawberry crepes at Richard Walker’s Pancake House are the best thing ever. (photo courtesy of Richard Walker’s)

Now that you are all sufficiently fueled up, you can explore La Jolla Cove and all its wonders.

Visit the Seals at Children’s Pool

Just down the hill from the Museum, La Jolla’s harbor seals and sea lions are the true family draw. During birthing season, the seals gather on the warm sands of Children’s Pool Beach. They sun themselves in a protected area where their pups can learn to swim safely. These seals are so darned cute, and both kids and adults have huge grins on their faces while watching their antics. With soft coats of mottled brown, cream, grey and white, the seals swim, frolic in the waves, yawn and nap together in large numbers. Others perch along the rocks or swim through the kelp beds nearby. It’s quite a show!

harbor seals La Jolla Cove

Harbor seals at La Jolla Cove relax and sun themselves on the rocks.

Bring your cameras and perch along the cliff, or brave the narrow breakwater walk out into the waves. But beware – the waves sometimes hit the seawall with a dramatic spray, sending drenched visitors running in all directions.

Children's Pool La Jolla Cove in San Diego

So many seals beach themselves at Children’s Pool in La Jolla, there’s just no room for children!

Shops and Restaurants Along Prospect Avenue

Eventually you may get bored of the expansive ocean vistas and postcard-perfect California photo opps (haha – never). Stroll up the road to Prospect Avenue and tour through the shops, boutiques and galleries that line the busy streets. There’s something for everyone along Prospect and the surrounding streets. California olive oil tastings at WeOlive to trendy fashions at Blue Apparel or Fresh Produce – so many places to draw you in. There is also an impressive group  of galleries along the way, featuring a variety of well-curated art for all tastes.

girl with stylish sunglasses La Jolla

With tons of fun shopping in La Jolla, the kids always find something to tickle their fancy.

If you’ve worked up another appetite by now, our favorite place for lunch with an ocean view is at George’s at the Cove. Walk up the stairs to the top deck for an al fresco experience on the Ocean Terrace. You can dine in the sun or at shaded tables on delicious dishes forged by renowned chef Trey Forshee.

Museum of Contemporary Art

It’s hard to decide which is the better view – the ocean vistas from the windows and balconies at the world class Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, or the astounding collection of art itself. Hint: go for the art – it’s really quite worth it. Enjoy works by well-known artists like Andy Warhol and Frank Stella, alongside fun and quirky pieces like the sculptures of Nikki de Saint Phalle.

Museum of Contemporary Art La Jolla overlooking beach

The patio at Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla displays art overlooking the gorgeous Pacific Ocean. (photo courtesy of MCASD)

**The museum is currently closed for renovations and expansion, with new construction quadrupling the amount of exhibit space. Check their website before you visit to find out their schedule for reopening (currently slated for late 2020). If you are really jonesing to take in some contemporary art, this museum also has a large exhibit space in downtown San Diego.

The Cave Store

Kitschy but fun, the Cave Store is an institution in La Jolla Cove. Visitors can walk down stairs located inside the store into Sunny Jim’s Cave located below at the mouth of the roaring ocean. Some say the tunnel, which was dug in the early 1900s, was used to smuggle hooch during prohibition. True or not, the fun view of the ocean from the cave is worth the small fee charged.

Outside the store is one of the best views from the Cove looking back at La Jolla Shores Beach, and over to Scripps Pier and Torrey Pines Golf Course. Many a post card depicts this exact view, and you can snap it for free from your fun tour of La Jolla Cove!

sunset at La Jolla Shores

Sunset over La Jolla marks the end of another great day at the beach.

 


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The Best Zoos in America: Omaha Zoo and San Diego Zoo

The Best Zoos in America: Omaha Zoo and San Diego Zoo

This San Diego boy recently had the privilege of visiting The Omaha Zoo, named by TripAdvisor as the Best Zoo in the US. Being from San Diego, we’re pretty prideful of our own World-Famous San Diego Zoo. Both are careful to downplay any competition. Yet, it’s hard not to draw some comparisons about which actually ranks among the Best Zoos in America.

pink flamingos San Diego Zoo

A flock of shockingly pink flamingos greets visitors inside the entrance of San Diego Zoo.

