Tuesday, April 2, 2013

San Diego Vacation – Day 4 – Safari Park

We debated where to go on our last full day in San Diego. The San Diego Zoo is world famous, but Kai has never shown much interest in zoos. And we have two great zoos right here in the Chicago area. There are historical sights and museums, but we did not think Kai would have much interest in those.

In the end, we decided to go with a recommendation from Kai’s grandparents that we go to the Safari Park.

About 40 minutes northeast of the city, the Safari Park is operated by the same folks who run the Zoo. But this is a place where many animals can freely roam in much larger spaces than you find at a zoo.

The main attraction is a half-hour tram ride that takes you on an “African safari.” When we got to the Park, that is the first thing that Kai wanted to do.

The tram ride is located at the rear of the park, so we started to make our way back there. Along the way, there were many interesting displays that my wife and I wanted to see. But as soon as we paused, Kai started to get angry.

“Let’s go! Let’s go! I want to go on the tram!”


We really need to figure out how to teach him the notion that you can “stop and smell the roses along the way”, or “life is not so much a destination as it is a journey.”

Anyway, we found our way to the tram. Like Legoland, the Safari Park makes special accommodations for people with disabilities, and we were able to get a pass that allowed us to move to the front of the line for the tram. So we did not have to wait long for the next departure.

As the tram took us around, we saw many African animals including gazelle….

and giraffe….

among many others.

My wife and Kai especially enjoyed it.

What I enjoyed was the sorbets we had afterward. We had pineapple, coconut and mango sorbets that were served in their shells. I don’t know if it was the presentation or the environment in which we had them, but I swear it was the best sorbet I’ve ever had.

Our next stop was to see a butterfly exhibit. We walked into a tropical greenhouse that had thousands of butterflies.

One even landed on Kai’s head.

After that we wanted to see the bird show they had. We got to the area about a half hour before showtime and found good seats up front. Kai said he was thirsty so I went to look for a place to buy drinks.

It was lunchtime, so the line for food and drinks was long. Still, with a half hour to spare, I felt pretty confident that I would get back in time for the start of the show.

Apparently, Kai wasn’t so confident.

My wife reported that Kai got very anxious.

“I’m so worried!”

“I don’t want Dad to miss the show!”

After about 15 minutes, my wife called me on my cell phone to see if I was close to returning. I told her it would be another 10 minutes. I could hear in the background that Kai was upset, and my wife tried to calm him by telling him that I would be back in time for the show.

But I heard later that he got quite loud with his anxiety, drawing attention from the other patrons seated around them.

When I made it back with minutes to spare, Kai was happy. My wife was exhausted.

The show was quite fun. We saw a wide variety of birds. Some flew directly over or in front of us…

Others appeared on stage…

And one made funny sounds on cue…

The emcee did a great job in educating us about each bird, but also making it very entertaining.

We had had a fun day at Safari Park.

We next drove over to the coast to La Jolla.

La Jolla is home to a colony of harbor seals that found a nice spot on the beach to settle down.

Kai enjoyed seeing the seals.

But what he really wanted to do was go down to the water.

We found a spot a little ways down from the seals to walk down to the beach.

And we all waded in the Pacific Ocean.

The ocean was nice, but Kai wanted to go swimming in the hotel pool one more time.

On our way back to the hotel, my wife asked to pull over at a Starbucks. Kai and I waited in the car while she ran in to get coffee.

Kai waited patiently. He knew how much my wife craves her coffee.

“I want Mom to feel good so she will go swimming with us,” he said.

Ha, smart kid.

And so, that afternoon, we enjoyed our last swim together.

Finally, it was time for dinner.

I looked up seafood restaurants and found one that sounded good on TripAdvisor. When we got to the Pacific Beach Fish Shop, we found that many others thought it was a good place, too. It was a casual place and there was a long line to place an order. We debated leaving, but I really wanted to try the food there. Besides, it was a Friday night and it was likely that we would have to wait no matter where we went.

