Monthly Archives: March 2010

My Green California

This is what my California looks like this time of year. I love it. With all the rain this winter, we have green, green hillsides this spring. But all this green is a fleeting thing. I thought about that this morning, as I drove by hillsides dotted with orange poppies and yellow mustard flowers. Even the construction crew off the side of the freeway looked prettier with all the wildflowers in the background. I want to pull over and take pictures all the time, it’s just so darn beautiful.

Unfortunately, I’m usually late to some very important date, so I don’t have many photos to share. But when the weekends come, I have managed to get out for some hiking on those green, green hills. So I snapped this photo in Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont. I hope to get out there for some more hikes before all this green goes away.

I’m linking up to Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday. Go check out all the other photos of life’s fleeting moments.

Day Trip Ideas for Spring

Warmer days are here, so we’re all heading outdoors. I can’t stay all cooped up with the birds chirping and the flowers blooming. And since I’m always looking for a good excuse to get out of the house-avoiding all housework in the process-here are our three favorite day trip ideas. Get out and enjoy all of spring’s bounties, they’ll be gone before you know it. 

1. We visit a garden (duh!). This may seem like a no-brainer, but it does take a bit of planning, when you want to see a garden in full bloom. Do you like tulips? Go in April. Are you looking for cherry blossoms? Better go before March. Visit different gardens, throughout the season, to see the wide spectrum of blooming colors. I’m constantly amazed by how much my son enjoys a trip to the garden, but I have a feeling that he may feel a bit differently about daffodils when he’s sixteen. So I’m going to get as many cute garden photos of him, while the gettin’ is good. Our favorite garden is Filoli Gardens, you can read more about it here.

2. We visit a farm. It’s all about the baby animals in the spring. I like to squeal and coo when I see the cute lambs, chicks, and-if I’m lucky-piglets. Now we love to visit Hidden Villa Farm, but there are plenty of other farms within day trip distance of our house. Chances are, you also have dozens of farms near your home as well. Find one and call them to see which baby animals they expect to be born soon. Don’t forget about petting zoos, we were surprised by the adorable eight-day-old lambs at Happy Hollow Park and Zoo on a recent visit.

3. We take a wildflower hike. I’m excited by the upcoming wildflower season in California (a bit nerdy, I know). The rainy winter has made the hillsides extra green in Northern California and the colors are beginning to pop out all over the place. The best part about the wildflower hike is the exercise. Or at least it is, if you’re doing a bit of spring training like I am. The California State Park website has some notes about some of the best parks to see wildflowers in the state. But you don’t have limit yourself to these places, just head to some open space and you’ll find the wildflowers. Heck, I can even see them on the side of the freeway nowadays. But that kind of of drive-by viewing doesn’t count, you can’t smell the flowers zooming past them at the legal speed of 65 mph. So I’m getting out this spring and climbing some hills in search of wildflowers.

Other wildflower resources:

What’s blooming when: California Bureau of Land Management.

Desert Wildflower Report at Desert U.S.A.

Some Notes on Happy Hollow Park and Zoo

Happy Hollow Park and Zoo in San Jose is reopening after it’s 20-month renovation. Now, I know that this isn’t news to the San Francisco Bay Area families, because I think most of them were there with us for the member preview day this Sunday. It was reported that the park saw 8,000 visitors that day alone. Like most newly renovated attractions, this one is sure to be crowded its first year.

I’ve only visited the new and improved Happy Hollow once, so I’m not an expert. But I do have a few sanity-saving tips I can pass on. I’ll keep updating the tips on this post after I’ve made a few more visits.

1. Know your parking options. Arrive 20-30 minutes before opening time. There is a new parking lot, so check the website beforehand. On the preview day, there were four lots available and all had at least a ten-minute line to get in, even early in the day. Although the website says parking is six dollars, the parking lot nearest to the entrance is actually ten dollars; the other lots are six.

2. Take a picnic or eat an early lunch. We opted to eat an early lunch around eleven. This was the best move we made all day. By 1 o’clock the line was out the door. Others reported that they waited an hour and a half to get their food. I think that the lines may begin to move faster, once the staff works out some of the kinks. There were no other snack carts in the park, so the cafe is the only option. Luckily there are plenty of picnic tables and grassy areas for a picnic.

3. Check the scheduled events. The puppet show has new times, and the new Leaping Lemur area and Barn Area have zookeepers that do some training sessions with the animals. We saw the trainer and the lemurs, and it was a nice treat. The times are posted on the exhibits.

4. Go Play First. Because the park is so crowded, it pays off to get there early. If you’re there early, then go the park area first. It’s the old, trusty amusement park rule: popular rides first. I also noticed that the new Leaping Lemur area, Double-H Ranch area, and Redwood Lookout Play area were all very crowded, so you may want to let your little ones explore these parts early in the morning. Check the height requirements for the rides before you get in line.

