Southern California is known for many things—the beaches, the endless sunshine, the behemoth family destination known as Disneyland. But sometimes you want a family vacation to feel like exactly that—a vacation. Not hours of walking around to wait in endless lines for a minute-long ride (no, seriously.)
The Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California (that's northern San Diego for you out-of-towners) is an oasis away from the city, yet still near many family-friendly destinations like the aforementioned Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo and Legoland. And during peak travel times like the holidays or winter months when families are flocking to warmer destinations, it's the perfect getaway.
The property itself is a lush Spanish-inspired compound with enough little features from fountains to rolling hills, fresh fruit trees, bench swings and endless views to impress even the littlest of guests. The cool weather made strolling the grounds especially pleasant.
Our room was generously sized, which is always a major perk when you're trying to squeeze four bodies into one room, and especially awesome when one of those little bodies still needs to sleep in a portable crib. If you've ever been in a tiny room where you feel like you can't move around without tripping on people and things, you'll really appreciate this like we did. If you really want to splurge, they have suites available too (hooray for closing doors!)
There's also a daily schedule of activities with enough variety to keep the kids entertained all day long. Both my 4-year-old and 2-year-old couldn't get enough of the animal show they had there one morning. I mean, what kid doesn't like seeing snakes and tarantulas up close? Now, adults, that's another story....
Most weekend nights the resort also offers s'mores by one of the fire pits (for a nominal fee), which is also always a crowd-pleaser.
Admittedly, one of the best parts of traveling off-season was the lack of crowds. There were still plenty of guests there, but the pools were relatively empty early in the mornings (you know, before regular humans wake-up) and due to the cooler weather which doesn't seem to faze kids in the least, it felt like we were swimming in a private pool many times. Older kids will flip over the double water slides. Our young'uns opted to go on the much smaller, less intimidating toddler slide over and over (and over) again.
For those times when the munchies kick in there's a little stores with snacks, beverages, swimsuits and goodies for kids, which also housed our personal favorite, a little ice cream and coffee shop. Because, coffee. There's also the more casual Bistro 65, which, thankfully, has a lot of nearby areas where antsy kids can run around while waiting for their food. What really stood out to us about the restaurant was the impressive kids menu which went beyond the usual chicken fingers and mac and cheese and offered things like salmon and roasted vegetables—which was delicious.
And if you're lucky enough to get a solo break—because let's be real, a vacation with kids never really feels like a true vacation—I highly recommend you sneak off to the The Spa. I received an Arctic Berry Facial which was ah-mazing. The Spa also has its own private pool area which I could picture myself spending all day in if I were child-free.
At the end of the day, we'll always remember this trip for one major milestone: when we finally taught our kids to love the hot tub. Because, let's be real, parents don't always want to be jumping into a pool in 60 degree weather to play with the kids (I know, we Southern Californians are weak.) But hot tubs, that's a whole different story.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
The pools are heated, which is nice if you go during the off-season like us. The kids were more than happy to splash in the pool and hot tubs.
There are two big kid water slides, and a smaller one that's meant for toddlers. Add in the splash pad, and your kids are happy campers.
Try to book a room close to the main pool if you have small kids, the grounds aren't huge, but it's not small either and can be a trek with little ones and all the pool gear you inevitably end up hauling.
If you do want to venture out for food, which is always a plus when traveling with kids, there's a strip mall nearby with a wide variety of restaurant as well as a grocery store.
There's an awesome Kid's Club available (for a fee) that my 4-year-old loved. It was large, clean, had scheduled activities and crafts and the people that worked there were great with kids. They will even feed your child and have fun evening activities if you wanted to attempt a date night.
If you or your partner is an avid golfer, they are also home to a world-famous golf course.
If you're lucky enough to go with a partner or other adults, take some time for yourself with an early morning yoga class at the Chopra Center.
(Disclosure: The Omni Resort & Spa provided partial press accommodations for this trip. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.)