Background: About a year ago, I got a great idea for a road trip. I’d take my kids, fly from my hometown of Houston TX , to San Diego CA, and then drive from San Diego to Oakland. We’d stop and see all the sights along the way, and then fly home from Oakland. Then I asked my friend Gina, who lives in California, if she’d like to come along. With her kids. She agreed, her daughter Emma named the trip, and Death Match 2014 was born. Two ladies, seven kids, and a 15-day road trip up the California Coast.

Day 4 – Okay, so this trip is rapidly becoming a lesson in underestimating time, and overestimating children.

Today’s plan was to visit the Safari Park, see a college campus that one of our teens is interested in, have lunch near there, swim at La Jolla Shores beach area, and then finish the day at Belmont Park, and eat dinner there.

Here’s what actually happened: Safari Park, snacks, college campus, finally lunch around 4:30pm, crabby children, exhausted moms, and lots of downtime at the hotel!

San Diego Safari Park

So the Safari Park was totally great! I really recommend planning to spend a whole day here. We intended to just spend a couple of hours, and ended up spending four. It was still nowhere near enough time! Definitely do the African safari tour that’s included in the admission price (the other tours would be fantastic too, but there is an additional charge for those).

San Diego Safari Park African Tour

We also saw the baby gorilla and its whole family. I could have just stayed and watched them interact for hours and been happy!

The whole park was very beautiful and rugged. I can’t say enough good things about it. And the conservation lessons they are teaching are really great for the kids to hear, too. I’ve heard people say that the park is very hot, and we did find there were certain areas which were indeed very hot. But other areas had a rather nice breeze. It’s definitely a good idea to wear lots of sunscreen, try to stay in the shade, and drink plenty of water.

San Diego Safari Park Photo Op

After that, we drove to a local college campus and walked around just to get “the lay of the land”. The kids were getting pretty grouchy, as it was already mid-afternoon, and we had not had lunch yet. This led to a bit of bickering over *where* we should procure our lunch. In the end, we had to drive a bit farther to find food, but everyone got plenty to eat and happiness ensued.

We headed back to the hotel to cool off and regroup to decide how to spend the evening. The decision was to stay put and let the kids play video games and get happy again. We opted to skip La Jolla Shores entirely, and planned to visit Belmont Park in the morning before we head toward Los Angeles for the next leg of our trip.

With a plan in place, we fell into bed.

Day 5 – After we checked out of our hotel, we drove to Belmont Park. This is next to Mission Beach, which is a destination in its own right, with clean sand and beautiful water. We took a little walk on the beach and put our feet in the water. It was very cold to my Texas toes! But we were mainly here to check out the amusements.

Mission Beach California

You can purchase an all-day unlimited ride wristband for about $27 for adults and $17 for kids, or you can buy individual tickets, which is what we did. Each ride requires 3-6 tickets per person. The big kids loved the great wooden roller coaster, and the little ones really enjoyed the bumper cars and carousel. We ended up spending about four hours here, including lunch, and so were later than we planned to start our drive. This is rapidly becoming a theme!

Belmont Park Carousel

We opted to skip the Joshua Tree National Park which was in our plan, as we just were NOT going to have the time. We’ll save that one for Death Match II…

But we did take the time to drive a little bit of Route 66, and found this gem: the Wigwam Motel. The kids saw right away the resemblance to the Cozy Cone Motel in the Cars movie, so that was a fun little stop!

Wigwam Motel on Route 66

A little further down the road, we saw the original McDonald’s restaurant, which was neat to see. The area is very run-down, but you could see some of the buildings from the 1950’s still there.

Then we made another stop at a college on the way, and had a yummy dinner at Taco Factory near there. Then we finished our drive to Los Angeles in the dark. My teenager was excited to see so many things he had only heard about before: Capitol Records, Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood Boulevard… He kept saying “This is SO cool!” (If you own a teenager, you know this is high praise indeed.)

We checked in at the Holiday Inn Express – Hollywood Walk of Fame. The front desk was very nice and efficient, and our room is spacious and clean. I’ll know more about the area tomorrow, when the sun comes out!

On the plan for tomorrow: La Brea Tar Pits, California Science Center, Hollywood Walk of Fame… Let’s see which things actually get done!

My name is Brenda Arnold-Richard, and I’m a travel planner with Travel with the Magic. Like the Travel with the Magic page on Facebook, and follow me on Pinterest to see more of our trip.

It’ll either be fabulous or awful, but it’s bound to be interesting!