What is it? A chance to enjoy sun, sea and sand all year round in sunny San Diego, with a choice of reasonably-priced luxury family hotels – the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort and Spa and the Grand Pacific Palisades Resort & Hotel – to die for.

Where? Both of these resort hotels in the gorgeous town of Carlsbad, the “Village by the Sea” just north of San Diego, are located close to the beach and great shopping – plus they cater not only to couples, but to families with kids as well.

Description: [Pacific Palisades.jpg]Fed up with Florida but still want to soak up some American sun? San Diego is the perfect U.S. destination, with plenty to do for both kids and adults alike. And the weather couldn’t be better, as sun is guaranteed year-round, as Wendy Sloane discovered…

To enjoy all that San Diego has to offer from the vantage point of Carlsbad, a perfect little town just north of the city that is a fantastic southern Californian base.

If you want to just chill out and take advantage of the hotels, these two are perfectly situated. Carlsbad’s Grand Pacific Palisades Resort & Hotel has a spa, fitness room, signature California Jacuzzis and activity centre, plus a children’s pool with a pirate’s ship water feature and a separate adult pool (open to kids as well for a few hours only during the day). The staff go to great lengths to provide a plethora of activities sure to delight, from treasure hunts to water aerobics to campfire s’more (chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker biscuits) making. Guests can even barbecue their own food on individual BBQs round the pool – great for invited guests. The Sheraton is a bit more upscale with a gleaming fitness facility, larger pool, cutting edge spa and stunning main lobby. Enjoy a drink – or three – poolside, and you might end up staying in the hotel vicinity all day. For local activities, see below.

Watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean as you dine in the Sheraton’s Twenty/20 Grill and Wine bar, which does a great kid’s buffet menu and also serves a selection of mini desserts. Alternatively, try a California ale – and dinner – at the Karl Strauss Brewery at the Grand Pacific Palisade’s resort. California customer service is a given at both eateries – you certainly won’t miss being back in Blighty when a dirty dish stays on your table no more than a few seconds!

Both hotels can help you to make childcare arrangements – just ask!

The Sheraton has a state-of-the-art fitness centre open 24/7, with free weights and a selection of machines, some of which come with individual TV screens. Its Ocean Pearl Spa specialises in “organic skincare, massage therapies, massage treatments and natural nails” and offers treatments you can only find in California (try the Organic Pumpkin Puree Mud Wrap or the scrumptious-sounding Warm Bamboo Massage). Grand Pacific Palisades has its own fitness centre – as well as a free shuttle that will take you to the Sheraton’s spa!

Local activities: See below.

Wish we had known: That we’d have a barbecue and fridge in our room at Pacific Palisades – would have stocked up at a local supermarket beforehand.

Our top tip: Leave yourself at least a few days to get over the jet lag. It’s said you need one day for every hour of time difference, plus an extra hour. So that can mean a whopping nine days to adjust! While that probably won’t be necessary, booking a very short trip – especially with small children – isn’t recommended.

Kids say: “I loved the trip. I loved the Sheraton in particular because of the pool and the rooms,” says Clementine, seven. “Pacific Palisades was really pretty and there were rabbits in the gardens,” adds Tilly, ten. “The hotels were cool because they were near LEGOLAND. And I loved the food,” says Josie, 12.

Getting There: Travelling to San Diego is always a bit of a long haul, but BA has now made it a lot easier, thanks to the return of its non-stop flights from London. The trip takes about 11 hours, but it’s made bearable with decent airline food and unlimited personal entertainment, albeit it on tiny screens. The price of a ticket will depend on what time of year you go – and whether it’s during school holidays or not. We paid about L750 per return ticket on average. Be sure to book months in advance to get the best deals. You can get cheaper tickets if you’re willing to change plans at least once. We weren’t. The hotels both have special deals, depending on time of stay, length of stay and type of room (Pacific Palisades offers small flats as well as rooms). For Grand Pacific Palisades Resort and Hotel, visit http://www.grandpacificpalisades.com/. For the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort and Spa, visit www.sheratoncarlsbad.com

