Christmas on the Prado, as it used to be called, was one of my favorite things as a kid. San Diego’s kick off to the holidays. I loved drinking hot cocoa and walking around to look at all the lights, the big tree, the reindeer and a sleigh full of presents taking off by the organ pavilion. Like all kids, I was totally unaffected by the crowd around me. Where can we park? Do you see the kids? Can you maneuver the stroller? Not my problem, ask my Grandma/Grandpa/Mom/Dad.
Now that I’m the Mom, it sucks. I’m not new to the party, I know the crowds are insane. They anticipate something like 300,000 people to attend and it only runs two nights. Last year I remember being slightly annoyed for having to drive for 20 minutes to find a spot, and push a young baby in a stroller around. I think I wore her most of the time, she slept, I ate a falafel sandwich, admired the lights, listened to some music and the night was good.
This year? Complete epic fail. I prepared myself, knowing 163 was going to be a mess I took the 15 to University and headed to Park Blvd from the East. Traffic was moving fine til I the light to turn onto Park. Not bad, figure we’ll (we = Myself, my Mom, and Leia) sit in some traffic driving down Park and pay for a spot in one of the preferred parking lots off site. I’m totally willing to throw down $10 or $20 for a spot.
It takes me 15 minutes to get from my house to University and Park. If I saw a spot on a side street I’d gladly grab it and walk the rest of the way. No such luck. It takes 30 minutes swamped in traffic to go maybe 1/2 mile to the zoo parking lot. Leia is screaming her head off so I drop her and my Mom and the stroller off. My plan is to head down to the lots at City College or Petco and take the shuttle up. My gas gauge says empty, but that really means I’ve got another gallon or two so I ignore it. Paid lots just outside the park are all “full” – I say full in quotes because I saw random open spots, they just weren’t letting anyone in. Now had I been following @DecemberNights on my phone I would have known this ahead of time. I also would have avoided the next headache.
It takes me another 45 minutes to drive 1/2 mile down Park, turn on C, drive down to 16th, head up to the College lot….and it’s full. They are redirecting people back to Park to try Petco or the County building. My car is past empty. I get out of line and stop for gas at Shell and I get an idea! I’ll go park at Horton Plaza and take a taxi. Then at the end of the night I’ll taxi back to my car and bring it to pick up Grammy and Leia. Drive towards Horton Plaza, but it’s a mess. I guess I wasn’t the only one with that idea. I’ve now been driving for over 2 hours since leaving my house. Phone calls to my mom let me know it’s packed too tight for the stroller or to let Leia run around on her own (which is what she prefers). They sat and ate some sandwich from a vendor, and now she’s about to fall asleep in the stroller.
I give up and head north on Park to pick them up. I’m hungry, I’m tired, I’ve over it. I know I wouldn’t want to battle the crowd after sitting in the car this long. I wonder if it would have been easier to take the trolley and walk a few miles, or park in Hillcrest and take a taxi (scratch that, I don’t want to taxi with Leia and the BOB). I think it would have been a nightmare either way, it was just way too crowded this year. I know this sounds lame, but I SWEAR it was not this bad last year. Where do these people come from?!
It takes me another 30 minutes to pick them up. Leia doesn’t even wake up when I take her out of the stroller and put her in the car seat. Looks like we’ll be enjoying the lights during the week when everyone else is at home. I’ll bring my own hot cocoa and Leia can run around like the wild child she is and we’ll both enjoy ourselves.