The Best Zoos in America

It seems like every major city in the US is proud of its zoo. People get fiercely competitive about whose is best. On this visit to The Omaha Zoo, my friend Vera told me she had read someone’s blog post about this very subject. Evidently the comment thread went on and on, with people claiming THEIR city as ranking among the best zoos in America.

But who is right? I think the answer might really be all of them.

girl in Children's Petting Zoo San Diego Zoo

Even as a wee little girl, Sophia loved the Children’s Petting Zoo at San Diego Zoo.

 

The Omaha Zoo

There are some things about The Omaha Zoo that really make it special. We visited in the early Fall, when the weather was not-too-hot and not-too-cold. Since the weather in Omaha can blister in the summer and freeze in the winter, we lucked out on timing. Still, the animals were visible, living in enclosures that mimic their natural habitats. They looked happy, healthy and well adjusted. Do you remember seeing caged zoo animals pace back and forth in front of the bars, anxious to escape? Well, not here.

Giraffe inside enclosure at Omaha Zoo

The herd of giraffes at Omaha Zoo are comfortably set inside their large enclosure.

 

Special Attractions

Since new leadership came to the Omaha Zoo several years ago, they’ve undertaken some pretty significant upgrades. And there’s more in progress. Just in the past few years, the Omaha Zoo has opened:

Children’s Adventure Trails – An interactive exhibit that highlights kids’ learning through play in nature. Located on five acres combining outdoor adventure with hands-on learning opportunities.

The African Grasslands – This is the largest project undertaken in the Zoo’s history, transforming 28 acres along the eastern boundary of the Zoo.

feeding giraffe at Omaha Zoo

Malcolm the giraffe was very interested in our lettuce offerings behind the scenes at the Omaha Zoo.

Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium – Discover polar regions, temperate oceans, coral reefs and the Amazon exploring the largest aquarium in a zoo.

Expedition Madagascar – The island of Madagascar is home to some of the most amazing and unique animals in the world.

people on golf cart at Omaha Zoo

Riding in style, our gang had a personally guided tour behind the scenes at the Omaha Zoo. Pretty cool!

Improvements in the Works

Joining some of the cool new exhibits opened at the Omaha Zoo recently, there are a whole host of additions planned:

Asian Highlands – Complete in 2019, Asian Highlands will transport Zoo guests on an immersive journey through Asia.

Coastal Shores –  Owen Coastal Shores, a new habitat for the Zoo’s sea lions, is scheduled to open in spring 2020.

Bruce Simon at Omaha Zoo

Our crew poses with Omaha Steaks CEO Bruce Simon at his namesake grill inside the Omaha Zoo.

The San Diego Zoo

Spanning more than 100 acres within Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo contains some 650 species of animals and a collection of rare plants from around the globe. San Diego Zoo is truly world famous, welcoming nearly 3.5 million visitors each year. The zoo was founded in 1915, and has grown in popularity over the last 100+ years. People come from all over the world to visit San Diego, and specifically to tour the San Diego Zoo. We’ve literally spent entire days there and never gotten to see everything, simply due to the vast collection they house.

girls in Skyfari Ride at San Diego Zoo

The Skyfari ride at San Diego Zoo has always been a favorite of our girls, since they were little munchkins.

Bioclimatic Zones

Long gone are the days when zoos displayed animals in cages, or god forbid, concrete enclosures. The San Diego Zoo is organized by zones that mimic specific conditions in areas of the globe like Africa, Asia and more. Animals are housed in these areas that are accustomed to those specific conditions – arrid, humid, etc.

giraffe close up at San Diego Zoo

Feeding the giraffes at San Diego Zoo is an up close and personal experience.

These zones are highlighted by animal enclosures so large and impressive that guests can forget they are in a zoo at all. Elephant Odyssey, for example, joins seven elephants in a 7.5-acre area where they can roam extensively. The Australian Outback features so many koalas in one place, you would think you were actually in Australia. One of our family’s favorites are the collection of aviaries. They are enclosed jungle oases guests can enter, walking among colorful and exotic birds from around the world.

Expansion Projects

There is always something new in the works at the San Diego Zoo:

Africa Rocks – Recently opened on top of the west mesa, Africa Rocks is a gorgeous expanse that covers all the interesting terrains of Africa. Ranges from savannas to grassy plains and everything in between.

