It’s the eternal question: Where to go for spring break? Our family tradition is to turn this school vacation into multi-generational fun time, visiting my in-laws who live in the Phoenix area. But in 2015 my husband Matt and I were looking for something a little different for this family trip with our 10- and 12-year-old sons, maybe involving the ocean. We wanted to find a place where everyone would be comfortable and have fun things to do, where we had lots of dining options and a really killer pool (we live in Delaware, so swimming weather doesn’t come until much later in the year for us). And after a really cold winter, I wanted a guarantee of good weather.
I decided that the perfect place for us to enjoy the grandparents — and for them to enjoy themselves — was San Diego, which offers myriad attractions and activities for both kids and grownups. But I really wanted to find a place to stay that wasn’t in the heart of the city and that offered access to the famous Southern California beaches. Coronado, just minutes from downtown yet with some of the most famous West Coast beaches on offer, caught my eye, and it didn’t take me long to find the Loews Coronado Bay Resort, which aims to please kids and their grownups with plenty of things to do.
The Loews Coronado Bay Resort is the perfect location for a San Diego stay with kids. It’s 20 minutes from the airport, 15 from downtown, and less than an hour from attractions like Legoland and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. As an example of how convenient it is, we attended a Padres game at Petco Park on Friday night and were back at the hotel within 15 minutes of getting in our car near the stadium — despite the fact that more than 40,000 people attended the game.
What’s special about the Loews is that it offers all this genuine convenience while still feeling at a remove from the city. Coronado is on a peninsula (it’s still called an island, although that term is no longer technically accurate) that’s connected to downtown San Diego by a long, high, curving bridge. Guests of the Loews drive through the town of Coronado, full of charming bungalows and palm trees, onto a narrow strip of land that separates the San Diego Bay from the Pacific Ocean. The resort is located about four miles from town and offers both bay and ocean views as well as access to Silver Strand State Beach. If I lived in San Diego I might book weekends at the Loews when I felt like a beach vacation, because it feels remote in the best possible way.
In fact, it would be easy to spend your entire vacation on Coronado, especially if you have small children or babies uninterested in sightseeing. There’s a town beach, a bike path, a golf course, parks, shops, and numerous restaurants.
Because there were six of us on this trip, we booked two separate rooms on the same hallway, both of them facing the San Diego Bay. One was a Bay View King Room and the other a Bay View King Suite. The suite had two smaller rooms, a bedroom and a sitting area with a pullout couch. The king room was generously sized with a large bathroom and closet. The suite also had two closets, which kept things tidy as we had ample space for all our belongings. My in-laws offered to stay with the boys in the suite, and this proved perfect. The four of them enjoyed time together playing games, watching TV, and just hanging out on the balcony, while my husband and I felt like we had our own mini-vacation.
The decor in the rooms was simple and beachy, with an emphasis on bringing the outdoors in via large sliding-glass doors and generous balconies with seating. I loved getting up in the morning and enjoying a cup of coffee (each room has its own Keurig) while watching birds fly across the water of the bay, tinted pink from the sunrise.
For the more budget-conscious, there are rooms that face the Loews’ lovely little marina or the lawn areas that separate the resort’s buildings. It’s also possible to book rooms that face the pool (although these might end up being a bit loud and might not be a good idea for families with kids who take naps during the day). Families seeking even more space and privacy can book Bayside Suites, located in self-contained cottages that are separate from the rest of the resort, directly over the bay.
My kids are older, but when they were little I’m sure I would have taken advantage of the resort’s cribs, childproofing kits, potty seats, and other family-friendly amenities. Judging by the number of small children and babies in the pool area (including one who was only a few weeks old), I’m guessing this is a very comfortable place for families with littles to stay.
Note that the room rate does not include a resort fee of $26 per room, per night, and that parking is also extra (self-parking is $29; valet is $33).
My kids are unabashed fans of the pool area at the Loews Coronado Bay. In fact, I had a hard time getting them to leave and ended up changing our itinerary several times so that they could spend more time there. There’s a large pool designated just for kids and two smaller pools, one for adults and one with a net set up for pool volleyball. Table tennis, ladder ball, and a giant chess set are all on hand on the pool deck, and there are also basketball nets on the tennis courts adjacent to the pool area. The cheerful and friendly staff are on hand to provide balls, pool noodles, towels, snacks, and water as well as beverages from the bar (I was a big fan of the Cucumber Margarita, kind of a cross between a salad and a cocktail). Regular games and tournaments are a feature of pool life here — my younger son was very excited when he won a free smoothie at the limbo contest.
