San Diego – Day Four – We’re Movin’ On Up!

It was goodbye to the 3-star Woodfin today and hello to the 4-star Omni San Diego. I’ll relate more about the ultimate Priceline experience later, suffice it to say the Omni is a nicer hotel, right next to the Gaslamp district and the convention center – for less money per night.

We got out of the Woodfin by 8:15AM, knowing full well that we couldn’t check into the Omni until after 3:00PM. As the Omni is near the zoo, today’s main destination, we decided to see if we could leave our luggage at the hotel until check-in time. The idea of leaving all our luggage in the parking lot at Balboa Park all day didn’t sit well with me. However, we were in luck as the Omni checked us in early and we were in our room by 9:00AM.

This was followed by a better part of the day at the San Diego Zoo, which is, entirely consistent with their worldwide reputation, still one of the best in the world. Although, being that the Wild Animal Park we saw yesterday is their breeding program facility – there’s a lot of duplication between the two. I was well and truly “zooed out” by the end of the visit.

A recent change to the park rules prevented us from brining our own food, so we decided to get out shortly after 1:00PM to get (another) late lunch.

By 2:00 we’d arrived at the San Diego Chicken Pie Shop. This was a restaurant that was within walking distance of our hotel back a few years ago, but we never went there. Largely because it seemed so weird and was an almost complete non-entity on the internet. We couldn’t figure out what the place really was. Was it nothing but chicken pot pies? Or was it something else? or something more?

This time, although they still seem to eschew joining the internet era, we were able to determine that there’d be food for everyone in the family and we decided to give it a try.

What an interesting place! it’s been a San Diego fixture for over 70 years – yes, seventy years. Their menu hasn’t changed much, either. Prices are up, but still very cheap compared to other San Diego restaurants. Rather than being an emporium of dozens of different chicken pies, they have only one: Chicken, turkey and gravy in a pie. They also serve other old-style family restaurant staples, like chicken-fried steak, chicken noodle soup, mashed potatoes and various homemade (dessert) pies. Nothing spectacular, but good, solid, filing and cheap.

After lunch it was back to Balboa park and the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center. The kids had a blast at the science center. It’s tiny compared to the science center in Phoenix but oh-so-much superior in every way that matters. With a floor filed with hands on experiments that emphasize doing rather than reading, it was more like a playground, which children enjoying themselves everywhere. it was clearly very popular with the locals.

I’ve documented my gripes about the Phoenix Science Center before, and this just re-affirms them in my mind. What really was driven home to me was that I’ve never been a big fan of science fairs. Most science fair projects that I’ve seen consist largely of one of those three-piece folded bits of foam-core board, with artwork, perhaps a few charts photos,narrative, maybe a button and light or two or a plant in a dish. It is precisely what you’d expect of a 10-year-old putting together a presentation. What I’ve realized about the Phoenix Science Center is that most of the exhibits are exactly at that level – they’re just professionally constructed. Since many of them are supplied by “sponsors” of the museum, I can’t help but wonder if these exhibits literally are just science fair exhibits from the sponsors’ employees’ children’s projects that have been re-built by the sponsor.

Perhaps you might think the “playful” exhibits aren’t educational enough? Let me respond by saying that more than once I heard both my children and others’ children playing with one of the exhibits and using the phrase that tells me they are a complete success: “How does it do that?” That’s what I want from a science center – to fire the curiosity and inspire the desire to inquire… (ouch, that was a bit overdone on the alliteration, wasn’t it?)

Back at the hotel, we decided that one night simply wasn’t enough and we used Priceline to try to extend our stay at the Omni another day. Although we couldn’t get $75 for another night, we got $96 and that was good enough for us to book it for another night.

Yelp and the iPhone lead us to The Kebob Shop for dinner which was within walking distance of the hotel and delicious!