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a VirtualTourist member

Los Angeles

LA with teenage boys

Hi we are an Aussie family having two digs at LA/California in between a ski trip to Canada.
I have heaps of questions. Dec15/17 and Dec27-29
We plan to get a car at the airport and drive to san Diego - we arrive a 7.40am in the morning - will we be stuck on some random freeway carpark for hours or is it pretty smooth that time of the morning.
The Wedge - my son is bringing his boogie board and a full wetsuit - is it as good as he is making out or should we miss it??
We are overnighting in San Diego to do the zoo and seaworld and a quick trip to Tijuana so my eldest will be legal for at least part of the trip!! Is Tijuana the best place for NFL jerseys??
We have tickets to the lakers game on the 16th and then we will be going to Disneyland on the 17th - we fly to canada the following morning. Staying at Anahiem so that we can have a big day. Kids have already been to EuroDisney so I am assuming they will spend most of thier time in the California thingy.
Should we look at the California pass as they will be doing Universal on the way back?
I hear heaps about shopping - where?? - the boys want beach gear, jerseys and maybe jeans. I of course want to do Beverley Hills but hear that Sallee is great. When do the big sales start - my ultimate sport!!
We are staying at Santa Monica on the way back from canada- will my son be able to catch any waves there??? given that it will be FREEZING. he has visions of spending the day at the beach for 3 days. Shopping here if I get stuck babysitting him??
Your thoughts would be great
I think I am settign myself up for a major meltdown but this is the only way we will get to see as much as possible to cater for all tastes.

12 Answers

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Chula Vista are planning to pack a lot into a short time. By the time you actually get out of LAX (luggage, customs if needed, car rental, etc) you're looking at 9 or so. Since the film industry will be close to hiatus there will be somewhat less traffic, but HWY 5 will be slow with holiday traffic anyway. So figure on 1.5-2 hours to SD.

While the SD Zoo is good, I'd opt for SD Wild Animal Park just to the east of SD. But the zoo is ok.

Tijuana is not very high on my to-do list as you will spend hours getting back into the US. The lines to get into the US, even at 5 in the morning (I know as I just drove down - nothing going into Mex, miles trying to get out) can be miles long if you drive. Suggest parking on the US side, walking over and taking the bus or taxi.

There are outlet malls along the 5 but take the side trip to Beverly Hills and hit Rodeo Drive for fun. There are both high end and jeans/t-shirt shops on the street.

Again depending on the weather Santa Monica will be ok for the surf.

For other shopping check South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa (just off of Harbor which is the street Disney is on). Also Fashion Island will provide lots of mall-mania theapy.

Depending on the weather and the tides, the surf can be quite good at any of the beaches. Malibu, Huntington, or Imperial (SD).

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Nanton

I have a couple of thoughts. First, make sure you can take your rental car into Mexico, a lot of rental companies don't allow it. You definitely need to tell them in advance, because if you don't and something happens while you are in Mexico (to the car, I mean) you won't have any insurance!

If you are going to the San Diego Zoo and Sea World, plus Universal and Disneyland, I think the California City Pass is a no-brainer. But, there is a catch. The pass is only good for 14 days from the first day you use the pass. So you are going be able to use the pass from either the 15th to the 28th or the 16th to the 29th. With that week in between in Canada (let me know if I can help with that part of your trip, btw), you are going to have 5 days to see all of your California attractions. With a trip to Tijuana, a drive south from Santa Monica to the LA area, a Lakers game, days at the beach and shopping also planned, I don't think you can do it all in 5 days. Have you already booked your flights? The reason I ask is because, if I understand your itinerary correctly, you have allowed an awful lot of days for the skiing in Canada, and you probably don't need that many. 5 or 6 days at that time of year is plenty.

If your flight arrives at LAX at 7:40, I would say that by the time you collect your luggage, make your way to the rental office and get your car, the morning rush hour traffic should be over and it will be clear sailing to San Diego.

