Planning a family summer vacation with teens can be tricky. There are things they’ve outgrown and are not interested in anymore, such as themed parks, and on the other hand, there are other things they would be interested in, but aren’t old enough to do, like getting into bar/clubs ( I’m not saying I like this fact, but it’s true) So, what can you do that is age appropriate,kind of cool and that the whole family would enjoy? It may surprise you that there are many things.
Last summer I went on a vacation to San Diego, California with two, 16-year-old, girls, and a 19-year-old boy, myself, and my husband. I really wanted our vacation to be awesome and memorable, since this may be one of the last “family vacations” we go on before my youngest heads off to college.
I started doing some research on my own, and also asked my cousin, who lives there, for activities that we could possibly do. San Diego, I found, has a ton to do. This was going to be easy. The hardest part is narrowing down, which activities we really wanted to do, since we only had five days.
My family is really into the outdoors and the ocean, so I knew I had to choose some of the great options there were. I decided we definitely should go surfing, kayaking and hiking. I asked the kids what they thought, and they not only agreed, but loved my ideas.
Here is what we did:
Surf Lessons at Pacific Beach ( Pacific Surf School)
This was so much fun! None of us had any real experience in surfing. We have rented boards before in New Hampshire and tried, with absolutely no guidance, on how to even get up on a board, so of course, failed miserably. My daughter took a lesson a few years ago, and got up a few times, but overall, we were generally novice surfers with little, to no experience. The kids were so excited to try surfing in California, after all, THIS is where it’s at, for surfing, right? It was also on my personal bucket-list, check!
Since we were a group of 5, we got assigned a private teacher of our own. He was very helpful and informative, first giving us a little history and background of surfing, showed us the parts of the board (zones), where to place our feet, if we had a lefty (goofy foot) or righty (natural foot) stance, and gave us some common terms used. He gave us a lesson on the beach on how to do pop-ups and talked about surfing etiquette and safety rules. He guaranteed that by the end of our lesson, every single one of us would be able to at least ride one wave. We weren’t sure if this was possible, but we were willing to give it a try, “Shaka Brah!!!” (A cool surf term that means hang loose) We were now California surfers, well, we’d like to think so.
We all headed out into the ocean, fighting the waves; he taught us how to get under the wave to get to right depth to catch the perfect wave. All of us had our share of wipe outs. He paid close attention to each of us, while taking turns to line up our boards, setting us up for pop-up at the correct time. We all did it!! Even me! My 19-year-old son, who has never surfed a day in his life, caught on very quickly and was riding many waves. He was stoked! Our instructor was amazing and even let us stay out over the time that our lesson was supposed to end. It was super fun and if you’ve never surfed before and wanted to try it in San Diego, this school was top-notch!
When we were leaving, we were even lucky enough to see Slomo skating by us on the Pacific Beach Boardwalk, the number one resident of Pacific Beach. This guy has an incredible story and is beloved by all the locals. I wanted to hug him. Of course I didn’t though.
The SloMo Story- This is a quick 16 minute documentary of the Slomo story. So worth the view. You will see why all of the local Californian’s love him, and after watching this, you will too!
Kayaking Tour in La Jolla (http://www.everydaycalifornia.com)
La Jolla is right outside of San Diego. It is known for its beauty and celebrity list of residents. We wanted to, not just rent kayaks, but take a guided tour, since it would give us a little education of the history of La Jolla and San Diego. We chose to go through Everyday California because of its great reviews on trip advisor and were not disappointed. The tour guides were not only educational, but shared some fun and unique stories, and little unknown facts, that we would have never learned, if we didn’t take the guided tour. We got to kayak around La Jolla Cove and go into the sea caves. We even got to get an up-close look at sea lions. This was another great day enjoying the ocean and highly recommended.
Dinner in La Jolla for my daughter’s sweet 16th birthday at George’s At the Cove Restaurant
We heard that the sunset at La Jolla Cove was absolutely gorgeous, and it was recommended to have dinner at George’s at the Cove restaurant, at sundown, to see it first hand. Since we were celebrating my daughter’s sweet 16th birthday while on vacation, we figured this would be the perfect spot for this occasion. And it was! The restaurant was set on the cliffs, overlooking the ocean, with a view of the sunset that was like nowhere I’ve seen. The food was delicious and had a wide variety of selection that would please even pickiest of eaters. The waiter also gave her a birthday cake dessert and us, a complimentary sample sized bottle of their California EVOO, extra virgin olive oil, for choosing George’s for our special day. This would be a great place for any special occasion such as birthdays, anniversaries, engagements,or any time, but is highly recommended to make a reservation, way in advanced if you want to dine, during the hour of sunset. It is easily booked out for 6 months or more on certain days. We booked our reservation in March, for a date in July and had to change the day because there was nothing available for our original date we picked. Luckily, we found a day that would work on our short window we were visiting. So plan ahead!
