The trees are not resplendent with as many fall colors here in California, but that’s because our foliage turns another kind of orange: the fluttery, migrating kind. See Exhibit A: a cluster of Monarch butterflies hanging from their winter home in the eucalyptus grove of Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz.
They arrive sometime in October and hang out until February, unless a rare California storm evicts them a bit earlier. We go visit our fluttery friends at least once a year, because their grove happens to be at one of my favorite California beaches. We never tire of our visits. The truth is that the butterflies are just so darn mesmerizing. We lay on the wooden deck and look up.
We sit still, breathe, and watch the monarchs fill the sky above with beauty. Those moments are rare and make our frequent trips to the grove oh-so-worth-it. And anything that can get my kid to sit still and meditate quietly, even if it’s only for 5 minutes, can truly be called awe inspiring.
I’m sharing these photos at Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday. Go there to check out all the other inspiring photos.
Everyone has their own image of a perfect beach. You get that image in your head when you are having a bad day: you stepped in a puddle and soaked your shoes right through, forgot to pay your credit card bill on time, and picked up your feverish child from daycare. On those days, you want to feel the warm, ocean breeze on your face. So you go to the perfect beach, even if it’s only in your mind.
That vision of the perfect beach for me these days, is Kapalua Bay in Maui. On our way to school in the mornings, my son and I reminisce about the days we spent there this summer. He likes that he can go out by himself on the Boogie board, since the beach is protected from the big waves by the reef just outside of the bay. He can float out there for hours, until he becomes 90 percent salt water.
I like that he can float out there for hours, and that I can sit on the beach and watch him, without also becoming 90 percent salt water myself. I also like that there is excellent snorkeling a few feet from shore. You can wade out and put your face in the water to see the fish. Basically, it is the perfect place to take a beginner snorkeler or lazy lady.
So this Monday, I’m rolling out my beach towel, taking out my paperback and heading over to Kapalua Bay. Hey, a girl can dream.
Good to Know: Kapalua Bay is in front of the Ritz-Carlton Private Club Residences, but is accessible to everyone. The Ritz has a shack that rents out snorkeling equipment, kayaks, and sells Chocotacos for those cases of beach-munchies. There are showers and a bathroom, though it wasn’t always very clean.The best time to go is early in the morning. If you get there before nine, then you will experience the bliss of having found paradise. A bit later, the small beach begins to fill up with beach towels and umbrellas. The parking is limited, with only about 30 spots available. Hint: For more exact parking directions check out our Maui google map under Kapalua Bay.
Go read about all the other Monday Dreaming going on at Mother of All Trips.
Family Travel Tips
It’s no secret Balboa Park is a fantastic place to visit with kids: museums, fountains, gardens, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. All of that sightseeing is bound to make you hungry, so here is a short list of my favorite places to dine at the park.
There are fast food eateries all over the zoo, but the one with the best view is the Treehouse Cafe. The menu is decent and you’ll get a nice breeze out on the deck. If you are looking for a fancier meal-without giant gorilla head beverage cups-then take the elevator down from the Cafe to Albert’s Restaurant. I enjoy splurging on a meal (even while at the zoo), if it means I get to rest my tired footsies and let the waiter do all the work. The food is good, but know you’re mostly paying for the rainforest ambience. The best seats are out on the deck by the waterfall; call ahead to reserve those tables.
I already wrote about my love for the at Sculpture Court Cafe in the San Diego Museum of Art. We dined there again, on a recent trip, and found the menu a bit different, but still delicious. This is a relaxing place for a lunch break and to check out the cool architecture of Balboa. If you want to eat at the culinary gem of the park, then you’ll have to go to the The Prado. We didn’t make reservations for this popular restaurant, so we opted to sit in the bar section. This worked out well since we wanted a light lunch. By light, I mean the best fish tacos I had while in San Diego, and some kickin’ macaroni and cheese for my little guy. The colorful, Spanish-style decor is going to keep the kids busy looking around, at least until the appetizers get there.
You could opt to do the more rustic dining experience and plop down anywhere in the park. The Zoo has a picnic area right outside the zoo and there are hot dog carts to be found near the Natural History museum.
Family Travel Tips
Every year we take a day trip to visit the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Santa Cruz, California. I have been making that same trip since I was a kid, so I have it down to a science. I remember to pack a picnic, check that the weather will be warm enough to see the fluttery, little buggers, and to bring the binoculars.
On a particular trip last year, I wanted to capture my son and the butterflies on video. I made all sorts of plans for my first video blogging production. So, of course, I forgot the video camera. I got mad-and said a few choice words-when I remembered that I had forgotten the one piece of equipment I didn’t want to forget that day. But, I was determined. I decided to get some video footage with the seldom used video button on my point and shoot camera. I was trying to teach my son that when the going gets tough, the tough makes lame attempts. It’s a lesson I have taught him well. Sigh.
I couldn’t let the idea for a butterfly video production die, so I edited last year’s crappy attempt into this week’s video. I should title it: Our Trip to Visit the Butterflies, A Comedy of Errors. But, that’s just too long.
The butterflies are back to their winter homes all along the California Coast in October. If you’re planning your own visit to the sanctuary in Natural Bridges State Park, then read my tips post. Just add one more tip, don’t forget the video camera.
My ongoing search for the Great Pumpkin brought me to Disneyland last October. I think I found it, and the Great Candycorn too. Disneyland has its Halloweentime celebration from September 25 to November 1. Here are some tips about what to expect and what not to miss.
1. Don’t pack your wool sweater. It’s Los Angeles, so fall is a bit more like well…summer. We went the third week of October and found ourselves in the middle of a heat wave. There’s nothing quite like rolling into Disneyland after a five-hour drive and finding yourself in 100-degree heat. Yes, that’s pretty extreme, but chances are the weather will be less blustery and more sweltering. Check the forecast. Although you will get the summer vacation weather, you won’t get the summer vacation crowds. That’s a good thing.
2. Check out the Haunted Mansion’s holiday make-over. My son deemed the ride too scary to go on, so I went on while he hung out with the grandparents. I did catch some video of it for him to watch later, since he really wanted to see what the gingerbread centerpiece in the ball room looked like that year. Those Disney chefs come up with a new giant gingerbread creation every year. Hint: Take a deep breath while you go through the ballroom.
3. Big Thunder Ranch Halloween Roundup is the place to have a picnic. If you have toddlers or preschoolers, this is also a place to relax, do some arts and crafts and catch a show featuring Woody and some other Toy Story characters. The whole area is decorated like a pumpkin patch so the photo opportunities are plentiful.
4. Candy Corn Acres in California Adventure just may give you a toothache. California Adventure is where to go for giant candy corn sightings, a plunge down the Tower of Terror, if you’re not too chicken, and Mickey’s Trick-or-Treat Party. Although it looked like a lot of fun, we opted to not attend the party. Separate admission is charged, check the Disneyland website for days and times.
A teeny bit of a heatstroke...
Family Travel Tips