Don't discount Disneyland just because you've seen EuroDisney. Most folks who have been to both Orlando and Anaheim Disney locations quite avidly say that there is no comparison between the two and that Anaheim is just more "magical". I can't speak from experience because I have only been to Anaheim. But I hear time and again that Anaheim is the best of all locations. And the California Adventure Park just doesn't have that much to do. There are a few "must do" rides there, such as Soarin, Tower of Terror, and Grizzly River Rapids but other than that you may tire of it quickly. And GRR is not a lot of fun in December because you almost always get really wet on that ride. If you are only going for a day, and particularly at that time of year, I would allow a FULL day. The crowds will not be as heavy as the following week, but the parks will still be quite busy. You will want to familiarize yourself with the FastPass system before you go, so that you can make the most of your day in Disney. I can help with that, if you have any questions. (Check my Anaheim page for lots of Disney tips.)

The Block at Orange, a short drive east of Disney, probably has all of the shops you are interested in. Unless you want to dedicate a full day to shopping for deals, in which case I would recommend that you drive to Commerce, on the I5 freeway between Anaheim and LA, and check out the outlet mall there, where you will find outlet prices on stores such as Billabong, Quicksilver and the like. The drive there in off-peak hours will take about 25 minutes.

I hope that helps.

- CG

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Nanton

I just thought of one other thing, with regards to the City Pass. It includes a 3 day pass to Disney. Considering you are only going for one day, it might be cheaper to pay for individual admissions. You should compare prices and see. My hunch is that the City Pass will still be cheaper, but just barely.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Orlando

Quite a complex adventure!

I see South Coast Plaza has already been mentioned - this is one of my favorites. I have also seen an outlet mall down I-5 near Disney - have not been there myself, but always look pretty busy - here's their site:

While you'll be in the area, I would recommend that you have one morning and stop at Arthur's for breakfast - you will remember it! Arthur's is also off I-5 on the way to Disney. Here's a link to my Arthur's tip on VT with directions: [original VT link]

I think it will be wayyy cold to get in the water in December! ... but my favorite beach - easy to go west on the 55 from I-5 is Newport. Not really a big wave beach, but one mom might enjoy too as it has lots of little restaurants.

Enjoy your trip ... and drive carefully. Traffic is unpredictable in LA, do prepare for sudden stops even if you seem to be moving fast for a while.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member

Thanks everyone in answer to the questions asked - no we are not taking the car into Tijuana as we heard it is a nightmare to get back. We will probably look like drug dealers flying striaght into the states and then going to Mexico that same day and returning - funny joke we aren't really.
The skiing in canada is key we are big skiiers and the nearly 10 days of skiing and associated activities - sleigh rides, zipline etc is the main reason for the trip.We intend to break it up so I don't see a problem. We just thought we would see the sites of LA as well.
I plan to skip Universal studios to SHOP so it can be done I hope- Rodeo Drive is a must.
The california city pass is just cheaper I think except for those not going to Universal Studios - we just squeak in the 14 days.
We are only seeing the pandas and tigers at the zoo as my son worked at the Singapore Zoo this year and we have seen most stuff- we want to get a feel for the zoo environment as he hopes to come back and study at teh Uni for a semester - have already done a similar park to the wildlife park and not time really. Seaworld is for me as I wanted to see wild orcas in Canada but it is winter and no boats go out so I will just have to see them at Seaworld this time so we will be out of there by lunch and on our way back to LA for the game.

Has anyone got any thoughts on the Wedge - all I've seen is the Youttube stuff my son showed me- looks awesome but how cold is it. Any wildlife in the water?? Where are the notorious noah spots (oops sorry slang for sharks)


answered by
a VirtualTourist member from San Diego

I agree, your's is an ambitious itinerary and I'm not quite clear on how many actual days you will have to spend in LA and San Diego.

However, I'll try to address some of your questions.

>>>...will we be stuck on some random freeway carpark for hours....

Traffic in LA is almost always slow going, but since you'll be leaving the area to drive south, it will be less of a problem in that direction, unless there have been accidents earlier. By the time you reach the San Diego area the morning rush hour traffic should be pretty much over and the freeways cleared of clog. In any case, expect the ride to take two to three hours.

>>>The Wedge....

I think The Wedge is better during the summer months when weather conditions help to create the phenomenon. You might have your son check a site such as to see if this is a good time of year for what he wants. The waters of the Pacific Ocean in this part of the world are usually colder than one would expect and will be very cold in December. Of course, that doesn't stop veteran surfers so it might not stop your son either.