New Children’s Zoo – A complete 2-acre redesign of the Children’s Zoo experience will provide authentic exploration of nature that intrigues and delights kids.

girl monkeys around at San Diego Zoo

Ava felt like monkeying around when we visited the primate jungles at San Diego Zoo

Tourism Draw

Because San Diego is an extremely popular tourist destination, people travel from around the world to visit the San Diego Zoo. At any given time, guests can hear the languages of many lands. Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Farsi, German, Dutch, French, Italian and many more languages are all spoken. With 35 million visitors to San Diego last year, the city ranks among the top ten tourist destinations for visitors from outside the US.

Conclusion on Best Zoos in America?

Before we can really answer this question, we need to visit The Bronx Zoo, The Cleveland Zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and many others considered among the best.

I know growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, my parents took me to the Oakland Zoo on the regular. Somewhere there is even a picture of 4-year-old me holding a baby tiger cub (that is, before it peed on me!). As a kid, the Oakland Zoo seemed vast and absolutely full of animals. But of course, that was my only frame of reference.

gay dad family at San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo is still our family favorite, and that might have a little to do with the fact that it is 10 minutes from our house.

We’re not sure we can fully say which should rank as the Best Zoos in America. What we can tell you is this: Omaha has a world-class zoo, and so does San Diego. Their missions are both identical – to help humans learn about and respect our planet’s species of all kinds. And to humanely preserve and protect them for future generations.

Omaha Zoo or San Diego Zoo favorites aside, you can’t argue with a mission like that.

 


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11 Best Gay Pride Parades in 2018

11 Best Gay Pride Parades in 2018

As proud San Diegans, we just had to make sure all the fun facts about San Diego Pride were included in this great Trivago story about 11 Best Gay Pride Parades in 2018. After all, San Diego Pride has been our hometown celebration together for more than 20 years.

San Diego Pride rubber ducky

Who doesn’t love a giant rainbow rubber ducky? San Diego Pride brings out all the colors.

Heck, we’ve even marched in the San Diego Pride Parade, and danced on parade floats (okay, maybe we were a little younger and more hard-bodied then). We’ve cheered from the sidelines, laughed and cried with the crowds, and taken our daughters to the parade since they were babies to celebrate with families like ours.

San Diego Pride rainbow tattoo

Sophia shows her pride with a rainbow temporary tattoo that looks appropriately festive for the occasion.

Now San Diego Pride has grown into one of the top 11 celebrations! If you are interested in visiting our beautiful city for Pride 2018, taking place July 13-15, check out staying at the Hotel Del Coronado. It’s a host hotel and sponsor of San Diego Pride, and they have a huge Pride kickoff event taking place there on July 11. If you go, please check out booking your stay through Trivago for a great rate.

Have fun learning more about Trivago’s 11 Best Gay Pride Parades in 2018. I wonder if anyone will hit them all?

San Diego Pride corporate sponsors

Sponsors like Harrah’s Resort Southern California get into the act for San Diego Pride with great parade contingents.

Wave that rainbow flag, baby!

 


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10 Tips for Navigating San Diego International Airport

10 Tips for Navigating San Diego International Airport

I travel a LOT for work and pleasure, and living in San Diego I’m sharing my 10 tips for navigating San Diego International Airport. If you are not from America’s Finest City (I didn’t make up that title), our airport can be a challenge because of its weird layout and quirks. Let me help you make your way, so travel is less stressful whether you are departing or arriving.

Sky view of San Diego Bay

With a little altitude, this bird’s eye view of San Diego Bay is pretty awesome.

10 Tips For Navigating San Diego International Airport

Navigating San Diego International Airport – Departing

  1. Know your terminal – There are only two terminals, and neither makes any sense because they both contain domestic and international flights. If you are flying on Southwest Airlines, you are definitely in Terminal One. All the others? Best to check to avoid a long walk.
    Signage at SAN Terminal 2

    The signage at San Diego Airport is more than a little confusing for newbies.

     

  2. Not much waiting room – This older terminal did not anticipate the amount of traffic it would receive, and the new self-serve ticket kiosks take up a lot of room. There are VERY few seats before going through security, and the areas are cramped with people navigating their luggage.
  3. Pre-Check is your friend – Have you applied for your TSA Pre-Check approval? It’s an easy process, and can get you past what are sometimes very long security lines. I’ve arrived 30 minutes before boarding time and still arrived at the gate with plenty of time.
    Pre-check line is always short at San Diego Airport

    TSA Pre Check is the best thing ever. Keep your shoe on and your laptop packed!

