Travel & Events

Omni Rancho Las Palmas

We took a mini vacay to the Omni Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage (aka Palm Springs) with the kids – OMG what a great destination for a family getaway! If you have water loving kiddos this resort won’t disappoint, I promise! This trip was for the kids so this review does not include the kids club, golf course or spa but the whole property is beautiful and offers full service luxury amenities…maybe next time!? We had a fabulous time and the kids can’t wait to go back!

Omni Rancho Las Palmas Palm Springs

Firstly, the primary reason we went (and I think why most families go)…THE POOL AREA! It is BOMB. Like, really, really awesome. They have a kids pool, an enormous lazy river with an attached kiddie pool with incline entrance, a covered sandbox (yes, you read that right, a fully shaded sandbox, so for all those sand loving kiddos…SHADE FOR DAYS!)…plus two waterslides, a splash pad and a full schedule of pool activities throughout the day. Cabanas, chairs, umbrellas, poolside service…

Omni Rancho Las Palmas Palm Springs

The lazy river was most definitely our favorite part of the pool area.  We enjoyed spending a long time (as did the boys) floating around in it.  Tubes are provided. Our 5-year old also loved the waterslides. It had been many years since I went down a waterslide, it was pretty fun I’ll admit 🙂  The lines were long but moved VERY quickly.  It is important note that kids are NOT allowed to go down with an adult, they must ride individually…as such H (Mr. 4) wasn’t so interested in them.

Omni Rancho Las Palmas Palm Springs Water Slide

They had a nice sized splash pad and a regular kids pool.  The regular pool wasn’t so interesting to our kids but there were plenty of kids in the pool, and they did allow floats (I’d suggest bringing one, we saw unicorns and flamingos and all sorts of fun ones).

Omni Rancho Las Palmas Palm Springs Splash Pad

Before we went, we had heard (and read reviews) that the pool was very crowded, and that day passes are sold to the pool adding to the chaos.  For me, it disrupts my enjoyment when I can’t find a seat in the shade (its a deal breaker if I cannot find a seat at all).  I feel that when I pay for a luxury property, I should be able to sit poolside in the shade.  While admittedly I would have preferred less people – we had no problems finding a seat at the pool in the shade or tubes for the lazy river on either Saturday or Sunday, no matter what time we went.  The day pass crowd was identifiable, but inconsequential for us.  PS 9am-10am was very quiet at the pool, and an absolutely lovely hour to be there…I definitely recommend being the first one in the pool!

We had went back and forth on reserving a cabana but decided to make it a game time decision.  With the weather over 100 degrees this trip, we honestly spent zero time in our chairs – when we were done IN the pool we were done AT the pool.  I could see two scenarios where I would have wanted one (a) a joint trip with friends where we wanted to hang out, have drinks, lunch at the pool or (b) if we had gone when H was younger and was going to nap him in the cabana while Gman played. Maybe next time if the weather is a little cooler we’ll get one and hang all day at the pool, but in this heat, we didn’t feel it was necessary.  We wanted an air conditioned break/lunch!  🙂

There were kids activities throughout the day.  Our kids participated in sand art. I also saw ceramics, painting, games, water aerobics, and a nightly movie at the pool, among other things.

There are ponds around the golf course with ducks, which currently have several duck families and baby ducks which are SO CUTE! One mama came right up to our hotel room the morning we were leaving, the boys loved it!! They ducklings were so cute!!

We ate at the Blue Ember restaurant both nights and both mornings for breakfast.  The decor is odd (mostly in that it doesn’t match the hotel at all) and given that the hotel was sold out (per the front desk upon check in) was oddly empty at dinner time. Breakfast, on the other hand, was fine. We liked the food and the wine menus. I’m not sure where everyone eats dinner?

As noted above, we didn’t use the spa or the kids club, nor did my husband golf…if you want to golf just keep in mind you need a super early tee time because of the heat.  There is also an 18+ adults only pool, which we did not use this trip.  There are several shops on property with a wide variety of gifts, food, clothing and other items available, a yummy daily flavored water in the lobby, room service, a Peets Coffee and friendly staff.  The concierge sent up kids activity backpacks for the boys (can be requested at the concierge desk) which they enjoyed.

Omni Rancho Las Palmas Palm Springs Water Slides

Omni Rancho Las Palmas Palm Springs Golf Course View From Room

The rooms are nice. They are clean and have both a mini fridge and a mini bar.  Its not five star but very nice. As with any hotel, rooms are not all updated simultaneously so some blocks are nicer than others and views and proximity to amenities will vary by a guests needs and personal preferences. I think most people reading my blog have little kids…so as such here are my thoughts and recommendations:

  • the movie that plays nightly is from 7:30pm until roughly 9:30pm in the pool area and the pool view rooms are going to be disruptively loud for young children to get to sleep until about 10pm
  • the hotel is two stories- there isn’t an elevator (that I saw) so if you are using a stroller you will want a first floor room.  If you are stroller free with kiddos who can easily walk upstairs independently then a second story room will be quieter (you can remember your apartment days right? you can hear people when someone’s above you especially when they have a couple of kids bouncing off the walls of a hotel room LOL!)
  • I suggest room blocks 8, 10, 28 or 30 (we stayed in 30) – these are Lakeview rooms – close to the pool area and the restaurant but not too close to the pool area at night for noise levels
  • call the hotel to book your room directly, and make the requested room block/floor noted at the time of your reservation – request again at check-in
  • if booking through a third party select a “Lakeview” room type, and then call ahead and request a notation be placed in your reservation requesting one of the above room blocks, floor preference, etc.  – request again at check-in

TIP: There is a deal online right now for $109 – $159! This is an AMAZING rate for this resort! Note: There is a $38/day resort fee (but no parking fee, parking is self parking)…so factor that in 🙂

Have you been to the Omni Rancho Las Palmas? I’d love to hear about it! Especially if you have been to the Spa, used the kids club or golfed!

