Category Archives: SoCal

Yes, there is more than Disneyland, traffic and smog

Today’s Tip: Disneyland With Toddlers

Full disclosure: my first trip to Disneyland with a toddler was mostly a bust. My son was three years old when I decided we were ready for our first trip to Disneyland. He walked through the turnstiles, saw the hordes of people, heard the Disney band marching towards us-trombones blaring-and he cried. He covered his ears, asked to be picked up, and declared his trip to Disneyland was over.

So it was, that our first trip to Disneyland together involved a lot more tears and bribery through Mickey-shaped ice cream sandwiches, than the magical memories I’d hoped for. Here are the lessons I learned. Don’t laugh, I was a rookie mom.

1. Just because all the other toddlers are doing it, doesn’t mean mine will. I saw plenty of  bouncing, laughing toddlers float by me on the Pirate of Caribbean boats. They were apparently not the least bit bothered by the realistic pirates, skulls, and the cannon battles. So off we went  into the pirate’s lair. My son hated me the whole day after. In fact, he refused to go on almost all other rides-even the harmless Heimlich’s Chew Chew train (a green caterpillar cruising at 2 mph through giant fruit and yelling in a bad German accent) was too suspect for him to even attempt. I knew my child was super sensitive to most of the Disney movies at that age, why did I think going on the rides would be any different? I let peer pressure get the better of me. Just say no.


2. You will travel 7 hours, spend hundreds of dollars, and your child will want to ride the Monorail 5 times (and the Jungle Cruise 6 times). I quickly found that my very active three-year-old boy was not captivated by most of the Fantasyland rides, he would rather run around Tom Sawyer Island, ride the train, and pretend he was an explorer in the Jungle. I altered our ride plans after our first horrid day, and went with his natural interest in trains, dirt, and running like crazy through jets of water. Our day was a lot less filled with princesses and pirates, but a whole lot easier. You may not like where your toddler will take you, but just go with it.

3. There are crowds and then there are holiday crowds. I didn’t realize that the crowds during Easter week would make our visit three times harder. The seas of people, umbrella strollers, and noise were too much for sensitive little guy to handle. I wasn’t too fond of it either. If you don’t get to visit Disneyland often and have invested a lot of money into your trip, you don’t want to spend your precious time standing in line for the parking tram.

4. Plan or perish. I made a lot of mistakes on that first trip, but my lack of planning is what really did me in. The extent of my planning involved printing out a Disneyland map and checking out some of the ride descriptions on their website. I didn’t give too much thought to making a plan for our day. Because of our ill-fated first trip, I have learned a whole lot more about the best ways to enjoy Disneyland (at any age). Do your research, there are a lot of resources online to help you.

5. Nobody took my Mother of the Year award away from me. Sure, I made mistakes on my first trip, but there were things I couldn’t have foreseen. My son’s reaction was all his own, and maybe no amount of planning and preparation would have prevented it. Toddlers are lovable but unpredictable little anarchists. Do what you can to make your toddler’s first trip to Disneyland enjoyable, and if else fails buy him a Mickey-shaped popsicle. Then find yourself a shady bench.

Santa Barbara Zoo

Honestly, I didn’t go to Santa Barbara to hang out with giraffes; I was only thinking about reading my book on the beach. But since my kid rarely shares my vision of a perfect weekend getaway, I added a few stops to our itinerary that would satisfy his vision as well. So we spent one morning at the Santa Barbara Zoo because kids love zoos (and my kid is crazy about them). Besides, the zoo is only a few blocks away from the beach, so I knew we could just head down for some afternoon napping in the sun afterwards.

The zoo had plenty to see and do to keep us busy for over two hours, but you could certainly spend more time if you have younger kids. The exhibits were all well maintained and accessible for kids. Here are some of of our favorites:

1. The Eeeww Exhibit (Insects and Reptiles)

I have grown to love hissing cockroaches and salamanders because I have a boy who makes me touch all the creepy crawlies, so we enjoyed our stroll through this indoor exhibit to check out some of the world’s most unappreciated creatures.

2. The Penguins

Kids really enjoyed trying to read the name tags on the wings of the warm-weather Humboldt penguins as they swam around their exhibit. There was plenty of room to see the penguins from lots of different viewpoints.

3. African Veldt

The giraffes in this exhibit have the best view of the sparkly Pacific Ocean, and they seem pretty happy about it. Or maybe, it was because we visited while people were lining up for the giraffe feedings.

4. Tropical Aviaries

We walked through indoor and outdoor aviary exhibits and got a close-up view of many birds.

5. Asian Small-Clawed Otters

The energetic otters draw a large crowd. The exhibit has new otter pups, so there’s the extra cute factor as well.