>>>We are overnighting in San Diego to do the zoo and seaworld and a quick trip to Tijuana....

I'm reading this as you plan to do all three in one day. That will be a challenge. I understand that you want to see only the pandas and tigers at the zoo. The SD Zoo is huge, but if your plan is to just run in and out, it shouldn't take more than a couple of hours. I think the line at the pandas should be pretty short, if there even is one now, as the baby is older and the tiger exhibit wouldn't take too long, but the walk up and down the hills might eat at your time. They do have a tour bus that allows on and off privilege, but as you all seem pretty athletic you might skip it. That would cut the price of admission considerably.

Too bad you haven't much time as this is the whale migration season in the area and they can be seen off the coast sometimes from land such as from the Cabrillo National Monument sighting shack or from one of the whale-watching boat tours going on in December.

>>>...a quick trip to Tijuana....

That's not always easy, especially if you are walking across the border as the lines are long, walking across, as well as for cars driving across. There are buses near the border that will drive you in and out of Tijuana which you might consider taking. They have drop off spots along the tourist route and you can get back on the bus at those spots when you are ready to return to the USA. If you want to stop for a lunch, dinner or just a drink, there is a tourist section just past the border gate, with restaurants and some shops. I tell about this area on my Tijuana page.

I don't think that you'll find real NFL jerseys in Tijuana. If you find any at all, they'll be knock-offs. There are some discount stores in the San Diego area that sell the Official version and it might also depend upon the team you are interested in so, you might end up having to go to a sports/outlet store if your team is not as popular in this area. In San Ysidro there is a huge outlet shopping mall, Las Americas, I offer more info on my San Ysidro, California page, and you might find some of the things you are looking for there.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Canada

gosh...i'm almost thinking you must be troll as you can't possibly be serious about seeing all these things in that short of a time. you're going to be out of sea world by noon? it only opens at 10:00 a.m. not seeing any shows? rides? exhibits?
you must have money to burn if you are willing to pay at all these places and only see a fraction of what they offer.
anyways, good luck, have fun...glad i'm not part of it...i'm exhausted just reading the post.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from London

Just a couple notes:

You mention Santee(as "Sallee"). Santee is a bazaar-like, knockoff district that is fascinating and bustling...but the polar opposite of Beverly Hills....just so you're aware. I love it, though. It's near Staples Center, so you can pop in before the game. It shuts down around sundown.

LAX to San Diego is 2 hours no traffic, so be prepared for a three hour ride, should you hit any traffic. You can carpool much of the route, which can help. Good tip, above, on suddenly stopping traffic. When I first moved here, it took me by surprise. Found myself skidding on the freeway out of nowhere. Never saw this back East.



answered by
a VirtualTourist member

well we have managed the first leg - San diego seaworld was amazing it was raining so no lines got to talk to the trainers and the orca show was fabulous glad we didn't miss it - no tijuana too cold and wet -the zoo was a BIG disappointment- but we did get to see the pandas and the baby tigers who are sooooo cute. Got a lot closer to the pandas than Beijing. We are more used to an open zoo so seeing most animals in cages was very distressing- hopefully they get teh money to open things up a bit more like the tiger exhibit. Disneyland was raining as well but the upside was no lines also our 3 day passes are for 14 days so we can go back if the weather is fine - the kids are really looking forward to Universal and we should have doen knots berry farm but that can keep for next time. The Lakers game was awesome- but stressful driving there. Hamish surfed the wedge - all one foot of it in the rain and wind but hey he did it. Next stop Malibu for him - I swear we are the only poeple carting a boogie board into Canada!!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from London

In a bizarre way, you got lucky with all this rain.

It gives a visitor an opportunity to dig deeper in each attraction: ie: Sea World.

Congrats! Embrace it! I gather you did.

You, my friend, get to have a unique SoCal experience: it's different, but it's special.


answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Chula Vista

Too bad while in San Diego you didn't get to the Wild Animal Park where the people are in cages (so to speak) and the animals roam free. A much better experience than either the LA or SD zoo.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Nanton

Are you skiing in Whistler or Banff? We are having some unusually cold weather here in the Banff area at the moment, but they had a little excitement at Whistler a few days ago, when one of the towers on one of the lifts broke. I would imagine some of their runs are not accessible right now.

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