Let me know if you go! Happy luxe travels mamas!
XOXO,
Marie

Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort Rancho Mirage CA

Travel & Events

ROUNDUP: The 6 Best Video Guides to Disney Snack Credits!

Did you get a Disney Dining Plan? Thinking about getting one? Learning a little about the dining plan before you go, about the options and how to utilize the plan will enable you to spend less out of pocket while you are there which can really help manage your expenses!

The Disney Snack Credits – you will get 2 per day – can go a long way if you choose substantial items.  Lots of pros have combed the parks for the best options! There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here!

As such I have reviewed the pro’s videos and consolidated the ones I thought best went over the options to (1) get the best values, most food for your buck (2) make recommendations for the best tasting options and (3) use snack credits for breakfast.

Lots of tips and tricks here! If you have any of your own I’d love to hear them, please comment!! Comments are like love to little blogger dorks like me you know! LOL

And if you have your own video you think should be in this list please reach out to me!

I also have a great All Things Disney Pinterest Board with TONS of great planning articles!! From Hotel Reviews to Fast Pass Strategies to How to Meet the Characters to other Disney Property/Cruise Planning!  Also check out my recent post on Keeping Cool in Disney Parks!

Here you go!

BEST VALUES THROUGHOUT THE PARK:

BEST VALUES FOR A SNACK CREDIT:

TOP 20 BEST VALUES, PLUS FESTIVAL TIPS:

BREAKFAST FOR A SNACK CREDIT:

10 FAVORITE SNACKS:

SNACK CREDIT CHALLENGE FOR BEST SNACK IN THE PARK!

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Travel & Events

Meet the Grunion

Until two days ago I had never even heard of a Grunion. Thanks to Facebook’s [big brotherish] alerts for everything your friends are doing “near your house” I caught wind of Meet the Grunion– and we decided to check it out. Grunion are a small – approximately 6 inches or so – silvery fish.  What is so unique about Grunion is how they swim up onto the shore to lay their eggs in the sand a few times a year – much like sea turtles but they are fish – late at night along the California and Baja Mexican shorelines. The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium hosts a special late night event for families in the aquarium with a hands on Grunion egg hatching, educational film and beachside viewing (and catching!) of Grunion. Did I mention Grunion are a delicacy (think sardines)?

The event started at 8pm and we were there until 1:30am! We didn’t arrive until 9pm and headed to the beach around 11pm.   We did not start seeing Grunion regularly until after midnight. I was surprised how crowded it was (tons of kids!) because I had never even heard of it.  Children under age 16 can catch Grunion freely.  16 and over must have a valid fishing license. We caught a few to look at more closely and released them.

Honestly we had no idea what to expect but our kids have been obsessed with Wild Kratts lately and I knew this was right down their alley.  Needless to say we were underprepared for it in terms of (a) what to bring (b) how to dress (c) realizing how late we’d be there.

My packing list for Grunion catching next year:

  • Waterproof beach blanket
  • Beach chairs
  • Sand toys (1 per child)
  • Bright flashlights/headlamps (1 per person)
  • Camping lantern (1)
  • Large plastic bucket so we can catch-and-release a few grunion
  • Bottled water
  • Flip flops for adults
  • Water shoes for the kids (Crocs, etc.)
  • Extra underwear/pants/warm socks for kiddos to change into after the event
  • Pants that can roll up and stay up (think elasticized bottom)

You can leave all the packed beach items in the car when you arrive, you don’t need anything for the aquarium portion but yourselves.  When its time to head to the beach you will cross the parking lot to get to the beach and you can just grab your things then.  Don’t bring nice bags or wallets or things that won’t fit into a pocket thinking you’ll leave them with your things…its very dark and hard to see/monitor your things so just bring stuff you don’t care much about so you don’t have to worry or try and watch it.

The five dollar admission fee (only a buck for kiddos!) included in/out access to the aquarium – which had lots of great exhibits for the kids to see – and the aforementioned short film, hands on hatching activity and beach access.

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The event starts late and runs super late, and that it is definitely not for everyone…but it was totally worth it our kids had a BLAST! When we left at 1:30 probably 50% of people had left already…but there were still plenty there!

See you there next year?! Have you been? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

XOXO,

Marie

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If you this event is down your alley, take a look at this!

 

 

Beautiful Day Blog www.beautifuldayblog.com visits Candytopia at the Santa Monica Place Mall in Santa Monica, CA
Travel & Events

Candytopia at Santa Monica Place

Candytopia Entrance

Sugar, sugar and more sugar. Too much if you ask me, but a small price to pay for the fabulous photo opps in every corner of Candytopia! From the candy King Tut to the marshmallow “ball” pit our kids really (no, like REALLY!) loved all the rooms, candy art, the rope swings, hammock, surf board and wind, confetti spinner, candy, candy and more candy…it’s just plain fun at Candytopia. It’s not cheap…but a good time and loads of great photos make for a nice afternoon activity at Santa Monica Place, in Santa Monica!

