Monthly Archives: February 2009

Taking a Break in the Tiki Room

Tiki Room Dole WhipI love Dole Whips. So I did a little research on Dole Whips, and found that there are plenty of people out there who share my love for this pineapple-flavored frozen delicacy. There are even videos on how to make this ice cream at home. I’m not even going to make fun of it, because I’m very likely to buy a Dole Whip kit. 

I wrote about one place where they have a magical soft-serve machine that whips them out: the Dole Plantation. But where else can you get one? Please refer to the photo evidence: Dole Whip Float inside the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland.

This is as close to paradise as Disneyland gets. In the Tiki Room, you will not only get treated to air-conditioning, a seat, and vintage tropical birds that sing catchy tunes, but you will also get a cup with an umbrella in it. The only thing the Disney imagineers need to add is a sandy floor, because I like sand between my toes when I sip my umbrella drinks.  

While I’m waiting for the UPS guy to bring me my Dole Whip kit, I’m going over to Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday to check out the other photos linked up there this week. See you there. DOLE whip

The Dole Pineapple Maze with a Side of Dole Whip

Plantation MazeEven tourist traps are more fun in paradise. That’s why we pulled of the Kamehameha Highway in Oahu, to make a stop at the Dole Plantation. At this road stop, you can shop for pineapple-shaped souvenirs, ride the Pineapple Express, and visit the Pineapple Maze. We only had time for the world’s largest maze.

To complete the maze you have to find the eight stations hidden inside, trace the symbol you find at each station, and do it all in record time. The time to beat was impossibly set at less than 5 minutes. If you do possess the superpower to find your way through labyrinths at record speeds, then you get your time posted at the entrance.

We were not feeling like The Flash that day, but still managed to complete the maze in less than 30 minutes. We didn’t actually have much of a choice, since we arrived at the plantation 30 minutes before closing time. I would have preferred to take a leisurely stroll through the 2.46 miles of hibiscus paths, but it was more like a frantic run, accompanied with a lot of good-natured yelling. That’s what all of my family outings are usually like anyway.

My son absolutely loved the Pineapple Maze. I enjoyed celebrating our completion of this tropical labyrinth with a Dole Whip. This pineapple-flavored ice cream has a special place in my heart. As long as that magical soft-serve machine is working, I’ll go back to the Dole Plantation any day. Oh, and I still want to beat our record time of 25 minutes and 33 seconds.DOLE whip

Family Travel Tips

Today’s Tip: Weather Check

img_1401Yes, there is a need to check weather forecasts in California. My family makes frequent trips to the Sierra Nevada all year long. The drive over to Truckee or Lake Tahoe in the winter can be miserable. If I’m going up that weekend, I will constantly check the weather to try to gauge the level of misery I might experience on the drive there and back. My sister gave me a tip she uses to check the north Sierra weather for her snowboarding trips. She checks this weather blog, because it’s detailed and up to date. She says it’s way more informative than other weather updates she has found on the internet. A blog that is actually useful? Well, I’m in.

Check it out on your next trip to the Tahoe area. We still have some snow storms left in the season. I hope.

The Cool Kids’ Event Calendar: Get Outdoors

Point Cabrillo



What are the cool kids doing this week? Hopefully they’re getting out with their wild selves, to learn about nature.

  • At this site you will find a year-long calendar for family events at California State Park, and some in Oregon as well. Coming up is Duck Days in San Diego and the Mendocino Whale Festival. Remember Point Cabrillo Lighthouse is a great place to go for whale festival events.
  • If you live in the San Francisco Bay area, check out the schedule of events for the Golden Gate Recreational Area. 
  • If you live in southern California, check out the winter schedule of events for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Coming up on Saturday, March 7 is a Fun With Nature program for kids at Malibu Creek State Park.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for a special event to get outdoors. Just go.

Getting Out: Nature and Stuff

Henry CowellThis week, my posts have been mostly about camping. I could probably go on a few more weeks writing about camping, and eventually I will. I spent a lot of my childhood traveling, from Vancouver to Baja California, in a motor home with my family. I have a few tales to tell.

Let me be honest, I’m not really into extreme outdoor adventures, but I am trying to change my sedentary ways. I already bought the Merrell hiking shoes, now all I need is the bike and the kayak. My incentive for becoming an extreme outdoor enthusiast is my son.

Any way you cut it, spending time outdoors with your kids is important. I try to plan a camping trip every summer, that is, when I don’t forget to make reservations on time. There is a bounty of beautiful campgrounds out west, so I don’t have any excuses. 

This is a photo of our last camping trip at Henry Cowell State Park, in the redwood forests of Santa Cruz mountains. Photos don’t really capture the awesome beauty of these trees. As far as the redwoods are concerned, you have to see to believe.

This unbelievable photo of the redwoods is linked up to other great photos at Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday. Go check them out.

Kids Go West Guide to the Best Campgrounds in California

Redwood Trees

I’m a little hesitant to write this guide, because then I’ll have more competition in trying to score reservations for these awesome campgrounds. Lucky for you, I welcome the challenge.

