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Written by Molly Brunette.

I think it’s safe to say that one of a parent’s greater challenges in life would be traveling with small children. On the other hand, one of the greatest joys is seeing things as though for the first time, through the eyes of your children.

The key to a memorable family vacation is choosing a destination that both you and your children will enjoy. My husband and I tossed around several ideas as to where to go with our then 3-1/2 year old daughter, Krista, before deciding on San Diego. We both enjoy zoos (not to mention warm weather) and figured what better one to take her to than the world famous San Diego Zoo.

The zoo is actually only one of the many attractions in San Diego and the surrounding areas. In fact, although we were there for a week, there were many more things we wish there had been time to do. One thing is for sure, San Diego offers something for everyone.

The San Diego Zoo, located within Balboa Park, is a vast 100 acre zoo that has over 4,000 animals displayed in a beautiful natural setting of trees and shrubs. There is even a children’s zoo where your little ones can get “up close and personal” with various tame animals.

Old Town State Historic Park depicts San Diego as it was between 1821 and 1872. There are several restored shops, homes and restaurants in the vicinity. The Old Town Plaza features unique shops overlooking a beautifully landscaped courtyard.

Numerous stores and eateries right on the waterfront make up picturesque Seaport Village. Explore early California courtyards, Mexican villages and seaport boardwalks in this 14 acre attraction. You can take a ride on a restored 1800’s carousel and enjoy live music, clowns and street performers while you shop.

Take a bridge (or ferry) to Coronado and stroll through the famous Hotel del Coronado with its Victorian turrets and cupolas. This historic hotel, completed in 1888, has been host to several U.S. presidents and featured in films, including “Some Like it Hot”.

San Diego Wild Animal Park in Escondido is a 1,800 acre wildlife preserve run the Zoological Society of San Diego. As this is a huge park, I would suggest taking the narrated monorail tour.

Sea World is great fun for all ages. Experience Penguin Encounter, Otter Outlook and the Forbidden Reef (and of course, pay a visit to Shamu!).

For accommodations, I would highly recommend the Sea Lodge on La Jolla Shores Beach. Located right on the water about 20 minutes from San Diego, the rooms either face the water or a beautiful Mexican style courtyard complete with lush foliage and fountains.

There are many wonderful restaurants in San Diego and the surrounding areas, but our favorite was Alfonso’s, a popular Mexican restaurant located on Prospect Street in La Jolla. The food was terrific and the atmosphere was festive and very friendly. We were greeted at our table by Alfonso himself, who makes all his guests feel right at home.