When you go:

The zoo is open 10-5 everyday except Christmas. Current admission is $12 for adults and $10 for children. Check website for updated information. Parking is $5, but there plenty of the Santa Barbara visitor trolleys that stop right in front of the zoo.

Ty Warner Sea Center

The Ty Warner Sea Center is the aquatic branch of the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum, and is located right over the Pacific Ocean on Stearns Wharf. It is a small aquarium, but what it lacks in size, it makes up with engaging and accessible exhibits.

At the shark touch-pool, my son got to touch a harmless swell shark. The tidepool tank had viewing windows that were accessible to even the youngest toddlers and an underwater tunnel for them to walk through as well.

Older kids enjoyed some of the computer-based exhibits throughout the first floor of the center. We also spent some time with some other aquarium youth volunteers as they pulled up samples (of mostly seaweed) in netted cages attached to ropes. They were all great about answering questions and giving information about specimens they had for viewing under video microscopes. 

The second floor of the aquarium was a special exhibit called Superpowers, about animal adaptations, which included another touch-pool opportunity. The 39-foot model of the gray whale and her calf hangs in the main entrance, right over the gift shop.

Useful Tidbits: Admission for just the Sea Center is currently $8 for adults and $5 for children ages 2-12. You can also get a Santa Barbara Nature Pass and get admission for the Sea Center and Natural History Museum for two days. Parking is free for the first 90 minutes with validation from the Sea Center. Check the website for current information.

Things to Do in California: December Edition

‘Tis the season to take the family to enjoy the Christmas lights, catch a matinee of the Nutcracker, and get that picture with Santa at the mall (unless you have a kid that refuses to get within a foot of the mall Santa). If you’re looking for ways to keep the kids busy this holiday season, you will find plenty of options in California. Here are two of my favorite family-friendly events in California this month. They’re educational too, just don’t tell the kids.

San Francisco

Snow and Reindeer at the California Academy of Sciences from November 23 to January 2.

Kids love to listen for reindeer hooves on their roofs on Christmas Eve, so take them to the east garden of the Academy to meet the reindeer at the Reindeer Rendezvous special exhibit. Then step inside the igloo presentation dome to watch the five-minute video about the North Pole. There are plenty of daily science, animal, and cultural presentations to choose from, but if you go on Wednesdays, you’ll get to meet the scientists that explore the Earth’s coldest regions. Don’t forget to get a picture with Santa Claude, the Academy’s alligator character, and catch the indoor snow flurries.

These special holiday activities are all included with general admission tickets. Check the website for more information and schedules.

Los Angeles

The Science of Gingerbread at the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana from November 23 to January 3.

Kids know how darn cute (and yummy) houses can be, so take them to the Discovery Science Center this month, so they can see the entries of the gingerbread house competition displayed throughout the center. On weekends, kids get to check out the gingerbread decorating demonstrations, and try their hand at baking at the measure-and-mix learning station. There are also daily shows and presentations, such as the “Matter of Taste” show. If you want to  participate in a special gingerbread house workshop, check out their website for more information.

 

Linking up to Trekaroo Spotlight Thursday, where other bloggers are sharing their lists of favorite holiday events.


San Diego Zoo Safari Park

I have a kid who is donning a zookeeper costume for the second Halloween of his young life, so I tend to spend a lot of time at zoos with my little animal enthusiast. We have seen more elephants, giraffes, and lemurs than I’d like to remember. But since I’m here to share our adventures, I will remember our few trips out to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (formerly known as the San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park). Here are our favorite San Diego Safari Park experiences:

1. Elephant Overlook

There are not many places where a kid can see an elephant herd in California, so the Elephant Overlook exhibit is definitely worth a visit. There are eight baby elephants to ooh and ah at. Be sure to follow the elevated pathway alongside the huge exhibit until you get the best close-up views of the pachyderms. We found these guys hanging out in a corner of the exhibit, but the enclosure is pretty big so keep looking, you won’t miss them. Ha.

2. Lion Camp

This not the place where you want to set up your tent and roast marshmallows, but it is the place to go find the kings of the jungles lazing around just inches away from you (through the thick glass window, of course). This exhibit lets you and the kids get safely and uncomfortably close to the lions, much closer than most zoo exhibits. They looked quite cozy on their bed of boulders, but I wouldn’t go tapping on the window.

3. Journey Into Africa Tour

The park’s main visitor draw is this 25-minute tram tour through the Heart of Africa exhibit. Among the many African animals, you will see the giraffes, rhinoceros, gazelles, and impalas out the tram windows. This is not a tour that will let you experience a closer interaction with the animals (you will have to pay for the photo caravans if you want the giraffes to come up to the window), but it will let kids get a glimpse of animals wandering around more freely in their bigger enclosures.