Tickets are timed and small groups are let in at a time, maybe 25 people or so. There is a photo opportunity in the first room and they run over some rules (you can touch the candy art but you can’t eat it, and please be gentle with it, etc)…from there you enter the first room, get your first candy (a Lindt truffle) and they go over the rules again, lol.

The “museum” is a series of themed rooms with candy art exhibits, photo walls/props and a new kind of candy for each room for snacking (some of which were full sized! but I will note most were sugar based candy (no nuts/dairy) and while you’d have to miss out on one or two, dairy or nut free folks will fare just fine in their bounty!) – and candy lovers (ahem Instagrammers) can spend as much time in each room as desired- BUT- “like in life, we move forward” so you just can’t go backwards.

We attended Candytopia with four families- we had 8 children under age 8…its a super fun group activity and while I didn’t post photos of friends kids we got some really cute ones!  Our group spent about 1 hour and 15 minutes inside. It was suggested that the average time inside was anywhere from 60-90 minutes.

ABOUT CANDYTOPIA (from the Candytopia website):

What if an eccentric chocolatier and a daredevil pop star had a whirlwind romance, got married while skydiving, and had a glamorous, glittering love child who grew up to rule a small nation? Welcome to Candytopia, where colossal candyfloss constructions meld with a tantalizing taffy twistedness!

Explore our sprawling sanctuary of confectionary bliss, tastefully curated by Hollywood Candy Queen Jackie Sorkin, realized by master fabricator Zac Hartog, and brought to life by life-long retailer, John Goodman. This four-month interactive art installation celebrates the vibrant colors and flavors of our favorite sugary delights across over a dozen environments, from flying unicorn pigs to a marshmallow tsunami. Bring your family, your friends, and your sweet tooth for an experience like none other!

If you ever dreamed of nibbling your way through Candyland or scoring a Golden Ticket, you’ve come to the right place. Treat yourself to Candytopia, and let your tastebuds and your imagination soar!

Adults: $30

Ages 4-12: $23

Ages 0-3:  Free!  No ticket necessary.

Tickets must be purchased in advance.

Limit 12 tickets per person.

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Candytopia is only in Santa Monica until July 4th but you can follow them on Instagram (@thecandytopia) to learn about upcoming sites and news!

Travel & Events

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center

We took the kids to visit the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center on the Santa Barbara Pier recently, and we had such a great time! The Sea Center is like a mini aquarium, with lots of hands-on things to do for children of all ages.  Tanks to look at, starfish and sea urchins to touch, sand to draw up from the ocean floor and sort through, a microscope to project the findings onto the wall, and lots of other fun little things to see and do.

Our kids especially liked the jaw-like grabber that drops down into the water and collects fresh sand from the ocean floor- Gman was actually able to lower it down himself, do a collection, and bring it back up and then all the kids sorted through it and looked at all the various items in the sand- it was awesome!  There were multiple very kind volunteers who helped him along, PATIENTLY, he really really (really!!) loved that!

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center

There were multiple touch tanks, plus cool things to look at like blacklit jellyfish and an octopus!

Gman sorting through the sand he pulled up from the ocean:

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center

H touching some things in the touch tank:

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center

Sorting through sand pulled up from the bottom of the ocean:

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea CenterSanta Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center

From The Sea Center’s Site:

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center is located on Stearns Wharf. It is an engaging, interactive marine education facility that allows visitors to discover the fun in science and the wonders of the natural world.

At the Sea Center visitors of all ages can enjoy interactive exhibits, opportunities to work like scientists, a theater showcasing the wonders of the Santa Barbara Channel, hands-on close encounters with sea creatures, and a live shark touch pool. Children can crawl through a 1,500-gallon tidepool tank to see ocean life from a different perspective.

Click here to view the Sea Center’s current exhibits.

Click here to view the Sea Center’s location and hours.

———————-

Walking around the Stearns Wharf Pier outside the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center:

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea CenterSanta Barbara PierSanta Barbara Pier

There are five restaurants on the Stearns Wharf Pier (hours of operation taken from page in link) as well as tons of small shops and an ice cream shop:

Char West

Char West
Charburgers, cheeseburgers and the yummiest fish and chips this side of the English Channel.
221 Stearns Wharf
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 962-5631

Hours
Sunday through Saturday 9:00 am – 7:00 pm


Harbor Restaurant

The Harbor Restaurant
Excellent Dining and Santa Barbara’s Most Beautiful View
210 Stearns Wharf
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Hours
Mondays 11:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Tuesdays 11:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Wednesdays 11:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Thursdays 11:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Fridays 11:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Saturdays 10:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Sundays 10:00 pm – 10:00 pm


Longboards

Longboard’s Beach Bar and Grill
Casual Dining with an Ocean View
210 Stearns Wharf
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 963-3311

Hours
Mondays 11:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Tuesdays 11:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Wednesdays 11:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Thursdays 11:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Fridays 11:30 pm – 12:00 am
Saturdays 11:00 pm – 12:00 am
Sundays 11:00 pm – 10:30 pm


Moby Dick Restaurant

Moby Dick
An Excellent Breakfast Venue.
220 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93101  (805)965-0549
(805) 965-0549

Hours
Sunday through Saturday 7:00 am – 9:00 pm


Santa Barbara Shellfish Company

Santa Barbara Shellfish Company
That great little crab place near the end of the Wharf.
230 Stearns Wharf
Santa Barbara, CA 93109
(805) 966-6676

