We usually drive to San Diego and back the same day. Occasionally we stay overnight at a hotel. Some of our favorite hotels are the Manchester Grand Hyatt or Comfort Inn and Suites (kid’s room). Read more about San Diego here.
This year we decided to try something new: Camping at the KOA San Diego Metro, located in Chula Vista. The location is close to many area attractions and shopping which makes it ideal for our base camp.
The camp itself is beautifully landscaped with lots of trees and clean bathrooms and showers. Sites are available for tent or RV camping. The camp also offers 1 and 2 room cabins. We stayed at the 1 room cabin. The cabin was cramped with a twin bed and 1 set of bunks for the kids, a small table with one chair, hooks, windows, inside and outside lights. Outside the cabin, we had a small porch with a swing chair, a picnic table, barbeque and a large lawn. The best feature was lots of shade trees that hid the scorching sun in the afternoon. The office also delivers a fire ring and firewood on request. We definitely ordered ours for the traditional s'mores.
Tip: A big chain grocery store (Food for Less) is located right next to the KOA camp. To avoid carrying a lot of groceries with you on the road, you can plan on buying most of your needs at this store. I wish I knew that before I packed my SUV full of groceries.
To avoid the heat, we took advantage of the large refreshing swimming pool next to the office. The water temperature was just right for summer with lots of lounge chairs and some shade. Next to the pool, there is a small park with a playground. This is usually the location for many of the camp activities.
- Frommer's San Diego 2009 (Frommer's Complete)
- Top 10 San Diego (EYEWITNESS TOP 10 TRAVEL GUIDE)
- A Photo Tour of San Diego (Photo Tour Books)
Some of the activities were: Make your own Tie-dye shirt; All you can eat pancake breakfast; Make your own ice cream sundae; Bingo nights; Movie nights with free popcorn; Family Games. My kids made great looking Tie-dye shirts that they can actually wear. The pancakes at the Sunday breakfast were delicious. We skipped the other activities in favor of running around town.
Tip: As with most camping spots, we had to deal with a lot of bugs. Bring your favorite bug repellents and sprays. You will need them. Also if you are going in the summer, consider bringing a portable fan.
From this base camp we visited the following attractions:
Cabrillo National Monument: A monument to explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who was the first to set foot on the west coast of North America. This park offers museums, tide-pool exploration and a stunning view of San Diego from a high vantage point. If you are interested in the tide-pools, make sure to check the low tide schedule. See http://www.nps.gov/cabr/index.htm for more details.
SeaWorld Summer Nights: SeaWorld has too many rides, shows and exhibits for one day. We usually buy the annual pass and enjoy it over many days. During summer nights the park is transformed into a rocking party of sights and sounds. The whales and Dolphins perform their tricks to great music and Pyrotechnics and acrobats perform their amazing feats to the beat of music near the main gate.
We also enjoyed a great view from the top of the sky cabin and a trip to the Wild Arctic on a Helicopter simulator. See more details about the rides in the SeaWorld page here or go to http://www.seaworld.com for more details.
Mission Bay: We explored the Mission Bay Park area. The kids liked the playground. We were also planning on renting bikes and riding around the long bike trails, but the weather was too warm for such activity. See http://www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/parks/missionbay for more details.
Balboa Park: It is located on 1000 acres of land and offers several great museums, Science center, San Diego Zoo, Carousel and Spanish Village Art Center, hiking and biking trails – to list a few. See http://www.balboapark.org for more details and visit the Balboa Park page here.
Old Town San Diego: This is a state park that is dedicated to capturing the history of the area. Old Town San Diego is considered the "birthplace" of California. San Diego is the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement in California. It contains several historic buildings, shops, trolley tours and museums. See http://www.oldtownsandiegoguide.com for more details.111 Nnorth 2nd Ave Chula Vista CA 91910 (800) 562-9877