Most of us on the local “mom circuit” frequent well-known educational and fun attractions in San Diego with the kids… summer weekends usually rotate between such special spots as the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, Balboa Park, Legoland, Birch Aquarium, Wild Animal Park, etc. A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Chula Vista Nature Center and since then, I’ve added one of the best kept secrets in San Diego to our family’s list of “to do”s.
Just right off the 5 freeway, a little south of the Coronado bridge, is the Center. The one-lane, raised road into the compound gets you up close and personal with a natural habitat of the clapperrail bird and before long, you are delivered to the Nature Center itself. The entrance hints at things to come — two lumbering sea turtles greet visitors from their glass enclosure, and once inside the center, aquariums abound with interesting fish and ocean animals, as well as a “touch and feel” tidepool, shark tank, and all kinds of bird enclosures including ones that house a bald eagle and a golden eagle. Definitely worth a visit!
While visiting in the day is cool, the Center also hosts Overnight Adventures for people who want a hands-on, behind-the-scenes experience encapsulating everything the Center offers. In April my preschooler and I were the guests of Stacey, the San Diego Bargain Mama, while she checked out CVNC’s very first sleepover event. From the moment we arrived on Friday night, we were taken on an educational journey that kicked off with a short nature hike, meet-and-greet animal encounters with some of the center’s most popular creatures, craft projects, educational talks, and more. The evening ended with a snack and a movie while everyone settled down in sleeping bags in the large auditorium. When Saturday morning arrived, we ate breakfast and finished exploring the Nature Center. The big finale to a fun-filled adventure was a behind-the-scenes encounter hand-feeding the large sea turtles! (See my personal photos below by clicking on the Whrrl story).
I highly recommend the overnight adventures program to any family interested in a unique, educational experience. Our group had about 12 kids (ages 5 through about 10) and 12 parents, making for a manageable gathering. The hosts had heaps of patience as they answered all of the children’s questions in an age-appropriate way. I attended just with my oldest son – it was nice to have one-on-one time with him, and even though we did this back in April, he actually STILL talks about it and the many things he learned.
There are three upcoming weekends (August 20-21, September 17-18, and a Halloween-themed October 29-30) where you can experience this yourself. It’s $45/person (kids have to be 5 and older) and the event includes a snack and continental breakfast. For more info, here is the flyer or you can call 619-409-5900.
If you do attend, I’d love to hear what you think! I really, really loved the experience and would love to make this an annual thing.
Disclosure: As mentioned above, my son and I were the invited guests of Stacey Ross, the San Diego Bargain Mama. I did not pay for this experience (value: $90) though I gladly would have and will do so in the future. The organizers did not ask me to blog about my experience. The opinions expressed in this post and on this blog are my own and my disclosure policy is here.