Gardens, An Ocean View, and Tacos: One Day Getaway to San Diego

Genie Davis February 18, 2011 No Comments

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Sometimes you just wanna get away, just like the Southwest Airlines commercial proclaims. But sometimes you don’t want to fly, have a limited budget, and a limited amount of time. For those of you living in or visiting Southern California, here’s a two day/one night trip that makes for a relaxing family get away.

First of all, we were accommodating children ranging from toddler to twenty; second, we wanted to see flowers, smell the sea, relax, and not cook, more or less in that order. We planned our first escape stop at Quail Botanical Gardens.

Over thirty five acres of beautifully laid out plants and trails awaited us here, just about twenty miles from San Diego proper. The walk ways are paved, easy on little feet, but offering enough variety and beauty to entertain older kids and adults. We spent a lot of time enjoying the waterfall and streams, admiring the cacti, tropical plants and flowers, and fruit trees. Shady, spacious, and well laid out, this garden is a gem. We spotted some rabbits grazing in the herb garden. Sneaking up on them, or at least attempting to do so, was a lot of fun. We also spotted a quail, and the littler children were mesmerized by the many koi fish darting between blossoming water lillies in one pleasant pond. According to the brochure, the garden also contains the largest collection of bamboo plants in the U.S.

Ocean view in San Diego

Ocean view in San Diego

We brought a picnic lunch from home to the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, our next stop. A less manicured haven of natural beauty, we were closing in our coveted ocean breeze. This reserve is a well known spot for varied bird watching – we spotted egrets, herons, ospreys, and finches. Along with the multitude of feathered friends, there are many gentle walks through the coastal grasses. There’s a lot more ground to cover here than at Quail Gardens with more than six miles of trails. The lagoon itself is the largest coastal marsh area in San Diego County. We didn’t see all the species of fish, mammals, reptiles, birds and plants it is said to contain – nearly three hundred birds have been spotted in the Reserve – but we had a wonderful time wandering the trails, eating our peanut butter sandwiches as we strolled. A sense of peace was coming on as the sun lowered in the sky, but the sea air and the long walks were also bringing on a longing for something more substantial than our pb and j from home.

So we left this peaceful enclave and headed over to Bull Tacos, a hole in the wall eatery famous for its tacos. The meat eaters in our group raved over the carne asada; the bean and cheese burrito more than satisfied those of us who are vegetarian. The ceviche is fresh, fragrant with cilantro, and worth a trip itself. Best of all the prices are exceedingly low – which fit into our limited budget for this short get away perfectly. And, our dining experience offered an incredible view – a bench with a fabulous view of the rolling sea below.

Revived by and in fact ready to walk off our repast, we headed to one more garden spot – Queen Califia’s Magic Circle located inside Kit Carson Park in near by Escondido. While the magic circle is awash in color, what blooms here is made of mosaic. A mirrored maze leads you inside a mosaic circle, which represents a snake. Our kids loved the whimsical nature of this art installation, and touching the pebbles, shells and tiles that form the design. Created by artist Niki De Saint Phalle, this beautiful piece inspired the imagination of our older off spring and the adults; while the younger members of our party just plain had fun, running, touching, and exploring this incredibly unique and special “playground.”

Dusk was falling and we headed to our hotel near the blue calm waters of Mission Bay, not far from Balboa Park and the closest hotel to Sea World. While this convenience would suit us well if we were making a visit to the famous water park, our budget for this trip precluded it. We chose the location instead for the view and the last minute bargain we’d secured. We’ll come back for Sea World, and to go boating on Mission Bay; but this stay we were happy enough with the balmy pools for an early evening swim. Watching the stars come out, we took our last stroll of the day around the tropical gardens of the resort. Our room was large and appealing decorated in pastel colors; but best of all was the balcony, facing the Bay. We had the pleasure of watching the moon rise and sipping some wine – the kids had organic sodas brought from home – before splurging on a delicious dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, the Firefly. The kids meals were beautifully presented, pasta being the big hit.

Quail Botanical Gardens San Diego

Beautiful flowers in the Quail Botanical Gardens

In the morning we took a walk on Mission Beach, watching the boats in the harbor and sprawling out on the flat white sand for a rest. After check out, we headed off for one last stroll at Point Loma, from the pinnacle of which you can view down town San Diego. The more adventurous members of our party scrambled down to some pretty magnificent tide pools, rich with sea stars and tiny, scurrying crabs; be careful to carry the smallest members of your party as the trails down hill are steep.

On our way home, we swung away from the coast to make a special road-food stop at Sonic Drive In. This family owned chain is all over the southwest and south, but hard to come by in California, so to Anaheim we went. Crisp fries – healthily cut from real potatoes and available for ordering without salt – and the best soda fountain drinks, many sporting fresh fruit in the mix – make Sonic our favorite fast food stop. The soft serve kids size hot fudge sundaes are pretty awesome too. And if you reach the restaurant in the late afternoon, “happy hour” offers those fountain beverages at half off regular prices. The kids love watching the wait staff zoom out to the car on roller skates, too.

Although we wished we’d had more time and capital to invest in our get away – it was a great stay, full of flowers, ocean views, and tasty treats that no one had to cook.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

Tags: , Reviews, Sharing Experiences, Tips and Hints, Travel Excursions

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