Family takes San Diego by storm

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel

(published Jan. 13, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

From Di’s eyes: When Michael emailed me about possibly featuring his family’s trip, I immediately said yes. I love writing about domestic travel. More and more, people seem to think “travel” can be only to exotic, international destinations. What the Leverone family did stateside was wonderful. They found a vacation rental in San Diego and then explored the heck out of the area, doing more activities than I had room to write about. Now that’s a great family vacation!

WHO: Michael, 55, and Sue Leverone, 54, and their children Julia, 20, and Patrick, 11, of Reading, Mass.

WHERE: San Diego

WHEN: One week in August.

WHY: “We usually go to Maine for two weeks, but we had airline tickets from a canceled trip to use,” said Michael Leverone, who previously had never ventured west of Denver. “Patrick was interested in Legoland and other people had raved about San Diego.”

ALL THE COMFORTS: They rented a three-bedroom house about 8 miles south of downtown in the Tierrasanta neighborhood. “It was in a complex with a pool we could use, with a two-block walk to a shopping center,” he said. “We had breakfast there and made sandwiches to take with us. A couple evenings we ate out, and half the time we ate in.”

Julia at Palomar ObservatorySCOPING IT OUT: Patrick was disappointed in Legoland, in Carlsbad, because it was geared toward younger children, though he did enjoy the Mindstorms robotics lab. They all were captivated by Miniland, cities made of Lego parts, including Las Vegas, Washington, and New Orleans. More impressive to Patrick was the Palomar Observatory at Palomar Mountain State Park. “It has a 200-inch telescope and Patrick has been fascinated by astronomy since he was 4,” his father said.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: A wish of Julia’s, a Spanish major at Tufts University, was to visit some Spanish missions. From Carlsbad, they went to Oceanside to see Mission San Luis Rey and, on another day, Mission San Diego de Alcala. Julia also requested a stop at the Spanish Village Art Center in Balboa Park, a collection of artist studios and galleries.

CASTING CALL: For Dad, and the entire family, there was a charter fishing trip. “My father runs a charter boat on Chesapeake Bay,” Leverone said. “We made a quick visit to the bait float for live sardines, with a close-up of wild sea lions looking for an easy meal, then took a 20-minute bouncy run to the kelp beds offshore of La Jolla.” Over the next three hours, the family caught more than 50 fish, including calico and sea bass, jack mackerel, bonito, and Pacific barracuda. Dinner that night was three of the larger bass.

ANIMAL URGES: On everyone’s list was a day at the San Diego Zoo. “It was very impressive, especially their plains game. They had polar bears, and there was quite a line for the panda exhibit.” Later in the week they saw marine life at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “It’s right above the Pacific; the big pier extends out where oceanography vessels tie up.”

Patrick paraglidingSOMETHING CLICKED: Julia convinced the family to check out Torrey Pines Gliderport for paragliding. “The constant wind off the ocean hits these 350-foot cliffs and there are major updrafts. Julia had such a smile on her face that Patrick and I were sold,” said Leverone. Once aloft with a guide, “All you have is the sound of wind. You zoom over the golf course, fantastic mansions, and Black’s Beach. I was so busy taking pictures of Patrick that I didn’t see everything.”

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