You’d rather spend ten more hours in the car with your kids than one more second at Legoland. We’ve gathered nine spots that make a road trip to North County, San Diego, worth the gas money.
1. Take your binoculars to catch a close-up of the great blue heron (or 300 other species of local and migratory birds) on a walk through the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve (2710 Manchester Avenue, Cardiff-by-the-Sea; 760-634-3026).
2. Life really is a beach at Moonlight State Beach (west of I-5, Encinitas), where cool waters and soft sands make it the perfect spot for toddler-friendly toe-dipping.
3. Skip the overpriced family megarestaurants and drop by the deli at Seaside Market (2087 San Elijo Avenue, Cardiff-by-the-Sea; 760-753-5445) for a prepacked picnic to go.
4. Guarantee an exotic bird encounter at Free Flight (2132 Jimmy Durante Boulevard, Del Mar; 858-481-3148), a sanctuary that rehabilitates our winged friends.
5. Take a veggie dip into the hippie side of lunch at Swami’s Cafe (1163 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas; 760-944-0612).
6. Make up for those empty carrot and celery calories at VG Donut & Bakery (106 Aberdeen, Cardiff; 760-753-2400).
7. Rent paddleboards, kayaks, and Jet Skis at the Carlsbad Lagoon (4215 Harrison Street, Carlsbad; 760-434-3089) for water activities that don’t start with sea and end with world.
8. Broods that travel with four-legged, furry friends get a warm welcome at North Beach, otherwise known to locals as Dog Beach (north of 29th Street, to the Solana Beach border, Del Mar; 858-755-1556).
9. Book a newly renovated family suite at La Costa Resort and Spa (2100 Costa del Mar Road, Carlsbad; 800-854-5000). Three water slides and a kids’ club (with drop-off service) ensure an afternoon of poolside peace.
We’ll drive any distance for that.
|Getting there is half the battle. We’ve found games and gear to get little ones from point A to point B — as well as more ideas on where point B should be. |
Giggles ’n’ Hugs Drop-off Service
What: Tots get an afternoon of food, play, and crafts; you get to shop Westfield Century City plaza solo.
Why: Mama needs a new pair of shoes.
When: Sun.-Thurs., 4-7 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 5-9 p.m.
Where: 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., b/t Century Park W. & Ave. of the Stars, ste. 155 (310-553-4847). Sun.-Thurs., $60 for three hours; Fri. & Sat., $75 for four.
What: Save 25 percent on salon services, from basic cuts ($30 and up) to Chlorine Green-Outs and lice removal.
Why: Step away from the scissors.
When: Tues.-Fri., 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: Tipperary, 9422 Dayton Way, b/t N. Canon & N. Beverly Drs. Appointments to 310-274-0294.
What: Have a stompin’ good time making fossils, getting fake tattoos, and hunting for prehistoric beasts in the Digging Deeper Gallery.
Why: Proof that family fun hasn’t gone extinct.
When: Sat. & Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: Kidspace Children’s Museum, 480 N. Arroyo Blvd., at Seco St. (626-449-9144). Museum admission for adults and children is $10.
Photo: JDTomcik Photo / Flickr