Hours
Sunday through Saturday 11:00 am – 5:00 pm


Travel & Events

Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge Buena Park

We took a super fun staycation for a Saturday night to the Great Wolf Lodge Garden Grove…wow did the boys LOVE it!  The Great Wolf Lodge is a newer property, just built a few years ago and is still very new and clean…and offers full service food and entertainment all under one roof which makes for a one-stop-shop for a easy and fun weekend trip for kids.  From the Dunkin’ Donuts to the Lazy River to the Arcade to the fireplace activities for kids to the ice cream shop…you never have to get back into your car once you park at Great Wolf Lodge, score!  The pool area serves food, rents cabanas, sells everything from goggles to tee shirts…you can really stay all day and you’ll want to.

Great Wolf Lodge Garden Grove (Orange County, CA) Toddler and Baby Area

If you’ve never been to Great Wolf Lodge, lets talk about what it is….its an enormous indoor waterpark and resort, complete with waterslides, a wave pool, lazy river, toddler/baby section, climbing structure, and so much more.  Our kids loved every square inch, and were fast asleep without argument by 7pm sharp (if you know my kids you know this NEVER happens!).  On property, there are multiple restaurants, food and snack options.   We got our coffee at the Dunkin’ Donuts, ate at the Grill, we ate lunch inside the water park both days, and we got our dinner at the Lodge Wood Fired Grill. The Lodge Wood Fired Grill was pretty good…my salad had deep friend jalapeños on it, and I’m still daydreaming of them today.  They also offer a character breakfast.

Great-Wolf-Lodge-Kid-Dinner

Upstairs in the enormous lobby, there is “The Great Clock Tower” where they hold children’s activities and story time throughout the day and into the evenings.  Our kids played bingo, watched a story time, and us parents got to sit down and rest.  Many pint sized guests come already in pajamas, its really super cute!!

Great Wolf Lodge Garden Grove (Orange County, CA)

We stayed in a two-bedroom suite, which has one bedroom with a king bed, and second with two queen beds (and the sofa folded out).  The Great Wolf Lodge Garden Grove property is newly built, and was clean and most importantly, the two bathrooms were nice and large. The room also had a microwave and small fridge.

No sunblock required at Great Wolf Lodge.  Woohoo!

Great Wolf Lodge Garden Grove (Orange County, CA) Lazy River

Visiting from out of town and want to go to Disneyland? Great Wolf Lodge Garden Grove is only 3 miles from Disneyland and there is a complimentary shuttle between Great Wolf Lodge and Disneyland!  Before you go read my recent post on 15 Things to Know Before Visiting Disneyland!

Great Wolf Lodge Indoor Water Park in Buena Park, near Disneyland

Family & Lifestyle, Travel & Events

Summer Fun & Camp Fair 2018

Since we recently moved back to Los Angeles, I needed to find some summer camps for the boys- so I checked out the Summer Fun & Camp Fair at Crossroads School in Santa Monica. Gman, who is five years old, tagged along in the hunt for science/tinkering/art/cooking camps.

When we arrived there were super sized inflatables from Magic Jump all over an enormous green space- games, booths and food trucks- plus an indoor gymnasium full of booths from – hmm I’m not sure must have been at least 50 camps…A LOT!

We talked to camp directors, asked questions, picked up brochures/discount codes and treats and little toys- we even rode scooters and sampled food…Gman had a lot of fun! I know it’s called “Fun Fair” but I really didn’t expect such a big event!

Magic Jump Obstacle Course Los AngelesSummer Camp Fun Fair Santa MonicaSummer Camp Fun Fair

We already had lunch plans but next time we’ll make a whole morning and lunch out of it.

Description from the Summer Fun & Camp Fair website:

Check out all the Fun you and your Family can have at the Fair:

Meet the Camps!

These awesome Summer Camps will be at the Fair to let you know all about what they do and how much fun your kids will have when they attend. You’ll have a chance to meet them and ask all the questions you may have about each of their philosophy, ratio of counselors to campers, locations, and daily schedules. You’ll get everything you need to be able to choose the right Summer camp for your kids. There will even be special discounts and raffles!

Summer Fun for the Whole Family

How well do you know your own back yard? Los Angeles is where millions of people come to visit every year, and you already live here: Lucky you! Wait until you see all the fun things you can do here with your whole family. Your Summer Fun will be non-stop!

Fun & Games

Play the Summer Fun Passport & Scavenger Hunt Game with us and you’ll be eligible for fun prizes! We’re giving away a bunch of fun gear for the Summer and you’ll be entered to win one of the prizes just by playing our Passport & Scavenger Hunt Game. Simply take the time to stop by each of the booths at the Fair for a special stamp – plus try to find all the hidden elements of the Scavenger Hunt. Every stamp you get equals a raffle ticket!

Food & Snacks

Some of the best food trucks in Los Angeles will be on site at the Fair to make sure you’ve got delicious choices for snacks and lunch.

Travel & Events

Bubblefest 2018 at Discovery Cube Orange County

Bubblefest 2018 at the Discovery Cube Orange County was new for us this year, and I’m asking myself why we have never been before now?!? We even had a membership for several years when we lived in OC. The bubble show was so fun to watch, for kids and adults alike…and we could have spent all day in the exhibit room. We will definitely be back before it ends on April 8, 2018.

