Lawrence Welk Resort Escondido Welk Resort Lacks Fizz

The Lawrence Welk Resort, San Diego
8860 Lawrence Welk Drive
San Diego , California
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I-15N Deer Springs-Mountain Meadow Road exit, turn R, turn L onto Champagne Boulevard, go 2 1/2 mi. to 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive.

Rolling hills, sunshine and San Diego are a few reasons why the Lawrence Welk Resort, San Diego, (actually closer to Escondido than to San Diego) appeals to the family vacationer. This summer, USA Today rated the Welk, as it is known to locals, one of the “10 Great Places To Gather The Family For A Reunion".

It's not hard to see why. After navigating the winding Champagne Boulevard, driving into the 600-acre resort makes an inviting first impression. The Welk, with two 18-hole golf courses, several pools and spas, a fitness room, and tennis courts, inhabits beautiful surroundings. The late Mr. Welk, a legendary orchestra leader who hosted a long running TV program, first bought the property in 1964 and built a 26-room hotel—he called it the Welk-ome Inn—four years later. There's no longer any connection between the Welk estate and the resorts that bear his name.

What was once Mr. Wunnerful's place has retained his charms; we half expected to find a bubble machine in the lobby welcoming guests into Mr. Welk’s cheerful world. There’s a Lawrence Welk Museum, featuring the world's largest Champagne glass, given to Mr. Welk in honor of his show’s 25th anniversary, shops stacked with rows of Welk’s and the Lennon Sisters’ CDs and merchandise, and a sidewalk embedded with bronze musical notes. A reunion at the resort struck us as kitschy, American fun.

A time-share sales pitch, delivered outside the lobby upon arriving from the 3-hour drive, seriously diminished the enthusiasm. A friendly greeter isn’t the least bit interested in taking luggage to your room; he wants to sell a timeshare before check in, so beware the bait and switch.

The hard sell wasn't necessary, as the large, modern villas practically sell themselves. Both connecting villas featured a full kitchen, stocked with dishware, a VCR, lots of living and dining space and a spacious balcony with a generous view of the hills. The comfortable, neatly appointed villas are perfect for the entire family.

Unfortunately, some in our large family gathering were booked in what can only be described as steerage. Hotel rooms at the Welk are dilapidated, plagued by thin walls, poor service and dysfunctional air conditioners older than a rerun of Ozzie and Harriet. The contrast is startling; when hotel relatives visited the villas, they were like coach passengers sneaking a visit to first class.

Golfing at the Welk is a highlight—fees are reasonable and the course is well-maintained—but it's better to head straight for lunch at the villa after a round; restaurant service is spottier than an all-night diner’s during swing shift.

Strolling after the meal is out of the question. There are few signs and a lack of sidewalks poses a problem for all but the most adventuresome travelers. Such a peaceful, hillside landscape deserves a proper pathway.

Those marvelous villas had their problems, too; on check out day, as families pack their belongings, there’s a cattle call because the housekeeping staff—scheduled to clean once a week following check out—line up in the parking lot like an army ready to invade. Loading the car under their watchful eyes hardly makes for a friendly departure.

The Welk’s grounds include an attractive shopping village with a statue of the baton twirling Lawrence Welk, a popular, 340-seat theater with Broadway and musical performances (Singin’ in the Rain, Funny Girl, an annual Welk Musical Christmas), and three ample recreation rooms with assorted coloring books, video games, and coffee and lemonade.

Combining the standards of a quality resort on pristine property and a two-star motel, the Lawrence Welk Resort, San Diego, like its name, doesn’t quite deliver on its promise.

This 2002 article was published in the Los Angeles Daily News.

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