Monthly Archives: June 2009

Today’s Tip: Cheap Date at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk


Ahh…sun, surf, and caramel apples can only mean one thing: it’s summertime at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. This classic seaside amusement park advertises its free admission, but sometimes the best things in life aren’t free. You aren’t going to go all the way to the Boardwalk for your kids to just walk and watch all the other kids have fun. If you go on any ordinary day, you can expect to pay $2.25 to $4 for each ride, or if you’re staying for a while, you can get the unlimited rides wristband for $29.95. That’s not taking into account what you’ll pay for parking ($10 in the lot) and food.

Don’t throw in your beach towel just yet. There are some ways to make this California kid dream come true. During the summer, my favorite way to save money is to make this an evening affair by going on “1907 Nights” or “Pepsi Nights”. Every Monday and Tuesday after 5 p.m., you will pay only one dollar for each ride and also for hot dogs, Pepsi, and cotton candy. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings after 5 p.m. you can get an unlimited rides wrist band for $9.95 if you bring in a Pepsi can.

I save the most money when I go on “1907 Nights” because my young child can’t go (or won’t go) on over half the rides. It doesn’t make sense for me to buy the unlimited rides wristband when I’m going to be mostly hanging around at Bulgy the Whale or Cave Train Adventure. Besides, I can’t pass up one dollar hot dogs.

As a bonus tip, I’m going to let you know that they only sell the specially priced hot dogs and Pepsis in certain lines of the dining areas. This always bugs me, because if you want anything else besides hot dogs (I just gotta have my fried artichoke hearts) you have to stand in two lines. This is so not what a tired mommy wants to do when dealing with whiny, hungry kids. I find that the best thing to do is be there right when the big hand hits the 5 on your watch. That way you’ll get shorter lines for the food, and still have time give those hot dogs in your tummy a spin on the rides.

Parking Tip: The parking is also cheaper or free in the evenings. You don’t have to pay the parking meters after 6 p.m.

Good to know: “1907 Nights” are from June 21 to August 31 and “Pepsi Nights” are from June 23 to September 2.

Meeting New Friends

The two things that I enjoy about summer the most are: that I get to sip my coffee while still in my pjs and that I have time to take my son on day trips, just because. This Thursday we got to visit a cool place with some new friends. It was my first blogging buddy meet-up with Lorraine at Keeps Me Smiling. When I joined the blogging community earlier this year, I had no idea just how many interesting people I’d get to know. Making connections with readers and other bloggers is what makes blogging rewarding.


Lorraine and I took our kids to tour the newly opened Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito and got a first-hand glimpse of how this center helps injured seals and sea lions. Then we headed over to the Bay Area Discovery museum to seek refuge from the blustery, foggy San Francisco weather. Here are some of the photo highlights from our relaxing day by the bay. We got to see the camera behind all of these Photo Friday masterpieces and exchanged some photography tips. No, not really. Many thanks to Lorraine and her girls for a memorable summer day trip.


Go check out Lorraine and other cool bloggers at Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday.

Today’s Tip: Be a Camping Pro, or Just Look Like One

IMG_2459Even if you’ve never been camping before, or your last camping trip is a distant memory, you can still plan a great family camping trip. I’ve made a handy list to help any of you camping newbies who are hesitant to embark on a camping adventure with kids. I’m not going to pretend camping is easy, but with a bit of planning and practice, you can take your kids out for a night under the starry skies. Read on, campers.

1. Camp close to home. I have found that when you camp with young kids it’s less stressful to keep the travel distances short. On our last trip, we drove for one short, blissful hour to our favorite campground by the beach. At this campground, I struck up a conversation with another mom in the bathroom who admitted that her family had only traveled forty minutes from their home. As she wisely put it: “It’s nice to know that if something happens, you can just go home.” We all hope that nothing will happen when we’re traveling with kids, but experience teaches us that the possibilities are endless: fever, poison-oak, or just plain ol’ anxiety. It’s good to know you have a quick escape route.

2. Pick your campground wisely. If you are a newcomer to the world of tent camping, then you will want to consider the campground’s amenities. Basically, you will want running water, showers, and a spot you can pull your car into. It may also be easier to camp somewhere without any bears, in other words, stay away from the mountains. There are beautiful campgrounds in those places, but you do have to work a bit harder to bear-proof everything. If you’re a beginner camper, you may not be ready for the additional hassle. Check out my list of great campgrounds along the coast of California.