The show itself was far more elaborate than I expected…the room is darkened for much of the show and the stage is fully decorated, utilizing lasers, specialized lighting and set design.  The show moved quickly and captured the attention of the children form start to finish.  Even the 15 month old next to us watched the entire show!

There is floor seating right in front of the stage for children- no need to reserve special seating, kids can go right in front of the stage and watch close-up.  Parents can sit in the  seating or in the back row of the floor as to stay closer to younger children.

The amphitheater isn’t that large, so there really isn’t bad seating per say…but if you want a seat (and not the floor) I would pay the few extra dollars for reserved.

The Bubblefest exhibit features hands-on bubble activities, a giant bubble photo opp and some inflatable obstacle courses (getting some physical energy out is 👍👍 in my book!). For $15 extra we put all four kids in a giant bubble- you can see a short clip of it below, it was fun!

The activities are designed to teach children the science and mathematics of bubbles, such as their surface tension, elasticity, air pressure, molecular and geometric properties.

You do need an additional Bubblefest ticket to access the show and the Bubblefest activities, which includes:

  • Admission into the Mega Bubblefest Laser Show (Guests will need to select a show time when purchasing their ticket.)
  • Bubble Lab
  • Water Spheres
  • Bubble Exhibits
  • Mega Bubbles Courtyard
  • Early Learners bubble exploration for guests 5 and under

You can buy your tickets here.

And of course there is the rest of the museum! There are two whole floors (huge floors!) of educational, science, hands on activities- and even a huge dinosaur outside for kids to climb. We spent over five hours and we could have stayed longer there is so much to see and do!

Outside in the Dino Exhibit:

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Rocket Launch Simulator:

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Main Exhibit Room:

Me, hopelessly trying to wrangle two boys into the same photo.  This is about as good as it gets, LOL.

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Have you been to Bubblefest? Tell me what you thought!! Comments are love to bloggers just saying! XOXO.

Looking for more fun activities in Southern California? Check out the MOXI!

DISCOVERY CUBE ORANGE COUNTY IS A 501(C)(3) NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION.
2500 N. MAIN STREET, SANTA ANA, CA 92705

Photos property of Marie Clark, Beautiful Day Blog.  All rights reserved.

Travel & Events

MOXI Museum in Santa Barbara

Last weekend we took the kids to MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation– what an amazing place…the boys explored all three floors of exhibits and loved every square inch! MOXI is a brand new interactive children’s museum on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara.

The exhibits were so much fun for my science loving kiddos- they are designed around science, technology, engineering, arts and math. The boys found things to spin, build, race, test, tinker and create!

MOXI Museum Santa Barbara KEVA Blocks

MOXI is divided into seven themed exhibits including Tech Track, Sound Track, Fantastic Forces Courtyard, Speed Track, Light Track, Interactive Media Track and Sky Garden.  Each contains multiple activities under the theme.

Our boys are 4 and 5 now and they are a great age for the exhibits, though they definitely lend themselves well to a much wider age bracket.  We saw toddlers to middle-school kids all participating in the exhibits.

The Clark Bro’s favorite exhibit was most definitely the Speed Track, on the second floor. Kids built their own race cars and raced them down a huge race track. The modular wooden cars have a number of variables and kids of all ages we’re LOVING trying to change their cars around to see how they could get them to be faster! WIN!

MOXI Museum Santa Barbara

We spent over three hours at MOXI, and literally had to drag the kids out.  We stopped by the gift shop — which honestly I never like to go into museum gift shops because they usually are terrible — but theirs is awesome! I actually bought things for each child, which I NEVER do.  Would be a great place for a last minute gift (entry does not require admission) and prices were very reasonable.  We will definitely be back to MOXI, and not just because we bought a membership! 🤣🤣

I also noticed as we were leaving that they offer camps which my kids would love…mine are too young but if you have a 3rd grader or older check out their Camps here!

15 Things to Know Before you GO!
Family & Lifestyle, Travel & Events

15 Things To Know Before Visiting Disneyland for the First Time!

Taking your kids to Disneyland is a little like Christmas and Santa…while Disneyland brings fond childhood memories, I think it might be even more fun to watch your own children experience it! The thrill of the rides, meeting the array of fantastic characters, crossing through the iconic castle, watching a marching band or [fill in the blank, its all pretty awesome!].

If you are planning your first visit, here are the 15 things you NEED to know.  Below them are some additional tips which may be helpful.

