Monthly Archives: March 2009

Today’s Tip: Make a Day Trip Tradition

walking with tulipsAll families have their traditions; ours is traveling. I’m not very good at making things, but I’m great at going places.  So after my son was born, I began marking the seasons by visiting certain places year after year. In the fall, we buy apple pie and go apple-picking. In spring, we visit the baby animals at the farm. The list goes on and on. 

I didn’t consciously make these yearly treks into family traditions, but that’s what they became. When life gets a bit hectic, it’s comforting to have these little rituals to look forward to.

I’m here to give hope to those parents who often feel like their crazy, busy life makes it impossible to make any room for family traditions. Take a day trip this weekend. You don’t have to make, or bake anything to celebrate spring; at least, not this weekend.  This Sunday, just find the coolest garden in your city, and go spend your day strolling it with your kids. Then go again next year, and the year after that. That’s one relaxing family tradition, everyone in the family will look forward to.

Nowadays, my son looks forward to our family’s traditional day trips. I wonder if he’ll feel the same when he’s older. Probably not, but I don’t really care. When he’s sixteen, I’ll still be dragging him to see those chicks at the farm, even though he’ll rather be checking out chicks at the mall. It’s family tradition, goshdarnit.

Cool Kids’ Calendar: Butterfly Exhibits

What are the cool kids doing this April? It’s all about fluttery insects. Check out these butterfly exhibits opening in California this month.
  • The Butterfly Jungle Exhibit at the  San Diego Wild Animal Park, is from April 4-26. A tropical aviary turns into the Hidden Jungle, with thousands of butterflies fluttering about. There will be daily butterfly talks as part of the exhibit.
  • At the Natural History of Museum in Los Angeles, the temporary exhibit Pavilion of Wings is set to open on the museum’s south lawn on April and will go on throughout the summer.
  • At Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, you can visit the Butterfly Exhibit inside the park. Park is now open on weekends and the whole week before and after Easter for Spring Break.  

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Lunch Break: Archie’s American Diner

Archie'sFor my family, a trip to Monterey wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Archie’s American Diner. 

What you’ll find:  Grab yourself a window table so you can gaze at Monterey Bay as you sip your Cherry Coke. The kiddos will be busy coloring on the paper tablecloths, so you might get at least a minute of peace. Here are some of our favorite menu items: fish and chips, fried marinated artichoke hearts (straight from nearby Castroville), and the sourdough patty melt. 

The Big Fuss: Get fried food with an ocean view, about a block away from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. If you want to walk off that hearty lunch, you’re right across the street from the ocean bike/pedestrian path to Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove. 

Useful Information: 125 Ocean View Blvd. #103, Pacific Grove, CA, 93950 831-375-6939

They also serve breakfast..mmm.

Today’s Tip: Disneyland During Spring Break

thumbs-upEvery time I hear one of my friends say they’re going to Disneyland for Spring Break, I wince and tell them: DON’T!

As many of you already know, I’m a teacher so my vacation schedule has been tied to school calendars even before my own kid was in school. So when my son was a wee toddler, I decided to take him to Disneyland the week after Easter. I had thought that this was the perfect time to take him: I had a whole week off, and the weather had turned warm and beautiful after a month of miserable storms. Besides, it had to be better than going during the blistering and busy summer months. Right?

Uh, the answer is no.

Disneyland is just as busy during Spring Break as it is during summer vacation. There will be over an hour wait for Dumbo, you will have to karate-chop somebody with your umbrella stroller to get on the parking tram, and the price tag for all this family fun will still be the same.

If you want to visit Disneyland in Spring, and don’t want to pull your kids out of school, you will have better luck if:

1. You go during the middle of the week, rather than on a weekend.

2. Your kids’ Spring Break is not the week after Easter. Most southern California districts have this week off every year.

3. Go on the Thursday or Friday before Memorial Day.

4. Adjust your expectations. You may not get to go on as many rides, but with a little planning, you can still have a good vacation.

Snowy Spring Break

If you’d rather spend your Spring Break in the snow than in the sand, then you’re in luck this week. I am here to give you the Sierra snow report: it snowed this weekend. So if you’ve just got to get in some Spring skiing or hot-cocoa sipping, head on up to the mountains. Here’s a little inspiration.

spring snow

And here’s a little more inspiration, there are still deals to be had for families traveling up to Lake Tahoe. Here’s one at Squaw Creek Resort I read about at We Just Got Back.

Feeding the Lorikeets at San Diego Wild Animal Park

l.l.At the San Diego Wild Animal Park, you can buy a cup of nectar to feed the colorful birds of Lorikeet Landing. They were the best three dollars we spent on that trip. My son is an animal lover, and loved interacting with the birds. The minute we walked into the aviary, the Lorikeets swooped down on my son. At one point, there was about five Lorikeets on his arm, and climbing up his back. He handled it beautifully. I probably would have been running around shrieking to get the birds off me.

But in the end, when all of the juicy nectar was gone, this was the only Lorikeet left standing.