3. Get to know your gear. I say this with love, because I’ve made this mistake: practice putting up your new tent at home. When you’re with young kids, you don’t have the luxury of swearing and ranting as you throw tent poles around. If you do practice putting up your tent at home, don’t forget to put everything back in the bag. Again, I speak from experience.

4. Lists are your friend. You will need to make a list and check it twice. Even then, you will probably forget something. That’s why you chose a campground near some sort of market, because it’s good to know you can run to town to get batteries, marshmallows, or ice.

5. Keep the menu simple. This is not the time to plan five-course dinners, but you don’t have to eat canned soup for three days. If you do want at least one fancy meal, you could prep some of the ingredients at home. Maybe you want to make stew, so just precut the veggies ahead of time. You can also bake muffins or other baked goodies, and feel like Martha Stewart when you unveil them at the campsite. But since you’re not going to Camp Martha, remember that kids love sandwiches, hot dogs, and spaghetti.

6. Timing is everything. It’s easier to plan for a camping trip that’s three nights or less. You will have to take less food, less firewood, and less pairs of socks. Our magic number is usually 3 days and 2 nights. It’s just enough to get a taste of the camping good life, but not so long that your kids will need any serious bathing. If you’ve ever tried to bathe a toddler in a coin-operated shower, you know that the less times you actually have to experience this, the better.

I’m still finding new tricks for doing things better every time I go on a camping trip, so I’ll keep updating list. If you have any great tips, please do share in the comments below.

An Afternoon at Doggie Beach

IMG_1623_1When I dream of getting away from it all, I usually picture myself on a quiet beach with a good book and the lull of the waves. In other words, I don’t picture myself on Doggie Beach with a bunch of canine friends, sandy poop, and frisbees whizzing past my head. Yet, this is one of the stops I will have to make on a road trip to Southern California this summer. Why? Because my son is in love with Cooper the dog. We will be visiting a family friend and her pet wonder dog while we’re in San Diego, and that can only mean that we’ll also be going to San Diego’s premiere beach for dogs. My son is in the I-want-a-cute-doggie stage, so he could spend hours playing catch with Cooper. In fact, that’s the part of the trip he’s probably the most excited about (sorry San Diego Zoo pandas). So I will have to accept this part of our itinerary and hope that there won’t be any black fur balls landing on my lap this time. Seriously, there was this little guy that flew over my shoulder and landed on my lap last time we were there. It’s no Hanalei Bay, but Doggie Beach is still a pretty cool place to spend an afternoon.

Go to Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday, I guarantee it will be a pretty cool place to check out some photos.

Strawberry Fields

IMG_0393_1One of my favorite summertime trips is to Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville, for some strawberry picking. My son and I love walking down the rows of buzzing bees and filling our buckets with strawberries. We fill them so much, that I spend the whole week after looking for creative ways to use those strawberries. Every year I say I’m going to make strawberry ice cream, but I never quite get around to it. I hope this is the year I crank up that ice cream maker.

I’m going to need some ice cream to accompany all of the pies I will haul away from Gizdich Ranch’s excellent bakery. Their pies are so heavenly, we like to go during different seasons just to try them all. After we pick your strawberries, we walk back down (the equivalent of a few blocks) to the main ranch buildings. We usually take our own picnic and relax at the picnic area, but we also have the option of buying sandwiches from the cafe if we forgot our own. The picnic area also has a small sandbox and a tractor kids can climb. They’re usually just happy running around while the parents enjoy some sunshine on the lounge chairs.

Strawberry season is usually May through July but call ahead to get the dates. The ranch is open daily from 8-5, and is about a 45 minute drive south of San Jose.

Today’s Tip: On Riding Disney’s Monorail

It’s hard to make the monorail at Disneyland even more exciting for a train-loving boy, but it is possible. How? Just ask for the VIP seating in the front engineer’s car. It seems more exclusive than it really is. All you have to do is inform one of the monorail attendants on the platform and they’ll direct you to a special waiting area. They don’t let more than 5- 6 people at a time in the front car, so you may have to wait a bit longer. We went during the off-season and only had to wait about 5 more minutes, if another group was ahead of us.

