Drive Time: About 1 hour from Irvine
Weather: Frosty mornings in the winter, but it can be triple digits during summer. (Recommend this as a winter trip!)
Stay: Rancho Bernardo Inn in Rancho Bernardo (Disclosure: Rancho Bernardo Inn graciously extended us a reduced media rate for our one-night stay. All opinions are my own.)
Eat: On our first family trip to the Inn around New Year’s 2014, we ate outside at the hotel’s Veranda Fireside Lounge & Restaurant. Their “Daily Delights” menu runs from 5pm to 9pm and offers items like:
- burgers & brew Mondays,
- tacos & tequila on Tuesdays,
- fish & chips on Fridays,
- classic fried chicken Saturdays,
- and a Sunday BBQ.
At that time, we also got take-out Chinese food from the nearby Chin’s Szechwan. And there are other nearby options for families, like Round Table Pizza or Souplantation. On our latest trip, we opted for Urge American Gastropub for dinner.
If nothing nearby suits your palate for dinner, you can travel just one exit up I-15 to the Westfield North County mall food options off Via Rancho Parkway.
A small cafe on-site offers coffee and breakfast sandwiches or pastries ($3-$6) at Café Granada right off the lobby of the Inn.
Play: Kit Carson Park (Queen Califia’s Magical Circle) right near the Westfield mall, Santiago Family Pool on hotel grounds, playground at Felicita Park
OVERNIGHT TRIP ITINERARY
The overnight trip we took in December 2016 was a splurge to celebrate family birthdays. (I always prefer travel over traditional gifts!) We were only away from home from 4pm Saturday through 4pm Sunday. Way too quick!
We did a speeded up version, but the following is the itinerary I would suggest for a full day Saturday to Sunday overnight trip . . .
Drive from Orange County to the San Diego Safari Park in Escondido. Plan to arrive at opening to avoid parking hassle and lines. I suggest purchasing a membership, because it works at the San Diego Zoo, too. Make sure at least one of the adults has parking included in their membership, because that can add up! Spend the day at the Safari Park.
At the end of the day, you just have to drive a short distance back to Interstate 15 and drive south one exit. Follow the signs to reach the Rancho Bernardo Inn and you’re “home” for the night! Make sure you ask to stay in the Santiago Poolside wing of the hotel. We stayed there on our first visit and you can’t beat having such close access to the pool and the coffee cafe. We were in the Greens building on our 2nd stay which has beautiful golf course views, but the pool and jacuzzi works better for kids when they are close. Remember to bring flip-flops for walking from your room to the pool.
Clean up and go out to grab dinner — or get takeout. We enjoyed our meal at Urge Gastropub. (Vegetarians close your eyes!) My son got a short rib burger and the rest of us tried the meatloaf. Lots of families there and quite busy. We did have to wait for a table.
Then, back to the Inn. Maybe take a nighttime dip in the jacuzzi or pool?
Sleep in (ha! yeah, right!). Sneak out for a coffee or use the Keurig in your room. Walk around the grounds in the early morning hours. So pretty with fountains, statues, and big boulders! Most of the hallways are exterior, so you get fresh air.
During the holidays, the hallways are decorated with garlands and trees.
The breakfast buffet in the Veranda is awesome! Again, a splurge — but if you plan ahead and budget for it — it’s worth it!
Just the steaming cup of coffee and pastries alone are worth it!
Leisurely, get ready to go after breakfast.
Head to Felicita Park — good for getting the wiggles out before the short drive home. It’s a nature play paradise with a playground and fun rocks to jump!
You can also check out Queen Califia’s Magic Circle near the mall, but feels like a world away. Open from 9am to sunset.
Note: Parts of the Inn were under renovation during our December 2016 stay — you might want to inquire about the status of the renovations when you book your stay.