Lovely La Jolla Shores. photo credit: Lara DiPaola

Lovely La Jolla Shores. photo credit: Lara DiPaola

Memories are a powerful things. We carry them with us as we travel along in this journey of life. Reliving them through visiting places tied to important events can be fun — or folly.

Tucked in my carry-on — alongside my trusty TravelingMom-recommended portable power strip — was the knowledge that perhaps revisiting the places of my youth in San Diego might be a little bittersweet.TMOM disclosure graphic

Any concern melted away the moment my nine year old son caught site of the “Welcome to San Diego” sign in the arrivals terminal at Lindbergh Field and promptly said, “You stay classy!” This was going to be an epic adventure for a mom and her boys.


“Science is Cool!” — Mrs. Lundee was my 5th grade teacher. Her, husband an engineer at Hewlett Packard in the early days, and the chaperone at our field trip to the Ruben H Fleet Science Center. I have such vivid memories of how he made science amazing for us.

Taking my sons back there reminded me how much I loved science when I was young, in the days “before boys”. The museum is still inspiring exploration with hands-on exhibits, interactive activities and an IMAX experience that can’t be missed.

Our Garden — My husband and I went on our first date at the San Diego Botanical Gardens (just down the way from the Science Center). In front of the Botanical Building is a gorgeous lily pond.

I posed the guys for a photo, naturally. Then pulled out a yellowing picture of my husband standing in that exact spot on that date from so many years past. There is a special sort of motherly joy that comes in making your sons squirm with the retelling of romantic stories.

Petco Park – They say you can never go home again. I grew up watching the Padres play at Jack Murphy Stadium in the days of Goose Gossage, Steve Garvey and Tony Gwynn. I’ve yet to recover from the 1984 World Series. So though it was December, a stop by Petco Park was a must.

The Porch at Southpaw Social Club San Diego's Gas Lamp district. photo credit: Southpaw Social Club

The Porch at Southpaw Social Club San Diego’s Gas Lamp district. photo credit: Southpaw Social Club

Nestled next door to the park is Southpaw Social Club, a gastro pub with a home-run view perfect whether it’s baseball season or not. We hung out on their “porch” for a bit, next to the fire pit (it was cold.. go figure) and took in the sites while enjoying some great fries and the most amazing mac-n-cheese topped with … pretzels!

There was live music inside that was fun, if a bit “old school” for the boys. They also make some tasty wings, super spicy nachos (yum) and have an extensive menu of fun eats, cocktails and brews on tap. There isn’t much in the way of kid-friendly food, but I’d totally recommend stopping by for a grownups get together.

The Beach — Here is where I admit that I spent far more time at San Diego beaches in my teens than I should have. By my high school years, we’d moved two hours away into the desert. I’m more of a water person.

San Diego has such a variety of beautiful beaches, each offering something special.

Torrey Pines State Reserve with its unspoiled shoreline, has an almost spiritual presence about it. Visit at the right time of year and you might catch sight of migrating Gray Whales.

La Jolla Shores  has a little something for everyone. Surfers swear by it (including TravelingMom’s resident Surfer Girl). Swimmers love it and even those just out for a stroll find a walk along the pier bliss.

Mission Beach was often the first stop for us when we were teens. Maybe it was the giant wooden roller coaster at Belmont Park that beckoned to us. More likely it was geography.

My oldest son says that Mission Beach reminds him of Atlantic City on the West Coast. It does have a bit of that boardwalk charm, owing mostly to Belmont Park and it’s plethora of rides, midway games, chain stores and eateries.

Move beyond there though and you’ll still find distinctly California spots like small independent surf shops, coffee houses and taco shacks. StarKeys BBQ is a great little greasy spoon serving up a cheap but super yummy breakfast. The bonus, some really cool local art on the walls!

Award-winning pools at  Hyatt Regency Mission Bay. photo credit: Lara DiPaola

Hyatt Regency Mission Bay award winning pool. photo credit: Lara DiPaola

Just over the bridge on the bay side, Mission Bay, sits the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay. This resort is a tropical oasis on the ocean. (If you go to Hyatt and book at this hotel, Traveling Mom will receive a referral fee.)

Looking for a hotel with a pool? How about one with water slides, a lagoon and spa that has garnered itself the  Fodor’s Choice Gold 2010 award in the Top 10 U.S. Hotel Pools category? Plus it’s all set amongst lush tropical landscaping. If you request a room in the tower you’ll be treated to some great views too.

Room service here included some wonderful kid-friendly options my nine year old loved. I was impressed with the fresh, locally sourced vegetarian options. The rooms could use a little updating, but the outstanding service soothed over any rough edges.

My memories of growing up in San Diego remain intact. I’ve added to them the richness of sharing with my sons some of the places that meant so much to me growing up. Seeing things through their eyes was a gift. So much has changed, yet much remains the same. It seems San Diego has stayed classy after all.

Sea Turtle mural on the wall at StarKeys BBQ in Mission Beach. photo credit: Lara DiPaola

Sea Turtle mural on the wall at StarKeys BBQ in Mission Beach. photo credit: Lara DiPaola


Five Favorites for 9 Year Old Boys

  • Carnivorous Plant Bog at the Botanical Gardens

  • Drone Demonstrations at Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

  • Lazer Tag at Belmont Park

  • Petco Park