About our stay: With grandparents, cousins, nieces, nephews, brothers and sisters-in-law all happily living in San Diego, you’d think we’d be spoilt for choice of (free) places to stay when visiting this sun-kissed California city. True – but sometimes as a family, it’s nice to have a place of your own. So when my three daughters, husband and I set out to make the once-every-three-years familial visit last summer, we decided to split our stay between rellies’ floors and a bit of luxury. What we needed, however, was something that appealed to both children and adults alike – and fitted into our not-very-big holiday budget. San Diego is a vast area, split into distinct neighbourhoods, each with a unique flavour of its own. My mum lives near the Mexican border, my step-mum near the beach. One brother is inland, and the other lives in Carlsbad, just north of San Diego county and known as the “Village by the Sea”. So after doing our homework, we were thrilled to find not one but two resorts in Carlsbad, both practically adjacent to the beach and both offering relative luxury with something not all truly nice hotels have: welcoming arms for children, with kids’ meals, activities play areas and even pools to keep both little ones and parents entertained. [sheraton.jpg] Carlsbad is a quaint seaside American village, with shops having a distinct 1970s feel and restaurants and diners that veer from the ultra-modern to the charmingly dated. Unlike many parts of San Diego, you can actually stroll through the village centre with no need of a car, and there’s even a pier where you can fish alongside pelicans. “A pelican was looking at us while we fished,” says my husband Duncan. “It just reminded us that we were a long way from home – somewhere interesting.” Both our hotels – the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort and Spa and the Grand Pacific Palisades Resort & Hotel – were just a short drive from Carlsbad centre. We combined almost a week alternating between relaxing in the hotels and taking advantage of the area, visiting family when – and if – we felt like it. Our eldest, Josie, didn’t want to leave the hotels at all, preferring to spend hours in the gorgeous pools (we let her) and spend hundreds of dollars on room service (no to that one). The kids loved the nearby beaches, where they built sand castles, swam and did a bit of boogie boarding. They also liked Carlsbad Lagoon, where for about L50 for all of us we rented sea kayaks and swam off a large float in the warm water. Visit http://www.carlsbadlagoon.com/. Here is just a small selection of other activities to choose from, some of which are within walking distance of the hotels: Carlsbad Premium Outlets: A five-minute stroll will take you to this fab outlet mall, which has everything from Barneys to Calvin Klein, Reebok and Juicy Couture. Best of all, there are many (cheap) restaurants to enjoy, in case the kids get bored – or hungry. You don’t have to be a shopaholic to enjoy the bargains. Visit http://www.premiumoutlets.com. Sea World: Almost 200 acres of fun await at this theme park, where orcas (killer whales) are the chief attraction. We didn’t really like seeing them in captivity, so luckily there were other activities to capture our imagination. Our kids loved touching the Sea Stars (the word “starfish” is no longer acceptable, so they say), stroking the bat rays and the rides. Pets Rule, an animal show featuring pigs, dogs, cats and birds (plus two kangaroos), was the highlight of their visit. Visit http://seaworldparks.com. LEGOLAND California Resort and SEALIFE Aquarium: The Sheraton enjoys special access to Legoland: a unique walkway connecting the two means the theme park is literally just a hop, skip and a jump away. If you think your kids are too old, think again. Along with the ubiquitous Lego-themed cities, animals and people, there are some rides that are so scary our kids had to remove their stud earrings – just in case. Pricey but fun, better on a cool day. Visit http://california.legoland.com/. San Diego Zoo Safari Park: Formerly the Wild Animal Park, the highlight of this attraction in southern San Diego is the African Tram Safari, which goes through a realistic-looking veldt to allow visitors to spot everything from lions to giraffes to hippos. For an extra price, activities such as hot-air ballooning and zip ropes can be enjoyed. Visit http://www.sandiegozoo.org/park/index2010. San Diego Zoo: Located in central San Diego, the zoo is home to more than 3,700 animals from 650 species. The many interactive exhibits, sleepover options (no, really!) and educational yet fun shows make this an old family favourite. Visit http://www.sandiegozoo.org. Carlsbad State Beach (Tamarack State Beach): Swimming, surfing, kayaking and more are available at this popular beach. Parking is at a premium so try to leave the car at the hotel. Visit http://www.sandiegocoastlife.com. [rockpooling.jpg] Don’t forget to also check out the beautiful beach in La Jolla while you’re there. The girls loved swimming with the seals in the Children’s Enclosure, and spent several hours playing with the seaweed. When the tide’s right, rock-pooling is a must. We bought plastic colanders from the Dollar Store, along with brightly coloured buckets, and scooped up hermit crabs and gazed at the sea anemones. A perfect day. Wendy Sloane is Travel Editor of entertainthekids.com and a Senior Lecturer in Journalism at London Metropolitan University. She divides her time between writing, teaching, and taking care of her three daughters (and a dog!).

Created: 2012-10-21 15:11:17.390

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