Category Archives: Southern California

5 Reasons the Legoland Hotel is Worth the Extra Money

Welcome!

Welcome!

We recently stayed four nights at the Legoland Hotel. It was my daughter’s birthday and we will be moving to the East Coast in a few months so we wanted to treat her and us to an all out vacation.

I’m usually the frugal traveler, taking the best room I can find for the best price, but as everyone in the family stated, this was the best hotel we’d ever stayed in. See why we liked it so much below.

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San Diego Model Railroad Museum ~ For The Train Lover In All Of Us

"Ride" the trolley before entering.

“Ride” the trolley before entering.

If you are a model train enthusiast, or if your kid just loves Thomas the train, spending a couple of hours at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum is a fun way to get your train fix.

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Children’s Discovery Museum Of The Desert

The trees out front are all citrus fruit trees.

The trees out front are all citrus fruit trees.

You know you’ve found a good museum when your kids ask to go back the very next day. That is what we found in the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert.

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Zoorassic Park At The Living Desert Zoo

Awesome Show!

Awesome Show!

A brand new feature at the Living Desert in Palm Desert is the Zoorassic Park experience. See what the kids and I thought of it below.

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Waterfront Park, Downtown San Diego ~ My Favorite Public Park Ever

This place is so cool!

This place is so cool!

We found this new park heading to lunch at our favorite restaurant in downtown San Diego (more on that later) one day. It is a fantastic place to kill a couple of hours.

Located just across the street from the Cruise ship port, the Waterfront Park is a modern playground that the kids couldn’t stop playing on.

Right across from the Star of India and other ship tours.

Right across from the Star of India and other ship tours.

In all my visits to playgrounds all over California (and we’ve been to a lot) this is the best one I’ve ever seen. It has so many different areas to play on and things to play with, the kids were kept busy for hours without feeling bored.

So many cool and unique things to play on.

So many cool and unique things to play on.

Though the park is of course free, the parking is not. Don’t bother with the underground parking under the park, it is no longer available for park use, instead head to the parking meters on the ocean side street. You’ll get two hours of parking for about $2.50 in quarters.

Not only does the park have fantastic play structures, but they also have the cleanest public bathrooms I’ve ever seen and a small cafe to grab a snack.

So if you need to keep the kids busy for a couple of hours and want to do it on the cheap, check out the Waterfront Park, they’ll be happy you did.

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Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina ~ How Family Friendly Is It?

Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina

Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina

The Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina is a beautiful hotel that is wonderful for traveling adults, not so much for families with small children. Read on to find out why.

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Black Rock Canyon Campground ~ The Family’s First Camping Trip In Joshua Tree National Park

Welcome to Black Rock

Welcome to Black Rock

The kids got a fort building system for Christmas that ended up failing miserably. So from that failure evolved an impulse decision to take the kids on their first ever outdoor camping trip.

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The NAT ~ A Small Natural History Museum in San Diego

One of two entrances to the NAT.

One of two entrances to the NAT.

Balboa park in sunny San Diego houses a slew of museums. The kids wanted to see dinosaurs this particular day so we decided to see what the San Diego Natural History museum, or NAT for short, had to offer.

This was our first visit to this particular natural hisorty museum. I guess I expected more from San Diego. They are a very populated and well funded city, but it doesn’t seem to be trickling its way to this museum.

I think the much more humble San Bernardino County museum had more displays and artifacts in one display than San Diego had in four floors.

From their website, I didn’t expect a huge museum since the display list was was quite short, and I was right. This is a half day museum at best with a few core bread and butter exhibits and a few rotating displays.

We began on the 2nd floor. There are two entrances to the museum and we just happened to enter here. It seems to be the less busy entrance so we lucked out on that.

2nd Floor

The second floor is where the majority of the displays are located. When you first walk in you are greeted with some impressive dinosaur specimins and well as a time telling giant pendulum.

Dinosaurs greet you at the 2nd floor entrance.

Dinosaurs greet you at the 2nd floor entrance.

Time telling pendulum knows over the dominoes and the Earth rotates.

Time telling pendulum knocks over the dominoes as the Earth rotates.

Cool little prehistoric set up.

Cool little prehistoric set up.

From here you travel around the open center floor seeing stuffed creatures and skeletons of sorts, as well as a few large mineral specimens.

Giant Great White hanging in the center of the museum.

Giant Great White hanging in the center of the museum.

A King Tut exhibit was opening the next weekend so a partial part of the floor was cordoned off. We headed up to the third floor after we got our fill of a roaming docent’s fossil tray.

3rd Floor

Small displays of skulls were located throughout the 3rd floor.