4. Lorikeet Landing

This is the place to go if you like green-naped lorikeets swooping down on you and your kid. The lorikeets are not afraid of people, mostly because the homo sapiens come into the aviary with cups of nectar for them to dine on. The people may be afraid of them though, so this is not the place for kids who don’t like lorikeets climbing-or potentially pooping-on their heads. My kid, a.k.a the crocodile hunter, feared no lorikeet and loved every minute of it. So much so, that we had to go get another cup of nectar. It does make for a great photo opportunity though.

Tips:

This park is part of San Diego Zoo, but it’s about 35 miles away in the inland city of Escondido. Don’t expect to do this park and the zoo in one day unless you have some sort of death wish. Give yourself at least a good half-day to explore the Safari Park, we’ve been twice and still not seen the whole thing, mostly because it involves a lot of walking in the California desert heat.

It’s hot, so plan to go early in the morning during the summer or just avoid that season altogether.

Plan to do a lot of walking because there are fewer but larger exhibits that are spread out throughout this huge zoo park. But don’t let that stop you from exploring at least some of the park by foot, there is much more than the tram tour.

Check the website for special events, additional experiences and the occasional deal (kids get in free this October, for example).

Favorite Summer Vacation Posts

There is still plenty of summer vacation left here in California (trust me, this teacher has counted the days on the calendar), so get out there and enjoy those long, sunny days.
Here are some posts to help you in all of your summer travel endeavors.

If you’re itching to take a road trip…

I wrote a post for the Trekaroo blog on how to tackle a road trip along the central coast of California.

So you’re ready to hit the road along the coast, just don’t forget the beach bag. Read here for some California road trip tips.

Here are my thoughts on packing busy bags and taking technology on the road.

The kids and moms will be hungry as soon as you pull out of the driveway, here are some tips on what me and other mom travel bloggers pack in their snack bag at Cascadia Kids.

It’s not summer without a trip to the beach…

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in a tropical paradise and would like to take your kids swimming with the fishes, read some of my snorkeling tips.

I loved to snorkel in Maui’s Kapalua Bay. Please send me a photo if you do go, I’ll live vicariously through you this summer.

One of the top searches to the blog this month has been fried artichoke hearts in Santa Cruz. And it often leads readers to this post on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. This is definitely one of my favorite places to eat fried artichoke hearts (they may not be the best you can find, but you just can’t beat the ambiance).

If you’re ready for some s’mores…

Our all-time popular post is about some favorite California campgrounds with kids.

Here are some tips for you newbie campers. Or if you’re a seasoned pro, tell me what else I can add to the list.

Cool Kids’ Calendar Planner: World Oceans Day Events

World Oceans Day is on June 8 and many aquariums and museums in California are holding special family events to celebrate and bring awareness about our oceans and how we can keep them healthy. I’ve compiled a list with links to some of the events taking place this week. If I’m missing any, just add them to the comments.

Monterey Bay Aquarium is holding it’s World Oceans Day event this weekend, June 5-6 and is free with admission. There will be a special family craft room and special feedings throughout the day.

Birch Aquarium is holding special events all month, beginning on Tuesday, June 8 with a special Dr. Seuss, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish theme activities.

Sea Life Aquarium is holding family events on June 5.

Aquarium of the Bay is holding family events and scavenger hunts from Sunday, June 6 to Tuesday, June 8.

Even if you can’t make any of these events, you should consider a trip to the beach for a little impromptu clean-up and celebration of your own.

Linking up to Trekaroo’s Spotlight Thursday, head there for more family travel ideas.

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.

The Trains at Griffith Park

What: Griffith Park Southern Railroad and Travel Town

Where: Griffith Park in Los Angeles

Why: We needed a to make a pit stop while on an eight-hour drive from San Diego to the Bay Area and stopping at the In-N-Out just wouldn’t do. Griffith Park is conveniently located right off of the parking lot/freeway I-5. So to prevent any road trip melt downs (from me) we took the freeway exit to check out some trains and burn off some steam. Choo-choo.

My Kid’s Picks: What’s not to love? There are trains. My little conductor dude enjoyed the miniature train ride on the Griffith Park Southern Railroad. Then he really got his train geek on, when we headed over to Travel Town and got a close up view of some really big engines. The locomotives, cabooses, and passenger cars are on display outside and there are some smaller vehicles on display in a building. There was also a small corner of the building geared for smaller kids with some hands-on activities. Because he was older, he wasn’t as intrigued by the trains as he would have been as a preschooler. He also wished he could have gotten to go inside some of the trains. But it was still a fun stroll through the train yards.

Mom’s Verdict: Both of these places where blissfully uncrowded on a Monday afternoon, and inexpensive. Travel Town is a great place for either really big train fanatics, or the under-5 crowd.