     

  4. Food is sparse in Terminal One – Terminal Two has decent food choices, but Terminal One is very challenged. If that is your departure zone best to get food from the bar at Banker’s Hill, which serves some very good food along with a nice selection of local craft beers.
  5. Valet parking is a good thing – If you’re in a hurry (which is the story of my life) valet parking can be a lifesaver. It’s not much more money than regular airport parking, and you can text from the plane at landing to have your car curbside when you arrive.
    Terminal 2 Departing Flights

    Drop-off for Departing Flights in Terminal 2 is on the top level – very confusing.

Navigating San Diego International Airport – Arriving

  1. Bag claim takes forever – For such a small airport, your bags will travel at a snail’s pace. You could stop and have a cocktail, visit the restroom and shop for a new watch before you saunter down to baggage claim.
  2. App-based rides pick up in different places – If you are an uber person, black picks up curbside and all the others are “supposed” to pick you up on an island across the way – and you can only reach that island by crossing over via bridge ON ANOTHER LEVEL. So confusing and dumb. That’s where the cabs pick up too FYI.
    Sky Bridge to ground transportation at SAN Terminal 2

    God forbid you have to grab ground transportation from Terminal 2, because it’s on the other side of this sky bridge

     

  3. Secret exits if you carried on – If you are able to avoid baggage claim by carrying on, there are some secret ways to exit quickly in Terminal 2. In Terminal 2 East towards the front, you would turn right to keep walking to baggage claim but if you walk straight down that little hallway right next to the security line coming in, you’re at a quick exit out! In Terminal 2 West, sneak out the very non-descript white doors right past that hideous fountain.
    Terminal 2 obscure exit

    If you didn’t check luggage, you can exit Terminal 2 through this obscure doorway.

     

  4. Curbside pickup can be a nightmare – It’s not 7 am or 12 midnight, the curb is always packed. Why oh why do people think that if they park and crane their neck far enough, their pick-up will suddenly appear out of thin air and get in the car? These are the same people that stop and look at their phones in the middle of the grocery aisle.
    Curbside waiting at SAN

    I’m always so happy to return to San Diego, I don’t mind waiting curbside for Triton to come get me.

  5. Close to everything – If you are staying Downtown, Mission Valley, Hillcrest, Banker’s Hill, North Park, Point Loma or any of the beach areas, you are REALLY close to the airport. It won’t be more than a $20 ride to most of those places, and some will be far less. So relax, you will be there in no time!

Hope this list of 10 tips for navigating San Diego International Airport helps! I wish I could memorize all the tricks I’ve collected from other airport visits around the world, but this one I know like the back of my hand.

If you have tips on your hometown airport, please share and I’ll create a post from all of our shares!


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Fun Sweet 16 Birthday Party Ideas – A “Suite 16” Party

Fun Sweet 16 Birthday Party Ideas – A “Suite 16” Party

*The Hotel Del Coronado was a gracious sponsor of this experience, and our family is so grateful for this incredible experience.

It’s hard to believe we have a 16 year-old, especially one so full of sugar and spice. Sophia just turned this milestone year. In brainstorming fun Sweet 16 birthday party ideas, we decided to throw her a  “Suite 16” Birthday Party at an epic local icon, the Hotel Del Coronado. Get it? Suite 16? Yeah we thought it was pretty clever too (the hotel dubbed it that, so I cannot take credit).

We wanted a special way to mark Sophia’s big day, and something grander than a regular sleepover. As we tossed around ideas with Sophia that she thought would create special memories of this milestone birthday, we hit on the combination of slumber party and staycation with a little luxury thrown in. The Hotel Del Coronado was the perfect choice.

Birthday cupcakes for Sophia's Suite 16

Complete with birthday crowns, the girls feasted on cupcakes and sparkling cider

We piled four of her friends into the car with the rest of our family and set off for a luxury weekend of fun and games. Crossing the Coronado Bridge high over San Diego Bay, we descended into heaven. Since opening its doors 130 years ago, this legendary hotel is famous for hosting US Presidents from Grant all the way through to Bush. It’s been the backdrop for numerous TV shows and movies, including Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot, so we felt in good company for the weekend.

