San Diego may be best known for its world-famous zoo, but that’s hardly the city’s only appeal. With Disneyland, SeaWorld, LEGOLAND and other kid-friendly amusements nearby, it’s a hub for fun. Those who want to indulge in the natural beauty of the area can hit the beach, go hiking or try aquatic adventures like surfing or jet skiing. Hotels and resorts in the area offer pools (often heated), golf courses, tennis and more, so kids of all ages can enjoy their vacation-even if they never visit a mouse named Mickey.
Written by Liane Bonin Starr
Fairmont Grand Del Mar
This hotel proves that upscale doesn't have to mean kid-unfriendly. While the Relaxation Pool is a quiet, adults-only retreat, families can enjoy the resort pool or the children's pool, which has its own wading area, underwater music, white sand seating areas and fire pits. A naturalist-led hike through Los Penasquitos Canyon is a great way to spend a morning, or personalized family tennis lessons can incorporate games and music to make skill-learning fun. For parents who want to indulge in the five-star spa (one of only 41 in the world) or world class golf course, they can drop the kids at the Explorer's Club. Children can play the latest video games or enjoy a floor-to-ceiling Seewall, an interactive plasma mural of life under the sea. Fully stocked arts and crafts stations let kids try watercolor painting â€“ and leave the mess to someone else to clean up.
West Inn & Suites
Don't want to leave Spot or Fluffy at a kennel while you're on vacation? This family-owned boutique hotel has dog- and cat-friendly rooms, and that's not the only appeal. The inn has no resort fees, but guests still get a long list of perks including Wi-Fi, breakfast, coffee and tea (24 hours a day), parking, wine pours and even nightly milk and cookies â€“ all at no additional cost. Located just north of San Diego in Carlsbad, West Inn & Suites is a great choice if your vacation will include not only San Diego but spots such as Disneyland and LEGOLAND. While conveniently close to the freeway, triple-paned windows shut out all road noise. There's even a free shuttle for any location within 5 miles of the hotel.
The Lodge at Torrey Pines
While more romantic than overtly family-friendly, The Lodge at Torrey Pines has plenty to appeal to guests of all ages. Parents will be attracted to the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course, kids will be drawn to the pool and croquet lawn, and everyone will appreciate the Craftsman architecture and meticulous attention to detail on the grounds. The fitness center, complimentary yoga classes (on weekends) and a 9,500-square-foot full-service spa are also sure to appeal to grown-ups (most spa treatments are 12-and-older) after a day of sightseeing. This is definitely a serene, quiet option best enjoyed after the kids have run wild sightseeing during the day and are happy to call the concierge to have Lincoln Logs and Legos dropped off in the room for a relaxing evening. Child-sized bathrobes are also available for pint-sized lounging.
Homewood Suites San Diego Airport-Liberty Station Review
This all-suites hotel has one perk sure to make finicky eaters comfortable â€“ each suite has its own kitchen. Even better news for parents tired of manning the oven is that they don't need to use it. A hot, complimentary breakfast is available every day, while dinner is also free to guests Monday through Thursday â€“ with beer or wine. Free parking is a plus, as you'll need to drive to locations like the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park. However, on days when you feel like relaxing, you might not need to get in your car â€“ restaurants, a playground, a grocery store and a walking path are all nearby. Fitness buffs can also enjoy an onsite gym, pool and basketball court.
Homewood Suites Carlsbad — North San Diego County
For vacationers hoping to get in a round of golf at Torrey Pines, hit the beach or try kayaking in La Jolla, Homewood Suites Carlsbad might be the ideal vacation spot. While not within walking distance from restaurants or sights, it's a reasonable drive to the beach, SeaWorld or the San Diego Zoo. Pets are allowed for a fee, and in addition to the fully equipped kitchen in every suite, there's a complimentary grocery shopping service. If that's not enough, there's also a 24-hour onsite convenience store â€“ just the thing for harried parents who've run out of diapers or snacks.
Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego
If you're looking to have the downtown San Diego experience (or maybe you just have tickets to Comic-Con), the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego puts you in the middle of the action. The hotel has upscale dining options, a sports bar and a 24-hour gym to entice business travelers, but the surprise is how much of an effort is made to win over families, too. The rooftop Sports Courts feature tennis, basketball, volleyball and shuffleboard. Family-friendly movies are screened seasonally by the fourth floor pool, and guests are invited to purchase S"mores kits from the onsite deli to toast marshmallows at the fire pits located there. Camp Hyatt, available seasonally for an additional fee, gives kids ages 3 to 12 a chance to do arts and crafts, learn about sea life, play sports and more. More importantly, parents can relax and possibly enjoy ocean views from the adults-only third floor pool.
Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort
While it can be tempting to want to see all the sights in San Diego, being able to cross the street outside your hotel room to walk on the beach is pretty nice, too. A timeshare resort with an attached hotel, rooms at the Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort vary from basic hotel rooms to two-bedroom condos with kitchens. Because the main attraction here is the beach, the resort has complimentary beach chairs, umbrellas and boogie boards. Hopping a train into San Diego is also a quick and easy option for an urban adventure, while Carlsbad Village (within walking distance) is a great way to spend a day. A kids' activity center onsite is a way to lure little ones back from the beach, with arts and crafts sessions and karaoke. Classes for grown-ups, including mosaic making and flower arranging, are available, too.
Loews Coronado Bay Resort
If you're looking to truly get away from it all, Loews Coronado Bay Resort sits on the bay side of Coronado's Silver Strand Road, putting it within walking distance of the state beach, but a short drive from downtown shops and restaurants. Driving over a causeway to reach the resort gives guests the impression they've entered a private islandâ€”albeit one with three heated pools and tennis courts. Families can also get active renting jet skis, bicycles and kayaks. Kids under age 10 are presented with a complimentary gift upon arrival, and items such as toys, cookies, car seats, strollers, potty seats and more are available to families during their visit. Even age-appropriate DVDs and DVD players can be requested. A full-day or half-day kids' camp is also an option for an additional fee. Some may find the parking charges and resort fees excessive, but they're listed on the hotel"s website, so there are no surprises.
Hilton Garden Inn Carlsbad Beach
Just a few minutes from LEGOLAND, Hilton Garden Inn Carlsbad Beach offers easy access to the amusement park, as well as the beach just across the street from the hotel. Plus, a complimentary shuttle can take you anywhere within a 5-mile radius. During the summer, the hotel hosts Movies on the Lawn on Thursday, Friday and Sunday nights with family-friendly films screened outdoors with free blankets, popcorn and cookies available. Kids can go for a walk or bike ride on the Sea Wall Trail next to the hotel, or just hit the heated pool. With a 4-foot maximum depth, it's a good choice for kids.
Bay Club & Marina
If your kids love boats, consider a marina-view room at the Bay Club & Marina. Situated right on the waterfront of Shelter Island, this two-story structure lets kids under 12 stay free. A quiet getaway from attractions like the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, LEGOLAND and Balboa Park, the hotel has small balconies or patios that allow guests to look out onto San Diego Bay or the marina. Be sure to ask questions about the rooms--some balconies have a view of the nightly fireworks display at SeaWorld.
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