Of course the Loews also has a beach right across the street, to which they will happily ferry their guests along with chairs and boogie boards. But since the ocean water was cold during our stay (it was early April) and since there were so many other kids to play with in the pool area, my boys managed to take a California beach vacation without going to the beach once. Matt and I did take our morning runs along the ocean, because I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity to spend some time near the waves.
The boys also were uninterested in riding bicycles into town (again, they wanted to play with the other kids at the pool), so Matt and I left them with their grandparents. We rented beach bikes at Action Sports, right on the marina at the resort. The shop offers kids bikes, tag-along tandems, and bikes with child seats for families; they also have helmets and locks available. I wasn’t impressed with the quality or condition of the bikes, which were a bit creaky and rusty, especially since they cost $60 a day to rent. But they served just fine to take us into town and on the bike path that circumnavigates the main area of Coronado. I did end up with a flat tire and it took more than half an hour for someone on the staff to drive into town and give me a new bicycle to use. We were given a discount on our rental to make up for the inconvenience.
The resort offers so many activities that we didn’t even come close to trying all of them. On a return visit I’d love to rent kayaks and take them out on the smooth waters of the bay. There are surfing classes in the ocean and sailing classes on the bay, and guests can rent almost any other kind of watercraft, from jet skis to stand-up paddle boards. And I’d definitely like to check out the yoga classes at the spa and maybe up my tennis game with the help of the onsite pro.
The Loews also has Kids’ Club programs available for kids aged 4 to 12 in the summer and over vacation periods. You can book a half or full day for a reasonable rate, with lunch included in the full-day program. During the summer of 2015 the resort plans to partner with a local conservation organization to bring in touch tanks for kids to learn about marine life.
The Loews Coronado Bay has a full listing of its activities on its website.
The resort has two full restaurants; the more casual of the two is The Market Cafe, where we ate several breakfasts as well as one dinner. I especially liked it for breakfast; there is a generous buffet, an especially good value for kids 12 and under at $12.50. The à la carte items were delicious as well — I recommend the breakfast enchiladas and the wild mushroom frittata, both of which were too large for me to finish.
Next door, Market to Go has a selection of sandwiches and baked goods and also a juice bar serving really delicious smoothies. How much did I love that my kids wanted to have one with spinach in it each day that we stayed? It was definitely an antidote to all the French fries that are an inevitable part of a family vacation.
We didn’t dine at the more upscale Mistral restaurant, although my husband and I were lucky enough to be invited on a cruise around the bay on a boat chartered by the resort, where we were served a meal prepared by the executive chef Nicolas Bour. The food we ate, much like what is served at Mistral, was fresh and full of delicious combinations (we had quail breast with huckleberry mostarda — in the restaurant you’ll find sea bass served with tomato confit and chive crème fraîche). The airy dining room overlooks the bay and would be the perfect spot for a date night. The resort can offer a list of local babysitting services should you decide on an evening out.
There are ample choices for offsite dining in Coronado as well. We liked the Mexican food (in particular the tacos) at Miguel’s Cocina so much that we ate there twice. Another family-friendly option is crepes at Fabrisons. There’s plenty of metered street parking in Coronado, but if you don’t feel like bringing your car, the resort runs shuttles into town hourly. Be sure to book your family at the valet parking desk early in the day as they can fill up, especially at dinnertime.
San Diego offers a surprising number of activities for families. In addition to Petco Park, we visited the U.S.S. Midway, Legoland, and the Wild Animal Safari Park. We left Balboa Park, with its numerous museums and the San Diego Zoo, the New Children’s Museum, the tide pools at Cabrillo National Monument, and SeaWorld — not to mention the beaches on Coronado — to be explored on future trips.
And we will be back … everything about the Loews, from the perfect SoCal weather and the craft beers served next to fire pits in Cays Lounge to the friendly games of table tennis and the relaxing vibe is summoning us for future family visits.
Best family hotels and things to do in San Diego with kids on Ciao Bambino
Editor’s Note: Mara was offered a media package at Loews Coronado Bay Resort. As always, our opinions on Ciao Bambino are our own. Photos by Mara Gorman.
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