5. Save some time for the fossil hunting. There were few changes to the lower zoo area, with the notable exception of the new fossil dig sand area. Even my older, more world weary child was engrossed in the dig for a while. Toddlers and preschool dinosaur fans were in sandy dino heaven.

* Bonus Tip * If you go this spring, take a peek inside the barnyard. I went all ga-ga when I saw these eight-day-old lambs. So cute.

If you have any tips to share, please leave them in the comments. You may also want to check out the Happy Hollow Facebook fan page; visitors are leaving comments, and tips there all the time.

I hope to have another more detailed post on the renovations in the park later on.

San Jose Family Vacation

Surfing Waikiki in an Outrigger Canoe

Sometimes, girls just want to have fun. And sometimes, their lucky sons and sisters get to join them. While on our last trip to Waikiki, I decided I wanted to ride the waves on one of the big outrigger canoes. We only had one afternoon to spend in Waikiki beach, so we had a packed schedule: drinking Lava Flows under beach umbrellas, floating around the warm waters with all the other tourists in brightly colored inner tubes, and then back to the beach umbrellas for a snack of ice cream bonbons. It was going to be a tight squeeze, but I was determined.

I’m too chicken to learn how to surf, so cruising the waves on the outrigger canoes is as close as I’m going to get to that sensation. There are many different places on Waikiki beach where you can sign up for a ride, but we chose the one closest to us-between the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach Hotel and the Moana Surfrider Hotel.

There are few things that I will abandon a tub of ice cream bonbons for, but a chance to ride the waves on an outrigger canoe in Waikiki is one of them. When we finally got the signal from the crew that they had assembled a large enough group to take out on the water, we quickly abandoned/inhaled our tub of bonbons, and rushed to take our places.

I would like to think that I looked graceful boarding that canoe, but it was more akin to a sea lion flopping up onto a rock. Anyhow, we all took our seats and the paddling began. The guide in the back barked out directions to a canoe filled with women and eight-year-old boy. We paddled out for about five minutes and then waited for the perfect wave. We floated out there with all of the surfers, and a three-legged sea turtle (which our guide had a cool nickname for, that I can’t recall and should have taken note of).

When we caught our wave, we zipped past the surfers and the tourists in inner tubes. With the wind in our faces, we screamed, laughed and raced towards that legendary stretch of sand. I will never forget the look on my son’s face. For a split second, he was a Hawaiian prince in his outrigger canoe.

We paddled out and repeated our ride one more time, before we came back to shore and reality. I was out forty dollars, but, for me, it was money well spent. It’s not often that a girl gets to surf a wave in Waikiki with her son.

This Monday I’m sharing my memory, because I need to dream a bit on this chilly March day. I need to remember that my life is filled with memories of these fun, spontaneous moments, and not just the daily routines that make up our weekdays. And next time you are lucky enough to find yourself on Waikiki Beach, take a ride out on one of those canoes. Don’t forget to come back and tell me about it.

I’m linking up to Mother of All Trips this Monday, she is always inspiring, even when she feels a bit uninspired.

Kids Go West on Facebook

In case you haven’t heard, you can now become an official fan of Kids Go West on Facebook. Just think, this way you can give me a big thumbs-up when I post something. Or you may want to follow some of our adventures before they get published on the site (way before, in most cases). Perhaps, you want to browse through our photo albums, and share some of your sandcastle pictures with me. Whatever the reason, click here if you want to become our biggest fan. Many thanks.

San Francisco Cable Car Museum

What: The San Francisco Cable Car Museum

Where: It’s located high up in the Mason and Washington cable car barn in (you guessed it) San Francisco, California.

Why: We wanted to learn more about those famous cable cars, without having to actually stand in one of the long lines to board one.

My Kid’s Picks: The penny machine. Yes, there seems to be one of those wherever we go. He also enjoyed seeing the wheels that turn the cables and checking out all of the maps and grids for each cable car line. In the downstairs viewing area, he checked out the cables that entered the building from the channels under the street. This is a trip underground.

Mom’s Verdict: The museum is often overlooked, mostly because it is not near any other major attraction. You can, of course, ride up in a cable car and then back down. In addition to the behind-the-scenes look at the machinery that keeps those cable cars moving, there are a few antique cars on display. It is worth a stop if your kids are into learning about modes of transport, and if you’ve already seen many of the other attractions in San Francisco. School-aged children will get the most of out of the visit. Oh, and if you can’t guess from watching the video: it’s loud.

Useful Tidbits: Admission is free. There is only street parking so we parked in a garage on California Street (a few blocks away). The whole tour of the museum took less than twenty minutes (including a bathroom break and penny machine session). There is also a small, inexpensive cafe across the street. We stopped there for a panini and Italian soda for lunch.

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San Francisco Family Vacation