Small displays of skulls were located throughout the 3rd floor. You can see the tops of the photographs on the 4th floor at the top of this picture.

The third floor had a temporary exhibit of skulls. This was my favorite exhibit because they had very interesting species such as the horned lizard to look at (spoiler alert: the horns are built into the skull.)

They kept the antlers on any skulls that normally come with them.

They kept the antlers on any skulls that normally come with them.

The kids liked this exhibit the best as well.

The kids liked this exhibit the best as well.

The exhibit takes up the whole third floor because it is dispersed throughout where offices and labs are located. It’s not huge but has extremely interesting skulls to keep you occupied for a while.

We skipped the 4th floor all together. I could see the photograph display they had set up but knew it wouldn’t interest the kids. Just as the skulls were dispersed, the walls of the 4th floor displayed the California photographs throughout.

1st Floor

Play area as seen from the 2nd floor.

Play area as seen from the 2nd floor.

So we went to the 1st floor. There the museum had a cute play area set up for the kids as well as a small cafe and gift shop.

The Dinosaur Cafe was more of a cart. Don't expect much in variety.

The Dinosaur Cafe was more of a cart. Don’t expect much in variety.

Hands on display in the Water exhibit.

Hands on display in the Water exhibit.

Stuffed birds in the Water exhibit.

Stuffed birds in the Water exhibit.

There is also one last exhibit on the water of California. This housed stuffed native birds, live fish and frogs and some hands on manipulatives to demonstrate energy consumption when water is pumped.

Overall I don’t think this is a museum we will visit again. The exhibits they did have were nice and well kept, but there wasn’t that much to see, so we wouldn’t need a second visit because we saw it all in the first. Unless there was a temporary exhibit that we really wanted to experience, we will check out the other museums in Balboa Park instead the next time we are here.

Homeschoolers

I was impressed with the worksheets available on the NAT website. They have teacher resources for just about every exhibit they house, plus resources for all past and present traveling exhibits. A lot of these worksheet can be used for just about any natural history museum you visit.

Military

The museum offers a military discount. Click here for current prices. They also have a resident free Tuesday each month that includes free admission for active duty military.

Thankfully the tickets weren’t that much, especially with our military discount.

I would definitely recommend if you only have a day to spend in Balboa park, spend it walking around the park. It’s huge and has wonderful buildings and some free museums to check out. Save the paid museums for October when the kids can get in free.

I’m heading back to San Diego in a couple of weeks and plan on spending one the of the days at Balboa just exploring . Stay tuned to get a full recap of all the fun and free (or cheap) things to do there.

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The Living Desert Zoo ~ A Truly Unique Place

Welcome to the zoo.

Welcome to the zoo.

In the city of Palm Desert (next door to Palm Springs) is a unique zoo like no other I have ever experienced. The Living Desert Zoo is just that, a living natural habitat of native plans and animals you would only find in a desert.

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Imago Theatre Frogz ~ A Must See Show For Kids

The frogs from Frogz.

The frogs from Frogz.

McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert (next door to Palm Springs) in Riverside county has an education program called the “Field Trip Series” that allows schools and homeschoolers to reserve seating for completely free shows that are kid friendly and, of course, educational.

Outside the McCallum.

Outside the McCallum.

We took advantage of this program to book seats for a performance recently. We saw the Imago Theatre performance of Frogz, an imaginative display of costumed creatures that the children were in awe of.

Frogz is a 5 person group who transform the stage into a living zoo. Using very little music or sound effects, the beauty of the performance is what it brings out of the children.

An acrobatic life-sized paper bag holding a surprise.

An acrobatic life-sized paper bag holding a surprise.

Squeals of delight when a costumed cat reveals itself from a gigantic “paper bag”, yells of, “Sit Down!” at penguins playing musical chairs, or giggles as human sized frogs sit perfectly still and stare at the audience. The performance was incredibly fun and kept all the children (and adults) engaged throughout its hour long performance (I think the shows are longer for actual paid performances.)

Frogz is a national and international touring troupe (click here for dates and show locations.)¬†I would highly recommend this show to anyone with children of any age. It is a visual delight that uses creative costumes and acrobatics like I’ve never seen before. I think I might have had more fun than the kids.

Homeschoolers

McCallum provides a wonderful and thorough learning .pdf worksheet to the teachers for its performance. It is a great resource not only for the Frogz performance, but for any performance you might go see that involves comedy, movement or masks.

If you live near McCallum theatre and want to learn more about their Field Trip Series, click here. It is a fantastic program that offers shows throughout the year. Get with your teachers to try to plan a field trip to see one of the shows.