How Presidential

Just to see the look on her face when we pulled up into the valet driveway and disembarked into the grand entrance – well it was priceless. Sophia and her friends were so impressed to have Spencer, our guest services attendant, escort us to our rooms. We had arranged for the girls to have their own room, with us parents adjoining them next door so we could keep an eye on things.

View from Presidential Suite at Hotel Del Coronado

The Birthday Girl and her friends spy out the window of our Presidential Suite

Unbeknownst to us, Spencer had upgraded us to the Presidential Suite no less! We ambled up the old-fashioned caged elevator (complete with attendant) to the top floor and were shown to the most enormous suite of rooms I’ve seen outside of Las Vegas. And so classically elegant too. Just to think, Presidents Taft, Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton and more had all slept in this room. Um yeah, the girls were pretty impressed – and so were we! Let the snap chatting begin.

6 “Suite 16” Party Ideas

If you know a girl about to turn 16 and you are searching for Sweet 16 Birthday Party Ideas, this Suite 16 Party idea may be just the ticket. Here are some ideas that might make for a good weekend experience:

1 – Decorating the Room – We brought balloons, streamers and tape so the girls could all help make the rooms even more festive. As they were occupied blowing up balloons and hanging streamers, we had sparkling cider and champagne flutes delivered so they could all toast the party beginnings.

Streamers and balloons decorate the hotel room

We brought streamers and balloons to decorate the room for Sophia’s Suite 16 Party

2 – Dressy Dinner – Although we just had delicious woodfired pizza for dinner at the Hotel Del’s outdoor pizza and wine cafe ENO, the girls got all dolled up in their dresses and heels to bring it up a notch. They had more fun trading clothes, putting on makeup, curling their hair and generally primping before we ever left the suite! The hotel even supplied a bejeweled crown for Sophia, which she proudly balanced on her head for the rest of the evening. The stroll through the lobby and down to the restaurant was priceless. Such big little girls.

3 – Beach Marshmallow Roast – The Hotel Del has a magical tradition where guests can reserve a firepit and chairs on the beach in front of the hotel. After dinner and a change into comfy clothes, we hit the sand for some gourmet marshmallow roasting complete with flavor and topping options. Sitting fireside, we played an alphabet game our daughter Ava learned at camp: starting with the letter “A”, say your name, your spouse’s name, your son’s name, your daughter’s name, what kind of pet you have, and the city where you live. Example: My name is Andy and my spouse’s name is Alex, our kids’ names are Abby and Armando, we have a pet armadillo and we live in Austin. Then the next person has letter “B” and so on. We felt sorry for the poor girl that got the letter “X”.

Marshmallow roast at the Hotel Del Coronado

We gathered on the beach in front of the Hotel Del Coronado for a birthday round of s’mores

4 – Fun and Games – Back in the suite, the girls planned a board game supplied by the Hotel. They gorged on festive birthday cupcakes, and snapped selfies and model shots of each other into the wee hours. Us old folks retired early, assured we could hear them if they tried to sneak out (they didn’t).

Lifeguard station at the Hotel Del Coronado

Early morning waves near the Hotel Del Coronado

5 – Brunch or Room Service – Depending on the mood, breakfast can either be snacks in the room or brunch out and about. Since we wanted to keep the girls close and not have to pile back into the car, we opted for brunch at the Hotel Del’s Sheerwater Restaurant, positioned with an ocean view. Sunday morning buffet brunch was in full swing by the time we rousted these lazyheads, and everyone had a variety of choices to make them happy. Since 16 year old girls can sometime be crabby in the morning (ya think?) we made sure they had full tummies and happy conversation.

6 – Pool Time – Cabanas by the pool were the perfect way to lounge on this sunny Sunday, and luckily the water was heated to a comfortable temperature. The girls popped on their bathrobes from the suite, and we shuffled down to the pool in hotel slippers and swimsuits. After jumping in and out of the pool and Jacuzzi about 800 times – why do they always do that?!?!? – we got them to settle down and relax inside the cabana with snacks and cold drinks.

