ROAD TRIP: Tacos, San Diego, Waterslides and More

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(Editor’s Note: This is part of a continuing “Road Trip” series by Jennifer Evans Gardner.)

I stood in line for the water slide, shivering in the cool marina air, little children all around me. Too many kids for my taste, truth be told. But I promised my son  I would join him. Maybe I should go back to my lounge chair with a pina colada where I belong.

Aerial view from hotel room. Photos: Jennifer Evans Gardner

“Is this your first time?” a tiny voice asked me. I turned to see an angelic little girl in a purple one-piece smiling at me. “Uh… yes,” I replied.

A tow-headed five year-old boy next to her flashed me a huge grin. “Oohhh, you’re gonna love it!”

The rest of the little people in line concurred, enthusiastically nodding their heads. They were adorable, and in the end, they were right. The water slide rocked.

I’ve never been much of a San Diego person, though it’s just 2 ½ hours away from my home. When I have time off, I usually go north, to Santa Barbara, Cambria, Big Sur… San Francisco. This doesn’t count my annual overnight visit to The Del in Coronado – but I don’t really count that as San Diego, because I never leave the property.

Recently, I needed a getaway that both my teenage son and I could enjoy together, and for a change, decided to go south rather than north. Lucky us. I’ll get back to the water slide in a moment, but first – the food.

Every road trip should include something delicious along the way – and that’s where Pedro’s Tacos came in – a quick pit stop in San Clemente – a dive, really, but with a sign reading “World’s Best Tacos,” how could I resist? The “famous fish taco” was a find — two hand-made corn tortillas filled with a plump slab of fried fish, a mound of fresh cabbage and some sort of “secret sauce.” Kellen loved his chicken taco, and after our five-minute meal, we were good to go, just like the surfers who frequent Pedro’s.

The water slide.

We checked in to the Hyatt Mission Bay, but it wasn’t the nearby Sea World we were interested in, but the hotel water slides, our first stop. Looking at all the young children by the pool, I had a nostalgic flash for my son’s earlier years. I needn’t have worried, though. My 13 year-old spent the next hour (and next morning) in water slide heaven, and insisting that I join him. Which is where I met that gang of cute kindergartners.

The Hyatt Mission Bay is perfect for anyone looking for a place that is kid-friendly, but sophisticated. Renovated a few years ago, it’s breezy and chic, and our tower room had a gorgeous view of the marina and bay, along with an open balcony (warning to those with toddlers – choose a room with an enclosed balcony or one of the bay buildings).

After a trip to the workout room, a walk through the historic Gas Lamp district and some shopping at Urban Outfitters for the boy, we headed back for dinner at the Red Marlin, the Hyatt’s lovely waterfront restaurant. The food was innovative and delicious. My roasted beet salad with Humboldt Fog goat cheese, candied walnuts and citrus vinaigrette with balsamic reduction was delicious, but the grilled swordfish was the surprise. Perfectly cooked, it came nestled in a deconstructed “clam chowder,” fat Little Neck clams and smoky chunks of Pamplona chorizo in a velvety reduction that had to involve butter.

Think Hawaii.

We were too full to order a proper dessert, but instead took a chocolate chip cookie and some milk back to the room for a “movie night.”

After a great night’s sleep, we headed home, this time through Solana Beach, where we checked out the galleries and shops of the Cedros Design District, followed by a quick lunch at Fidel’s, a local Mexican establishment decorated with sombreros, artificial flowers and Mexican blankets. We packed a lot into that 36 hours, but the water slide makes me smile the most. I wonder if there will be a line the next time I go back?

Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina,1441 Quivira Road, San Diego, 619-224-1234

Check out Hyatt SPECIAL OFFERS

Jennifer Evans Gardner is a food and travel writer, cookbook author, and owner of the Little Feet in the Kitchen cooking school. Formerly Editor-in-Chief for, Jennifer has also written for The Los Angeles Times,, ePregnancy, Eating, Santa Barbara, and Kiwi, among other publications.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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