  1. Download the Disney App here.
  2. Purchase your tickets in advance via the app. Disneyland is split into Disneyland and California Adventure and you can choose either park or a “Park Hopper” ticket that gives you entrance to both.
  3. Plan to arrive at the parking at least 30 minutes before the park opens. Skip the upgraded parking option, just get the basic parking its hardly a difference.
  4. Bring a single fold stroller.  No matter where you park, you will need to fold and transport your stroller on a tram or bus…having to remove seats is unnecessary aggrivation!
  5. Bring 2 bottles of water per person.  This is in part because often you will want to grab a bottle to drink in line and will have to toss what’s left at the front of the line so having extra is good. They do sell it inside of course if you forget.
  6. Pack some easy and/or healthy snacks. Many of the snacks easily available around the park have a lot of sugar.
  7. Bring your own sunscreen, and remember to re-apply.
  8. Check the availability of fast passes on the app or at the kiosks when you arrive (fast passes are free, and are only available on select rides, it’s worth a try…you can learn more about them here). Send 1 person from your party to grab passes, the rest should head straight to the rides.
  9. Review the park map the day before you go and plan 2-3 rides right near each other,  head straight to the rides upon entering…lines for the rides will never be as short as the first hour the park is open. Get in as many as you can before lines are 60+ minutes.
  10. Make your character dining reservations in advance (there are plenty of places to grab lunch too, of course).
  11. At the end of Main Street you will find the Baby Care Center, where you can find changing tables, chairs for nursing and a shop that sells everything from formula to diapers.
  12. Make sure you get a silhouette made of your kids in the Silhouette Studio on Main Street before you leave. It’s the best bargain in all of Disneyland for a souvenir that won’t hit the trash a month later BOOM! And to boot you get TWO copies so send one to Grandma. BONUS!
  13. Wear layers. Check the weather before you go and if you aren’t a local understand Southern California weather- it’s a coastal desert and it’s heated by the Sun…so it can be 60 degrees when you arrive and 90 degrees at by noon and back to 65 as the sun starts to set.
  14. Bring antibacterial wipes/spray to clean little hands before lunch 🙌🏻
  15. Bring any mouse ears, tutus, crowns and costumes your children may want…they are very expensive inside the park and lots of the kids are wearing this stuff…if you have it at home you do not want to be put in the position of buying duplicitous toys at high prices inside the park.

Other helpful hints:

  • If you philandering on bringing a stroller, you should know that you can also rent a stroller inside.
  • Lockers are available inside if needed.
  • If you are staying on property, you need to know about the Extra Magic Hour Early Admission option!
  • To strategize on quick admission and best shot at Fast Passes…choose to visit the  respective Park on it’s non-Extra Magic Hour day (see above link for that schedule).  Otherwise, you will have all the hotel guests with early admission ahead of you…in line to enter, at the fast pass machines and for rides.
  • When you see a character you would like to meet/photograph with, get in line RIGHT AWAY. There will always be an attendant who is “the end of the line” – go to that person and get in front of them.  If the line is full they will let you know…and know that does happen, like all the time. You can ask that attendant where they are headed next, or other info about future meet and greet times for that character. Steer clear of promising your kiddos to see or meet one particular character if you can 🙂
  • If your kids don’t watch TV or Movies yet and you are thinking maybe Disneyland isn’t relevant for them, I totally disagree.  Gman had never watched anything but Caillou much less seen a Disney movie before we went and he LOVED it.  The characters are fantastic, regardless of whether you know them.  And the rides are a blast.  And the whole atmosphere is like nothing your child has seen before.  I do agree that kids who watch the shows/movies probably get a little more out of it….but there is plenty for screen-free kids too!
  • I have a Pinterest Board called All Things Disney with TONS (and tons, and tons, and tons!) of articles from bloggers all over on everything from secrets of Disneyland (and Disneyworld so watch the titles!), to cheap eat recommendations to free stuff.  Check it out.

15 Things to Know Before You Go!

Things to know about Disneyland before your first visit

Travel & Events

Mickey Mouse First Birthday Party

This adorable DIY Mickey Mouse first birthday party was hosted by yours truly, so yes I may be biased LOL…it also contains affiliate links. We had Mickey and Goofy there and the kids loved it!! We also had a balloon twister and bouncy house.

We welcomed guests with a basket of Mickey and Minnie ears (similar signs here) and a Party is Here sign. We placed a custom Mickey Keep Calm sign from ETSY at the adult beverage bar.

I made a DIY dessert table with a cloud peel and stick paper background, pre-made pennant, wooden letters, curtain sheerscupcake risers and table linens, all from Amazon. I set the table with Mickey paper plates and scattered party accessories on the kids tables (bouncy balls, party blowers, bracelets) again all from Amazon. A friend made the Wooden block stack, similar ones are available on ETSY.

On the food table I prepared cupcake wrappers with kid snacks so they were easy to grab and go. Party Favor was Melissa and Doug Sidewalk Chalk sets.  I am not a fan of the bag of junk…we try to always give a book or a practical activity for kids.

If you are inviting a large group of friends and would like the most amount of kids to attend, here are some first birthday hostess tips:

(1) Morning parties are better for this age group- be sure your party starts early enough that parents can get children home for a nap.  9-11 works great

(2) Choose the morning that religious services aren’t most common among your friends- for most people this means to choose Saturday morning.  But for some it might be that Sunday is better.

(3) Invite siblings.  This is regional, and highly correlated to a host family’s ability to pay for a larger party – I can tell you in my circles in Los Angeles, siblings are included  for a first birthday party (and generally all birthdays up until parties are “drop-off” and the family isn’t expected to stay).  If you absolutely cannot then just be clear about that on the invitation, but expect inquiries.  For some families weekends are family time…

(4) Reciprocate.  If you cannot make anyone else’s parties, well thats what you can expect for yours. Ride the train or don’t bother to ride at all.

(5) Advance Notice.  Give your guests a full month of advance notice.

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Parties & Events, Travel & Events

I am obsessed with Farmer’s Market First Birthday Parties!

Okay, so I have an obsession with the Farmer’s Market theme, but can you blame me? Look at this party, its so sweet! This Farmer’s Market Birthday was designed and hosted by the Avlas Family for their daughter’s first birthday. Although its quite an extravagant event, the extensive use of vintage decor feels so understated and warm. I almost want to have another babe so I can have this party!

