In case you were hiding under a rock, I recently took a trip to San Diego. Even though the purpose of the trip was work (yes, a blogging conference is work), I turned it into a family vacation as well. The appeal? Nearly year-round temperatures in the 70s, the Pacific Ocean, and some pretty cool attractions.
While mom was slaving away at the BlogHer conference, my husband and son were making the rounds around San Diego. They toured an aircraft carrier, saw the seals in La Jolla, and even stopped by the local children’s museum. They saved the good stuff for me.
BlogHer officially ended Saturday night but we squeezed in one more event on Sunday. We stopped by the Ford Family Picnic, had a little fun, collected our sunburn, and then officially started our vacation.
We headed straight to SeaWorld. I had made prior arrangements for us to visit and so we arrived rather late in the day and stopped by Will Call.
Because of the late hour, we focused primarily on the shows that would be performed in the evening (even though the park was open until 11am). Our first stop? One Ocean, the Shamu show. My son is semi-obsessed with anything that swims in the ocean and has the word “killer” in its name. I was kind of excited too.
The show did not disappoint. Shamu (or his namesake) did his flips and dives. He splashed the audience. He evoked an incredible sense of joy of my son’s face and probably on mine too.
However, I couldn’t escape a few thoughts lurking in the back of my mind. These majestic creatures don’t belong here. They belong in the ocean. And even if they have been injured enough that they can never be returned to the wild, is it an appropriate consolation to make them learn tricks all in the name of fish?
While I am a huge animal lover, I never set out to explore SeaWorld as an animal activist. I simply wanted to expose my son to a world of beautiful sea creatures. And to be honest, SeaWorld was the highlight of his trip to San Diego. He was overjoyed, not only with the whales, but with the chance to pet a dolphin and starfish, see poison arrow frogs, and ride the Journey to Atlantis.
That’s right. SeaWorld has rides. And we spent most of our time waiting in a very long line for a simple little rollercoaster/flume ride. That happened to soak me, and only me. All in the name of our four year old.
I’m torn with how I feel about SeaWorld. I’ve been going since I set out for college in 1988 back when SeaWorld actually had a facility in Aurora, Ohio. I dreamed about being a dolphin trainer someday. (Hey, I was a biology major. It could happen.) But I’m older now. I felt like SeaWorld lost some of its focus on education.
The One Ocean show felt odd watching the animal trainers lipsyncing and dancing to the music. It felt wrong in my mind. The rides felt out of place here. And the crowd seemed a little less sophisticated than what I expected for the $70 entrance fee. I wouldn’t trade the experience for the joy on my son’s face but I would give a second thought to visiting again.
While I was unsure how I felt about SeaWorld as a family attraction, I had no issues when I visited Legoland in Carlsbad, CA. Perhaps the reason was because no legos were being held against their will.
LEGOLAND is a complex and, as such, offers a Parkhopper pass to experience all it has to offer: LEGOLAND, LEGOLAND Water Park, and Sea Life Carlsbad Aquarium. We used the Parkhopper pass but only experienced 2 out of the 3 parks (skipping the aquarium) since we had just previously been to SeaWorld.
We started in the Water Park, much to my chagrin. I’m not crazy about public water facilities but it was all my son could talk about so we headed there, rented a locker, and put on our suits. First stop? Orange Rush, a family tube slide where up to four people can ride together down a 312-foot-long curving track on an 11-foot in diameter half pipe . My son screamed the whole way, my husband wrenched his back, and I had a ball.
After a few other water amusements (Build-A-Raft River, DUPLO Splash Safari), we dried off and headed out to the rest of the park. I was kind of glad. The saltwater and the crowds sort of gave me the heebie jeebies. We left the water park and walked right smack into the Fun Town Police and Fire Academy. Families get together in police or fire vehicles and work together to move the truck, perform a task, and move all the way back.
Being the family that we are, we had a complete operational plan in place to ensure we took first prize. Which we did. By a landslide. I almost felt sorry for the other families. Almost.
And because I’m late to everything, we got to LEGOLAND rather late in the day (you can thank the video shoot for my swag video for that). We didn’t get to experience the whole park. And for that I am sorry. Because I enjoyed everything we did.
The Dragon. A coaster just the ride speed for a 4 year old, a thrill-seeking dad, and a mom that sometimes gets nauseous.
Dune Raiders. Yes, a simple slide can be fun. Especially when it has the thrill of competition.
LEGO TECHNIC Coaster. A bizarrely frightening coaster.
BIONICLE BLASTER. Which personally would make mom nauseous so I sat that one out.
Miniland USA. This is what I originally thought LEGOLAND was all about. Boring little Lego models. Instead, I found that it’s lots of replicated cities and monuments and I fell in love with Miniland. So there you go.
But the biggest highlight came recommended to me by another blogger and friend, Ilina. She told me I had to try Granny’s Apple Fries. So I did.
Wow is all I can say. We had 2 orders of apple fries and probably could have eaten about 12 more. Yes, they are that good. I’m not sure that much at LEGOLAND could disappoint me. I hope they keep that in mind when LEGOLAND Florida opens in October and they want some good blogger coverage (wink, wink).
That just about wraps up my entire experience in San Diego. The conference is over. The family vacation is over. Would I go back? In a heartbeat. It’s a lovely city with tons of family friendly activities. The weather seems to be pretty perfect year-round and I had all the Mexican food I wanted. Next time, though, I’ll make sure I get more family time so I don’t miss a thing!
Thank you to SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOLAND California who each provided me two media passes for their respective parks.