Farmer’s Market in Ocean Beach
Every Wednesday, in the Bohemian, artsy, area of San Diego, Ocean Beach, or as locals call it OB, is the weekly Farmer’s Market. Newport St. is closed down each Wednesday of the year from 4:00 pm-8:00 pm for local vendors to sell their fresh produce and unique hand-crafted goods. The area has a free-spirited, funky vibe that can be felt throughout the entire community. This happened to be my absolute favorite spot in San Diego. As a yogi, I felt right at home, with these like-minded people.
The area also has really cool shops, and if you are there and get hungry, they have samples from the vendors, or if you like burgers, stop by at the famous Hodadie’s, who claim to have the world’s best burgers. The lines are long, but the locals affirm that this is fact, and that it’s worth the wait. We didn’t go to Hodadie’s, but we did sample delicious homemade guacamole, with fresh California avocados from a vendor, and enjoyed refreshing Acai’ smoothies from, O.B. Smoothie Bar and Subs, that totally hit the spot. They even had free hula hooping! How could I resist?
Hiking at Sunset Cliffs
For an easy hike and another spectacular view of the sunset, we went hiking at Sunset Cliffs. There is a reason it is called this. We hiked there after shopping at the Farmer’s Market, since it was in the same area, also in Ocean Beach. It was great to be able to hike and explore around the cliffs, some areas were even a little scary. Well, maybe for me, since I have a fear of heights? The experience of viewing the breathtaking views, outweighed any fears I had, and I just stayed further back than the rest. Another place for hiking that is supposed to be even better, is Torrey Pines State Reserve, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to go there. Maybe next time?
4th Of July cookout and watching fireworks from our airbnb house rental
Fourth of July celebrations are found in almost every popular city. San Diego, not surprisingly, hosts many locations for firework displays. We had rented a gorgeous house in Escondido, 30 minutes east of San Diego, on top of Mt. Israel. I asked the homeowner if she had any suggestions of the best place to go to see fireworks. She said that there were many; including San Diego’s popular, “Big Bay Boom”, Coronado and Sea World, but to keep in mind, with that, comes heaps of traffic too. She made a very good point. She gave us an option I had never considered, and am so glad we took her advice. She said, since the house had a grill and pool and a mountaintop view, why don’t we just have a cookout there?
We could relax, swim, eat, listen to music, and then enjoy the view of area fire works, right from the house. The fireworks, obviously, wouldn’t be super close, but so what. It was a great plan. We were super busy every day of our trip, getting up early, activities all day, and not going to bed until very late, so it was a welcomed down day for our last full day in the San Diego area. We went to the local market the night before and stocked up on grilling foods, salads, drinks and desserts, we even had another birthday cake and party for my daughter.
It was great to get to really have the time to appreciate this amazing home we were so lucky to rent. It was one of the most perfect 4th of July’s I ever had and I think that feeling was shared by all. We all kept saying how crazy it was that we were staying at a place that was this awesome. If we didn’t have pictures to prove it, I don’t think our friends and family would believe us of how truly spectacular this rental was. Airbnb rules!
If traveling in a group, I highly recommend, trying alternative accommodations, through airbnb, and renting a house instead of a hotel. I feel this made our trip much more comfortable, especially with teen girls. We all had our own bathrooms and bedrooms. We were able to all be together in the common areas, when we wanted to be, but also able to separate into our own private spaces. This is key, when traveling with varying age groups. My husband and I had our own master suite with a bathroom. The girls had their own bedroom with a bathroom that they could get ready in. My son had his own bedroom with a bathroom and he enjoyed being able to use the computer and go online. Getting ready each morning was a breeze, whereas if we all had to share one bathroom in a hotel, it would be extremely difficult.
We also had a living room and a game room with a pool table, that the kids would hang out in. Not to mention, the ridiculously amazing pool area we had. I think this made all the difference for our overall enjoyment. Being able to decompress a get away from the group, if needed, was a nice added bonus to our trip. Sometimes close quarters with many people for extend periods of time can be stressful and exhausting. This made for a perfect balance.
San Diego was a trip that my entire family will never forget. We had an amazing vacation, and didn’t even touch on all of the options this city offered us, yet we still had the best time on our short visit. We did plenty of teen appropriate activities that the whole family could enjoy. It was a fun-filled, quick trip, but nonetheless, one of the best trips my family has had together. We definitely got a taste of why people love the SoCal area and would love to go back and explore more. Since our vacation, my daughter now is seriously considering applying for college at San Diego State University. (SDSU) If that isn’t evidence enough of how much my teens loved it, I don’t know what is? (if you wanted to find out more information about the house we rented, email me)