Tips for Showing Visitors a Good Time

It’s Spring Break in Canada, and I’m happy to be hosting visitors to San Diego this weekend. To keep it fun, I’ve got a five sure-fire tips to pass along.

We took our guests to Torrey Pines State Park on Friday afternoon and cruised down to Flat Rock, watched dolphins play in the surf, and enjoyed the bluffs, caves and tidepools. Our friends loved Torrey Pines and said it was more fun than the outrageously expensive and crowded Disneyland experience they’d had the previous day.

VISITOR TIP #1: Show off San Diego’s natural attractions. They’re more glorious and unique than anything man-made. They’re also affordable ($8 for parking inside the park and free outside), less crowded, and stress-reducing (instead of stress-inducing).

Saturday morning, after a great breakfast and late start, we arrived at Balboa Park to fight for parking with the throngs of zoo goers.

It’s important to start off a zoo day on the right foot. And upon arrival, there was some detectable tension amongst the adults–fueled by the parking situation, a stroller rental and return, and the sheer pressure of keeping a group of eight people (ranging in age from six to 43) on track.

VISITOR TIP #2: For those 21 and older, it’s okay-an excellent idea¬† to start your theme park or zoo experience off with a ice-cold beer. (SeaWorld has a beer tasting room east of the entrance, so start there. At the Zoo, look for the Corona cart west of the entrance.)

Because you are ‘local,’ you have superpowers. You are omniscient and have historic knowledge that is beyond reproach. Use these powers wisely–but, by God, use them.

For instance, as you observe the three tiger cubs (born in May but now enormous) chasing one another around their shady Tiger River exhibit, you must turn to your guests and say “Wow, this is exceptional! You never see the tigers so active… I can’t believe how lucky you are to see this.”

VISITOR TIP #3: Tell your visitors what they should think lest they take anything for granted.

I also applied this tip to our drive over the Coronado Bridge which was absolutely glorious. “I have never seen the city look so beautiful,” I said. (It was true — beautiful light yesterday.)

Children can be difficult and are not always ‘team players.’ It’s very important to shape their experience so that there’s always something in it for the kids, like ice cream cones and that stuff. But after you’ve run out of popcorn, candy and ice cream, what are you left with?

My answer: the macabre. For instance, arriving at the Hotel del Coronado with children, be sure to tell them that it’s one of San Diego’s most haunted places.

VISITOR TIP #4: Lurid or gruesome stories will often make boring adult stuff more interesting for kids. This also works well in Old Town, of course.

You can also give kids some beach time in front of the hotel under your watchful eye as you sip Bloody Marys* on the patio. Then everyone’s happy!

I do have one ‘Don’t’ to share, which is necessary as a lead-up to tip #5. I can tell you not to bring your visitors to the Gaslamp for a ‘quick’ bite on a Saturday evening. That is ill-advised unless you’re willing to wait an hour and 20 minutes for your food at the Hard Rock Cafe and enjoy making sculptures with all the plates that no one has cleared as you wait for the bill that no one is bringing. (The sculpture part was kinda amusing.)

It’s true that you will probably fall into some kind of dilemma with your guests and people will be tired or children cranky. Hunger will add to this. So, before disaster strikes, implement this last tip.

VISITOR TIP #5: Hit the re-set button to get emotions back on track. A group hug or huddle is usually all that’s required to help everyone reach a little deeper and pull together for the team.

If the re-set button is used, and still one or two in your group are unable to pull it together, simply remember this about those visitors, and the next day or on a future visit (if you’re still speaking) say “Oh, we insist that you go alone; you guys need to enjoy some family time and not have us getting in your way! We’re just no good at playing tourist.” (The old ‘it’s me, not you.’)

We never actually had to use tip #5 yesterday. (Kudos to the six year old!) But I will say that we took a pass on visiting Legoland today–have you seen the prices lately? With the rain gods smiling on San Diego today, I hope our friends will find that the Lego gods are in cahoots and no one braved Legoland today!

* Please note that this was only a fantasy of mine yesterday and did not actually take place. I sat on a bench instead next to a lady blowing her nose without a tissue. (Bonus Tip: try to keep your visitors away from people like that.)

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