I stood in line while my wife took Kai outside to find a spot to sit while they waited. My wife called shortly afterward to say that she overheard another patron saying they had to wait 45 minutes to get their food. There was no way Kai would wait that long. But my wife said that Kai was content using the iPad for now. And I guessed that the wait would not be that long so I thought we should continue waiting.

After about a half hour, my wife called again. She wanted to see how close I was to ordering the food. I was getting closer to the front, and suggested that they could come back inside and find a table. Kai was still content with his iPad.

It would be about 15 minutes more before I finally got to the front of the line. I placed my order: three tacos for Kai – a shrimp taco, scallops taco, and lobster taco; a red snapper plate for my wife; and two tacos for me – a taco with yellowtail fish, guacamole, and strawberries, and a mahi mahi taco with tropical salsa.

I got our drinks and went to the table where my wife and Kai were sitting. Remarkably, Kai was still occupied with the iPad. He was playing Angry Birds.

We had to wait about 15-20 more minutes before they served our food. In all, we had waited over an hour.

Kai eagerly gobbled up his tacos.

I really enjoyed mine, too.

Right there at the tail end of our trip, we had the highlight of our vacation. But I’m not talking about the food.

Seeing Kai wait that long without a complaint, without getting angry at all, well that had never happened before.

That was the finest moment.

Tomorrow: Heading home

Click here to read about our trip from Day 1.


  1. I'm so impressed! You've really had a good vacation overall! I guess you better take that ipad everywhere. I'm making a mental note to have ours when we travel for Taylor's wedding this summer. ha.

    My mouth is watering at your description of all that yummy food! ha.

    1. Betsy, I don't know what we would have done without that iPad. Don't forget to bring it with you when you travel!

      My wife and I enjoy trying different foods when we travel, but it isn't always easy to find a place that has interesting dishes and would be good for Kai.

  2. I enjoyed hearing about your vacation. It is so good that Kai had a good time also. He will remember it for some time. Every time you look back at your photos...you will relive your good times with your family. You are building a rich and satisfying life through your family adventures.

    1. Shiroi, I have fond memories of going on vacations like this with my family when I was a child, and hopefully Kai will have similar memories. We always make photo books and Kai enjoys looking through old ones from past years from time to time.

  3. How timely! We are headed to San Diego tomorrow for our own adventure--Legoland, Sea World and I'm not sure where else--my oldest son shows zero interest in animals, so I'm not sure the safari park or zoo will have any appeal. We did go to Legoland last year and he loved it. The funny thing is that unlike Kai, my son loves all rides--the wilder the better--so that is what we'll be focusing on at Sea World instead of the shows. :)

    You are fortunate that Kai is relatively adventurous with his food choices--it is probably my son's biggest challenge. He has significant oral aversions, so eating out for us is difficult!

    Glad you had a good time overall--I think that the positives far outweighed the negatives. Great to see that you don't let the challenges stand in your way! All we can do is keep truckin' on....

    1. I was surprised that Kai showed as much interest in the animals as he did. One thing is that they make the shows entertaining, so it's not just about watching animals, but enjoying some humorous moments. The show at SeaWorld with the sea lions and sea otter was especially good for that.

      Kai used to be very picky about foods, but it is nice that he has gotten more adventurous. Though finding a place to eat out is still a challenge as we can never assume he will be patient like he was this last time.

      Enjoy your trip, Erica! I'll be thinking of you.

  4. Aaw this is a wonderful post to read. Thanks for sharing! It looks like you all had a wonderful time!
    I thought that since Kai enjoyed all the wild life and animals so much, he might also enjoy the Birch Aquarium if you plan on returning!


  5. Is the safari park a part of the San Diego zoo or is it a separate location? Either way, it looks like everyone had a great time! I love visiting zoos and checking out all of the neat wildlife.

    1. Hi Janette,

      The Safari Park is run by the same folks who run the zoo, but it is in a very different location, about 40 minutes northeast of the city. If you like wildlife, I think you would really enjoy the Safari Park.


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