Wednesday, August 31, 2011

San Diego

About two weeks ago, Mike came home from a particularly rough shift in a series of rough shifts and said, "If you don't book a vacation for next week, I will stop at Ho Chunk and spend money. I don't care where we go, but it needs to involve an airplane." When you go to work every day, and get your butt kicked for 12+ hours, its nice to have something to show for it.  And an end in sight to look forward to, I'm told.  

I did a quick internet search for 'best family vacation spots' or something similar and San Diego came up.  Flights were reasonable, and I found a hotel that offered suites with kitchenettes, a pool, complimentary breakfast AND complimentary dinner.  Honestly, I think the kids could have stayed in that hotel the entire time and been completely and fully happy with the trip.  But of course we didn't.

The first day, we took advantage of still being on Wisconsin time to head out super early to Disneyland in Anaheim.  The hotel staff actually packed us a breakfast to take with us since we'd be leaving before breakfast was served, which was really nice to have on the drive.  We rolled in before the park opened, and had our plan to visit the most popular areas first.

I know there are people who LOVE Disneyland, but the four of us were unimpressed.  Maybe DisneyWorld in Florida is different with all the additional parks.  Or maybe its just not possible to live up to the hype.  But we thought there was a surprising lack of cool things.  It was all so small and fake.  A half day was more than enough for us, despite all the people who said it was too bad we didn't have at least one night to spend at the park hotels.  The rides were straight from the kiddie section at the fair, substituting Dumbo in for the airplanes or helicopters or Cinderella's white horses on the carousel instead of a variety of animals.  My favorite part, because it was so random, was the train ride that traveled the park's circumference.  There is at tunnel at one point that is very dark, and along one wall there are big windows looking in at badly lit dioramas complete with taxidermy animals.  Like goats and rabbits.  And then a little past that, there were mechanical dinosaurs.  I can go to the Milwaukee Public Museum and see that stuff.  I don't know what that was about or what it had to do with Disneyland.  Why not fill the tunnel up with fairies and princesses and glitter?  Thats what people come to Disneyland for.  Not taxidermy animals.  Then again, I personally wouldn't have enjoyed that as much.

I think Claire and I had the same favorite ride, the Its a Small World ride.  I liked it because it was a boat ride through an air conditioned area.  Claire liked it because she loves history and anthropology and different cultures.  The boat ride is fairly long and takes you all around the world, obviously, past hundreds of robotic dolls dressed up in the traditional clothing of different countries and dancing the traditional dances.  'Its a Small World' plays the entire time, but the instruments used to play it change, again depending on the part of the world you happened to be in, which Claire was beyond excited about. She rode that one a few times, and when it came down to 'one more ride and then we're leaving', that one was it.  

The next day was a beach day to recover. Disney can take it out of you. We went to Coronado Beach in the morning, headed back to the hotel for lunch and naps, and then Cardiff beach in the evening for the sunset.  It was a lot of fun to just sit in the sand and play in the waves which the locals called 'freezing'.  We called them 'surprisingly warm'.  Having been raised on the beaches of the Great Lakes and then living in Maine for a few years, it would take a pretty cold Pacific ocean for us to agree with the 'cold' description.

SeaWorld was next, and that was everyone's favorite part of the trip.  The dolphin and whale shows were very fun.  Mike insisted in sitting in the 'Soak Zone' for the dolphin show and after getting only a little wet felt pretty confident choosing a similar seat with Milena for the whale show.  I think they were soaked before they even fully sat down.

There was a lot of cool age appropriate things for the kids to do and a lot of really knowledgeable and accessible people who could tell you about the animals.  We planned on being there for the morning, but decided to return in the evening for a bit more.  We'd definitely go back.

The last day was San Diego Zoo day.  I got the feeling there was a lot more to see than we had time for. But being the end of vacation, we weren't up for an intense 'see it all' day.  I guess we probably weren't up for that on any day, but especially the last.  We took dinner to a beach in the Torry Pines area for the sunset.    

It was a great get-away, and I think we'd all love to do a repeat.  My only regret was not getting more pictures of Claire.  She was hardly ever in one place long enough for me to catch her, always running and jumping to the next animal or into the next wave or searching for another shell.  She may have had more fun than the rest of us put together.