Useful Tidbits: Tickets for the train rides are $2.50 and trains operate year-round (except Christmas day). You can hop on the train at Griffith Park Southern Railroad or at Travel Town. Although the day we went, the train ride at Travel Town wasn’t operating. Parking and admission to the museum in Travel Town is free and also open year-round (except Christmas day).

Los Angeles Family Travel Tips

On Board With Trekaroo KidsMobile: San Diego

If you’re a traveling parent and still haven’t visited the Trekaroo website, then you’re missing out. Big time. I’ve had them listed under travel resources, because I think that their parent reviews of destinations, hotels and restaurants come in pretty handy when I’m planning a trip. You can also create your own Passport Page and chime in with your own reviews. I know you’re dying to put in your two cents. Their travel lists are also a superb resource, so I joined in with one of my own.

This week, a fab group of blogging moms came together for a San Diego list-off, otherwise known as the Trekaroo KidsMobile. Go check out all of our San Diego tips.

Trekaroo families  have been voting for their favorite kid-friendly activities and hotels in and around San Diego.  We’ve tallied their votes for 2009 and here’s the line up!

Top Activities for Kids in San Diego, CA – voted by parents

Top Kid-friendly Hotels in San Diego, CA – voted by parents

Living in San Diego leaves local families little excuse to stay home.  These moms bring you their personal recommendations of the best places to take kids in their hometown.  Want the local scoop?  Here it is!

Bridget Smith, the author of The Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook not only shared with us her Top Tips for a Legoland Adventure with Toddler and Preschoolers, but now gives us some great ideas about Fun Things to  Do After Visiting Legoland, California. Bridget spent countless hours in Legoland one year and made more than full use of their family’s season pass to bring us the blow-by-blow of making the most of your visit to Legoland.  Follow their family’s other adventures on her blog:  Family Adventure Guidebooks

The Q Family  isn’t local but lives to travel.  If you have 5 days to spend in San Diego, here’s their list of the Must See Attractions with Kids in San Diego. This is a family who’s constantly on the go!  The Q Family Adventures Travel Blog chronicles their adventures with wonderful photos, fun stories and helpful tips.

Balboa Park is a wonderful urban park that families love.  But when hunger strikes, Carolina has a list of Kid-friendly Dining in Balboa Park.  She is the mom behind the blog Kids Go West.  As a public school teacher, mom and freelance travel writer, she shares her insider tips on all the totally awesome places to go with kids in her home state of California. Bookmark her blog if you’re heading to California.

Rockinmama loves to mix fun and learning.  She recommends these 5 Fun and Educational Kid Activities in San Diego.  On her blog Rockin Mama, she writes with great humor about pregnancy.  She also write prolifically about parent-friendly products.  If you’re looking for the inside scoop on new products for parents out there, this rockin mama’s got it.

Amie O’Shaughnessy of Ciao Bambino brings us San Diego: Favorite Family Hotels . Ciao Bambino is a one of Trekaroo’s favorite partners because we share a common passion – inspiring families to travel.  Ciao Bambino provides tips and advice around all things related to traveling with kids and is a guide to the best kid-friendly hotels.

Wylsa runs Toddler’s Travel – a local baby equipment rental company for visiting families.  Naturally, she’s a guru on Fun Activities for Toddlers in San Diego.  Instead of lugging all those bulky items on the plane, rent it when you arrive from Toddler’s Travel.

Colleen of TravelMamas has the scoop on the 5 Best Family-friendly Restaurants in San Diego County.  Her blogTravelmamas blog gives tell-it-like-it-is tips about traveling with kids.  Gathering information from travel experts (with kids), moms who’ve been there she got loads of practical advice on traveling well with kids.

La Jolla is one of the most beautiful suburbs of San Diego and La Jolla Mom shares with us her list of Things to Do in La Jolla With Kids. Her blog La Jolla Mom has become a meeting place of sorts for local moms looking to connect.  Her Family Fun section is full of popular and off the beaten path places to go with kids.  Hop on over and see why La Jolla is a town you must stop at when visiting San Diego.

Other Resources for San Diego, CA

  • All 104 Activities for kids in the San Diego County
  • Kid-friendly hotels in and around San Diego County

Which Hotels came up at the top?

Top Activities for Kids in San Diego, CA – voted by parents

Next stop, Denver, CO (that’s right, the launch of Colorado is coming soon)

KidsMobile_jumponThe Trekaroo KidsMobile is a blog carnival with a twist. It’s designed to provide a unique opportunity for mom and dad bloggers to be featured on Trekaroo while

1) expressing their unique point of view

2) getting a web of link exchanges.

Join us for one of our next stopovers.