Finding a Slice of Heaven
Two weeks ago I shared my experience of being a Pageant mom. The one thing I didn’t mention is the huge commitment that participating in the Pageant requires. Maggie is in the show seven nights in a row, alternating weeks through the end of August. This means that any summer vacation we plan must fit in on her off weeks. Not to mention that vacation budgets aren’t what they used to be…
So, a few weeks ago the girls and I were off on a mini, mini vacation. We drove down to San Diego for an overnight get-away that turned out to be the perfect change of pace.
After much research (how did we travel before the Internet?) I selected the Hyatt Mission Beach Marina and Spa, partly because it seemed a family-friendly hotel, but mostly because of a special service it offers: a water taxi to and from SeaWorld, the reason we were hitting San Diego.
Here’s how I managed to get the most out of our time away:
Hotel check-in is late afternoon, but the Hyatt will hold your bags for early arrivers. We arrived around noon, left our bags and hopped on the water taxi that took us directly to a private entrance to SeaWorld. You must pre-purchase SeaWorld tickets before boarding. The water taxi runs hourly in each direction and took 10 minutes, travelling slowly, as Mission Bay is a no-wake zone. Even before entering the park, we had a front row view of sea lions lounging on an abandoned dock, along with pelicans and herons.
We’re SeaWorld fans and carefully mapped out the must-see attractions and shows before starting our jaunt. It was a sweltering, crowded summer day, so every minute of planning paid off.
We visited our favorite, the shark “tunnel,” where sharks swim all around visitors; cooled off at Wild Arctic, a simulated helicopter ride to a scientific outpost that showcases Beluga whales and polar bears. Touching the real ice cave was a big hit. The new Endangered Sea Turtles exhibit was also a treat. We gazed a long time as the old giants glided effortlessly around an oversized aquarium. And Shamu never disappoints.
We aqua-taxied back to the Hyatt for a late dinner at the poolside restaurant. The hotel sells a s’mores pack, including skewers. The girls and I joined several other families around the outdoor, marina-view firepit and toasted ourselves into ooey-gooey heaven. Genius.
But the night wasn’t over yet. I had requested a fireworks-view room as SeaWorld puts on a nightly display during the summer. From our balcony, the three of us scored the best viewing spot in the city.
Day two was a hotel day: room service for breakfast and lounging by the pool. The girls and I enjoyed the waterslides; the two larger ones gave us a small rush. Even after checking out, we were given pool access. Happy Meekma girls!
It was nearly 3 p.m. when we left the Hyatt, heading across Mission Bay for the urban vibe of Mission Beach and Pacific Beach. I lucked out when I noticed Crystal Pier jutting out into the Pacific at the end of Garnett Avenue.
I had never seen a pier like this. The signs said private pier – public welcome from sunrise to sunset. We crossed the gate onto the pier and were surprised to find cute clapboard cottages (turns out they are part of a hotel and are rentable) lining the pier, complete with parking spots. This is a slice of old-time San Diego worth checking out.
Maggie, usually my little daredevil, distrusts wooden piers. I first noticed this when we visited the San Clemente Pier. My big 6-year-old does not like stepping across wooden planks that hover above the ocean, especially when she can see the sea through the gaps. So, it was slow going and we didn’t make it to the end. But the view back to shore was beautiful!
We walked along a few blocks of Garnett, stopping for cold treats and encountering a wooden telephone pole covered in wads of chewed up gum. I was totally intrigued by this example of urban art, but the younger generation of Meekmas were unimpressed. “Yucky. Why would people do that? You’re supposed to throw gum in the trash,” and, “Why would you live here? It’s not pretty like home.”
I smiled and recounted growing up in the city and always wanting to live someplace where I could get outdoors and have trees and space. I found my slice of heaven and, apparently, the girls agree.
The Hyatt Mission Bay Marina and Spa www.MissionBay.Hyatt.com.
Crystal Pier www.CrystalPier.com.
Rebecca Meekma is that friend who always knows something fun to do and the Calendar Editor for Parenting OC. She reminds everyone to wear broad-spectrum sunscreen all summer long. Follow her blog at www.ParentingOC.com.