Does the blogosphere need another Legoland post? Nope. So a quick summary: we came, we saw, we ate junky food from park concessionaires and from our own stash of furtively carried snacks. (Serves us right for not scanning the map more closely for better food options first.) Then we hardly went on any rides, and instead mostly gawked at the startling displays of creativity, indulged the current deep Star Wars obsessive phase along with the old standby of American city stuff, and then ran into friends who live way on the Westside whom we hardly see back home. Such is a sad yet cliche truth of L.A. life.
Travel plus kids usually eliminates spontaneity from the equation. This quick spring break trip was a reminder to stay a little loose, because while someone takes a nap in the backseat, you can enjoy Torrey Pines Road and the San Diego County 101 up via La Jolla up along the string of beach towns north of San Diego. (Thankfully we dodged the bullet of Legoland Hotel’s grand opening by a mere few days so weren’t tethered to Carlsbad.) Speaking of La Jolla, based on our serious food-loving friend who lives there, that town seems to be flush with cash but low on the restaurant excitement meter. Bird Rock Coffee Roasters (above), with its clever and deliciously ocean breezy picture window seat outfitted with a roll-top door, shows signs of improvement in that genre. Bird Rock has a small play area for its youngest customers, too.
This was the first time I’d driven in one swoop through Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Cardiff by the Sea, and all the way back up to Carlsbad, where we then hooked back up with the 5, and exited again at Ortega Highway to meet up with a dear friend of my husband’s family in San Juan Capistrano. This guy’s an incredible L.A. native, Lincoln Heights-bred character — the type who’s known Manny at Musso’s back since the Scandia days — and the social mayor of his town, which proves to be a good thing when you’ve got antsy children to entertain. (But we won’t be taking them to his workplace, the Swallow’s Inn.)
An afternoon stop turned out to be a reminder in Southern California tourism ignorance. My request to visit the Mission was vetoed when they caught wind of a petting zoo, which turned out to be pretty special in and of itself. And getting to the picturesque Zoomars requires walking over the train tracks and station that’s RIGHT in the heart of things, and rambling through the Los Rios historic district‘s oozing charm and history. This well-preserved pocket is a beautifully protected respite from the highways and the rest of mega-scale O.C. We then learned it’s not easy to extract kids from a large box filled with dry corn in lieu of sand.
As for restaurants, we ate a lovely lunch on the patio at the Mission-adjacent Cedar Creek Inn, where the Cobb salad faithfully replicates the Brown Derby’s, and there’s a good kids’ menu. Next time we’ll pick from the Ramos House (be sure to read to the bottom of its directions page), the Vintage Steakhouse (also hilarity on that website of a different sort), or Sarducci’s in the historic Santa Fe Depot (OK seriously, what IS it with San Juan Capistrano restaurants’ websites??). Had there been more time I would’ve cruised through the farmers’ market set up that day. To close out, got unremarkable sweet treats at Frio to appease better moods as we steeled ourselves for the Orange Crush at rush hour.
Legoland and the overnight accommodations were planned well in advance. This side trip to SJC was not. The impromptu nature of the visit added to the fun, but next time I’ll figure out logistics ahead of time. Most importantly so we can take Amtrak and avoid the two-hour traffic-clogged drive home, check out Doheny State Beach, and make sure I finally tour the Mission.