It’s Photo Friday time at Delicious Baby, go check out all the other travel photos.

Family Travel Tips
San Diego

When Your Child is Afraid of the Big, Bad Mountain Lion

hikingLike all proud parents, I was just thrilled to pieces when my son learned to read. Then I quickly discovered that my little, independent reader was going to read EVERYTHING, and suddenly I couldn’t hide some inconvenient truths.

This became evident while on a hike of Fern Canyon in Van Damme State Park. I was treated to my kindergartner’s anxiety attack when he read a trail sign that said, Warning: Mountain Lions. These warning signs are posted on almost every trail in California, and although a bit ominous, they are intended to keep hikers alert. Some will give you useful tips on what to do if you encounter a mountain lion, such as:

  1. Keep children close to you. Mountain Lions are especially drawn to small children.
  2. Do all you can do to appear larger. Shout or make a lot of noise.
  3. Do not crouch or bend over.

While I was aware of how to handle a possible mountain lion encounter, I had not shared that knowledge with my five-year-old. So when he read all the useful information on the sign, he flipped out. That’s putting it mildly. I tried to reassure him. I told him we were taking the precautions: we were hiking in a group, he was staying close to me, and we were making some noise. 

That’s when he started to sing and shout his little lungs out. Our peaceful hike through the magical Fern Canyon, had turned into an episode of American Idol. If you look at this picture, you will see my adorable son demonstrating how to keep any mountain lions, squirrels, birds, or deer away. But if you look even closer, you will notice that behind my smile, is a look of quiet exasperation.

Our hike that day, was cut short. But we all learned a valuable lesson. I had some discussions with my son about mountain lions, and other safety precautions for the great outdoors. I still wrestle with teaching him wilderness safety, while not increasing his anxiety. I want him to enjoy being out in nature, and not see it as a scary place. 

I don’t want him to think the big, bad wolf is hiding behind every tree. Now I know how Little Red Riding Hood’s mom felt.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, located right on the Pacific Coast, are one of the most memorable gardens we’ve ever visited. You can follow the trails from the formal gardens near the entrance, to the whale lookout on the coastal bluffs. We went on a foggy June day, and spent at least an hour roaming the isolated trails. It felt as if we were taking a stroll through a storybook landscape, and my five-year-old loved every minute of it.


If you can visit March through July, you will be treated to bloomming rhododendrons, which thrive in the foggy, coastal climate. There is sheltered whale lookout that is perfect for spotting gray whales; their migration peaks in January and March.

                        garden trail

Useful Information: There is an admission charge, $10 general, $4 for kids 13-17, $2 for kids 6-12, and kids 5 and under are free. This charge might deter a big family from visiting, but if you enjoy gardens or hiking, the admission is worth it. The gardens are actually seven miles north of Mendocino on Highway 1, in the city of Fort Bragg.

Family Travel Tips

Cool Weekend Links

As I wrote last week, I wasn’t even reading that many much online a year ago. But boy, oh boy, things have changed. I know cruise the internet on a regular basis, and have found some good reads. So what cool things am I reading this week? Take a look for yourself:

  • An old-friend of mine put her building skills to good use on her vacation to New Orleans. She worked on a Habitat for Humanity project, checked out the local music scene, and floated along on the Mississippi River.
  • At Double Adventure, this mom of twins wrote about her visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. This is so going on my future trips list.
  • At Travels With Children, the fabulous minnemom wrote about her visit to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Hint: It was more bitter than sweet.
  • And because I think camels are just kind of funny, or funny-looking, go check out Midwest Guest’s camel photos.

Today’s Tip: On Dining Plans

Don’t believe the hype. Sometimes theSlow-Roasted sight and smell of some slow roasting meat will lure you to a pretty miserable dining experience. When we saw this sign, as we walked the grounds of Seaworld in San Diego, we knew we just had to have some of that slow-roasting beef. 

So we had a plan: high-tail it out of the Shamu stadium as soon as the show was over, and head next door to the Shipwreck Reef Cafe. So we beat the massive crowd, to stand in line with our cafeteria trays and drool over the promise of a delicious top-round beef sandwich. The vacation fatigue had set in, and everything on the menu seemed drool-worthy: the jambalaya, the bacon cheeseburger, and the Shamu-shaped cookies swimming in whipped cream. 

I knew the lunch was going downhill, when a few slices of overcooked, dry beef were placed on my sandwich roll. But I’m an optimist, so I took my tray out to the Shipwreck patio. That’s when I saw my son and my sister running for cover. A friend of ours paid a dear price, when a seagull swept down on her and her french fries. Apparently the seagulls are fond of slow-roasting beef as well, and sit perched on the lamp posts to prey on unsuspecting Shamu fans. We found shelter in a sort of covered “cave”, and had to eat our dry beef, soggy french fries, and Shamu cookies in the freezing shade.

If the slow roasting beef doesn’t get you, then it’s the seagulls that will do you in.