My family was fortunate to have an amazing Disney World vacation earlier this year, pre-covid. Not one day passes where I am not grateful for that. Normally, our years consist of small trips here and there and a large one in the Summer. But for 2020, we planned a Disney World vacation in January and a Christmas vacation in December. The Christmas vacation has been canceled, as it involved traveling to Europe, and there's just too much uncertainty right now.
As summer approached, I decided to shift some of my planned time off in December, to the summer, so I could spend some quality time with my girls. I spent hours researching fun and safe activities that we could do and called it our "staycation."
My staycation landed the last week of summer break for my kids, so while that time has passed, I know that many families are still looking for fun and safe things to do with their kids on the weekend or during Fall and Winter break. Although all this is San Diego specific, I am sure some could be applied to other areas around the nation, and perhaps spark some fun ideas for others.
1. Fun Crafts - My kids have been watching people tie-dye in YouTube videos for months, so I surprised them with a tie-dye kit and white shirts. They had a blast creating beautiful works of art. Dear Friends created these super cute watercolor postcard kits, and recently released a Halloween-themed craft. Their Etsy shop can be found here. It was such a fun and unique craft that keeps on giving because you mail your postcards out to friends and family and bring a smile to their faces.
2. Lions, Tigers & Bears - This wildlife sanctuary holds, you guessed it, lions, tigers and bears (and really any big cat species). This was our first time here, and it was hot, but it was such an educational and amazing experience for my girls. All proceeds go straight to the rescue, their main focus is helping these animals have a better life than living in a small cage in someone's backyard (yes, they will teach you all about how prevalent this is). A word of warning - they do show a rather sad video in the beginning and talk about the plight each animal went through before they came to their rescue. It is rather sad, and some young children may have a hard time with it (I know I did).
Covid safety - The entire rescue is outdoors. Tour groups remain small, and you have to wear a mask the entire time.
3. Escape Room - Not all our local escape rooms are open again, but those that are open, seem to be taking safety very seriously. I spent a good amount of time looking into all of them, and settled on Steal & Escape. It's a local hi-tech escape room, and I could not have been happier with my choice. The owner was the one that ran the room for us while we were there, and his passion for the escape room was evident. The room was amazing and fun, and my kids are begging to go back. This is a perfect way to spend 60 minutes, working together as a family, flexing your brain muscles and reaching your goal. Covid safety - Typically, if you are smaller group, and your room can take more people, you may be paired up with another party. However, Steal & Escape, and most escape rooms I found, have now made it a policy that you will never be paired with another group. Steal & Escape books an hour between groups so they can fully disinfect, and no two groups, even if they're in separate rooms, ever overlap. You also must wear a mask the whole time. It all felt very safe.
4. San Diego Botanic Garden - This was also our first time visiting here, and since my staycation was during the first major heat wave in San Diego, it was quite hot, but that didn't stop us from enjoying all the beautiful plants and animals. When we are not in a midst of a pandemic, you can also bring a picnic and eat among all the beauty. I can't wait to go back and do that. My kids favorite part were feeding the lizards and turtles with the meal worms they provided us when we arrived. I loved the fruit tree area - so many amazing ones! Covid safety - You must book and pay for your visit ahead of time. They do not sell tickets at the door. You reserve a time and have to show up within that window, but you can stay as long as you want. You must wear masks whenever you are in an area with others. The garden is so large, however, there were plenty of times we could safely lower our masks. The kids play areas and picnic areas are currently closed.
5. The Beach - You didn't think I could mention covid-safe activities in San Diego without mentioning the beach, right? If you had read my prior posts, you may know that this was going to be Taylor's first beach trip since her accident, so I carefully selected the best beach for this. Silver Strand State Beach is located in southern Coronado. It is large, really large, has a ton of shells, clean restrooms, a large RV area, and the shore is shallow for such a long distance that the waves that come up on shore are very small. Due to the heat wave, we waited to go until later in the afternoon and planned a sunset picnic. I honestly don't know why I had never tried going later before. It was absolutely perfect - we had a large section of the beach to ourselves and enjoyed hunting for shells in the small waves while not getting roasted by the sun.
6. Family Hikes - This was ultimately canceled for us because the heat wave was so bad that even in the early AM, we were looking at record-high temps. However, I had planned to take the girls on the Mother Miguel Mountain Trailhead. Others in my area - North Point Lookout and Otay Lakes County Park. It was easy to find family-friendly hikes by searching Yelp and I plan to circle back to them once San Diego decides to cool down (we've been hit by one heat wave after the other). All Trails also has a useful guide here.
We ended the week with some back-to-school shopping, to help make this feel like a normal school year.
In my research, I found a lot of other fun options that we didn't have time to get to, but have added to our must do list:
Julian Mining Company & Orchard - A fun place to pick apples and mine for gold!
California Wolf Center - A rescue and conservation center for wolves in Julian.
A Simpler Time Alpaca Ranch - A fun place to meet Alpacas in El Cajon!
Japanese Friendship Garden - Located in Balboa Park, a beautiful garden to explore with lots of photo opportunities! While you're there, might as well check out what the rest of Balboa Park has to offer.
Mostly Monkeys - A rescue for mostly monkeys. They're currently not offering in person tours, hopefully that changes soon, but they are offering private zoom tours!
San Diego Zoo & Wild Animal Park are both open for visits!
Sea World is also open now.
Birch Aquarium will open safely on September 15th.
LegoLand only has their aquarium, hotel and miniland open. The water parks and regular park have not re-opened yet.
Belmont Park is open with limited operations, which includes the miniature golf, several games and others!
Butterfly Farms - This butterfly conservation is located in Encinitas and allowing self-guided tours.
Tide Pools - Tide pools can found in many places across San Diego between November and March. One of the best is Shells Beach in La Jolla. You can find more info here.
Happy Staycations, Friends!