The large food spread included lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and a cheese board, as well as PBJs and popcorn for the kiddos. Desserts included adorable plant pot chocolate cupcakes, a “naked” cake topped with fresh fruit, individually boxed artisan pies and of course “tractor wheels” and “hay bales.” Favors for kiddos were real plant pots with seeds (for an after-party activity) and carrot shaped bubbles – they were tagged “Thank you from the bottom of my garden” (cute!!). Adults snagged an extra individually boxed artisan pie (there is always room for more pie, amiright?!?).

This event was hosted at Underwood Family Farms which offered party goers a petting zoo, an animal show, panning for gold, tractor rides, pony rides, goat feeding, train rides and more.

Lindsay Seltzer-Avlas is the creator and owner of Peek Vintage Rentals, a full service event planning and rental company based in North Los Angeles. Lindsay’s first big event planning adventure was this event, her own daughter’s farmer’s market party. Since she and her husband had a small private wedding, when it came time for her daughter’s first birthday…she put all her planning aspirations into the event. She couldn’t find anything she liked in stores, and she began amassing and creating an inventory of items to use for the party. She collected vintage pieces from antique stores, scoured craigslist, and made the pieces she envisioned but couldn’t find.

She promised her husband she would sell her trove to recoup some of the cost, but when it came time, she couldn’t bring herself to do it (that sounds a little like that Monique Lhuillier still hanging in my closet, LOL!). On a whim, she posted photos of her party in a Mom group on Facebook asking if anyone else would like her to re-create the theme for them and rent the props…and she got over 50 responses within a few hours!

And just like that, Peek Vintage Rentals was born 💗

A year and a half later, Lindsay now offers a variety of children’s party themes beyond the original farmer’s market including circus, woodland animals, lumberjack, Paris, vintage airplane/ travel, flamingo, strawberry/ strawberry farm, jungle, whimsical/ enchanted forest as well as rustic wedding items.

Lindsay offers rentals and full service party planning.

Photographer Credit: Tiffany Kolstad from BellaRu Events (www.bellaruevents.com)

All Party Printables and Posters from Frosting & Ink on ETSY

Cupcake Toppers: ETSY

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If you loved this party, check out the Farmer’s Market Party I covered last week, it was also super cute!

The winner of our Instagram Contest for the Gigi Unicorn is: Carissa Silva — please contact me within 48 hours of now (which s 10:30am PT on Monday December 18th) to claim your Gigi Unicorn!

Parties & Events, Travel & Events

Farmers Market Birthday Party

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Hosted by our great friends the Rota Family for their daughter’s first Birthday, this unique Farmer’s Market Theme Birthday Party is warm, charming and fun for the kids!

Pint-sized farm stands, surrounded by loads of flowers, fruits and vegetables everywhere is colorfully unique and unpretentious…yet beautiful!

A classic dessert table with a naked strawberry shortcake, berry smash cake, mini lemon meringues, mini cupcakes with strawberries, classic chocolate-chip cookies, old fashioned pies and caramel apples were among the delicious desserts.

Children filled up their own shopping bags for party favors from the farm stand and snagged avocados, apples, corn on the cob, potatoes, oranges, cucumbers and bags of kettle corn.  Our kids had so much fun “shopping” they didn’t even realize our take-home gift was fruits and vegetables! They were so excited to come home and try the things they picked 🙌🏻 The party was complete with a petting zoo, pony rides, bubble stations, seed planting/pot painting table, kid-powered water pumps, a sandbox and a catered bbq buffet.

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If you love this party, check out this other fabulous Farmer’s Market party too for more adorbs inspiration!

Family & Lifestyle, Travel & Events

Ditch the Screen, Try a Podcast!

If you are trying to reduce your screen time, there are TONS of great podcast alternatives!! While kids listen to podcasts, they can work on art projects, do puzzles, fidget with stress balls/magnets, pick up their rooms or just wind down at the end of the day! And bonus, the first 9 of these are FREE…yay!

  1. The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian (Science Fiction Story Series)
  2. Tumble (Science Podcast for Kids)
  3. Little Stories for Tiny People (Podcast stories, Variety/Bedtime Stories)
  4. Andrew & Polly: Ear Snacks (Talk Show Podcast, Learning Show)
  5. The Show About Science (Science Podcast Hosted by a Child)
  6. But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids (NPR Podcast on Various Topics)
  7. Sugarcrash Kids (Songs and Stories on Podcast)
  8. Wow in the World (NPR Science Adventure Podcast)
  9. Disney Story Central (Podcasts from Disney!)
  10. Sparkle Stories (Subscription Fee Applies, Free Trial Period, Great Stories)
  • Family & Lifestyle, Parties & Events, Travel & Events

    PJ Masks Birthday Party

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    This post contains affiliate links. We had an amazing PJ Masks themed 5th Birthday party for Gman today at Peekaboo Playland in Bel Air.  So much fun, and such cute decorations!  Peekaboo Playland did the lions share of this party, I can’t take the decorating credits, I am way too tired to do all this these days!!  But if you don’t live close enough to have your party there, here are some links to help to get the look!

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    PJ Masks Cake Toppers (similar, deluxe version) – I bought 3 mini cakes from Ralphs and asked for the to be frosted in simple solid frosting, they were about $7 each!

    I rolled my own fondant out (buy it at Michaels with a 40% off coupon) and I punched the stars myself.