It’s worth the wait if you’re with a young child and you want to make the trip more of a “ride” than a mode of transport. You’ll get an 180 degree view of the park as you cruise along, and your child will feel super special. 


Dreaming of Summer Vacation

I’m 8 days away from the biggest perk of being a second grade teacher: summer vacation. Yes, I will get ten weeks of absolute bliss. I don’t even care that I have to keep my son entertained all summer long-at least it’s only one kid instead of twenty. Well, maybe I don’t mind so much because we go out and entertain ourselves together.

A few years ago, I started asking him to make a summer list and he’s been doing it ever since. I like to know what he thinks summer should be about. His lists are mostly about simple things that I don’t have time to do with him during the busy school year. Here are some of the summer activities that usually top his lists: playing miniature golf, going on a picnic, making sandcastles, and going to the zoo. It reminds me to slow down and enjoy summer through a child’s eyes, and that is a great privilege.

So this Monday, join me in dreaming of the joys of summer. Go make your own summer list, and put it up on the fridge. Here are some things I’m putting on the list this year.


The source of inspiration for all of this Monday Dreaming is the fabulous Mara at Mother of All Trips. Go over there and check out all the other Monday Dreamers.

Spring Melt at Yosemite

IMG_2395_1The thing about living in dry and thirsty California, is that you don’t often get a chance to see rushing water. Only during the spring and early summer months, does the water gush down the mountains to the rivers of Yosemite National Park. These rivers may slow to a trickle by the end of summer, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the white-water flow in spring. It certainly wasn’t safe for my little guy to wade and skip pebbles this time of year, but he seemed impressed by the roar. This photo is on a bridge crossing the river near Happy Isles.

This is the best time, of course, to check out all of the waterfalls at Yosemite, since all that you will see by fall is a water-stained monolith. My son got a first-hand glimpse of how powerful water can be. At the bottom of the Yosemite Lower Falls, he got a kick out of the wind and mist created by the water. I tried to explain a bit about water and force, but he just wanted to sit on his rock and stare up at the falls. He was mesmerized.


Go check out all the other mesmerizing photos at Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday.

Five Month Hurrah

mapsYes, this week marks the blog’s five-month anniversary, and I’m ready to celebrate. I would invite you all over for a killer fiesta, but since I can’t, here’s some of your favorite posts so far (well, at least that’s what the stats say).


  1. When Maps Fall Into the Wrong Hands: Who knew that the post I wrote in a hotel room, on a whirlwind weekend in San Diego, would take this number one spot. Maybe I should write in hotel rooms more often.
  2. Kids Go West Guide to the Best Campgrounds in California:  It seems that people love to the great outdoors. Pack up that gear everyone, and don’t forget the peanut butter (my secret ingredient) for those s’mores.
  3. Disneyland During Spring Break:  When people aren’t camping, they’re trying to figure out how they’ll survive the magical place that Walt built. I’ve lived to tell the tale, so I’ve got lots to share. Look for more posts about my Disney tips this month. I’m here to help!
  4. Guide to Inauguration Day Activities: What’s more popular than Disney? President Obama. I thought it was a bit amusing that one of my most popular posts for a while was the only one that had nothing to do with travel. It made me thinking about changing directions…nah.
  5. The Dole Pineapple Maze With a Side of Dole Whip:  I’m so glad I’m not the only person on the planet who loves pineapple soft-serve. Oh no, I’m part of a much larger dole-whip loving peoples.

It’s been (mostly) a blast writing this blog. Thanks for reading, I appreciate it more than you know.

Today’s Tip: Soak Up the Fun

When you travel with kids, there will be a lot of wet things you’ll need to soak up-some more pleasant than others. There is one fun activity that always leaves my son soaking wet: the water play areas at amusement parks. Here’s a shot of my son doing his version of the wet t-shirt contest at Disney’s California Adventure Park. IMG_0161

When the fun was over, I had to dry up this little, water-loving dude, so that we could enjoy the rest of the rides at Bug’s Land without leaving puddles on the Chew Chew Train. Did I lug a big bulky beach towel in my tiny backpack? No way. I took along my REI travel towel with his swimsuit inside the handy plastic pouch. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to lug around any more than I have to when I’m spending hours walking around a huge amusement park. Today’s tip: keep the kids high and dry with super-light travel towels. 

Towels  : MSR PackTowl Personal Towel - MediumClick on fab towel to head over to REI