Pool Casita at Hotel Del Coronado

The Silver Strand pool casita at the Hotel Del Coronado brought the swimming up a notch

24 Hours to Remember Forever

Honestly this shaped up to be one of the best birthday parties ever, and Sophia has a ton of great memories and photos to show for it. The kids were suitably blown away by the grandeur of the Hotel Del Coronado. We looked like heroes for arranging a fantastic sleep over. Plus we made big brownie points for the next time we have to lower the hammer about grades or chores or the lesson-of-the-moment.

And the very best thing? No fuss, no muss, no clean up. No cake smeared into the couch, no soda spilled on grandma’s handmade quilt, no ten zillion dishes and glasses to wash, no three tons of trash to cram into the garbage can. Brainstorming Sweet 16 Birthday Party Ideas and landing on a Suite 16 Party was a lifesaver!

Yeah, we can see Ava’s 16th birthday looming and we have an inkling of how to celebrate. At least we have a couple of years to save up!

Lounging by the pool at the Hotel Del Coronado

The Southern California sun warmed us poolside at the Hotel Del Coronado

About the Hotel Del Coronado

The historic Hotel Del Coronado was built in 1888 and was the first of many things in the US, including the first hotel to be built containing electric lights.  It has been a vacation destination for many Hollywood celebrities, dignitaries and visitors from around the world. The hotel also retains one of the only private beaches in California where food and drinks can be served on the sand. The Hotel Del Coronado is part of the Curio Collection of Hotels by Hilton.


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Wonderspaces Was A Trip!

Wonderspaces Was A Trip!

If you’re like us, you may have a hard time getting your kids to an art museum without dragging them kicking and screaming. Recently we ambushed the girls, telling them we were going to Wonderspaces (an immersive art experience) right before we got in the car to head there. Despite the eye rolling and huffing/puffing, they (and we) were pretty amazed at how cool the Wonderspaces experience turned out to be.

Wonderspaces is a pop-up art celebration, created inside and outside a huge white tent in an empty field. Making a stop in San Diego this summer, the collection of immersive and experiential art was pretty mind blowing. The tent was divided into smaller “rooms”, where various artists had created installations that allowed guests to both wander and wonder. Some were cool things we could observe, some required us to perform a task or action, and some were so immersive we just had to jump in to see what happened next.

Suffice to say, Ava and Sophia totally loved it – if for nothing else, the Instagrammable photo opps. And there were plenty.

We can call this shot “No Strings Attached”

Some of our favorites:

On A Human Scale by Matthew Matthew – A space filled with video images of various people, with an electronic piano in the middle. When we hit a note on the piano, one of the video images would come to life singing a single note. It didn’t take long for the kids to realize that if they played a chord, those notes corresponded to videos of people singing those notes together. Every key on the piano had a corresponding person to sing that note. We knew those darn piano lessons would come in handy some day!

The Last Word by Illegal Art – This wall of rolled papers actually contained the unspoken words of people who never got to say what they had wanted to say in that “one moment”. We were encouraged to write down our unspoken words, roll it up and stick it into the art installation. Or you could pull out a roll and read someone else’s words. Wonder what our girls had to say… Hmmm.

That’s a LOT of unspoken words on those little rolls of paper.

On Tilt by Charles Bierk and Spencer Cathcart – A field full of air-dancers, having a party that you cannot help join. We laughed so hard and smiled so widely while standing in the middle of all these crazy waving guys of many colors. How could we not?

Sweet Spot by Shawn Causey and Mark Daniell – 3700 cords of various colors were strung vertically in a large space, designed so as we moved around it the color combinations would morph and change. This was a highly sought Instagram photo moment, and we had to fight our way into an empty spot so our shots did not contain other guests. Move over girl.

ADA by Karina Smigla-Bobinski – A free floating helium-filled orb spiked with charcoal pencils that mark the four walls and ceiling  as you bounce it back and forth, creating an art piece we helped create. Sophia and Ava could have spent hours playing “volleyball” in this room.

Ava and Sophia had a blast making art on these walls at Wonderspaces

There were many more cool installations, all with thought-provoking themes or mechanisms that entertained our family for hours. We highly recommend you check out Wonderspaces when it comes to a city near you.

Next up:

Austin, TX  October – December, 2017

Phoenix, AZ  February – April, 2018

Denver, CO  June – August, 2018

Trippy light room with astral projections perfect for posing.