By Ann Laurence
One of Carlsbad’s best-kept secrets serves up serious family fun
With miles of charming seaside communities straddling the coast from Oceanside to La Jolla, San Diego County has no shortage of laid-back beach and ocean lifestyle destinations. But for our family’s recent “staycation,” we were looking for a locale where the mild and mellow Southern California beach scene blends with plenty of action and attraction-rich kid-friendly fun. We quickly settled on the idyllic beach town of Carlsbad and thanks to the West Inn and Suites (westinnandsuites.com) and its central location literally minutes from everywhere you’d want to be, we were able to indulge in a bit of both.
A favorite with business and pleasure travelers alike, this 86-room (including 36 suites) boutique hotel offers many special touches and thoughtful amenities, including a complimentary hot breakfast, complimentary evening pouring of featured wines, complimentary WiFi – and a particular hit with the kids – a nighttime nightcap of milk and fresh baked cookies.
With its relaxed and contemporary accommodations, we felt miles away from our otherwise hectic lives within minutes of arriving. Our spacious room was exactly as described on the hotel’s web site – a place where “casual elegance meets coastal comfort characterized by a breezy “Casablanca meets Cape Code” design and vibe.
To start our weekend away, we headed over to Bistro West, the more casual of the two dining establishments attached to the hotel property (the other is the upscale West Steak and Seafood) where we enjoyed farm-to-table fare where the herbs, fruits and vegetables that define the dishes are sourced from The West Farm a few miles away. Because of its proximity to the hotel, the chefs at both restaurants are able to plant, review and harvest the season’s produce daily.
My roasted beet salad was delicious and arrived with roasted red and golden beets, baby greens, apples, walnuts, goat cheese and an orange tarragon vinaigrette while my husband thoroughly enjoyed Mary’s Rotisserie Chicken which arrived accompanied by mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and roasted garlic lavender jus. The kids went with penne pasta and a cheese pizza – pretty much their go-to dinner choices when eating out.
After our meal, we strolled the streets of nearby Carlsbad Village – reminiscent of a quaint European village – defined by funky beach-inspired shops, unique boutiques and popular bistros.
After fueling up for the morning at the hotel’s complimentary breakfast buffet, we were off to explore the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (sdzsafaripark.org) – an sprawling semi-arid 1,800-acre wildlife preserve and botanical garden that is home to over 3,500 animals representing 260 species from the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America and Australia. One of the highlights for the kids (and their parents after walking the entire park to view its many exhibits) is the Africa Tram (included in the price of admission) which explores the expansive, free-range enclosures for “open-air” experience of antelopes, giraffes, cranes, buffalo and rhinoceros.
For an additional fee, the park offers several signature experiences – one of the most popular being the Jungle Ropes Safari where kids (wearing a safety harness) can climb, balance, swing and navigate their way through the trees – crossing rope bridges and moving platforms, walking across tightropes and negotiating swinging log steps – at times, the 90-minute adventure takes up more than 35 feet off the ground.
Then it was back to our “home base” at West Inn and Suites, where my husband and I relaxed in the outdoor jacuzzi while keeping a watchful eye on the kids as they expended a bit more of their seemingly boundless energy in the heated swimming pool.
West Inn and Suites is located at 4970 Avenida Encinas. For information or reservations, call (866) 431-9378 or visit www.westinnandsuites.com