    PJ Masks Cupcake Toppers – I bought Oreo Cookie cupcakes from Ralphs (our local regular old grocery store)…I used to buy fancy $3/piece cupcakes, but after watching kids lick the frosting off and toss them for YEARS I now just get the cheap ones, plus they LOVE the added Oreo more than anything else it seals the deal…these were under $10/dozen.  They are stacked on clear acrylic cupcake risers I’ve had for four years and reuse every year, they still sell them, super easy to use and store.

    Superhero Backdrop (similar, cheaper version) – the venue decorated this but this is pretty similar

    Plates, cups & napkins (layered on solid red dinner plates)

    Cloud Decorations

    Superhero Masks (for play, decor or take home…like the one shown in Gekko cake pic)

    Jumbo Superhero Word Cutouts

    Owlette and Cat Boy Balloons

    We celebrated using a cake from Bristol Farms a few nights earlier and using all three cake toppers on one cake a few nights earlier for his actual birthday, and that turned out really cute too!  The cake was about ~$35 (6 inch cake, decorated with fondant stars and a moon/5) plus a dollar or two for the chocolate disc.  Bonus the toppers become toys after (they really are toys actually LOL).

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    Good luck and send me pics of you DIY any ideas I’d love to add them to my blog!

    Travel & Events

    Mexico, Party of 12!

    Viceroy Zihuatanejo Family Luxury Vacation

    We had an amazing trip to Mexico with the kids and two other families! Just a few years ago if you told me I’d take my kids for a week long luxury vacation I wouldn’t have believed you, but at 3 and 4 years old travel is so much easier! If you are still in the tunnel, let me tell you, there is a light at the end of it, I promise! The Viceroy Zihuatanejo is amazing and we can’t wait to go back!  Its a great trip with kids and there is even a direct flight from LAX!

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    The property is absolutely beautiful, the rooms are large and most have their own plunge pool…so if your kiddos are not water safe, make sure you ask for a room without a plunge pool (which will save you some dinero, and I am confident you can find a way to spend these savings at the spa 😉 )

    Luxury Travel with Kids to Mexico

    Speaking of the spa, their services were fantastic! I got a massage that I would describe as US quality (lets be real, in other countries spa experience range widely!).  Everyone who works in the hotel was so nice, despite our gaggle of SIX KIDS! 5 of the 6 kids were age 4 or under…so we were quite a group!

    The hotel manager went out of his way to arrange large van transport so all three families could ride together to venture into town and on excursions.  He also recommended and made all our reservations for evenings out.  His recommendations were spot on, fantastic!!

    It is important to note, however, that the wine in Mexico is TERRIBLE.  Some decent Champagne is available but its about 3x the cost it would be here (sigh) BUT the good news is that each person can bring 6 (SIX!!!) bottles of wine into Mexico without paying any import taxes.

    We used these (please note this is an affiliate link, no cost to youflight transport bottle covers to fly them in our luggage, they are pretty awesome.  We each chose to fly 4 bottles in per adult (but honestly we wish we’d flown all six!)  – all made it without a single break or leak.  The seals on them are so thick though, that even if one had broken I’m pretty sure it would have mostly contained the leak.

    We ate at some fantastic restaurants while we were there!

    Amuleto: This is actually a boutique hotel that offers a small private restaurant- it would be a great weekend spot to stay sans kids (probably a great spot for a proposal!)

    El Faro Pacifica: The website is terrible, the view from the restaurant is amazing, and their Mexican coffee dessert is worthwhile in and of itself! See video below!

    This video might not look that impressive here…but really watch this little show live after like 6 bottles of wine, its really quite fun! Did I really just say that?? LOL

    We love traveling with the kids, and this is the first year we are back in the saddle and traveling the way we used to! One tip I have for parents who have a hard time getting their kiddos to sleep (which was our chronic challenge)…is to get two rooms or a suite.  Put the kids to bed in separate rooms.  It was more costly for us to travel, so we did it less, but when we did it was so infinitely more enjoyable…its worth the trade off.  Stay half as long, get two rooms.  Done.

    Would love any luxury hotel recommendations (that are great for kids) from you all!! Where haPlease remember to subscribe to my blog for more of our adventures!

    Family & Lifestyle, Parties & Events, Travel & Events

    All Aboard for the North Pole Express!

    Just outside of Los Angeles in Filmore, CA is the North Pole Express Train (also called the Polar Express Train) which was an amazing experience for our kids at age 3 and 4. They cannot wait to go back this year. For adults, the train, and the “North Pole” are all a little lackluster but I assure you your Little’s will not see this- the experience is all sparkle and magic for them!  So I encourage adults to have realistic expectations 🙂

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    The 1-hour train ride chuffs along at a few miles an hour (they won’t notice how slow it’s going, don’t point it out!) to the “North Pole” – Santa’s elves pass out cookies and sing Christmas Carols.  Once the train arrives at the North Pole there is a large display of Christmas lights and the train picks up Santa himself. Santa makes his way through the train passing out candy canes and high fives and when the train arrives back at the station you wait in a long line for picture with Santa – but it’s worth it, and like I said, it was truly magical for our kids!! Families (adults and children) are encouraged to wear pajamas for the train ride.

    The drive up to Filmore is a bit of a haul. We coordinated with a couple of other families and met first at a El Pescador Mexican Restaurant and had dinner and margaritas. It rounded out the evening since the train ride itself is only an hour- plus we figured we deserve some margaritas before it 😉