I’ll start off my guide with a list (in no particular order) of some coastal state campgrounds in California. Sadly, I have to leave out the beautiful, Big Sur campgrounds because of last year’s wildfire. Those state parks are closed to campers for the time being.(*Update: Pfeiffer Big Sur is now open for summer reservations)


  1. Sunset State Beach: This beautiful, isolated beach is 16 miles south of Santa Cruz, on Highway 1. The campground is divided into 3 sections. We enjoy camping in the south camp loop, because it’s a close walk to the beach. It can be cold, and foggy in June and July, so bring warm clothes. If you have a hard time finding spots at this beach, try nearby  Manresa State Beach. 
  2. Henry Cowell State Park: This park is known for its redwood groves, but the campground itself is in a chaparral environment. This park is in the Santa Cruz mountains, near the city of Felton. You can drive to the day use part of the park for a hike on the redwood trails. If your kids love trains, hop over the tracks to Roaring Camp and take a ride into the redwood forest. If you want to actually camp in a redwood forest try, Big Basin Redwoods State Park. This park fills up more quickly though, and requires a longer drive on a winding highway.  
  3. Van Damme State Park: This north coast park is on Highway 1, three miles south of Mendocino. The campground is right across the street from the beach, in a stunning, fern canyon. You can hike along the miles of trails, taking in the lush scenery. The location is an ideal base for many adventures in Mendocino county.
  4. Pismo State Beach:  The main attraction at this beach are the dunes. This is a popular beach with ATV goers, and with wintering Monarch butterflies. The park boasts the biggest monarch butterfly grove in the United States. The campground is in the town of Oceano, but the nearby town of Pismo Beach is a good place to take the kids if you need a break from the sand dunes.
  5. Carpinteria State Beach: This mile-long beach is located 12 miles south of Santa Barbara, and is host to seals, sea lions, and tidepools. The daytime temperatures range between 60 to 80 degrees year-round.
  6. South Carlsbad State Beach: This campground is on the coastal bluffs of Carlsbad, about 20 minutes north of San Diego. It’s near LEGOLAND, but you don’t have to let your kids know if you’d rather stick to the nature thing. This whole coastal area brings out the southern California beach bum in you, and you are likely to find great weather most of the year.

This list is a work in progress, open to recommendations, and subject to updates.

Family Travel Tip: Make Camping Reservations Early

campingI am not an early bird, so I don’t usually get the worm. Though I’m learning to change my ways when it comes to making camping reservations for the busy summer months. In past years, I have not always been lucky when trying to score camp sites at the more popular campgrounds in California. I usually decide to make my summer plans in May, at which point 95% of the campgrounds are already full. 

This year, I vow things will be different. I did a little research and it turns out that the reservation sales dates for state campgrounds in California start 7 months ahead of your camping date. So I’m already a bit late to the reservation party. But there are still plenty of open spots for the busy summer months. 

The reservation rules and sales dates for National Parks in California vary by park. For Yosemite, you can start making campground reservations up to 5 months in advance, on the 15th of each month at 7 a.m. According to the website, if you call even a few minutes too late to reserve for the busy summer months, you will be bitterly disappointed. That puts a lot of pressure on those of you in charge of planning the family vacations. 

If you didn’t read this cautionary post in time to score your family a prime camping spot for the summer, then there are options. Sorry, you don’t get to book the resort villa…yet. 

  • Be flexible with your dates: look for midweek openings. 
  • Look for bigger campgrounds, and those that have less “amenities”.
  • Try the first-come, first-serve campgrounds, or private campgrounds. 
  • Plan ahead for fall weekends. California’s weather is at it’s best in the fall anyway, especially near the coast.

So now go ahead and dust off the 300 pounds of camping gear, and look here this week for some more posts about our favorite campgrounds.


President Obama’s Inauguration at LEGOLAND

img_1547So you missed the historical inauguration of President Obama? No worries, because you can relive the whole thing at LEGOLAND, California. That’s right, you will see the President, the First Lady, the crowds, the limos, and the people waiting in line for the portable toilets. Of course, it is all made out of LEGOS.

In the Miniland section of LEGOLAND, there is a replica of Washington D.C. that has recently been updated to honor President Obama’s historical moment. You will see the limos carrying the president through the streets of the capitol and also the area replicating the inauguration, complete with President Obama’s taped speech.

If you’re dying to see this plastic presidential monument, then I have a video for you. There isn’t any narration, just a bit of historic footage. Happy President’s Day.

Carlsbad Family Travel Tips

Parrots at Safari West: A Love Story

Love BirdsThis is a story of a healing love. On our visit to Safari West in Santa Rosa, we met a couple of parrots with a history. Our tour guide told us their tale, and even though I’m a bit sketchy on the details, I can retell the basic plot line. One of the parrots was rescued after a failed attempt to smuggle it into the country. The smugglers put the parrot inside of a cardboard poster tube, and because of that the parrot was severely traumatized. It took weeks for the animal caretakers at Safari West to bring the parrot out of its stressed state. What helped was that another parrot took interest in this troubled parrot and wouldn’t leave his side. She would stand on top of his cage, and help preen his feathers. They have been inseparable ever since. I don’t know if they’re still at Safari West, but look out for them if you go.

The photo of these love birds is linked up at Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday. Check out all the other cool photos.

Things To Do
Santa Rosa

Video: Eating Burritos on the Beach

If you caught my family travel tip on Tuesday, then you know it was the first installment of: Kids Go West Guide to Saving While on Your Family Vacation…phew, that’s a mouthful. So here’s a short video of our experience on the beach in Maui. I was all set to narrate, but then I heard all the wonderful commentary and narration already on the video. I decided to keep it just as is. I want you to get a real feel for the moment. 

Money-Saving Travel Rule #1: Eat Burritos on the Beach